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Yarn Bombing

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.

Yarn Bombing

On Yarn Bombing and Ethics

Olek, aka the bad girl of yarn bombing who doesn’t consider herself a yarn bomber, is in the middle of controversy again.

brooklyn-street-art-olek-pangeaseed-isla-mujeres-mexico-08-14-web-1

Photo credit: Olek for Pangeaseed. Isla Mujeres, Mexico. August 2014 (photo © Pangeaseed)

Last week, she wrapped pieces in Cancun’s Underwater Museum with her signature camo-graffiti crochet in a campaign to “save our seas” supported by PangeaSeed, who, according to their website, is an international organization who collaborates with members of the art, science, and environmental activist communities.

Monday, Artnet News reported that Mexican authorities and the Underwater Museum were looking to press charges as Olek had allegedly tampered with the museum’s art without permission and damaged sea life growing on the statutes in a protected wildlife area in the process of creating her uninvited installation.

Here is a video produced by PangeaSeed that shows Olek’s installation in process with an audio of her project rationale:

This is an interesting ethnical dilemma – on both sides there are individuals who are passionate about our oceans and marine life.

Questions arise: Is a barnacle’s life worth less than a shark? Does an artist making her mark on a landscape for political reasons of the entire oceans’ health trump a few individuals concern one small patch of ocean? Is this a stunt that uses an artists’ celebrity for attention, or will it be an effective campaign to make active change? Does the Underwater Museum already call attention to PangeaSeed’s concerns by shining the spotlight on our oceans through art already?

Over the years, I have been repeatedly asked two very specific questions about yarn bombing – which this project brings up again. Here’s my attempt to give the best answers I can, from what I’ve gleaned from talking to those who create political work and those who want to stick in the realm of cute and cozy.

1. Is Yarn Bombing Illegal?

Yarn bombing, unless done with the permission of a host organization or a private property owner, is illegal. Most municipalities encourage it, but some do not. If you are installing something without permission – it IS graffiti.

From day one, Mandy (my Yarn Bombing co-author) and I have always encouraged new yarn bombers to assess their personal risk level – ask yourself, are you willing to get caught? Are you willing to get arrested?

If yes, proceed with caution. If not, don’t. Graffiti is a crime and those who partake in it consistently take risks to make this kind of art. Yes, yarn bombing is generally considered a warm and fuzzy activity, but sometimes it is not. Some artists paint pictures of kittens and unicorns, some paint our worst nightmares. Why should we assume that the yarn bombing world only represents one spectrum of opinion? Just as with any other art form, yarn bombing represents human behaviour  – a wildly diverse and unpredictable variable if there ever was one.

2. Is Yarn Bombing damaging?

Yarn bombing can be damaging. Let’s not pretend that it can’t be.

Unlike spray paint which sticks to a surface, generally yarn will eventually be cut away from a surface or rot away but it can mark surfaces, or restrict access, or be adhered with materials that are damaging.

Trees are often what people are concerned with. I’ve heard concerns on both side. I’ve had an arborist tell me that as long as knitting on a tree didn’t restrict a tree’s growth or sap production, it’s fine. I’ve had another scientist tell me that it could eventually hamper the tree’s growth or attract insects who would want to kill the tree. Some yarn bombers take it upon themselves to remove knitting when it starts to look old; others leave it up to chance and weather. Natural fibers droop and fade, synthetics look good longer but essentially never biodegrade. If you live in a rainy climate, like I do, things will rot. If you live in a desert, it might last forever. Animals may take it into their habitat, bugs might suffocate under it. Just as we flip-flop over paper vs plastic, there isn’t a perfect answer to this question.

My main suggestions for yarn bombers is to:

  1. Do as little damage as possible – fix your work to a surface that cannot be altered (I’ve heard suggestions of using spray foam to adhere knitting to a surface – the horrors)
  2. Make sure that your work does not create a situation dangerous for other beings, make sure that they can’t trip on it or get caught in it. Don’t cover up reflective signage. Don’t destroy animal habitat. Think safety first. Do research on the site that you are planning to cover.
  3. Take responsibility – if your work offends, is it intentional? How will you react? Are you willing to accept all sorts of feedback and consequences? Check your inner critic and make sure that your statement meets your personal ethics. Can you morally stand behind you project? Think about the risks and assumptions involved.

Let’s make this a conversation. Your response to this post is invited and encouraged. I want to know what you think.

Books, Yarn Bombing

A Conversation with Knit Artist Olga O’Shea

Tell me about your art.
I love knitting, I love being creative with yarn. I knit with yarn that is donated to me and I cover various objects with fiber. Objects that I use are recycled and saved from the landfill. It all started with a mishap of my daughter’s bike. Thinking that bike was in the car, it was actually behind the car, I accidentally drove over it. It was a good kid’s bike, but not fixable. What could I do with it? The idea came to cover it with yarn. That is how the journey begun.

How does the act of giving away art build community?
The idea of giving is really important to me so I connect with community through passing on my work for people to enjoy. I  donated a couple of bicycles at Christianne’s Lyceum in Vancouver. I also feel that it is important to contribute to charity. I don’t really have very much time to physically volunteer at any place so I will knit practical things like hats and donate them to different organizations.
You’re a yarnbomber too! Can you tell me about some of your yarn bombs?
I love yarnbombing, but there is a fine line between art and littering. I believe yarn bombers should take responsibility of maintaining their artwork. With lots of rain in Vancouver area, there are many knitting pieces just fraying away, they should be removed.
I took part in few international projects, like the Yarn Bomb Yukon Plane. The plane was covered with yarn, exhibited and all the knitted pieces were put together and donated to charity as blankets.
OlgaBikeDetail
Some other projects that I have been a  part of: http://www.woolagainstweapons.co.uk/  in UK
and http://cafamgrannysquared.weebly.com/  in LA. This is my “local” yarn bomb at Place Des Arts! http://www.placedesarts.ca/about-us/overview.aspx. Some of my work will be exhibited at  http://birdonawirecreations.com/. Come and visit!
Cities, Creativity, Street Art, Yarn Bombing

Spidertag at 5 Pointz Long Island

Not another nail in the wall (of fame) / New York 2013 – Spidertag

“If I like it, it feels like magic. I jump for joy. And if I don’t like it, I forget about it.”

Every couple of months, I’m dazzled by a new video by Madrid-based artist/sculptor Spidertag. If I’m not enthralled by him jazzing up old cabins in the European countryside, he’s causing geometric distractions on the mean streets of NYC.

Watch Spidertag in action at 5 Pointz here: http://pdl.vimeocdn.com/16043/042/177888705.mp4?token=1375857752_1e465bca64619ef16bee0865836e38aa

Read an interview with Spidertag on his work with the mammoth graffiti site StreetArtNYC: http://streetartnyc.org/blog/2013/07/18/speaking-with-spidertag/

“These days nails have a hold on me”