Early 2020, the Church History Museum (for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) announced the theme for their 12th International Art Competition: “All Are Alike Unto God.”
As an occasional cross-stitcher, this seemed like a great opportunity to dive back into the hobby. I was immediately inspired by the “If The World Was A Village of 100 People” concept. This isn’t a new idea, but this infographic by Jack Hagley is a good introduction.
I wasn’t sure how old this data was, and I also wanted to develop my own set of characteristics, so I did some of my own research. The categories I decided to include were: eye and hair color, gender, sexuality, religion, disability, continent, country, ethnicity, and age. Most of the characteristics involved searching out a wide variety of sources to make sure I had the most accurate information.
My gender categories includes not only male and female, but also intersex, transgender, and nonbinary. Sexuality includes heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and asexual orientations. Disabilities included physical, mental, deafness, and blindness. This category I feel is most underrepresented, but since most disabilities are invisible, I’m okay with my limitations in portraying disabilities.
Continents were easy to break down by population percentage, but country, ethnicity, and age were all tied into my continent breakdowns. Ages were determined per continent, grouping males and females into under 15, 15-64, and 65+. (Intersex, non-binary, and transgender people were selected from these groups afterwards to ease in calculations.) Countries were determined by population percentage within the continents, but when percentages got small enough to only equal one person, I randomly selected from the smaller remaining countries. Ethnicities were then determined by the highest percentage ethnic group within the country, divided if necessitated by the size of the country.
With my basic statistics calculated, I wrote a Python program to randomly assign attributes to each of the one hundred people. This was a good start, though it needed some minor tweaking afterwards, especially regarding religion in some countries (e.g. Christianity is significantly less common in China, and Hinduism is more prevalent in India).
The next step was creating patterns for each one of the people. I used Stitch People templates, including their religious and cultural patterns. However, my desire to incorporate national dress meant I spent a lot of time developing my own designs after researching typical or traditional clothes of the country and/or ethnicity each person was from. Each person took an average of an hour to design, including the research process.
During the design process, I gave each person a name chosen from their respective cultures. Although these names aren’t visible in the final project, I saw myself as how our Heavenly Parents see us—They know our names and our lives even if we can’t know the lives of everyone around us.
The next step was stitching the people themselves; these took an average of two hours per person. I chose white linen, as linen is one of the few fabrics mentioned in the scriptures. I intentionally left the backs visible as a reminder of the complexity of our lives, no matter how put together we may seem on the outside. I embraced the imperfections in my stitching, embedding the imperfection of the human condition.
After they had been stitched, I added borders in silver and gold thread to prevent significant fraying. The silver and the gold are representative of our Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father respectively.
These are the figures before I hung them up.
Asia—Countries with more than one figure
Africa (grouped roughly by country for those that have multiple from a country)
Latin and South America (including Mexico):
North America (United States and Canada):
I also included figures of Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, and Jesus Christ. These were stitched without features, providing a blank canvas for people to provide their own interpretations. Heavenly Father was stitched in gold thread, while Heavenly Mother was stitched in silver thread; Jesus Christ was stitched in a combination of the two. They were also stitched at double the size of the other figures.
The next step was to hang them into a mobile. My intention for doing so was to keep any one person from being more important than any other. A mobile requires all of the pieces to be in balance with each other. The Heavenly Family is placed at the top, connecting us all to Them and balancing through Them.
Each embroidery hoop (traditionally used for cross stitching) holds the figures for one continent. Countries with multiple figures have the figures attached along the same string. Even though some figures seem to be above others in the country, they are still all needed for balance, and none of them hang directly from another person.
I’d like to hope that people are able to see elements of themselves in the figures, as well as find where they balance in the world. I believe that our Heavenly Parents know us even more intimately than I know these figures that I created.