North Shore guerrilla knitters take a stand
Yarn-bombing trees, poles and statues in North Vancouver has met some criticism, but a group of guerrilla knitters has persisted, setting up in a small, often overlooked park on the corner of Lonsdale Avenue and 11th Street.
They carefully knitted colourful covers for trees and a vest for a nearby bear statue that had been vandalized, in an attempt to soften the landscape and make people rushing through the park stop and notice their surroundings.
“Yarn-bombing is empowering. It’s about bringing people together as a community to create something that will make others question what art is,” says Jessica Glesby, who teaches yarn-bombing to high school students in North Van and is writing her masters thesis on her experience.
But not everyone is a fan of the temporary art form.
In February, a North Vancouver Community Arts Council request for $7,500 for yarn-bombing kits was met with scepticism. The request was originally denied, but later accepted in a 4-2 vote after North Van city council had a change of heart. Even though the application was approved, not every councillor thought it was a good idea.
“I continue to believe it’s a complete waste of the taxpayers’ money,” said Coun. Rod Clark. “This is my understanding to be the first time a municipality was being asked to spend the money, and quite honestly I didn’t think it was the right thing to do.”
But it’s not just about the end product, Glesby says, it’s about the process to create it — one that brings together people of all ages who may otherwise never meet.
Each of the 140 participants signed up receive a kit with instructions, knitting supplies and a history of yarn-bombing.
Most of the money from city council has gone towards the kits and additional wool, said Laryn Van Dyk, program assistant with the North Van Community Arts Council.
People young and old met at the Lonsdale-area park, some experts and others just beginning.
“Knitting can lower your heart rate 11 beats per minute. It helps students who can’t normally stay still to focus,” says Glesby as she helps a five-year-old girl cover the lower end of a small tree.
Yes, the art is temporary, she says, but its affect on people in lasting.
Although most yarn-bombers are women, men and boys are also involved. Glesby says she had very little resistance from male high school students when she introduced the knitting art, especially after showing them cars that had been hit by yarn-bombers.
“Knitting has a whole history, it’s not just grandmas doing it.”
Hard-working men used to sew their own fishing nets and different colour sweaters were made for sailors to identify them if they drowned at sea, she explains.
However, Clark, who voted against council granting money for yarn-bombing, said he has done research on the movement and isn’t convinced. This, along with emails and phone calls from people he says also don’t support guerilla knitting, has helped him make up his mind.
“If these people want to do it, I have no problem with letting our trees or benches be covered. But don’t come to the taxpayer and want [$7,500]. That’s a lot of money to a lot of people.”
But Glesby urges people who are opposed to yarn-bombing to come in person to see what it’s about. “How can you be against community?”
For more information, visit the North Van Community Arts Council's webpage.