If you've been to the doctor's office recently, you know that more often than not that you're sent home with more paper than you know what to do with. This could include diagnosis, further information, and even bills for your visit.
TikTok user @littletinyegg recently shared their artistic process of turning her medical bills into recycled paper. In the video, Kristen says that as a cancer patient, she's accumulated a lot of paper regarding her diagnosis, including surveys, explanations of benefits, and bills. She explains that after saving this paper for about three years, she was accepted to a gallery focused on disability and the environment — and knew that it was the perfect time to turn their medical bills into recycled paper.
The video depicts the process of making the paper, which Kristen says includes dunking the bills into cold water. She then shreds the paper before pressing the fibers together.
Currently, Kristen's video has 3.1M views, 490.1K likes, and a comment section full of supportive people.
I spoke with Kristen, a 28-year-old artist, and illustrator who works under the moniker Little Tiny Egg. Kristen, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2019, said that they started saving papers related to their diagnosis as soon as they began receiving them from their doctor, though they initially weren't planning to use them in an art project.
Kristen told BuzzFeed: "The diagnosis and treatment came with a large amount of information I needed to learn, save, and organize. Collecting the paper was an extension of my attempt to understand what was happening to me." However, Kristen said that the paper soon began adding up, and added, "Almost three years after my diagnosis, I had a pretty thick stack of irrelevant bills, explanations of benefits, and surveys in my closet."
Kristen said that the process of shredding and soaking the paper took about two to three hours, though she had to wait about a week for the paper itself to dry and become usable. She also said that she felt relieved and inspired during the process, and explained, "It is a pretty physical and cathartic process to rip apart and press together the paper, and I like the interplay of destroying something old while simultaneously creating something new."
Kristen said that she'd made videos previously depicting her artistic process, but was overwhelmed by the positive reception that this video received. She said, "I have had other videos go 'viral' on TikTok, and eventually would get some negative or troll-y comments, but on this particular video people have been surprisingly vulnerable and supportive in the comments." Kristen added, "At the end of the video, I state that the paper is far from perfect, which is true, but I don’t see it as a negative thing. There are a lot of comments saying they love the imperfections, and I almost wish I would have ended the video with a different statement because I also love and appreciate the imperfection in the end result!"