BAR HARBOR — Deborah Page is not the type to stand in a picket line or march for a cause, so when she became distressed by world events, she decided to pick up a needle and thread.
“I’ve been a crafter all my life and this felt like something creative and useful,” said Page.
She is referring to the social activism art project 25 Million Stitches begun by California-based artist Jennifer Kim Sohn. People have taken up stitching needles around the world to mark swaths of cloth as a way to acknowledge the millions of people who are being forced to flee their homes due to genocide, war, natural disasters and/or targeted violence.
On the project website, 25millionstitches.com, is the following:
“How does making 25 million stitches help refugees? We believe that this project is a way for us to engage with this global crisis instead of ignoring it. And even though no single stitch can fully represent an individual, the act of stitching and the resulting work will help bring attention to the scale of the crisis.”
Two objectives of the project are — to engage as many people as possible to raise awareness of the global refugee crisis and to amass 25 million stitches to visually represent the sheer volume of this astronomical figure of refugees.
“An artist friend of mine posted a picture of her piece and I really liked it,” said Page about why she brought the idea to Mount Desert Island. “It just seemed like a really sweet idea.”
After pitching the idea of a public group to a friend, Page began one at the Jesup Memorial Library on Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon.
“I was hoping if we did it in a public place, more people would be curious,” she said.
There is no consistency about how many or who will show up each week, but they are all working on pieces that will be sent to Sacramento, Calif. in March and added to the thousands of other submissions for the community art installation.
“It’s not about sewing, it’s about heart and mind,” said Susan Buell, who is part of a group that meets in Southwest Harbor at the public library on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon. “It can be anything, which is wonderful … Some of them are not beautiful. I say that so people won’t be intimidated. They’re random, which I would say is a statement.”
Tremont resident Cindy Robbins came to the library last week to continue working on her cloth panel. Colorful stars were scattered around the outside and she was adding yellow stitches to the outline of a moon near the center.
“I just wanted to make something that we all share all over the planet,” she said about how she decided what to stitch. “We all look up and see the moon and stars.”
On Mary Vekasi’s panel the words food, air and peace are stitched among spirals of different colored thread. Much of the embroidery thread used by the Southwest Harbor group was donated or brought by those working on panels. One cloth panel with a heart patch made from antique cloth, has had stitches added from 26 people who have come to the group in Southwest Harbor.
Anyone can stitch a panel in the comfort of their home or join one of the stitching groups during the week.
“I’m not at all a stitcher,” said Cara Ryan, who sat in with the Bar Harbor group on Friday. “It’s been really fun because the conversation is really interesting. I’ve only just met all these people.”
On the website is an outline of the criteria for the project for those wanting to add their stitches to the international project.
“I love the idea of doing something that’s women-centered and creative,” said Linda Robinson from the Jesup library as she added more to the road she is stitching.
Robinson has been sewing since she was a child and has first-hand experience working in different parts of the world with women in strife.
“They have no choice,” said Buell about the refugees, the people around the world the stitches represent. “No one chooses to be a refugee.”