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A photo gallery of yarn bombing images
Books, Yarn Bombing

Find Your Co-Conspirators

On October 30th, Mandy Moore and I will be celebrating the launch of the fourth printing and tenth anniversary edition of our book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti. For this special anniversary, we’ve added a new chapter featuring new yarn bombing works that delight us.

Yarn Bombing: The Art of Knit Graffiti was first published in 2009. In many ways, the book has become one of the most unanticipated yet joyous aspects of my life.

In 2007, I attended a graduate program in publishing with the hunch that I might hang up my long-unused creative writing and art history degrees, and instead pursue a career as a book designer. Little did I know that during the course of my studies, I would be ask to pitch a fictional book project that could be part of an art press. Yarn Bombing started as a silly school project that I pitched for fun – I had no idea that it would become a reality, much less something that would be out in the world being read and enjoyed a decade later.

Mandy and I yarn bombing in 2011

The inspiration for the book came from a couple of sources: a stitch and bitch that I’d started with some friends; the discovery of a handful of knit graffiti blogs through BlogSpot, an early blogging platform; and many of years of working as a programmer in community art council and art gallery settings, punctuated with the frustration that the so-called worlds of ‘high art’ and ‘low art’ never seemed to mix.

I threw the idea of a knit graffiti book out to my classmates, and they were encouraging. I took the idea to my instructors who informed me I had to pitch the book with a have a Canadian author, rather than best-selling knitting author Debbie Stoller. As luck would have it, Mandy and I had crossed paths at Knitting and Beer, a stitch and bitch that I used to run with some friends at a pub. She had been editing for Knitty.com and had just moved to Vancouver, and I immediately was awed by her knitting skills. I pitched Mandy as my ‘fake author’ for the project and never gave it another thought – until months later when Robert from Arsenal Pulp Press, who had attended my class’ pitch day to give us industry feedback, asked if I’d like to come in and discuss creating the book for them. A real book, with Mandy as my co-author.

And so, this is how Mandy and I really got to know each other – I sent her an email, asking her if she remembered me, and I asked her if she wanted to write a book with me. She was receptive, and through many late nights of writing, eating too much candy, and laughing hard through stress – we somehow wrote a book together.

Yarn Bombing Cover
Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, 2009

Yarn Bombing continues to be a project where, somehow, as if by magic, synergies occurred. Beyond the collaborative efforts of Mandy and myself, the project was truly the culmination of many hands. Friends, classmates, and significant others put in long hours to help out with modeling and photographing projects. Artists from around the world contacted us and offered to participate. Favourite locations in the city opened their doors to us. My friends who worked in bookstores did a lot of hand-selling. Friends of friends wrote media stories on us, and shared knitting projects with their relatives. Yarn Bombing, both in 2009 and 2019, is truly a book made by a community.

The last decade has brought many changes. When we wrote the book in 2008, social media was new and existed through MySpace and blogs. The City of Vancouver was a quieter place then (prior to the boom of hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics) and most of the locations that we shot in no longer exist. Many of the friends who posed for photographs have since changed relationships, become parents, or moved to other locations. We’re different than we used to be, but that’s okay – the spirit of yarn bombing has taken on new forms. Society has become more conscious of the right for human dignity. Protest culture has grown. Sustainability is not a luxury, but a basic tenant to human and species survival. Anarchy, hand-making, and coming together as a community are now widely recognized as vital political acts. The issues that we addressed ten years ago are still being talked about, and addressing them has become a vital part of work in many communities of citizen-maker-activists.

Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, 2009

Gathering with other people to make something out of the ordinary with a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of gumption is what remains true in the old and new editions of the book. I hope that Yarn Bombing continues to delight readers and that it encourages you to find your own creative projects, and your own co-conspirators. When you join forces and ideas with other people, there’s no limit to what can happen.

Join us for the:

Vancouver, Canada Yarn Bombing Book Launch Party:
October 30th, 2019 from 7pm-9pm
Broadway Book Warehouse

Book signing, free refreshments, and a BYOY stitch & bitch (bring your own yarn & needles and hooks)

RSVP and invite your friends via Facebook

Cover of Yarn Bombing book with a crocheted covered bull statue
Books, Yarn Bombing

Ten Years of Yarn Bombing

A new edition of yarnarchy launches this fall.

