Symbol of Peace Being Used to Memorialize War Losses

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Artist Judy Dunn is using the classic origami crane form to memorialize the losses in Iraq war. Dunn is making cranes out of polymer clay to represent each soldier killed in Iraq. The project will also include cranes made from waxed paper to represent the Iraqis who have been killed in the conflict.

Polymer clay cranes folded by Dunn

Each person imparts a little bit of themselves in the cranes through the act of folding.

Judy Dunn, of Acton, MA, is a craft artist who began working with polymer clay, five years ago. She experimented early on with how to fold the classic origami crane form out of polymer clay. At first, she looked at this ability as a bit of a party trick. But, then she was reached by a family in Indiana. They asked Dunn to make a dozen cranes for them. One wing would have the name "Bobby", and the other, the word "Believe". Dunn put together the cranes, and then learned the story behind the request. Bobby had been a Marine in Iraq. He loved origami for most of his life. While in Iraq, he would fold cranes and hand them out to Iraqi children. He was not stationed there very long before he was killed by an IED. He left behind a pregnant fiancé, and a family feeling a profound loss. The cranes were to be a symbol of his life and of peace.

That story shifted the world a bit for Dunn. More stories followed; stories of loss, or stories of new lives. Anniversaries celebrated. The cranes are symbols of peace, prosperity, long life and fidelity, and so they seem to touch people's lives in many different ways. Dunn got the message that the world needed more cranes, and she found herself busy making and selling them all across the country through galleries and shops.

Earlier this year, Dunn decided that the cranes would be a way to help make concrete something that seemed to be invisible. Initially, after the invasion of Iraq, it was easy to find out information about how many soldiers had been killed, and something about those soldiers. Over time, that information seemed to become less available. Except at an anniversary, or when a major landmark number was reached, it was barely seen. Yet, the families, comrades and loved ones of these soldiers were living the loss.

Dunn has begun folding a crane from translucent polymer clay to represent each soldier killed in Iraq. After curing the clay, the crane is about the color and translucency of waxed paper. Each crane is being made to the same size. On the wings, Dunn is transferring the name of the soldier, the date they were killed, where they were killed, and the cause of death. These statistics or facts represent a life and a story for Dunn.    

As Dunn began to fold the cranes for this project, she was bothered by the number of Iraqis who have been killed in the conflict, again relatively unnoticed. The numbers were staggering. Folding enough polymer clay cranes to represent the Iraqis as well would not be possible. Instead, she decided they could be folded from waxed paper. Others could contribute to this aspect of the project. Already, several people in California, Chicago, Maine, and New York have begun folding the cranes. Many, many more remain to be folded, but Dunn believes that the community aspect of this project will provide others with a way to express their personal frustration over the losses, and to honor those lives. One of her objectives in the coming months is to find members of the military, and Iraqis to help fold these cranes. "The more people who contribute to this project, the more impact it will ultimately have", according to Dunn. "Each person imparts a little bit of themselves in the cranes through the act of folding."

Dunn has begun to apply for grants to cover her costs of the project. She has slowed down her business for the time being, and has already spent over $1000 for materials. A video has been posted on YouTube showing how to fold cranes from polymer clay as a way to generate donations.

She hopes that the project will ultimately be installed in multiple locations. One possible site has been identified in Kansas City, and she is looking into other possible locations closer to home. A blog chronicles the progression of the project. So far she has finished folding all of the cranes for 2003, and has begun work on 2004. It is not clear yet how long it will take her to complete the project, but she hopes to have caught up with the cranes to represent the fallen soldiers by next spring.

Dunn can be contacted through her blog, The Crane Project Blog. Donations can be made through the blog, or mailed to her at: Judy Dunn, P.O. Box 2924, Acton, MA 01720.

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Judy Dunn

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