Yarn bombing is an art form involving outdoor installations, covering existing urban objects with yarn, and adding color, coziness, and a handmade touch to urban landscapes. From turning stop signs into flowers, to blanketing the Wall Street bull, yarn bombing is an established art form that leaves viewers curious and city workers confused. I contacted Bay Area artist Street Color to ask about her experiences as a yarn bomber, and get down to the 'knitty' gritty (let's just get that pun out of the way).
Initially, Street Color chose an anonymous name as a way to separate yarn bombing from her work in other media, and because many street artists use pseudonyms to avoid the cops. But, she says, "eventually the anonymous stance became mostly a reaction to our cultural emphasis on personality."
House by Luke Haynes.
Within any art form, there will always be different approaches. Some artists use the knit wrapping technique for commercial purposes, garnering a lot of attention, but this isn't exactly yarn bombing in Street Color's opinion. "In the U.S., almost all of the media coverage is about yarn bombing that was done for corporate commissions, which is the opposite of the non-commercial nature of graffiti and street art."
Because their work is easily removable, yarn bombers haven't experienced traditional graffiti artists' criminal status. According to Street Color, many bombers have been "scolded crossly and had their work taken down, but no legal action was taken." The Department of Public Works is responsible for removing yarn bombs, and they'll only act if there has been a complaint. Though she has been stopped by police for yarn bombing near the Capitol in Sacramento, she mostly adorns the more local streets around her favorite bakeries, bookstores, libraries, gardens, and galleries. She creates a "yarn bombing map" of her life in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco, and has put up work near many museums "as a little conversation about where we see art."
Trees by Suzanne Tidwell.
Street Color hand spins her own yarn "so that is sustainable and as beautiful as possible," and she sees her work as a way to honor women who knit and crochet, as she says, "happily and anonymously all over the world. It is wonderful to see these old practical and modest arts appearing boldly and joyously all over our cities."
Check out Street Color's blog, where she keeps track of yarn bombing around the world, then get your hands on Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, the book that inspired her. Next, visit croshame.com for circumference measurements of various poles, park benches, and bike racks in San Francisco. Get to work on your own yarn bombing and send us the pictures!
Funding for KQED Arts is provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Support is also provided by Yogen and Peggy Dalal, Diane B. Wilsey, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Helen Sarah Steyer, the William and Gretchen Kimball Fund, and the members of KQED