I’m pleased to announce that Mandy Moore and I have once again joined forces with Arsenal Pulp Press on Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti. (2009 and 2019)

  • A yarn bombed BMX bike
  • Stick Graffiti, Yarn Bombing translated into German
  • Leanne Prain (left) and Mandy Moore (right) at the Yarn Bombing book launch, 2009.
  • yarb bombing
  • Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore in Vancouver, BC
  • Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti book cover

In celebration of Yarn Bombing‘s 10th birthday and the fourth (!!!) printing of our book, Mandy and I have added a new foreword and chapter to the book in which we looked at what has transpired over the last ten years. You’ll find examples of work that we think demonstrates where the movement has gone, and interviews with new artists on where they think that the movement is going next. If you are a fan of the first edition, we hope that you’ll enjoy this second look at the movement.

The revised edition will be in bookstores on October 15, 2019. Ask your local indie bookstore to order it for you from our publisher, or if you can’t wait to see it and want to help us boost our pre-sales, you can pre-order from Amazon now.

For those of you in the Vancouver area, we’ll definitely be holding another party to celebrate! We hope that you’ll come knit, crochet and rejoice with us.

Books

Making a Thing a Day

IMG_0324

If you read my newsletter, you  know that I’m taking a design course right now. My course is on the subject of ideation or idea development, and as part of our homework, I have to do a ‘thing a day’ project.

What is a ‘thing a day’? It is a project where you make something every single day, regardless of whether you feel prepared do so or not.

Some of my classmates are making short videos, others are doing illustrations, and some are doing interviews. As my schedule is always jam-packed, I decided to pick up a project that I started a long time ago and then quit – I am taking a photo of a sign around my workplace in the Chinatown/Gastown/Downtown Eastside part of Vancouver. The reason why I chose to photograph signage is that I think that these small letterforms say so much, indirectly, about the changing-nature of my city.

The neighbourhood that I work in has been undergoing rapid gentrification for the last five years. It has been an interesting experience to watch it all happen from my office window. Housing for those with low income have been refaced into high-end condos, services for those in need have been turned into high end nail salons and baby stores, artist studios have morphed into sexy, empty loft spaces which no-one can seem to afford to rent.

Pictures of signs

Pictures from my #SignADay project.

I’ve taken on intense projects, but this is the first time that I’ve committed myself to making something visual every single day. I’m about a third of a way through the project right now and I’m learning about myself and how I approach my creative projects.Some days when I’m feeling resistant, I end up coming up with my favourite stuff, and some days when I’m feeling ‘I got this’, I end up terribly disappointed with the results. But when I look back at the last four weeks, I’m proud of myself for showing up every day – whether the photo turned out well or not. Sometimes it was pouring or I didn’t go to work, so I had to draw a picture of a sign – and despite not liking what I made, I had to post it. There is a special kind of magic in making things in large quantities. I’m finding that you can learn a lot about making by just showing up – over and over again.

More pictures from my #SignADay project

More pictures from my #SignADay project

If you want to take a look at what I’ve been up to, you can see my project take shape at #SignADay over on Instagram. Not all of the photos are mine – the interesting thing about sharing things in public is that people join in and are now sending me photos by using the hasgtag. This has become a spontaneous extension of the project, and one that I’m enjoying a great deal.

At the end of 12 weeks, I’m going to be rearranging all of the photos that I’ve taken into either a bound book or a piece of graphic design. I’m not sure what form the end presentation will take, but each photo that I take has sparked different ways that I could summarize this project at the end.

Other people who have done Thing A Day projects:

Noah Scalin’s Skull A Day (2008)

Lisa Congdon’s Collection A Day (2010)

Jessica Hische’s Daily Dropcap (2009)

 

Books, Creativity, Ecourse, Uncategorized, Writing Life

Mixing It Up in 2015

Bang by Ai Wei Wei at the Vancouver Art Gallery, December 2014. A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

I gave up making New Years Resolutions a few years ago. Instead, I’ve adopted a theme word for each year – last year’s word was JOY (and amid the ups and downs of life, there was a lot of it) and this year’s word is STRETCH. For me this means trying new things, taking on projects that I haven’t done before, and expanding the limits of my comfort zone.

