Ishknits recently yarnbombed the heart in Union Square of San Francisco. We have often been curious about this form of street art but rarely see it. We caught up with Jessy to learn more about her work.
Ishknits focuses on facilitating a shift in the perception of street art, by using a typically feminine craft to inititate a dialogue on the relationship between gender and non-commissioned public art. Through her use of vibrant colors and an historically empathic medium, she encourages people to understand and utilize the ability they possess to be assertive as well as positive in their community. Her work exemplifies that the loudest public voice does not have to be the most hostile and threatening, but can be used to encourage and elevate.
Can you give us a quick definition on how you would describe yarn bombing?
Yarnbombing is a form of street art where people cover public objects with knitting, crochet, or wrapped yarn without permission.
How did you get started yarn bombing and why do you do it?
I got started into yarnbombing when I saw the amazing works of Knitta Please and other yarnbombers that were already installing pieces all over the world, and I fell in love with it. I had been knitting fashion accessories, but street art has always been my love and passion and I knew that through yarnbombing I could really be involved in that culture.
There are a variety of reasons why I yarnbomb, but mostly I yarnbomb because I believe art should be accessible to everyone without any sort of exclusivity. I have to add that I also enjoy how typically “feminine” the medium is in contrast to how male dominated the street art culture is.
Is all of your work commissioned or do you also do illegal bombing?
Actually, to call it illegal is somewhat of a gray area because with yarnbombing I’m not permanently altering any surface and I don’t really think I’m defacing any property, and that works to my benefit. Most of my work is not commissioned, but because of the novelty of the work I have been able to get several commissions to complete specific projects.
What is your most common form of yarn bombing? Do you favor certain objects on the street or color palettes?
I like to cover objects that already exist in the environment, instead of creating something new. I am really into obsolete structures, like abandoned buildings or phone booths, but sometimes my work is more political, humorous, or aesthetic. My colors are always neon because I want them to stick out from the background and elicit a smile from viewers who rarely get to see these colors in public.
How do you make the pieces? Do you pick the target first?
Yes, I always pick a target first, collect measurements and then go home and knit a piece that will fit appropriately onto the structure. Once I finish knitting the piece I will hand sew the seams around the object, which can take anywhere from minutes to hours.
How long have you been knitting? and is it the only form of art that you engage in?
I have been knitting since 2008, and I started yarnbombing in 2009. My knitting and yarnbombing skills have progressed so publicly over the years and I hope that can encourage other artists to see that everyone starts somewhere. So far, it’s the only form of art that I engage in.
You live in Philly. Have you done much yarn bombing in other cities?
I actually live in Oakland. I moved here about a month ago and am really happy to be here. I have yarnbombed in DC, LA, San Diego, Oakland, and Memphis. It’s difficult to yarnbomb in locations where you don’t have a set object to cover because unlike bringing a print or some paint somewhere, you basically have to knit a piece once you get there, which makes it difficult to tour around.
I see you make pieces for commercial purposes such as target and tampax. How did that come about?
The commercial commissions have come from companies contacting me after seeing my public projects. I am currently in the process of learning how to approach companies for more commercial opportunities because I like it a lot more than I expected to. My nineteen year old self would never say this, but I think it’s an honor to have companies appreciate your work enough to believe that its marketable for them.
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