South Carolina Catholic makes sacred art from simplest of office supplies

IMAGE: CNS photo/Christina Lee Knauss, The Catholic Miscellany

By Christina Lee Knauss

MATTHEWS, S.C. (CNS) — For years, Matthew Quay picked up paper clips from
desks and absent-mindedly straightened them while listening to discussions or
presentations at work.

also carried some in his pockets to straighten during Mass at Holy Trinity
Church in Orangeburg.

was simply something to do with his hands to help him stay focused, he said.

never figured that simple action would eventually turn into works of art that
help persecuted Christians overseas.

fall, Quay started to experiment with twisting the straightened clips into
various shapes. He made a cross. With a few more twists, he formed the corpus
of Christ.

days, he was making beautiful crucifixes out of paper clips, sacred art formed from
the simplest of office supplies.

then, Quay’s creations have been displayed at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts
Center. Sales of the artwork have raised thousands of dollars to help
persecuted and displaced Christians in the Middle East.

the same time he made his first paper-clip crucifix, Quay was feeling helpless
and sad about the plight of families fleeing Syria and other war-torn parts of
the Mideast.

September of 2015, I saw all those images of the refugees, especially that
little boy who washed up on the shore in Turkey,” he told The Catholic
Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston. “It really bothered me
because I felt we were so comfortable over here and it seemed like there was
nothing we could do. I never thought my feelings about the refugees and my art
would come together.”

December, his mother, Deni Quay, asked him to sell his work at Holy Trinity’s
annual Christmas bazaar. Quay, who belongs to Knights of Columbus Council 6891,
had recently learned of the Knights’ nationwide efforts to raise money for
Christian refugees in the Middle East.

he said, he saw a way for his art to help the people who haunted his thoughts.

December, his crucifixes had evolved from simple crosses in one or two colors
to larger, more elaborate ones made with clips of varying sizes in many hues.
In two days, he made more than $1,400 for the refugee effort.

success prompted Quay to devote even more time to his creations, to expand the
complexity and variety of detail, size and color.

purchased paper clips from office supply stores and online sources. People
started giving him extras they had around the house. He especially treasures a
donation of hundreds of vintage ones that came from the home of a former
schoolteacher. Older clips, he said, come in darker, more burnished hues of
silver and gold which add a special look to the crucifixes.

found some about 4 inches long in a sale bin at a store. Those large clips
ended up being ideal for his big crucifixes, which can be up to 17 inches long
and use more than 200 clips. These large pieces take about 18 hours of work to
complete, while smaller ones take about four hours.

said his inspiration for the colors comes from the seasonal vestments worn by
Father Wilbroad Mwape, administrator at Holy Trinity, where he’s a member.

also has made crucifixes on request: a gold and white one in the shape of an
anchor for a woman who lost a brother in a boating accident, dark blue for a
police officer, another with a medal of St. Peregrine for a woman whose family
member has cancer. For Christmas, he incorporated clips in Southwestern hues of
turquoise and red for his father-in-law, who lives in Texas and loves Native
American culture.

he’s working, Quay said he spends a lot of time in “meditative thought”
but doesn’t have a specific prayer routine. Sometimes he prays “lots of
Hail Marys,” he said, or for various prayer intentions.

is most aware that the crucifixes are God’s work through him, especially when
he considers what their sales have accomplished in only a few months.

series of simpler figures of Christ affixed to wooden crosses raised more than
$950 when his council sold them after Masses. That, combined with money raised
from the bazaar and the exhibit, means more than $5,500 will be donated to help

because of paper clips.

reaction has been overwhelming,” Quay said. “This whole process has
really been a series of little discoveries. It’s taking a very insignificant
thing and making it into something beautiful.”

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is on the staff of The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of

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