Yarnbombing – The Word

The term ” yarnbomb ” comes out of graffiti , ” bomb ” means putting up a bunch of tags in one area . When people ask me what I’m doing  I say “Yarnbombing ” And often they quickly nod , they’ve heard of it . But I don’t think what I’m doing is graffiti really. It’s street art  made with knitting.

The Russian and I put up this rack on Sunday. We met at 2.oo and it was extremely bright and hot . I had forgotten we are so close to the Equinox ,  it was like sitting in a bowl of bright light for 4 hours. Some of you might recognize this rack-we put up a piece on this same rack 3 months ago . Someone had taken down part of the old piece and just left  one little strip . This is a strange story .  I had noticed that lots of my yarnbombs were coming down all at once -5 or 6 at a time , entire installations.  I thought the city was spring cleaning . This was nerve racking . This bike rack got only partly taken down which  suggested it wasn’t the city . I count on Berkeley’s tolerance to do my bigger stuff , so it would be bad if the city decided that there would be no more yarnbombing .

After some time I got an e-mail from an anonymous knitter saying that they were taking down my pieces and sewing a blanket with them as a commentary on public and private art . They showed me the blanket with my yarnbombs all cut up and sewn together .  I was so pained to recognize  so much of my work all cut up. I wrote back and asked them not to do this-I wanted to make something myself with the old pieces.  So all that made me want to put up another new piece on this same rack . Plus I just really like this rack .

So back to the word yarnbombing . This word is getting used for lots of different things –  for big legal public commissions , for gallery artists who crochet and knit , for knitting put up at big craft stores  , for knitting done for big corporations , for knitting in peoples’ gardens -I even saw someone describe a knitted dolls’ dress as a yarnbomb . All of this is good  and interesting and exciting but  I don’t think it’s exactly yarnbombing.

To me the word yarnbombing means knitting that is put up subversively-you don’t have permission , it’s done for free as a gift , it’s out on the street for everyone to see , it’s art without walls , art that’s not for sale , art just for pleasure .

   A funny Muni link about the Bart Seat here.

Another small spinartiste  yarnbombing  interview  here

13 thoughts on “Yarnbombing – The Word

  1. “But I don’t think what I’m doing is graffiti really. It’s street art made with knitting.”

    Other graffiti is street art made with markers, or with paint. What’s the difference? What you do isn’t *tagging*, sure, but it’s graffiti. And that’s not a bad thing. 🙂

  2. SC, I feel your pain with having to let go of the pieces that others have taken down, but at least they are doing so with a purpose and as an honor to you. That’s a lot better than just having them ripped down and cast aside…

  3. I can understand why it would pain you to see your hard work cut up. Just out of curiosity, though, do you feel that the other artists had the right to take down the work since you had placed in a public space without permission? I’m not sure that I have an opinion either way – just curious about your take on this.

  4. i thought about that same question for a long time CC .
    Do other artists have the right to take my pieces down to make their art with them .
    it’s not an area that there is a lot of precedent . I decided that the work continues to belong to me even though I have put it up in public .

  5. That is a real shame, and pretty nervy and ignorant of them to do so. In my opinion, the only one who can take the yarnbomb down is the owner of the property or the yarnabomber herself.

  6. I am a yarnbomber in Chicago and I’ve decided that once the pieces are out of my hands, it is up to the public and neighborhood to decide what to do with it. For example, I have one piece up that has been cared for by the public: it sags a little in the rain and people have pulled it back up again. I walk by it every day and have left it untouched even when I have the urge to fix it. In the same neighborhood someone has also stolen half of a yarnbomb. One minute it was there, the next it was gone. Even though I feel it is the public’s decision on whether it stays or goes, its still really sad to think that someone took it just to be a jerk. On that same note, I think its very disrespectful of another artist to make the decision to take down your hours and hours of hard work to re-purpose it in whatever way they choose. I understand the sentiment and think they were probably trying to do a good thing, but its just not.

    I just wanted to say that I completely agree with you about the term yarnbombing and I’m happy to hear you say it! With more popularity I feel like its getting thrown around a lot. I’m glad more people are participating in public art, but in my mind there is a difference. Thanks for your blog, I love reading it, its very encouraging!

  7. Thank you Postcard for the very thoughtful comment . It was totally satisfying to read it . I appreciate people thinking about these things and talking to me about it.

  8. You rock! I was happy to see a bike rack outside of the Actual Cafe on San Pablo got yarnbombed – seeing that plus getting my daily soy latte cheers me up every morning!

  9. JenX thanks for the compliment ! I didn’t do that bike rack outside the Actual Cafe -I’ll have to go see it . Lots more people yarnbombing now , i wonder what will happen next …..

  10. Here is a parallel story: There is a mosaic-bomb in Encinitas that has been in the news recently: an artist put up a stealth stained-glass mural of a surfing madonna on an underpass. The piece is getting lots of praise and attention, but it has been classified as graffiti because it was erected on public property with no permit, and the city wants to take it down. But they recognize it is a fine piece and have hired a consultant to determine the best way to remove it without any damage! The artist came forward and will pay the removal fee (and a fine). A bizarre story, but I think the outcome is a lot better than smashing it with a hammer and gluing the salvaged tiles to a mug and calling it a commentary on public art…

    You yourself are so respectful about where you bomb, and so thoughtful about every stitch you make that it upsets me greatly that someone would gratuitously remove your work, destroy it, and use the pieces to… ah…do what exactly?

    Viva yarn-bombing!

  11. Putting aside that removing or sabotaging another artists work is a no no , what those knitters did was take away the pleasure from others seeing it. Are they planning on taking away any public art and reconstiting it for their OWN purposes while they sit on their comfy moral arses. If they plan on giving the blanket to the homeless shelter, I hope they realize their smug gesture is not only useless but does a disservice to the real needs of the homeless and the priority needs of shelters (which don’t include knitted blankets.)

    Vandalism of an artists work disguised as a moral commentary shows intolerance, disrespect, narrow minded pettiness and warrants absolute contempt.

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