About Breaking Rag
Everyone has a story. We are all a part of a community, even when we feel isolated and disconnected.
Our goals are to create community connections and create safe spaces through art.
Breaking Rag is a veteran, family, and community art project, facilitated by veteran/artist Trish Brownlee, serving Fort Bragg and surrounding counties. "Breaking Rag" is a term in papermaking, referring to the physical process of breaking fibers into pulp, from which the paper is made.
Breaking Rag offers public demos and workshops to the military, veterans, their families, and to the community, specializing in creating paper and artwork from worn military uniforms, re-purposed materials, and raw plant fiber. With our mobile papermaking studio we are capable of creating art-making spaces almost anywhere! This is possible thanks to the Oracle Portable Hollander Beater made by Lee McDonald. Breaking Rag began in 2016 by offering public demos and workshops to veterans, their families, and the community. In 2016 & 2017, Breaking Rag has worked with The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Weymouth Woods, and more. We have grown in the last year, offering workshops to various organizations, ages, and expanding the craft to raw plants.
The goal of our workshops is to create safe spaces for community art-making and open conversation. Come as you are and create! We invite veterans, families and civilians to create alongside one another in the Breaking Rag Art Project. Through art, we are able to break through assumptions and stereotypes and find real connection, bridging the gap between the military and veteran communities. Through art, we are able to break through assumptions and stereotypes and find real connection.In order for us to truly have an understanding of our country's history & future, stories of our military must be heard. War lingers, follows and haunts the families and communities of those who fight them. Art is capable of reaching across divides and creating understanding, finding purpose and promoting healing.
Why This Works
Collaborative art-making offers a space for understanding and honest connection between veterans and their communities. Art is an access point for exploring and sharing one's experiences. Breaking Rag offers public demos and workshops to veterans, their families, and the community. Through the transformational process of creating handmade paper from worn military uniforms, the workshops create a safe space for conversation and storytelling through artistic expression.
Breaking Rag is modeled after my experiences with Combat Paper Project, Combat Paper NJ, Warrior Writers, and other veterans, writers and artists who have inspired and supported me. I first experienced the Combat Paper workshops myself as a participant, creating art from my own military uniforms. Through the workshops, I began to process my own military service and I am now able to use my experience to help others. Many other veterans who go through these workshops have similar outcomes and are able to find purpose and healing. These workshops begin as an individual experience and become something bigger - they connect the military and civilian communities, breaking through stigma and assumptions to create understanding.
Breaking Rag is inspired by "Combat Paper" workshops, with the goal of creating on-going access to community art workshops in my area, which surrounds Fort Bragg, NC. My community is home to one of the largest active/veteran military populations in America. I believe these workshops are needed everywhere and I am honored to have found a calling and become a piece of this great work.
The story of the fiber, the blood, sweat and tears, the months of hardship and brutal violence are held within those old uniforms. The uniforms often become inhabitants of closets or boxes in the attic. Reshaping that association of subordination, of warfare and service, into something collective and beautiful is our inspiration. -Drew Cameron, 2007
I did not create this process, nor am I am the first - or hopefully last - to create new workshops modeled after the work of existing COMBAT PAPER artists. After learning the process of creating paper from military uniforms from my mentor, Drew Cameron of Combat Paper, I continued seeking out, meeting, and interviewing members of Warrior Writers, Combat Paper NJ, Melissa Walker (Art Therapist) and other affiliated veteran-artists. I used this experienced, along with research in PTSD, art therapy and trauma theory, to create my new body of artwork and write my MFA thesis: Deconstructing the Divide: Art as a Voice for Military Experience. I also attended an independent papermaking residency the Penland School of Craft to increase my knowledge and skills of the process.
After completing my MFA program and with the blessing of my mentors, I launched Breaking Rag in 2016 with a successful Kickstarter campaign.
I am now focusing on filling the need for papermaking and community art workshops in my community through collaboration with individuals and organizations. Breaking Rag not only offers independent workshops, but also collaborates with existing organizations. Please contact me to schedule a workshop at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2016, Breaking Rag will offer workshops with an established veteran outpatient treatment facility in Moore county with recreational therapist and program coordinator, Kelly Frye. Kelly wrote the following testimonial about the impact of the Breaking Rag workshops with her patients:
Breaking Rag is inspired my experiences with Combat Paper Project, Combat Paper NJ, Warrior Writers, and other veterans, writers and artists who have inspired and supported me.
Breaking Rag is dedicated to the memory of Jon Harris.
More about the work of Combat Paper NJ & Warrior Writers, Serving the Northeast/MD
Video Credit: Susan Wallner, PBS State of the Arts NJ
Links to Inspiration and Elders:
Combat Paper Project
Combat Paper NJ
Jeremy Stainthorp Berggren
Melissa Walker, Art Therapist
Writing/Research by Edward Tick, PHD
.....and all others I've met along the way.