March 29, 2020

Button project a memorial to Sept. 11 victims

A month after the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, artist and weaver Sarah Haskell of York felt a need to respond in some way to the shock, grief and outrage sweeping the nation and unsettling her own personal world. She e-mailed friends and family and asked for buttons. Why buttons?

“I needed a concrete way to grasp [the concept] of the number of people killed. I needed a simple object that I could count,” Haskell said.

As a result of her request, “within 24 hours I had strangers at my studio with handfuls of buttons. Every day for almost six months, I received more buttons either in my mailbox or hand-delivered,” she says on her Web site about her Sept. 11 memorial piece “Each One: The Button Project.”

The buttons, she said, became “an amazing metaphor for human life, symbolizing individuals, closures and how one piece of cloth is connected to another.”

Eventually, Haskell collected thousands of buttons from hundreds of donors. During the winter of 2001-2002, she worked on the weaving that would become the foundation for “Each One,” measuring 4 feet, 3 inches wide by 9 feet, 7 inches tall. Its shape, reminiscent of a skyscraper, evolved as she worked, she said.

When it came time to incorporate the buttons into the weaving, Haskell called on community members to help. It took more than 25 people 10 days to sew the buttons to the piece.

Her original design was planned to accommodate 4,500 buttons since that was the early, official estimate of how many died in the attack. But when that number was lowered to 3,000, Haskell had to remove buttons from the design. Her husband suggested that she remove the center buttons. Doing so made the piece visually reminiscent of the Twin Towers. “It was one of those happy accidents that sometimes happens in art,” Haskell said, illustrating that it isn’t always what an artist puts into a piece, but what is taken out.

The piece, she said, “is somber, almost like a shroud. It isn’t about individual identity, it’s about collective identity – but each one [in that collective] is important.”

The piece was exhibited last month at the VOICES of September 11th event at the Marriott Financial Center in New York City to mark the fifth anniversary of the attack. VOICES is an advocacy group led by Mary Fetchet who lost her 24-year-old son in the World Trade Center attacks.

Haskell said the experience of exhibiting “Each One” in New York City was “very profound. There is still a lot of deep grief at ground zero.”

Haskell’s interest in weaving began in 1969 and she pursued it by studying textile design at the Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 1976. Until the 1990s she worked on pieces commissioned by private individuals. Then, her focus began to shift toward art education.

She is a faculty member of Heartwood College of Art in Kennebunkport and sits on both the Maine and New Hampshire Arts Commission rosters and the VSA Arts NH roster.

Haskell is now artist-in-residence, based at Schoodic, at Acadia National Park, a post she will hold until Oct. 14. As artist-in-residence, she has made several presentations to the public. She also conducted two workshops for seventh- and eighth-grade pupils at the Lewis Libby School in Milford.

For more information about Haskell and her work, visit For more information about VOICES, visit www.voicesof


. Esther Snow of Bangor, who has 14 great-grandchildren for whom she likes making gifts, is seeking a pattern for a Raggedy Ann doll. If readers have an extra pattern they would like to share, call her at 945-3827.

. A reader who is in her 70s called to say she would like to find a pen pal in Ireland with whom she can share her enthusiasm for knitting, crocheting and embroidery. If readers know of any resources that would be of help, give me a call or send an e-mail and I’ll pass the information on.

. Internationally known knitting designer and author Kaffe Fassett will present a slide show and lecture, “Kaleidoscope of Color” 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, at the Boothbay Opera House in Boothbay Harbor. Tickets are available at Stitchery Square in Camden, 236-9773, or for more information, call Nancy, 633-7222.

Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153, or e-mail

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