Nov 1, 2011

TREND | YARN BOMBING


Example of Yarn Bombing at the Blanton Art Museum, Austin, TX
As the weather gets colder, you may notice that you are the not the only one (or thing) that is donning a knit sweater. Local city objects are becoming wrapped in knit garments, as well in a trend known as "yarn bombing".

I first encountered yarn bombing in the Montrose area of Houston, TX. It was the winter of 2006 and it was cold (for Texas anyway). Before getting into my car I looked up to find a light pole covered in what looked like a yarn jacket. "Look, even the light pole is cold," I remarked with a laugh, and that was that. I will admit that I never gave it another thought until a few weekends ago when I encountered another instance of this type of yarn graffiti in Austin outside the Alamo Drafthouse. From that point on my interest was sparked and I had to know more about this strange form of graffiti.

A simple Internet search for yarn bombing does not result in many informational hits. Wikipedia defines yarn bombing as "a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth rather than paint or chalk." However, my curiosity was unsatisfied so I began to delve deeper. That is when I found Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, a book written by Mandy Moore (no, not that Mandy Moore) and Leanne Prain, that not only details the history and purpose of yarn bombing but also is filled with beautiful full-color photographs of the art itself.

To my surprise, I learned the yarn bombing movement actually began in Houston, Texas in 2005 with a guerilla art group that refers to themselves as "Knitta Please." The book describes the very first instance of yarn bombing as a “rectangular strip [knit] out of blue and pink acrylic yarn” which was sewn to a door handle. Yarn bombing pioneer Magda Sayeg (AKA PolyCotN) describes this piece as the “alpha piece.” She goes on to say:
I started so simply. I sat in my clothing shop and I looked through the glass. I was just tired of it, and I needed something bright. I knitted the door handle for the front of my store. I got such a strong reaction that I knew that I wanted to do more. People came inside and said, "What is this? What artist did this?" So I called my friend and said, “This sounds kind of weird, but follow me through—I’d like to tag the stop-sign pole down the street.”
With the help of her friend, now known as A Krylik, the two began tagging objects all around town sometimes leaving a label on such items with the slogans "Knitta please" or "Whaddup knitta?" Since, this crafty form of street graffiti has spread to become not only a national but also an international sensation. The Knitta crew has even traveled to the Great Wall of China to tag one of its’ bricks!

There are many reasons a person may feel compelled to participate in yarn bombing. Some reasons cited in the book include: "It’s fun and portable, it allows you to use knitting and crochet work for a purpose other than garment creation ('taking back the knit'), [and] it inspires joy and surprise, both in yourself and others." Sayeg herself talks about a desire for her fifteen minutes of fame.
There were things in my life that I thought would be my fifteen minutes of fame…I have a clothing shop, and I design clothes. And I thought that that was going to be my thing. But this simple, silly idea of making something pretty in my own world has taken me international and given me more than anything else in my life has.
Though yarn bombing began with a quest for those much sought after "fifteen minutes," it has grown into a widespread trend and community. It has united people internationally in a vision to make the world a more fun and colorful place to live in. And for once, art is not taking itself so seriously.

-Alyshia Maynard

6 comments:

  1. oh my goodness, I remember seeing this in Kansas City, MO. It drove me nuts. I had no idea why people were doing it and I began to see more and more. This was certainly informative, but I have to say, the whole thing still drives me nuts.

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  2. I think this is so cool! I remember seeing this in Houston while I was visiting. I love spontaneous art in random places, especially when the collaboration involves nature. In person the colors were so vibrant, yet from far away I had no idea what it was! After touching the tree trunks, I realized what it was and loved it even more. Such a simple concept that caught my eye right away. Thanks for sharing!

    - Kerri Pearson

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  4. Placing yarn on outdoor objects is artistic and different. Did happen to cross one on campus a couple of years ago on a tree and personally had an odd reaction to it. If anything the yard bombing is colorful, earth friendly, and emphasizes softness. The approach in applying yarn on our surrounding environment is enriching rather than applying harsh spray paint used in graffiti art.

    - Annette Cantu

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  5. I can remember the day I first saw sweaters covering the big blue rectangles under the railroad bridge on S. Lamar between 5th Street and the bridge. It took a while to believe my eyes. Then I saw little cozies adorning the stanchions as you turn south onto the the S. 1st Street bridge. Personally, I love the idea of this not-so-permanent form of artistic expression. I think the idea of putting a sweater on a street lamp or electrical box is playful and endearing. I have seen this all over Austin, and it makes knitting something that people, besides your grandmother, will want to do! I've often wondered who came up with the idea of crocheting covers for concrete. I hear one of the yarn bombers works at an art gallery and performance space in the Blue Star District just south of downtown San Antonio. It makes me smile to think that this whimsical trend has gone global - I'm all about sharing the warmth!

    -Victoria Eastman

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  6. I was involved in a community yarn bombing project 'Knit the City' in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. It was a fantastically fun way to engage primary school children in creating street art instalations to brighten up the city scape!

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