SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Blown Away by YARN BOMBERS

Stop, Lindel, stop!

She looked cheerful and friendly. But looks can be deceptive. Or that was my first thought yesterday, as I emerged from yoga class at the Fitzroy pool, to see a woman with scissors removing 'my' beautiful bike stand covers. Affronted on behalf of Santa's little helpers, the elves, whom I'd concluded had decorated the stands and the nearby trees on Christmas eve, I dashed over to enquire what she was up to.
Lindel explained that she is a member of Yarn Corner, one of the craft groups commissioned by Yarra Council to adorn the area. 'So it wasn't the elves after all,' I whinged. For some reason that made Lindel smile.
She went on to say that groups like hers are part of a world-wide movement of Yarn Bombers, whose art gallery is public spaces. You might already have noticed some of their offerings.
Our neighbourhood alone features sign posts with fuzzy multi-coloured jackets, metal fences doubling as notice boards for knitted requests like 'More Books', and my recent favourite - a bike in a woollen layette tethered to a telephone pole in Brunswick street. As Lindel spoke, I realised that even though I hadn't known who was responsible, I'd been amused and challenged and intrigued by the creations of Yarn Bombers for some time.
While it's easy to see what is in it for us, the public, I was curious to learn what the craftspeople, who rarely get any financial reward, get out of it.
Lindel suggested that some people simply want to get their art out there. Others love the social side - there's a reason why Yarn Corner describes itself as a 'stitch and bitch group'. And I was surprised to learn that the camaraderie is often very far-reaching, with the result that some of the bike stand covers were contributed by crafters in America.
There is definitely a lot of playfulness involved, and often a social action motif too, as evidenced in signs I've noticed near abandoned buildings and vacant lots advocating more housing for the homeless.
MJ, a crafter from another group, who met with Lindel while I was talking to her, made the interesting point that many people, who developed knitting and crocheting skills to clothe young families, seek an outlet for those talents once the kids have left home. For them it's often a matter of 'use it or lose it'.
Listening to these wise women, I (sort of) became reconciled to the morphing of the bike stands into their customary utilitarian grey. I suppose even Superman sometimes returns to dreary Clarke Kent.
Just before parting, I had a final thought. What about the issue of waste of all that gorgeous wool? I should have known the Yarn Bombers would have that base covered too. All the wool is carefully collected, washed and then taken to Lort Smith Animal Shelter where it is used as toys for the residents.


Lindel and MJ with a bag of goodies for Lort Smith Animal Shelter (foreground)

Yarn Bombers are increasingly in demand. Lindel's group's motto 'covering the town in yarn, one stitch at a time' doesn't sound such a stretch when you hear that this one group has gigs booked until almost Christmas time. Which is great for us.
So, if you live in Melbourne and want to be blown away by the creativity of your fellow Australians on the Australia Day weekend, check out the city square, where the Yarn Bombers will have adorned 24 trees in the colours of the rainbow. And remember to spare a thought for the hours of companionable work and generosity represented.

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