Berkeleyside has been following the city’s yarn bombing movement since May when KnittaPlease conducted a stealth knitting operation on a piece of public art on the Berkeley-Oakland border. Another anonymous graffiti knitter, Streetcolor, has emerged more recently and focuses on covering sign- and lamp-posts, mostly in Berkeley.
Streetcolor’s latest work can be seen on Fourth Street. We tracked Streetcolor down to find out more about the story behind these somewhat illicit, often whimsical, pieces of street art.
Are you based in Berkeley?
Very close, but not in Berkeley. My apprentice lives in Berkeley.
What got you started in yarn bombing?
I bought the book Yarn Bombing and I was electrified. It really opened my eyes to what you could do with knitting and to street art in general. I knit a little tiny yarn tag and nervously put it up. A teenage boy in the neighborhood came out to see and said: “I really like what you are doing.” I have been totally gripped ever since (six weeks ago).
Are you a traditional knitter?
I guess I am. I taught myself to knit 10 years ago and set myself to try and totally master it. I was a full-time artist at the time and it was kind of embarrassing to be so in love with knitting, but knitting has given me a lot. I can pretty much knit anything you can think of out of my head.
What’s the motivation and the goal?
That is such a good question. I often get obsessed with something and I don’t know why. I like yarn bombing visually — knitting looks so good on a harsh metal pole in an impersonal urban envirment. I love being able to change a street with color, it’s a surprising power.
Politically I like art being out on the street instead of in a more elite setting. I also like having a reason to have to spend all my time knitting. The more knitting I put up the more I wish to do. Also it gives people a lot of pleasure, especially little kids, an overlooked audience for art.
Is it just you or do you collaborate?
It’s me and my apprentice “the Russian”. I think the big crews are an inspiring social phenomenon, they relate more closely to the connection to graffiti. I am thinking of this as a large outdoor art installation that an expression of my personal feelings.
What do you think of the larger yarn bombing movement?
I like that anyone can do it. You can knit only a little bit and put something up — everyone is an artist. It all can please and provoke. I like that knitting is so disarming: it’s so domestic and common, yet it is also still a kind of graffiti. A lot of people knit or have relatives who do, so it feels comfortable, fun, not hostile. I like to see yarn bombing with a little content to it; I like to see knitting that is a comment on the art and history of the great art and craft of knitting.
What is your typical target and why?
I go to the places in Berkeley and Kensington that I enjoy being in — it usually involves a bakery. We pick out businesses we like and think about what colors and forms remind us of that business. We want them to be seen, so we are going to the more well-known Berkeley fun spots. We like to put up a bunch at once so that it is more of an art show and pedestrians can stroll among them. Like a knitting forest.
What’s next on your agenda?
I’d like to start putting yarn bombs next to art galleries as a little comment. We just got a request from someone to make one for their street. I am working on some pieces for the Rose Garden. Where do you think we should go?