Week 6 Activity : Yarn Bombing

Art 110

As a fashion merchandising major (and currently in a textile class for that matter), you’d think I would know a ridiculous amount about fibers. But sadly, I know almost nothing about them or how to manipulate them into actual things. So, this was actually a fun experience to learn a little more about something so close to my studies and actually have fun with it.

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In the fiber displays, I found a lot of sweater looking pieces I liked. The pamphlets and pictures along the walls were really interesting too – I loved that some used basic ideas of textiles in fashion, while others more incorporated art into it to make entirely new, quite astonishing pieces.

For some reason, the pictures of yarn bombing trees made me think of putting t-shirts on them – maybe I was still thinking about the tie dyes I had done the week before? Despite some (actually a huge amount of) feelings of embarrassment and awkwardness even approaching the idea of doing something truly public, I remembered how much I regretted not taking the chance to do my graffiti writing on the Venice Beach walls, and so I decided to roll with the idea. So, armed with a ridiculously huge bag full of pins, needles, string, and leftover shirts (and a pair of ripped leggings), I walked through the art courtyards looking for tree victims to somewhat terrorize with clothing.

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A super yarn-bombed tree

Compared to my graffiti writing experience in my backyard, there was obviously the huge difference of being in a public space. On top of the uncertainty of approaching something I had never done before, there was a new layer of anxiety from being in a very public, very viewable, area doing something incredibly abnormal. Surprisingly however, not many people acknowledged that I was sewing things on the trees or even weirdly standing in the planters. Some people did point out that I was “putting clothes on the trees” or that there was “a tie dye shirt on that tree” to their friends, and some even just laughed and sort of pointed (the reaction I was expecting the most of), but most people just seemed to go about their business. Maybe it was because of the location – the art courtyard has probably seen much weirder things than hippie trees – but maybe it was more that we all live in our own little bubbles. If we aren’t lodged in our phone screens, we’re focused blindly on our path ahead, our plans for the day, or our life worries. So beyond just not noticing the weird things, we miss out on the beautiful or happy or otherwise interesting things on the way to our “destinations”. This small and slightly random observation made me realize how much of my own life I truly seem to waste, and I hope to at least slightly change the way I approach the “getting there” parts of my life so I may take a bit more advantage of the things I might otherwise miss, even if it is something as strange as people sewing things on plants. Annnnnyways, back to the project:

As apposed to graffiti writing, which I had never even attempted before, the sewing was slightly easy. Since I have sewn before (even if not very well) I felt like I had at least a little bit of advantage doing this project over working with the cans of paint which were entirely new to me. The newness of adapting a tree “body” to a human shirt form did somewhat phase me, however. Since no one has “paved the way” or even really given a hint as to how to do this strange task, I felt relatively on my own. At first, this seemed slightly scary, but after a while I realized it was actually freeing. Since (I assumed) no one had done it before, there were no expectations or specific means to go about doing it; I was free to do as I wished. Trying to keep the garments looking like they actually belonged and were not just haphazardly placed in a tree like garbage, I did try to find trees with “arms” (and even one with “legs”) to fit my pieces to and keep the form somewhat human-looking. The process involved a lot of trial and error, much as the graffiti writing had, but this time there were no real practice pieces as every tree and every clothing piece offered an entirely new set of issues and possible solutions. I had to cut the back and arms in a sort of t shape to even get the shirts onto the trees (and cut along the entire inner and back seams of the leggings), and from there I placed stitches pretty much everywhere to keep them from falling and actually give them some shape.

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Creating these did make me feel slightly girly (like in an crazy-old-cat-lady-hippie sort of way), especially when compared to working with graffiti. Maybe the “manly” aspect of graffiti comes from it usually being illegal and so secretive; we tend to think of women as too frail or helpless to actually break through such barriers and risk so much. And, even when women do attempt graffiti, there tends to be a very apparent femininity in their work, especially when compared to some maybe more masculine, rough, or “street” pieces done by men. Since I was working with a more gender neutral material (yes, you can argue tie dye is still slightly feminine, but not as much so as we think of knitting as), I felt a little less incredibly girly than I had expected approaching this project. But, even the idea of putting clothes on trees seemed like something a little girl might think of, and I think that’s why I felt a bit embarrassed both doing it and even admitting the work was mine. Even within the realm of fashion, there tend to be mostly feminine designers (though recently that has begun changing) designing fairly feminine, flowy, and romantic sort of things. As a society we do tend to look down on women, even jokingly, and I have heard almost countless times the phrase “women’s work” used for the things men do not think are tough enough to even bother with. There is definitely a line drawn between the male and female sorts of crafts; one is typically seen as brave, inventive, and powerful, while the other is soft, subtle, and contemplative. The differences in aesthetic may be a good thing, but the rigidity of it stifles true creativity; telling a person exactly how they should think and create limits them to only a small fraction of their true potential. Maybe in the next few years, as more and more people begin to catch their ride on the feminist bandwagon, the view may begin to shift, but for now I believe “crafting” and other “womanly” things will remain looked down upon.

Overall, the whole process was slightly nerve racking but ended up being truly fun. Despite the weirdness of it all, it was actually relaxing slowly sewing things outside, especially so early in the morning when everything was fairly quiet and peaceful. It gave me time to think about things (maybe that’s where the womanly contemplativeness comes from?) like what I was trying to accomplish from my piece, and beyond that, actually enjoy the process. So, while I may never do something like this again, I’m glad I at least took the opportunity to actually step outside myself and try doing something so different from what I’m used to.

And here’s my dog again

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