Over the next few months, I’ll be filling my time with some exciting projects, including:

  1. Changing my e-newsletters to come out every two weeks. Not on the list? You can sign up here. I started to publish to my list monthly this past fall but lost momentum over the holidays. With blogging and e-newsletter writing, my biggest hurdle is not keeping up the habit. This year I really want to prove to myself that I can do this. 35 newsletters – here we come! (the next one comes out tomorrow – January 4th!)
  2. A website redesign - my current site is not reflecting my goals and interests. I’ll be doing gradual updates over the next month. Keep your eye out for changes. While my focus has been primarily on textiles and street art, I intend to start blogging more about design, making, and the intersection of culture with all of these things that we touch and make by hand.
  3. My first e-course! Launching February 1, I’ll be sending out a weekly prompt via STITCHED STORIES to inspire stories for textiles, or textile stories (as you wish). The course will run for 12 weeks and this first session will be free. Let’s write together, it will be fun. I’m limiting this run to 50 people tops, so sign up early.
  4. An ideation class  – I’m taking a night class at a local design program on brainstorming ideas, and I’ll share what I learn as I go. I’m looking at getting a fresh perspective on how to generate new ideas. Plus, I’m super-excited to be around young graphic designers again.
  5. Sewing clothes and trying to figure out my new Serger. I may need your help figuring this one out.

It seemed like 2014 was a mixed bag for many people I know, and there is a feeling of optimism about the coming year. 2015 – I think you are going to be a good one.


Did you receive Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles as a holiday gift? Drop me a comment on this post and let me know what you think of it!

And, thanks to the Surface Design Association for naming Strange Material a must-have book for 2014. I’m honoured!

Books

Common Threads, An Eco-Art Book by Sharon Kallis

Sharon Kallis Common Threads

I recently received a copy of Sharon Kallis’ Common Threads (New Society Publishers*), a new book on creating community-based eco art installations. Focusing on empowering readers to rethink landscape art and its purpose, this book is a study in how we have traditionally used park land and green spaces, and provides suggestion for new ways to think about  ‘greening’ the landscape.

Sharon Kallis Mothers Dresses

Sharon Kallis’ Mothers Dresses. Final Resting Place of Kells, Kilkenny Ireland. Magnolia left skeletons, organza. Image from Sharon Kallis’ website.

Common Threads uses Kallis’ projects as an eco-artist as a starting point. It details her collaborative projects with urban residents throughout city parks, many of them here in Vancouver. In these eco-works, Kallis reuses what we traditionally consider waste – hair clippings, animal fur, organic debris, and fallen waste.

One of my favourite parts of the book is how she details her work with invasive species such as yellow iris or blackberries, which are typically ripped from the landscape, which she has braided together into artwork which will eventually break down, turning into mulch for other plants.

Sharon Kallis Ivy Boat

Sharon Kallis Ivy Boat

Full of interviews with artists, landscape designers, basket bombers, urban flax growers, graveyard celebrations, and community activists – there is a lot of inspiration here. Detailing how one might build their team with eco-interventionists of researchers, artists, connectors , and municipal champions, Common Threads also contains a whole section that outlines the basic techniques a burgeoning eco-warrior might need, such as simple weaving and braiding. And, there are also health cautions for working with poisonous plants, and suggestions for dealing different types of weeds. It is smartly put together.

While most of the book is in black and white, I’m glad that the publisher did include one section of coloured photographs of the works, as these are the images that truly do the artwork justice. If I could make one criticism, it would be that I wish that the entire book could have been printed in colour because the projects are truly beautiful and the book is photo-heavy.

Sharon Kallis, with community. Ephemeral Mosaic.

Ephemeral Mosaic. Made of salvaged flowers post day of the dead festival made by community members (year unknown)

Common Threads is a good primer to eco-art and the inherently political nature of making art with the land with our current environment. With an eye to impermanence in art as a way to dissolve barriers among people and make a statement, Kallis asks in her introduction, “How do we produce, consume and relate to the things we use in our daily lives? How can we be enriched both personally and as a community when we shift our thinking to allow the time for, once again, making for ourselves?

This book provides many compelling reasons as to why we should make collaborative art in an era of excess. I’d highly recommend curling up with it on your next quiet Saturday afternoon.

*Full disclosure: Sharon’s publicist sent this book to me free of charge but I was not paid for this review.