MEET THE ARTIST YARN BOMBING NEW YORK & REINVENTING
Graffiti murals and sidewalk stencils typically come to mind when someone mentions the term "street art." But WNW Member London Kaye is broadening the possibilities, substituting spray cans and wheatpaste for her medium of choice: yarn. The Brooklyn-based artist talks to us below about her background in classical dance, how she stumbled onto the world of yarn bombing, and why New York is the perfect backdrop for her craft: "When I began almost 4 years ago, I gave myself a challenge. Everyday for 30 days I would put something outside and leave it there for people to enjoy. It forced me to try new things and create my own style. What I discovered is I love using chain link fences as a canvas for my work. It allows me to hang up crazy things...without hurting the environment or the world around us.
Tell us about your creative background. Who is London and how did she get here? When did you first become interested in yarn and crocheting?
I grew up doing ballet and started my crochet career when I was 13. My friend's mom taught me to crochet one afternoon and I instantly fell in love. I began by selling scarves to the girls at my dance studio and it became quite trendy to wear. I could have never guessed that I would still be at it 14 years later.
Yarn and crocheting are not typically associated with street art. How did you come to identify with this medium, and recognize it as a perfect vehicle for street art?
I was working at the Apple Store and knew it was not my true calling. I was trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life and crocheting was always at the top of my list. One day an artist came in to buy a computer and she had a crazy crochet bag. That is when a light bulb went off! I can be more creative with this crochet skill of mine and I began googling crochet art. This is when I discovered the world of “yarnbombing.” I went home that day from work and took one of my scarves and wrapped it around the tree outside of my apartment in Brooklyn. Instantly I was hooked!
You’ve been called “The One To Watch” in the world of yarn bombing. How would you define yarn bombing, and how has your process evolved over time?
Yarnbombing is when you take a piece of crochet or knit goodness and wrap it around an object. I have taken yarnbombing to the next level. When I began almost 4 years ago, I gave myself a challenge. Everyday for 30 days I would put something outside and leave it there for people to enjoy. By doing this, it forced me to try new things and create my own style. What I discovered is I love using chain link fences as a canvas for my work. It allows me to hang up crazy things like mermaids, tomatoes, and ballerinas without hurting the environment or the world around us. It is also a perfect way to stretch and manipulate the yarn in unexpected ways.
Do you feel any pressure to prove the possibilities of yarn as an artistic medium? Do the expectations and stereotypes of yarn and crocheting keep you motivated to continue exploring new ways to create and communicate with it?
Making special handmade things out of yarn is a tradition that is passed down from generation to generation. I like to say it is an apocalyptic skill! I love crocheting so much and I continue to challenge the norm of what you can do with yarn.
In using yarn and crochet, do you revel in the opportunity to play against the expectations and go really dark or subversive with your work?
I crochet things that make people smile. The topics I choose are generally in line with something that people of all ages can connect with. There is always a bit of whimsy and fun in what I do. Every once and awhile I want to go dark, do something totally out of character. I am sure it will happen at some point, but not yet.
What moment or project in your career so far has made you the proudest?
I had the opportunity to crochet a billboard in Time Square for Miller Lite. It was 50’ x 25’ and was 100% crocheted. I am so grateful for that project, it was a huge success!
Biggest career failure?
I installed a crochet mural on a wall in my neighborhood in Bushwick. I had been asked to crochet the installation for a flea market, however they did not ask the correct permission and I got caught in a gentrification battle. At the time it was difficult to wrap my mind around. However I grew a lot from this experience and am now much more aware of where I put my art and how it affects the community.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a commercial for GAP, a window display for Valentino, and an Installation for the Amazeum Children’s Museum. I am busy crocheting, and I would not want it any other way!
How would you describe your creative style? Do you recognize a signature style that links all of your projects beyond the medium you use, or do you try to excuse yourself and approach each project as its own entity?
I have my own style and a process I follow for each piece of street art I crochet. With every new project comes new learning. I was never officially taught to crochet, so I am still trying to improve my skills and create pieces that look beautiful but also have a deeper meaning and heart. Sometimes I will begin a project and think it will turn out a certain way, but halfway through I change my mind and let the yarn take over.
How does New York influence your work?
There is no city like New York. All of the different cultures and people living and working together makes me happy to call it home. The idea of being at the center of such a vibrant city allows me to have no limits to what I create. I know it will be accepted. This is why I never hold anything back, and am down to crochet absolutely anything that inspires me!
What cultural and creative venues do you frequent in New York?
I love going to the art galleries in Chelsea. They always have new work that is unexpected and free to look at. The High Line is also one of my favorite spots to get inspired.
Do you thrive off of being part of a creative community or are you more in your element as a lone wolf?
I enjoy crocheting because you can be social and productive at the same time. The way I get the most work done though is being a lone wolf and crocheting all day everyday. I am so lucky to do something I love as my career because putting in the work is never an issue.
Who are some of your biggest creative idols and influences?
Picasso, Olek, and Einstein would be my biggest creative influences.
If you weren’t a street artist, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
I would love to own a flower shop!
What do you do when Not Working?
When I am not working I am doing ballet, smiling and loving life!
What are some things you would tell your high school or early twenties self?
Everything works out better than expected.
The project takes however long you have.
The world only throws at you what you can handle.