Women's Craft: Embroidery


The large space in which the embroidering took place was filled with an energetic and diverse spirit, with some women concentrating meticulously on their pieces and others revelling in the presence of new faces, new friends. There was much laughing and joviality, most notably when Mona Afary, the founder of CERI, returned from the Dollar Store with arms full of reading glasses to help the women thread their needles with more accuracy (a formidable task for even the best of us!)

On the afternoons of July 12, 13, and 14, the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (CERI) hummed with activity, occupied by a group of women laughing, sewing, creating. In partnership with ARTogether, CERI hosted three days of embroidery workshops for Cambodian refugees in which looms and squares of cloth were brought to life by the careful tracing and weaving of colorful threads, metamorphosing from simplicity to personalized treasures.


The workshops were led by Negar Asef, an Iranian-born artist now based in the Bay Area who works closely with ARTogether. Asef, knowing that many of the women in her workshop were unfamiliar with embroidery, helped them choose designs that could be executed at a beginning skill level. Houses, figures, and flowers took shape slowly over the three afternoons, building slowly in dimension and color as stitches transformed into recognizable objects and images.


Despite the initial unfamiliarity of the crowd, three afternoons of creating inspired new friendships. As much as stitches build into familiar figures, a community is cultivated in the coalescence of small elements, individual pieces which merge into one vibrant body. Not only did the participants leave with new skills and embroidered works sporting blossoming plants and convivial women, they departed with newly forged relationships and a stronger, more wholesome sense of community and belonging.