“Precious Point of Unity” – Textile Artwork in Honor of Abdu’l-Baha

As the ongoing global pandemic continues to keep many of us apart, it is particularly delightful to see collaborative artistic expressions emerge. A group of craftspeople from the Maritime provinces of Canada, some beginners and others seasoned artists, have created a special textile hanging called “Precious Point of Unity”. The textile consists of 16 blocks of art that were painted, quilted, hand stitched or appliquéd. Each block is based on a story from Vignettes from the Life of Abdu’l-Baha and they were sewn together in the form of a triangle to represent a mountain pointing to a nine-pointed star, depicting Abdu’l-Baha as the Centre or Focus of the Covenant.

Three of the participants involved shared a few words with us about “Precious Point of Unity”:

Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little bit about the project and what inspired its creation?

The project was inspired by several of the letters from the Universal House of Justice regarding this very special year BE178, leading up to the centenary of the Passing of Abdu’l-Baha. An invitation was sent out by one individual to members of the Baha’i community in the three Maritime Provinces (Canada) who have over the years indicated that they were artists or craftspeople for the purpose of collaborating on an artistic project in honour of this special year. Those individuals were encouraged to include any others who wished to collaborate. After the initial on-line consultation several project ideas emerged. The team was formed organically by those with the interest, talent and time to prepare the requisite project pieces.

The project team decided that each artist or craftsperson would create a piece of fabric art to depict a story from the book Vignettes from the Life of Abdu’l-Baha by Annamarie Honnold. In the end, the completed pieces—comprising quilting, cross stitching, appliqué, painting, rug hooking and beading—were sewn together into a wall hanging 76 inches wide by 72 inches tall. The design was a mountain rising to a peak, representative of the Pivot Point of the Covenant. Each row showcases the story blocks and progresses from the greens of the earth to the blues of the sky. A gold nine-pointed star was added as a symbol of the Baha’i Faith. A catalogue and an automated slide show, both featuring the fabric blocks, the vignettes and artists’ statements, were prepared to accompany the wall hanging or to be shared independently around the time of the Centenary commemorations.

Baha’i Blog: What was it like to participate in this project? How did it bring people together despite the restrictions of the pandemic?

Many contributors commented that they had trouble choosing just one vignette to depict and read the book cover to cover in their search. As each piece was completed and shared via social media, group members became more informed of the stories and wonderful examples set by Abdu’l-Baha in His interactions with the people in His life. In the process of preparing their pieces many of the participants shared the stories they had chosen and the purpose of the project with family members, friends and colleagues.

Personally I was able to engage many of my family members who are not Baha’is in the project, taking the photos, suggesting layouts, acting as drop off centres. Several of my crafting friends were consulted on certain aspects of the wall hanging construction and project management challenges. And as the project manager, I was in conversation with many of the contributors and saw in action how the concentric circles of contacts were affected by the project.

Due to geography and pandemic restrictions, the artists and craftspeople were unable to meet in person, so as the project manager I connected everyone through virtual meetings, shared directories, a Facebook group, telephone calls or texts, email and snail mail communications—all of which were instrumental to keep the momentum going. The diversity of completed pieces, the fabric art techniques and skill sets of the contributors provided challenges in combining the completed pieces into one cohesive wall hanging. The final product construction requires sewing experience, patience and confidence in the beauty of the final product. The project manager’s role is not unlike that of a gardener tending diverse plants in a garden.

Four of the blocks that make up “Precious Point of Unity”.

Baha’i Blog: How did participating in this project help draw you closer to Abdu’l-Baha?

Participating in this project provided an opportunity to engage with the teachings and life experiences of Abdu’l-Baha. The creative expression of the vignettes opened the door to reflect more deeply on the Mystery of God and His special station. I was happy to think creatively about Abdu’l-Baha’s understanding of what it means to be happy and what it means to be free. Finding and creating an image to represent His pure heart helped me to “feel” His purity in my own heart. Collaborating with all the crafts people and artists and seeing how Abdu’l-Baha’s words and deeds touched everyone in so many different ways created a sense of unity. The colours, images and textures were all part of a song of our love for the Master.

Baha’i Blog: What is something you learned by participating in this project?

This was quite a learning experience for me. The challenge was more than just creating and learning to sew a panel for a group effort wall hanging, something I had never tried before. It was about getting me out of my comfort zone. Instead of being an experienced, confident contributor, I was a beginner, untried and lacking both knowledge and skill. My work was going to be part of a larger whole and set beside those whose talent and expertise far surpassed mine. The first thing for me to learn was to temper my imagination and dreams with practice and reality. I had to set aside my ego and my self-imposed measures of success. I decided to accept and even embrace lack of perfection in deference to effort and action. These are all lessons so vital to a life of service, such as Abdu’l-Baha demonstrated throughout His life, one that we are striving to uphold.

While doing the project, I tried to find a way to cause the joy and love that I felt through the story I chose to speak through the images I created. How do I translate this quality in the life of Abdu’l-Baha into the actions of my life? Since doing the project, this has been a daily intention of mine. I also hope that some of the reaction that I had to the story is prompted by the panel I created. Together, all the panels should create a better understanding of His perfect example.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you Alva, Hedda and Jennifer, for sharing this with us!

You can get a closer look at all the blocks that make up the textile artwork in this Baha’i Blog images post: “Precious Point of Unity” – A Collaborative Textile Hanging

The artwork was also recently included in a hybrid art exhibition at Green Acre called “Abdu’l-Baha: Champion of Justice, Promoter of Unity, Exemplar of Service.” You can find out more here: https://bit.ly/3lxjLQg

Lastly, you can also watch a video about the project, which shares the stories and inspiration behind each block of the artwork, here:

About the Author

In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.

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