Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): What inspired you to embark upon the project of crocheting a photo image of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan?
Jacqueline Muhammad (JM): First, I must give thanks to Allah for His Beneficence and Mercy, and for the Teachings of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, as given to us through his student, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
In January 2011, after a lengthy application process, I was nominated to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in North Africa, teaching business skills in the rural villages of Morocco. In the Peace Corps, it is customary that PCV’s bring small, inexpensive gifts for their host family. Since crocheting is something that I love to do, and crochet hooks are easy to pack, I decided early on that this would be my gift. I also wanted to teach them how to make a product that could be sold at the souq (market).
During my search for such a project, I stumbled upon several crochet portraits by Todd Paschall, of Atlanta, Ga., the creator of this technique. I immediately contacted Todd, and proceeded to complete his training class. I learned the process very quickly and purchased the pattern of the Minister soon afterwards. The pattern is created from a digital photograph, using software designed by Todd. I am now a certified instructor.
EM: What thoughts and feelings were crossing your mind?
JM: As a PCV I am allowed to take minimal personal belonging. There will be no room for books, tapes, or CD’s. Additionally electricity may be unreliable. My first thought was that a crocheted portrait of Minister Farrakhan would not only be durable and easy to pack, it would also be a physical and tangible reminder of the work of the Nation of Islam. If I ever found myself having a pity party, the portrait would remind me that my 27 months commitment compared to his lifelong sacrifice, is but a drop in all the oceans.
EM: How was the experience, spiritually, as you were completing each step and seeing it materialize?
JM: The experience was amazing. I actually took several pictures at different stages of the process. When it was about 75% complete, I held it up for inspection and caught a glimpse of it reflecting in a mirror. My mouth literally dropped open. I was stunned! Working so close to the piece, I had no idea of the depth and the dimensions of what I was creating. At that point the spiritual connection took over and was very strong.
EM: How long did it take you to complete the artwork?
JM: I worked on the piece during my personal time, so the process took about 3 to 4 months to complete.
EM: How did it come to be that your artwork would be presented to the Minister?
JM: As I mentioned before, the piece was created for my personal gratification. In late October, I was invited, and agreed to speak at a craft show in Houston, TX. At that time I was advertising crochet portrait classes at the local Hobby Lobby, so I decided to speak about the process, and to exhibit the portrait of Minister Farrakhan, hoping to encourage students from the community. This is when I decided to frame it.
Well, my daughter Tweeted a picture of the framed portrait, and Bro. Jesse Muhammad of Houston, TX, responded with, “Can the Minister have this!” I told him emphatically yes, of course! And that was the beginning.
EM: What was going through your mind with that possibility and even during the actual presentation?
JM: I delivered the piece to Bro. Jesse nearly a week prior. It was my understanding that he would make the presentation to the Minister, along with other gifts, in a private setting. I was completely shocked and caught off guard when I realized that the portrait was being presented in my presence.
EM: Not only were you recognized for your work here in Houston in his presence, but he also mentioned it again during the national M.G.T. class. How was it to experience it all over again?
JM: It was and is an extremely humbling experience. He sees my love for him through the portrait. I see his love for me through his sacrifice. I can only describe the culmination of these events as a perpetual pleasure moment!
EM: What has all of this inspired in you?
JM: Crochet portraits is a lucrative home based business opportunity. Small portraits start at $250.00, and the larger ones have sold for upwards of $2,500.00. Athletes, celebrities, families, graduates, and pet owners have all had their photos made into crochet portraits. This amazing experience has inspired me to present crochet portraits to the Nation of Islam as an income generating opportunity for the sisters. I’m hoping to sponsor a workshop during Saviours’ Day 2012.
EM: What has come as a result of your work being presented to the Minister?
JM: The Minister asked me to teach this lost art to the class. Insha Allah, I will begin teaching the pre-requisite crochet class this month in M.G.T. class.
EM: Absolutely beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! May Allah continue to bless you and keep you here and abroad!
JM: All Praise Is Due To Allah! Thank you!
Sis. Jacqueline Muhammad has since received her permanent assignment from the Peace Corps. She will be serving in Lesotho, Southern Africa from May 30, 2012 until August 7, 2014. She will serve as a Community Health and Economic Development Advisor. She aspires to train others in the crochet portraits technique before she leaves. If you would like to contact Sister Jacqueline Muhammad, she can be reached at email@example.com.