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Terry Helwig - Statement

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My initial concept for The Thread Project: One World, One Cloth envisioned gathering individual threads, from people world-wide, to depict the common thread of our humanity. But, in the aftermath of 9/11, the concept burgeoned with even more meaning and urgency. The world, it seemed, dangled by a thread.

Questions clamored inside me: How could diversity be celebrated; tolerance encouraged; and compassionate community promoted? As an act of my own reconciliation with world events and, in an effort to mend the tear, I measured and cut a piece of thread, pondering both its potential and symbolism.

Many cultures have linked thread with life and creation: Spider Woman, Frigga, Ix Chel, Amaterasu and Neith were variously credited with weaving portions of the heavens and earth. The Greek fates spun, measured and cut the thread of life; and some paintings of the Virgin Mary depict her spinning thread.

Today, the imagery and language of thread surface in science and medicine. The String Theory of physics suggests that everything in the universe is comprised of tiny vibrating strings; DNA is called the thread of life; and each of us slips into this world on a cord, threaded to our mother.

This exhibit juxtaposes a single thread’s insignificance with its quiet archetypal power, multiplied by thousands.

For five years, women threaded forty-nine looms world-wide to weave tens of thousands of gathered threads into forty-nine panels of cloth, buttoned in such a way as to create seven different colored cloths—one for each continent. Just as the seven continents create one world; the seven cloths create one world cloth.

The individual threads, representing more than seventy countries, were pulled from the fabric of people’s every-day lives, from their clothing, fishing rods, animals, guitars—even a piece of bicycle tire. Some threads reflect loss, like Michael’s shoe-lace offered by his grieving mother; other threads reflect elation, like Heidi’s tassel from her graduation cap.

I have my own string theory: each of the collected threads reverberates with an individual narrative that blends into a single story; the story of the human family. The resulting cloth, possibly the most diverse cloth ever woven, is literally a fabric of humanity.

Terry Helwig, founder and director,
The Thread Project: One World, One Cloth