The Crane Dress

I decided about a year ago to make a dress adorned in 1000 cranes.  The story of the 1000 cranes is of Sadako Sasaki, who was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima August 6, 1945.  Exposed to the radiation of the bomb, at the age of twelve she was diagnosed with Leukemia and would die a year later.  She folded 1000 origami cranes in the effort to grant her wish for life.  At the Hiroshima Peace Park, remembering those who died from the effects of the bomb, a plaque reads, “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth.”
To complete 1000 cranes your wish is granted.

What is my wish?  In folding the cranes, I feel this story of Sadako Sasaki, the need for peace, for us to recognize the preciousness of all human beings, of all beings, is imperative.  May this dress represent peace.

The making of the dress



Creating this dress has proved to be an extensive process.  I needed to choose materials and colors.  I decided on the colors of a Koi, red, orange and black.  I am still playing with white or yellow.  The paper needs to be strong enough to withstand being sewn onto the dress and also last through multiple wears and hopefully through travel.  My first inclination was tyvek, like the folded wallets you can buy that feel like paper but they are strong tyvek, very hard to rip.  I am still working on finding colored tyvek, as the process of purchasing and printing on tyvek seems an expensive endeavor.

So in the meantime, I decided on using paper and then making the paper stronger.  Regular inexpensive origami paper is pretty cheap in feel and look.  The more expensive paper feels more like fabric, but firstly, too expensive for the amount of paper I will need, and the normal designs on them were not in my vision of the dress.  I wanted solid colors with a little pattern mixed in there.  Since I normally work just with fabric, I did want the paper to look textured like fabric and rich in color.  So I’ve been buying paper from the art stores and hand cutting 4×4 squares.  I was advised to try spraying polyurethene on the cranes once they were folded to make them stronger and water proof.  So I did an experiment with three different products, a drawing fixer spray, polyurethene, and gel medium (mod podge).  The only one that was less ripable was the gel medium.  And so this was the winner.

The dress structure:

I see the dress as having a strong structure and a full skirt.  Like a ballroom, prom or wedding dress kind of shape.  Since there was a lot of work ahead of me with this dress, I figured I should be able to thrift a dress and maybe just need to alter it for sizing.  Well, without looking too long, I found myself on vacation in Nevada City and spotted the perfect dress for $25 that fit me perfectly!

The process continues:

Cutting, glueing, sewing, stay tuned for the next phase….

UPDATE 9-24-18: Just beginning work on this dress again, but waiting to see if I receive a grant from the Santa Cruz Arts Council to help pay for materials.  Will find out in December, so progress is slowed til then.  But I have many cranes already cut and folded so I’ve begun sewing them onto the dress again.


UPDATE 2-4-19: Happy Chinese New Year! Year of the female brown pig.  Ready to work hard and step into leadership.  I didn’t get any of the grants I set out for, but that’s just fine, except for putting me behind schedule.  I went and bought the rest of the paper in Japantown, San Francisco.  I found a large stack of the most beautiful paper, hand printed.  Here’s a photo of the paper.  I have decided to make all the 1000 cranes before I do any other steps.  I had originally decided to only use solid colors…until I found this paper.  But now I’ll have 500 of solid colored paper and 500 of printed.  I am not sure how I will want to pattern them out on the dress so better to wait til I complete them to lay them out in the best pattern.  Attempting to fold 100 a week..the drawers are filling up.  Oh, also realizing that the peace to come from the folding will benefit others, but it is creating a peace within myself, as the act of folding is very therapeutic.  I look forward to what else comes from this journey.


UPDATE 11-14-2020: Wow, been quite awhile since my last update.  Well, life was being life, I did my best to continue on with this project.  I folded cranes in coffee shops, next to loved one who were dying, in times of physical and emotional stress, to calm anxieties.  Each crane became a moment of peace manifested in physical form.  August of 2019 I completed folding 1000 cranes, while visiting Taos NM for the first time.  This was the trip that decided I would move to Taos.   Settling back into this project took me many months and then with quarantine from Covid, I was able to finish the glueing process on all 1000 cranes.  I finally began sewing the cranes beginning with the skirt.  I am just at the beginning stages of this and although the sewing has become a comforting practice, each row I complete I still wonder if this is going to work out.  


June 2021

The Crane Dress completion August 17, 2021

After six hours of continuous sewing, watching the cranes in the bin become less and less, counting to assess how many were truly left, surprised at each count that so many were still in there, but one by one they made their way onto the dress.  Tears filled my eyes. 

It all started as an idea for the Tokyo 2020 grant proposal, bringing artists from around the globe to the Olympics.  That proposal was not accepted, viewing my statement of peace as a political statement,  the Olympics were postponed a year, and who knows if the chosen artists ever did get to show their work.  I went forward with the dreams I created in that proposal.  At each step of this creation I knew it was a process, and one that I would give permission to take as long as it needed.  The process included a major life transition, a healing episode that lasted a year and a half, through two moves around the country, and many interactions with fellow humans.  At times I thought I might never finish, and was it even worth it.  At times it scared me that the task was too big, whilst knowing that that fear stoked the fire.  The dress was my mirror, my moods and perceptions on life staring back at me through the pile of cranes.  When distracted I learned to step away, when I lost perspective I learned to step back.  Reminders in the resourcefulness of taking pause.  

But today it is completed.  This dress looks back at me and says, see we did it! One step at a time, one crane at a time.  One moment at a time.  Most poignant is this lesson through big life transitions and certainly through our Covid years is this an ever true life lesson.  With the changing information of the pandemic, each day has truly felt unknown, requesting grace in our movements, surrendering to the unknown as we wake up to each days’ changing currents. 

May the lessons learned through this artistic process stay with me.  May I continue to ride the waves of life with gentleness.  May this dress inspire you and your journey through life.  Our wishes can come true, peace and hope can get us up in the morning, calm our mental chatter of worry, and greet the day and each other with a smile, a willingness to be in the here and now. 

What’s next for the dress?  With the Paseo Festival canceled, the “what’s next” has found itself in the air.  But the future journey of this dress is to travel it, create short and evening length works around it, incorporating it into residencies, taking students on a creative healing journey and into performance, and to someday, honor in person the Hiroshima Peace Park through dance with this devotion to peaceful living. 

“Her death gave us a big goal. Small peace is so important with compassion and delicacy it will become big like a ripple effect. She showed us how to do it. It is my, and the Sasaki family’s responsibility to tell her story to the world. I believe if you don’t create a small peace, you can’t create a bigger peace. I like to gather those good wishes and good will and spread to the world,” said Masahiro Sasaki.