Or should I say, “knitty limits.” Yarnstorming, or yarn bombing, is a relatively new subgenre of street art, characterized by installations of knitted or crocheted pieces in public places. Although yarn bombs are intended to be non-permanent, and can be removed easily, they may be seen by some people as acts of vandalism, akin to the graffiti tags left by gang members to mark territory. Admittedly, there is a fine line that can be crossed when decorating or modifying any structures and features of city streets, and when leaving objects and installations in public spaces. It should become increasingly clear, if it isn’t already, on which side of the street art debate I reside.
Knitta, Please: DiverseWorks! Gallery, Houston, TX – photo by hometownzero, under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
The original knitted graffiti artists’ group, Knitta Please, started in Houston, TX, and founder Magda Sayeg continues to travel and install knitted graffiti. According to Sayeg, yarnbombing was “the collective’s response to the mass-produced”, and a method of “adding warmth to our urban fixtures.” Now based in Austin, TX, Knitta Please continues to work “to redefine a craft that has been relegated to the stuffy attic of people’s brains”, and to realign our relationships with the components of the urban environment and concrete-and-steel city landscapes (parking meters, statues, lamp posts, exposed plumbing, etc.).
Knitta Please, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra – photo by Buttontree Lane, under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The phenomenon of yarnbombing has exploded (softly, of course) after the initial installments by Knitta Please in 2005. Vancouver, BC was the site of several whimsical knitted and crocheted installations in the months prior to and during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Street art encountered fine art at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco in November 2010, with a yarn bomb on a utility pole. The Yarn Bombing blog reports on knitted and crocheted graffiti sightings and events worldwide, and even includes patterns for components of specialized yarnbombing installations, such as fiber cherry blossoms.
Knitta graffiti outside Western Bridge Art Space, Seattle, WA – photo by Joe Mabel, under GNU Free Documentation License
The guerilla nature of knitted graffiti means that it will often run afoul of local authorities, and while arrests for vandalism are rare or nonexistent, there have been several instances in which yarnbombers were threatened with legal action or forced to remove their installations. For example, city officials in the Bay Area demanded removal of a “T-cozy” installed on a public art piece in Oakland, CA. Your humble blog author will therefore keep her needles and hooks close to her chest, on the topic of participation in guerilla knitting, but would definitely appreciate photos of yarn bombs and other street art installations in your fair cities.
A speed limit signpost warmer about which I may, or may not, know something.