Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Dartmouth: Yarnbombing gains popularity

Shared from The Dartmouth:

Photo by Dennis Ng; Callista Womick
Callista Womick '13 will take her knitting skills to the streets and color campus by "yarnbombing" public spaces.

The unusual art form, also known as graffiti knitting or guerrilla knitting, uses knitted pieces to cover areas or objects in a community. In recent years, yarnbombing has become popular in metropolitan hot spots of the world, from Paris to New York. Popular yarnbombing targets include parking meters, bike rails, potholes, tree trunks and even famous statues.

Womick, who received Year of the Arts student grant funding, used the stipend to collect knitting needles, crochet hooks and of course, dozens of colors of yarn spools. The studio art major hopes to enlist as many people as possible to transform Hanover into a more interactive space filled with this unseen-on-campus art form.

Womick ventured into yarnbombing after sewing and knitting throughout high school. Upon her arrival at Dartmouth, Womick noticed a lack of public art that centered around fun and whimsical pieces.

"I love pieces of intervention artwork," Womick said. "They serve to make the space more beautiful and engage the people in a different way and make people just feel happy. We have lots of really intelligent, creative people and I think most of us have a sense of humor and like to have fun, and I'd love to have more art that reflects that."

Womick describes yarnbombing as an easy way to transform the way people engage with their outside surroundings.

"My favorite pieces of yarnbombing have these fun elements that can be removed," Womick said. "For example, I did a parking meter that had a vine with many flowers that have clips, so they can be removed. People could then put them on their bags or wear them in their hair."

Womick looks forward to yarnbombing a railing behind Parkhurst and Louise Bourgeois' famed "Crouching Spider," located in front of the Black Family Visual Arts Center.

"Dreaming big, I'd love to yarnbomb the spider," Womick said. "I don't know if I can get permission, but hopefully, it'll work out with [Facilities, Operations and Management.]"

Sam Van Wetter '16, who has previous experience in knitting, said he is eager to help Womick with this initiative after admiring a yarnbomb artist on his own.

"I've been knitting for a while and came across yarnbombing through my favorite craft store," he said. "Soon after I found [crochet artist] Agata Olek, known as Crocheted Olek,' and I've been a big fan of her work since. While she crochets and I knit, her rad designs and installations still inspire me. It's cool to see her have done the transition from public graffiti-based yarnbombing to taking those same concepts into gallery spaces."

Olek most famously installed a crocheted suit over Wall Street's iconic "Charging Bull" sculpture in New York in 2010.

Elizabeth Southwell '15 sees yarnbombing as an opportunity for the greater community to give ordinary objects a second glance.

"It forces us, especially us forward-thinking, routine-driven Dartmouth students, to take a brief pause to notice something beautiful," Southwell said. "Yarnbombing also helps draw our attention to objects, like trees and railings, that we wouldn't normally find beautiful. It helps us to appreciate the beauty in everyday objects."

The ability to share art with passerbys is not always feasible with other art forms such as paintings.

"The greatest part of something like yarnbombing is that it's an art from that's out there in the community and everyone can enjoy it," Womick said. "In terms of art on campus, there isn't a lot. There are statues, paintings in the residence halls, but they're kind of stiff. There isn't much fun art around campus."

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