Yarnbombs, often called knitting graffiti or knitted tags, are spreading their colorful cheer to the world’s urban areas in what some are calling a less offensive, impermanent form of graffiti art. While traditional graffiti artists may feel that their work has been compromised by this new, softer form, the art itself can have a similar impact on those it reaches.
Yarnboming involves knitting or crocheting items that are used to tag anything around town, from lampposts to city benches to public art. The yarnbombs are left behind by the knitters themselves, who strategically place their art in public areas when no one is looking.
A yarnbomb can be as simple as a small swatch knitted around a handrail or as massive as a tree trunk cozy. Here are a few favorite examples from across the nation, and around the world:
The Telephone Booth Cozy, London
While this is a large project for a knitting graffiti tag, it serves as a good example for this type of art. The project appears to have been worked on by several knitters who stitched their individual swatches or projects together around the phone booth to create the cozy. The artists have left a tag hanging from the project, which names the renegade knitting group, giving them credit for their art without revealing the individual members’ true identities.
The Purpole, Richmond, Virginia
Underground knitting artist, “M.E.G.,” founder of the group K1-D2 (knit one, drink two), created this “Purpole” to dress up an old signpost. M.E.G. likes to use her knit graffiti to give color and life to city objects that are no longer being used for what they were originally intended, such as an old signpost with no sign. The group K1-D2 was founded as members came together to knit projects to hang in the yards of friends in mourning, to provide cheer and support.
Covered Cairns, Connemara National Park, Ireland
As rock cairns and knitted clothing are both prevalent in Ireland, this display in Connemara National Park seems entirely appropriate, adding a lot of color to a gray landscape.
The Tree Cozy, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Although this project might be beyond the realm of knitting graffiti (sculpture artist Carol Hummel entered the cozy in a public art competition, so it is not guerilla in nature), it seems worth mentioning anyway. The project took 500 hours to complete and was on display for three years.
The Dump at Steamboat, Steamboat Sprints, Colorado
Sculpture artist Carol Hummel oversaw this community project in which members added a macramé of color to the Steamboat Springs dump site. Again, in this example the crochet artists had permission to display their graffiti as public art, with the purpose of inspiring and bringing growth awareness to their community.
Pink M.24 Chaffee, Copenhagen
Also called the “military tank cozy,” this public art project was created by artist Marianne Joergensen and was displayed outside the Nikolaj Contemporary Art Museum. The tank is an old military combat tank from World War II, and the project was created for the purpose of protesting Danish involvement in the War in Iraq.
The Gas Station Cozy, Syracuse, New York
Jennifer Marsh is the artist behind this giant project, which covered an abandoned gas station in knit panels. Jennifer accepted knitted and crocheted panels from contributors around the world, stitching them together around the gas station in order to bring color and life to an abandoned building, while raising awareness about the world’s dependence on oil.
Fayetteville Homeless Animal Bedding Project, Fayetteville, Arkansas
This community project served the dual purpose of providing both public art and needed beds for the local animal shelter. Members of the Fayetteville Stitch and Bitch and other local knitters were asked to hang large knitted and crocheted squares around the downtown area. After the squares were on display for a week or so, they were removed and donated to the animal shelter to provide comfort and warmth to the animals.
While there are many yarnbomb enthusiasts both inside and outside the knitting world and the art form currently is gathering a lot of support, some spectators find this type of graffiti art extremely wasteful. The above examples show how this guerilla art form is evolving into a one that can serves several important purposes, in addition to providing neighborhood cheer. But for many yarnbombers, putting a smile on the face of a stranger is reason enough.
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