Artist Susanne Foster’s “COVID 57 weeks” is on view at the Mercer Island Visual Arts League (MIVAL) Gallery through the end of March. Photo courtesy of Anne Hritzay. Photo of the artist courtesy of Susanne Foster.

Artist Susanne Foster’s “COVID 57 weeks” is on view at the Mercer Island Visual Arts League (MIVAL) Gallery through the end of March. Photo courtesy of Anne Hritzay. Photo of the artist courtesy of Susanne Foster.

Local artist captures scale of COVID deaths by counting stitches

‘COVID 57 weeks’ is on view at the Mercer Island Visual Arts League Gallery.

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2021 9:40am
  • News

By Anne Hritzay

Special to the Reporter

Susanne Foster has created an emotionally powerful piece depicting the loss of life over this last pandemic year titled “COVID 57 weeks,” on view at the Mercer Island Visual Arts League (MIVAL) Gallery through the end of March.

She has intertwined collected embroidery floss (belonging to generations of women in her family) and crocheted a string of flags with every tiny stitch representing 10 lives lost. To put this in perspective, she has used the smallest size crochet hook, and the flag stretches the length of the MIVAL gallery. It is a stunning visual of the personal cost of this pandemic, and the reference to Tibetan prayer flag symbology is underscored with the curling active shapes of the squares spreading goodwill and compassion to the world.

Foster describes her process: “Between my recycling bug of two jam-packed shoe boxes of embroidery floss of 4-5 generations of family women (UK, Germany, US) and the ongoing COVID updates, my mind and hands came up with this art concept. I tried to set up and keep up some ‘rules of my engagement and technique’ — and the concept for the piece grew quickly in my head, then was actually finished within three weeks — the mission only gained a couple technical tweaks along the way.”

Foster came upon the flag concept after initially starting as a blanket, and then thought to lay it out as a type of calendar that changed the visual layout of the project to a line of squares, a line of prayer flags.

She continues: “I did not watch much TV while I crocheted — instead I felt much calmer and ‘celebrated’ the work time with classical music CDs, mostly in solitary, reflective hours. I enjoyed coming up with intricate, almost fluid color changes that took single strands (out of 6-7 strands in a working thread bundle) to change every 3-4-5-foot thread length, between 10-30 times per square.

“You know in your heart when an art concept is actually worth its realization, right? This was the case with this one. It all fell into place naturally — I have not felt that passionate about an art creation in many moons.”

This is a powerful example of how art and life can literally intertwine to share a greater message of hope and reality, marking this year and this pandemic in the pain of the loss and the beauty of artistry. As Foster states, she hopes you “enjoy your own moment of remembrance and love and compassion to gain renewed inner strength and continuing wisdom.”

The gallery is located at 2836 78th Ave. SE, Mercer Island, and is open from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, or by appointment. For more information, visit

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