Hand-Paper Making

Thank you to Primary Therapist, specializing in Art Therapy, Annie Hoffman, ATR-BC, LMHC for sharing this fantastic collaboration and activity promoting positive body image, acceptance, and appreciation. For additional photos of this project visit here


One of my favorite things about my job as an art therapist is my ability to address and work through issues in non-traditional avenues. In July I had the opportunity to attend the American Art Therapy Association annual conference and attended a presentation on hand-paper making given by art therapists, Genevieve Camp and Amy Bucciarelli. I was so inspired by this presentation and could not wait to return home and apply what I had learned at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. I chose to do this as part of my role facilitating body image groups in our Intensive Outpatient Program.

A major area of focus in body image groups is promoting positive body image and increasing body acceptance and appreciation. Recently in these groups, we were able to take a creative and meaningful approach in the process of letting go of clothing that no longer fits. This is an important part of recovery from an eating disorder in that holding on to clothing that no longer fits is in a way holding on to parts of the eating disorder. It can then become a question of whether you are holding on to the clothes or the eating disorder is holding on to you. Having in one’s possession clothes that no longer fit is a temptation to body check or try on the clothes to see how much weight you have gained or how much you would need to lose to fit into them again. This is a very common trigger that can send people back into the clutches of the eating disorder. So then, what do we do with these clothes? Many people find that instead of just getting rid of them, donating them to help those less fortunate allows for a more positive shift in the significance of these clothes. One other way to shift the meaning/significance of the clothes is to transform the clothes into something else. This is the route we took.

We started out by bringing in the clothing to the center and cutting it up into small postage stamp size pieces. Then all of those pieces made the journey from South Miami to Boca Raton to the Jaffee Center for Books Arts at Florida Atlantic University. There the director, John Cutrone, helped us to use a machine called a Hollander Beater to pulverize the clothing pieces into usable pulp to make hand-made paper. The pulp was brought back to Oliver-Pyatt Centers where we transformed a meeting room into our very own hand-paper making studio! In the paper-making studio, each client was able to learn how to use the mold and deckle to create a unique piece of hand-made paper from the pulp which used to be her old clothes. Since our paper making studio did not have a press to dry/flatten out the sheets, we “pressed” the paper onto the glass windows of the center and let the paper dry in the sun. It was not only energy efficient but was also rather beautiful as the windows were soon covered in pieces of paper. One of my favorite things about his project is how it brought everyone together as we had the majority of our staff in the studio as well pulling sheets of paper. It was truly a team effort.

Once the paper was dry and flattened, we embarked on the final stage of this process. The women were able to choose what they would like to do with their paper. Some of the women wrote letters to their old clothing, one woman wrote a postcard to her parents and many women created paper beads. For the paper beads we wrote on the inside of them positive body image affirmations and then created beautiful meaningful pieces of jewelry with the beads. This project allowed the women to transform their relationship to the old clothing and to experience some empowerment over a challenging aspect of recovery. 

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and newly introduced Embrace, a binge eating recovery program and Clementine, a residential program exclusively for adolescents girls please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram