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'The gift of this project': One Million Stars Texas is part of a global crafting movement against violence

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Melissa Knight
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Just a few of the stars woven for One Million Stars Texas

Artist and weaver Maryann Talia Pau created One Million Stars to End Violence in Australia in 2012; in the near-decade since, it’s grown into a worldwide project, but it began as a much smaller scale endeavor to help Pau process a local tragedy. “I started this as a very little idea,” Pau says. “It was a personal response to a local tragedy. A young woman named Jill Meagher was raped and murdered in my community in Brunswick, Victoria… and I needed to do something that helped bring me healing and that could help make sense of this awful tragedy. And so I turned to weaving, I turned to star weaving. It’s something that my people do – I’m from Samoa – and so I decided to create this community of star weaving and to reach out and to teach as many people [as possible] and to invite people to join me to weave one million stars.”

When she set her original goal a million stars, that seemed like an ambitious and lofty aspiration. It was a pleasant surprise, then, when she surpassed that goal within a few years. “We actually ended up collecting over 2.4 million stars and we displayed one million of these during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, so there was this beautiful installation for about two weeks in Brisbane City,” Pau says. “And we’ve had over 15 countries participate, including Samoa, Canada, USA, Ireland, Malaysia… it’s just been incredible.”

The success of One Million Stars to End Violence led to a necessary name change earlier this year. “We’ve rebranded… to now be One Billion Stars because we’ve realized that this is something that people want to keep doing,” Pau says. “It’s a really gentle, powerful, healing, therapeutic way to bring people together to continue this conversation of how can we end violence in our communities? This craft is a really beautiful and inclusive way to bring people together to have these conversations and to create safe space and to activate people and inspire people to want to do more.”

Austin is the latest community to join in the One Billion Stars project. Austin-based (and Australian-born) batik artist Melissa Knight is the facilitator for One Million Stars Texas, the local iteration of the global project. “You know, I really learned about it last summer during the pandemic and during the Black Lives Matter protest,” Knight says. “So I really felt this strong pull to this project and to find a way for us to connect, especially during the pandemic and this time when we were all feeling isolated. Because I think a big part of this project, too, is really about bringing people together to have conversations and to connect with each other and to learn from each other.”

One Million Stars Texas was launched about a year ago, with Maryann getting up around 6:00 am Australia time to lead virtual star-weaving workshops for Texas participants. They’ve since been able to host a few in-person, outdoor weaving workshops, adding more weavers and more stars over the months.

In Austin, there are a few places to see some of the locally-woven stars in the project. “We’ve partnered with the Austin Public Library, and so we plan to have quite a few star installation in the coming months, but the one we’re planning on right now is the holiday tree at the Central Library,” Knight says. “But it’s ongoing – there’s no end date. We actually have a star installation right now at 10,000 Villages… and we were just there over the weekend giving star-weaving demonstrations.”

Pau says that part of the appeal of star weaving is its inclusiveness – weaving a star takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a relaxing and therapeutic hobby, and stars can be woven out of almost any flexible material. “I think the gift of this project is that it just cuts through language barriers, culture… because this is an issue in all of our communities. It’s a global emergency, really. It doesn’t matter what community you come from, what village, what city you live in – we’re all battling with some form of violence in our community,” she says. “I think the intention really was driven because of the joy and the satisfaction and the healing that I felt. And I thought, ‘Well, if I find this really meaningful for me, there should be one other person in the world, at least, right?’ And it just so happens to be that there’s hundreds of thousands of other people that connect with this.”

One Million Stars Texas is always looking for more star weavers. The Austin Central Library will host star-weaving workshops on December 7 and December 16. The stars woven for the project are currently adorning the holiday tree at Austin Central Library and are also on display at 10000 Villages.

Melissa Knight also sent along this thank you message:
One Million Stars Texas would like to thank:  Maryann Talia Pau, Austin Public Library, Jieun Beth Kim & Sharon Herfurth, Austin Allies, Erika Nowlin & Amy Davis, Ten Thousand Villages, Amy Lloyd, Jennifer Greene & Maggie Valenti, Black Pearl Books, Austin Creative Reuse, Jen Mack & Sandi Smith, Mary Kraemer & Azucena Garza, City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Austin Creative Alliance, Ethan & Francis Azarian. Thank you to donors who supported this project. Thank you Mike Lee and KUT/KUTX. Thank you to our star weavers for joining our star weaving movement for violence free communities.

Mike is a features producer at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for KUT.org. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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