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Yarn Bombing - Los Angeles
By Alice Perez
The street-art trend known as “yarn bombing” has been exploding on the streets of Los Angeles since 2010, and until recently on Museum Row, 15,000 crocheted granny squares were on the façade of the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) made by a crew of guerrilla knitters called Yarn Bombing Los Angeles (YBLA). Yarn bombing takes knitting circles to a whole new level, covering public venues including benches, telephone booths, light posts, and anything else that can be wrapped with yarn. I visited the CAFAM Granny Squared project and talked with Carol Zou from YBLA about the art of yarn bombing and the crew bombarding public venues with colorful yarn. YBLA presented “CAFAM Granny Squared” this past summer, an installation weaving together arts-and-craft circles across 50 states and 25 countries. The ribbon was cut on May 25 for the first phase of the granny-square project where passersby can witness a one-of-a-kind public art installation that brings a cozy feeling like a grandmother’s quilt.
How did Yarn Bombing LA begin?
The first yarn-bombing event in L.A. was organized by Heather Hoggan and Amy Inouye in Fig Knit On, and soon inspired another yarn-bombing event, Yarnbombing 18th Street, organized by Arzu Arda Kosar. Yarn Bombing Los Angeles grew out of the collaborations that were inspired by Yarnbombing 18th Street.
All this talk about yarn and bombing, so what is yarn bombing?
Yarn Bombing is the transformation of urban space through attaching knit material to public structures, such as a bench, parking meter, or light post. Magda Sayeg from Austin, Texas is credited with the first contemporary yarn bomb, and it has quickly spread to other cities such as Knit the City in London, Knit the Bridge most recently in Pittsburgh, etc.
What occurs during a yarn bombing?
A yarn bombing is actually a rather quick event. We prepare the pieces ahead of time according to measurements that we've taken, and then show up on site with zip ties, yarn, and needles to sew the piece onto its site. Our pieces are site-specific, and we take many factors into consideration when choosing a site, such as foot traffic, visibility, use of the space, and aesthetic of the surrounding environment.
What is the Granny Squared Project?
On a conceptual level, the project aims to question the boundaries between art and craft, use scale and color to play with artistic, architectural, and institutional identities. YBLA suggests a parallel between how the Craft and Folk Art Museum is dwarfed by the grandiose structures and other museums across the street on Museum Row, and how craft is dwarfed by traditional notions of “high art.” To deconstruct this dynamic, YBLA will be covering CAFAM in brightly colored, oversized granny squares and other colossal graphic patterns to visually turn CAFAM into a dollhouse and thus ‘shrinking’ it even more and making a commentary on artistic and institutional identities associated with craft, a lesser art form by manipulating architecture, often regarded the highest art form.
What has inspired this do-it-yourself spirited folks to dust off their sewing machines and getting out the glue guns to create things by hand?
The recent years have definitely seen a resurgence of hand-crafting, but at the same time we are seeing people interpret these traditional methods of knitting, crocheting, etc. in radically contemporary ways.
How does LA rank as a crafty city in the US?
According to this most recent survey by the NEA, Los Angeles is the city with the highest percentage of artists in the workforce! I think the existence of independent filmmakers, artisans, gallery owners, designers, performers, visual artists, etc. all in one city makes it easy to find people that you connect with and to start something independently of an institutional support system.
So get out those crochet needles and join the YBLA’s free-to-attend monthly meeting every third Saturday at CAFAM 5814 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles. Come chat with this local guerilla knitter, learn about YBLA, and lend a helping hand to the CAFAM Granny Squared project.