TRENDS Diary: Cross Stitching Helps Boulder Artist Process Gravity and Grief

Fiber and ink artist Heather Schulte works on her piece, The Situation Report, outside her Boulder home. Photo courtesy Brad Haynes

TRENDS Diary, a project of the Community Foundation of Boulder County, is a place for Boulder County residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to a pressing community need. The focus, for now, is on our shared need to connect and solve problems, despite the increased isolation we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listen To The Audio Diary:

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Dear TRENDS Diary,

When the stay-at-home orders came down, I had a few days where I felt like my brain was on standby. My kids weren’t in school anymore, people were buying toilet paper like it was the end of civilization. I think all of us were in a daze.

I work with textiles and techniques that are resource intensive — using machines and materials I suddenly didn’t have access to, but I had a bunch of fabric and thread on hand. I thought of cross stitch–what if I stitched the case count each day, recording what’s happening? The fabric is like a big grid. I gather the data from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, lay out the area of whatever that day’s count is and stitch the outline. Blue stitches are cases; red stitches are the deaths.

The numbers were astounding, how quickly they were rising. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Having a tangible representation helped me understand the gravity of our situation.

In April, my uncle tested positive and then died a couple days later. The piece has been a way for me to process my own grief and sense of loss, the sense of loneliness of not being able to gather with my family and commemorate him. When it’s safe, I plan to bring it with me to Alabama and stitch on it with my family.

Cross stitching is very meditative; its repetitive nature is calming and therapeutic. I am unable to stitch every case and complete this work on my own, so I’ve been bringing it outside to stitch with my neighbors, and will bring it to the wider community when it is safe to do so. I aim to bring people together to process the grief and loss and chaos of this time.

– Heather Schulte, as told to Shay Castle