Artist Jonent Middleton led this sprawling project in collaboration with chris+keir and cultural exchange to China. chris+keir became the official mascots of the project and documented the process in their short documentary, ‘Jonnet and the Pandas’. In April 2010, Unitypanda saw its official launch at the Coventry Artspace shop and venues nationwide. It saw scores of knitters pooling their time and effort would create a hundred Unity Pandas or more. All the knitted pandas went on tour in an interactive art exhibition in autumn/winter 2010-2011. The project saw chris+keir become documentary makers, panda cheerleaders. In 2012 the project went full meta with Jonnet, and the Chinese Embassy invited her pandas to an exhibition and presentation of the knitted Pandas to residents in Beijing.
“ As the saying goes, many hands make light work. Every panda stitch is helpful, and everyone can knit as much or as little as they like. As the needles start clicking, hind legs and paws will begin taking shape, and all will have a good time. It’s anyone’s guess how many pandas will appear when a lot of people each make a little effort, and that’s part of the fun.
Knitters will follow an original pattern from 1946 that commemorates the giant panda “Miss Unity Panda” to London Zoo. The lovable 10” knitted creature comprises 24 parts, some being larger and more complex than others. Pandaknitters choose which part of the panda they have the time and skills to knit. Panda parts range from an ‘ear’, a quick and easy knit, to an ‘upper half fore leg’ which suits the more experienced knitter.
Would-be participants don’t even need to knit to join the panda fun. Help is required to cut rags for stuffing, sew the pandas up and embroider eyes and noses. People are more than welcome to share their knitting memories around the panda knitting table. Perhaps someone even remembers Miss Unity Panda arriving at London Zoo 66 years ago! In keeping with the 1940’s theme, music from the wartime era will enliven the proceedings. Parents are welcome, and a selection of panda books and toys are available for children. “ – Unity Panda Phoneline