The Princeton Paper Crane Project

This is a repost of the blog for our project called, The Princeton Paper Crane Project, that our retail store, Miya Table & Home is sponsoring with the Arts Council of Princeton and Mr. Ross Wishnick in Princeton, NJ.  You can find the original blog at The Princeton Paper Crane Project Blog.

The project came about as more and more people were dying from a disease that could not be contained. The hospitals were full, there were not enough masks, ventilators, tests, doctors, nurses…. there was only death. Everything seemed scary and hopeless. People were dying alone and funerals couldn’t even be arranged since everyone was in lockdown. The death toll in the U.S. was at approximately 2000 and growing rapidly.

I thought about the Japanese tradition of Senbazuru that promises a wish granted for anyone that makes 1000 cranes. We thought we could start making a crane to memorialize every life lost and when we opened the shop again, we could display it in the window as a tribute.

We had embarked on our first Senbazuru project back in January 2019 when there were rumors of a march organized by white supremacists in Princeton. It seemed unbelievable that this would happen in our little liberal bubble of a town. The march was canceled in the end but we kept the project going with the idea that once completed, we would make our wish of hope and peace and also make donations to the ACLU of NJ and the Cornerhouse Community Kitchen in Princeton.

As we spread word of the project, we invited others to add to our monetary donation or to donate a crane to help us reach our 1000 crane goal. By the end of June, we had reached our goal with the help of our customers. It felt amazing to be part of a community that cared about each other.

So flash forward to March 2020 when we wanted to do it again but this time as a memorial to the ones who had passed from COVID-19. We heard about people who were doing origami at home as a way to deal with the stress of the news. Everyone felt helpless sitting at home and origami was a way to relieve a little of the stress. After all, you can do it alone, you just need a piece of paper, and it only takes a few minutes to complete a project. Instant gratification.

It became clear early on that we would not be able to make one for everyone in the U.S. who had passed from COVID-19. We would have to focus on lives lost in NJ. Even that number was getting more and more daunting everyday.

With the number of victims growing everyday, going into the thousands, after a while, it almost seems unreal. On the one hand, how can this number be so high? How is this our reality? On the other hand, with the death toll so high, are we becoming jaded to the numbers? Can we even imagine how many people are actually dying?

So we came back to the idea of the Senbazuru. Except if we were able to make a crane for every life lost in NJ and make a large scale display, we could help people actually visualize what a large number of people this really was. We thought it could be a way for those to mourn anyone they may have lost. Or even just to mourn others, even if they were strangers, because this tragedy was affecting all of us regardless of whether we personally lost a loved one.

At this point, the number hit about 3,000 deaths in NJ and I thought I would need a larger space than our shop. I asked around to see if we could find a larger space that could display the number of cranes we would have to make. A couple of weeks later, I received a call from Ross Wishnick. It seems he also had a similar idea about creating some sort of memorial and heard about mine. And since two heads are better than one, as they say, we decided to work together. Thank goodness we did because he seems to know everyone in town!

So now, the project is a go. Miya Table & Home is donating all the paper for the project, Ross is setting up a way to get the paper to people around the community and the Arts Council of Princeton will display the project this summer.

We also want to include anyone who wants to make cranes on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement and recognize that systemic racism endangers the lives of Black and Brown communities. From COVID-19 taking a disproportionate number of Black lives, mass incarceration, police brutality and the general mistreatment of Black people, BLM is an important part of our project.

We realize that there were so many different stresses affecting our lives, especially in the past few months. Pandemic fears, mourning senseless deaths, social injustices, economic hardship, and more. We don’t want to limit participation to only thoughts of COVID-19. We hope we can provide a small outlet for people’s grief right now.

Please join us in creating our project. It is meant to truly be a community effort. We will be posting images of cranes that we receive and the progress we are making. Check back here or on our social media accounts (Instagram & Facebook) for more!