Sally Sellers is sewing to great lengths to show her creative prowess as a math nerd.
Like other math nerds ringing in the new year — at least those in the United States — she is eagerly awaiting a once-a-century phenomenon: A very special Pi Day, March 14, 2015, or 3/14/15 for those countries that use the month/day/year date format.
But she is honoring the day, which represents the first five digits of the mathematical constant pi — ? — in her own way.
Sellers has been working for nearly a year on a special project that will create a long line of fabric squares that represent as many digits of pi as possible. The first three digits are 3.14.
She’s been actively taking submissions for the project from people across the U.S. and the world. And she hopes to display it proudly in Vancouver for the first time on this year’s Pi Day.
“I just thought ‘why not?'” Sellers said. “The worst thing would have been if we only got to 10 numbers, but even then, so what? And so far we’ve gotten about 250, and more keep coming.”
Sellers is planning to continue taking contributions through Feb. 14, at which point she will begin the serious sewing undertaking.
But even after this year’s display is over, she may continue the project to see how long her strip of numbers can go.
“It will be like a giant ribbon,” Sellers said. “I don’t know where it will be displayed, but I’d love it to be outdoors. The best would be to make one long enough to stretch across the Interstate 5 Bridge, but I don’t think that will happen this year.”
Dan Wyatt, co-chairman of the Clark County Arts Commission, said so far there’s no solidified plan as to where to show the piece, but he added that the commission is aware of the project and plans to meet with Sellers in late January.
“I’ve been wanting to show the movie ‘Pi’ on that day,” said Wyatt, who also owns the Kiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver. “I’m wondering if there’s a way we can work together on this.”
Wyatt said if nothing else pans out, he hopes to find a way to display the work at his theater.
Sellers got the idea for the project, in part, from taking a contemporary quilting class in Portland. But the project also has a deeper significance for her.
It’s helping her live with the death of her child.
The youngest of the three daughters born to Sellers and her husband was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Rett Syndrome when she was a baby. She died a little over a year ago of pneumonia and complications from the illness.
“People adored that kid,” Sellers said. “She was a real sweetheart. This just, it helps me get through it. It’s like good therapy.”
Her other two daughters are still in the region; one is an emergency room physician assistant and the other is at Portland State University studying art.
Sellers decided on the quilting project because “I always liked to make things, but I don’t draw well,” she said.
Working with fabric is much easier for her.
She’s made about 20 numbers herself, but one of the greatest joys is watching what other people come up with when they make theirs.
“It’s been great to work with the public,” Sellers said. “Just doing something that people can do with you — especially with people who don’t consider themselves really artistic — it’s a lot of fun.”
The numbers she’s received so far include creations in marker, crochet and buttons. There’s an 8 with birds carrying it across the sky, a 5 partially buried in the sand.
“There’s just a huge variety,” she said.
Contributors can send in any number they’d like. The numbers in pi end up being fairly evenly distributed out to about 10,000 digits or so, she said.
“People really make a lot of 7s,” she added. “It seems like everybody has a favorite number though.”
Once she starts sewing it together, if she runs short of any particular numbers she’ll just make them herself, she added.
She hopes residents of Clark County will join in the fun. For more information or to sign up to participate, visit Sellers’ website, www.thepiproject.org.