A little more than a year ago, a colorful explosion of creativity suddenly popped up on a prominent eucalyptus tree along Santa Barbara’s Cold Springs Trail, prompting a surge of surprise and gleeful celebration for fans of both art and nature. This “yarnbomb” was installed by Stephen Duneier, who took it down a few days later. So enthusiastic was the community’s response that he is at it again, this time planning to put up another yarnbomb at Saddlerock in the coming weeks.
To get a better sense of what a yarnbomb is and why it inspires so much reaction, we asked Duneier a few questions this week.
So what’s a yarnbomb?
A yarn bomb is a temporary, public art installation composed solely of yarn that is knitted and/or crocheted.
Why do you like installing them in the Santa Barbara foothills?
Most yarn bombs are in city centers for maximum exposure. I’ve been asked to do yarn bombs to generate interest in different businesses and certain commercial areas, but for me a yarn bomb is about art for art’s sake. It’s a purely analog endeavour in an increasingly digital world, just like hiking.
I hike in the foothills almost every day. I’ve hiked, trail run, mountain biked, barefooted, and even used jumping stilts on our trails. I find it amazing that so many people who live here don’t take advantage of our mountains and have either never hiked or only do the very lowest parts of the trails.
What I love about yarn bombing in the foothills is that it brings people out who normally wouldn’t go for a hike or wouldn’t push themselves to go further. It is a carrot that entices them to explore beyond their comfort zone and by making the installations temporary, it incites a sense of urgency.
What was your first one, and what was the reaction?
Last year, one of my New Years’ resolutions was to learn how to knit and, while sitting under the massive eucalyptus tree on the Cold Spring Trail, I was inspired to yarn bomb it. Eighty-two days later, I had knitted over 200 square feet of yarn and generated another 200 square feet in contributions from friends and strangers around the world. Pieces showed up from 13 U.S. states as well as Chile, Indonesia, Bulgaria, South Africa, and the UK.
An MIT graduate helped me develop a formula for mapping the surface area and we broke the project down into 52 sections. With the help of a few volunteers, we carried a 14 foot ladder 2.6 miles up the Cold Spring Trail and installed the yarn bomb under the stars with the use of headlamps. I hiked to the yarn bomb at least once a day for the next nine days. Without any coverage from the newspapers, radio, or television, word of mouth began to entice bigger and bigger groups to make the trek two miles past the creek and one mile past the fire road (cat way) to see this whimsical, “Seuss-like” art exhibit.
The response was astounding. People introduced themselves and asked to take pictures with me, “the artist,” which amuses me because I’m actually a hedge fund manager. Some told me how they’d heard about this fantastic project from a friend and had to make the journey. Others told me it was their third or fourth time that week and each time they were bringing different people to see it. Groups woke up at 5 a.m. to see it and then returned later in the afternoon with others. Pilots were taking aerial pictures and photography students from Brooks were flocking to it. Pictures wound up flooding the internet and emails began pouring in asking who I was, why I did it, and why I couldn’t leave it up “just a little longer.”
Then other aspiring yarn bombers around the world began contacting me, asking how to do it and if I would help them with their projects. Woza Moya in South Africa asked me to consult for them and a large upcoming yarn bomb in London told me their project was inspired by mine. In turn all these artists, photographers, and hikers have inspired me to try it again.
Did you run into any negative responses, official or otherwise?
I saw just one post on EdHat from a graffiti artist asking why everyone loved the yarn bomb but disliked traditional graffiti. Beyond that, the most negative response is the “you-did-this-why?” stare some people have when I describe what a yarn bomb is or show them pictures of it.
How did you decide on Saddlerock trail for this time around?
This time I chose a spot that is closer to the trailhead (one mile) and on a more trafficked trail so that more people can make their way to see it. Saddlerock is also easily visible from some of the surrounding trails and the air, so hopefully it will attract even more people up the trail. Plus, Saddlerock and the rock formation next to it which invites people to reaarange them in the shape of a peace sign, smiley faces, and hearts, to name a few, is such an iconic spot for Santa Barbara hikers.
How can people help?
I am seeking donations of knitted or crocheted pieces in any shape, size and color to be sent to: Yarn, 1482 East Valley Road, Suite 616, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 by August 28.
The more unique the piece, the more it will stand out in the finished product. From what previous contributors tell me, it is incredibly rewarding to see your contribution and be a part of such a unique moment. Via social media, we all still stay in touch and most are again sending me pieces for this project.