How Twillingate Knit Rock Vandal Street Art: Part 2
By: Nina Elliott
When we returned to Twillingate in 2017, I made a personal commitment to become an ‘artist’. I was still hesitant to embrace the identity, however I realized that it was the path to contentment. I continued yarn bombing, but also started to reach out to other fiber and street artists for interviews on my blog. I was interested in their inspiration and creative journey and was over the moon that my idol, London Kaye, gave me her blessing.
Kaye is a yarn bomber based in Los Angeles and New York City. She is unique for evolving yarn bombing from ‘wraps’ to 2D images (whales, dragons, mermaids). She has a consistent street art practice (ie continues to produce and install free public art) and makes a living creating commercial yarn installations. She crocheted a billboard for Miller Lite in Times Square, encased a bus in crochet for a Gap commercial, and has crocheted window displays for Red Valentino and Starbucks. She’s living the dream. Her advice was simple, and applicable to all aspiring artists: commit to a daily challenge, keep the process simple (she only uses one stitch, single crochet), and, if you keep having fun, good things will come!
I did precisely what she suggested. I challenged myself to a 12 Days of Christmas Street Art Challenge and at the same time switched from knitting to crochet. I had noticed from all my interviews that I was only one using knitting vs crochet. This shift was massive as it allowed me to create bigger, more noticeable pieces.
By 2018 Twillingate was getting its footing as a tourist attraction, downtown was developing, and businesses were embracing the traditional aesthetic of using clapboard. To me this was a major boon as I was already using a staple gun to install my yarn bombs on boarded-up windows and abandoned signs (as compared to most of my urban mentors who used chain link fences as their ‘canvas’).
To challenge my crochet skills, I began making life-sized cartoon characters from my youth like Homer Simpson, Popeye, and Waldo of Where’s Waldo. After a suggestion from the local Credit Union teller, I made a real world Where’s Waldo game by moving Waldo, Woof (his dog), and Wenda (his girlfriend), around town. With permission from business owners, Waldo made appearances on nine storefronts in Twillingate, as well as Hamilton and St John’s. The collaboration between myself and local businesses was and continues to be a win-win. Businesses draw attention with unique art and I get the highest visibility locations to showcase my work in the whole town.
This spring, as COVID shut down most artist spaces and opportunities, I needed to channel my stress in a positive way. I was pregnant with my second child, and, while working through the pandemic at Twillingate hospital, experienced the collective angst of the community.
Where the streets were not closed and outdoor exercise was permitted, I launched my first solo art show. I called it Uplifting and used Twillingate’s main street as my gallery. I installed nine yarn bombs, some with COVID-related messaging, but most intended just to cheer people up … myself included. The response was incredible; my art was featured locally, provincially, and even nationally on CTV news.
When the summer sun shines there is no more beautiful place in the world than Twillingate and this year it was especially sunny because I got to check off a major artistic goal. I was awarded an ArtsNL grant to make my biggest yarn bomb yet – an immersive and interactive mural complete with a 12-foot multi-colored light beam, two UFO’s and four aliens! Visitors were able to step inside the light beam for a photo, and my social media following was able to interact by making suggestions for new alien ‘thought bubbles’.
My vision is to keep having fun and expanding my reach by seeking opportunities and accepting commissions. I’d love to partner with organizations and businesses across the Island and splash some yarn in airports, lobbies, and breweries. I am the only consistent yarn bomber in Newfoundland and Labrador, and possibly Canada, so that could make a unique marketing opportunity for the right partners. Either way, my plan is to stick with London’s advice of continuing to create while trusting that good things will keep on coming. It’s worked thus far and has brought a positive and distinctive energy to life in Twillingate. I could never have imagined that rural Newfoundland would turn me into a street artist but here I am, having a time, out in the street, eager to see what’s next.