Traditionally poles, walls and fences have been the canvas for graffiti artists, but yarn bombing has changed the face of street art forever – not even seen as graffiti by most people, but as an entirely acceptable form of urban art. The basic idea is to wrap fibre (usually crochet or knitted yarn) around something outside bringing a touch of warmth and whimsy to an urban environment.
Yarn bombing is a fairly new phenomenon in the street art world, with the first examples dating back to the early 2000’s. Thanks to the Internet the movement has spread rapidly worldwide. Now, International Yarn Bombing Day is celebrated across the world on 11 June.
This concept has always intrigued me. A few years ago, I bombed part of the beacon on top of Inhlosane. A tiny effort but I was certain then that it was just the beginning. In Dargle, there is not much street furniture or anything that needs extra magic. Yellowwood trees and moss-covered rocks are gorgeous enough on their own.
In Howick a group of subversive knitters, crochet rebels and renegade artists gathered last Sunday to cheer up a busy intersection with colourful cosies and a splash of colour.
We had all been preparing our pieces in the wintery sun for ages, so that we wouldn’t have to spend too long on the traffic island on a chilly morning.
It was delightful to chat to pedestrians and passers-by who were curious about our activities. Some thought we were protesting (I guess we were – against drabness!), others asked if the crochet was for sale, but mostly people grinned when we told them it was just for fun.
The thing I have particularly enjoyed about this exercise is how anyone could participate. Two of my friends learnt to crochet especially for the occasion, while two other very accomplished friends, who taught me to crochet many years ago, also joined in. Others, who didn’t grab the chance to play are asking to be including next time. Of course, you can be! Because Yes We Wool!
Reactions have been charming and varied. From “Apologies for the inadvertent traffic jam I caused – I was overwhelmed and didn’t realise the light had changed to green” to “Mom, who gave them permission to make this so pretty?” and “imagine the whole world wrapped in wool”. Lots of simple appreciation for cheering up a dreary spot.
We are brimming over with ideas for absolutely fabulous installations, this was just a little practice to see what we could do. On your own, you won’t make much of an impact – but gather a few other happy hookers and the possibilities are endless! Along the way we will spin a few yarns, have a good giggle and plant some colourful craziness that will hopefully sprout and grow.
Creative street art is often used to bring people together and give us a moment to engage with strangers. Some people take photos while they wander by chatting on Messenger – at least they stop and look at their surroundings for a moment. That must be a good thing.
While there will be some who question the wisdom of ‘wasting wool’ when there are cold people in need, most agree that this project is a welcome deviation from knitting blankets, beanies and scarves for charity – besides happiness is a worthy cause too!
How about you join our posse for the Secret Scarf Mission for 13 July? When across South Africa at 3pm, we will leave scarves in public places for those who need them to find. Or get that rug finished for the 67 Blankets for Madiba campaign?