Scenes from Saturday's Maplewood Mall 'knit-bombing'
By Aliana Mabaso
Crystal Jackson carried her crocheting gear on Saturday afternoon, just like she always does whenever she takes the bus from her Upsal Street home to the health-food store in Maplewood Mall.
But this time, she saw something unusual down by Greene Street's iMPeRFeCT Gallery.
The parking meters, sign posts and stanchions had bloomed with colorful yarn coverings, as an all-ages group of locals sat outside knitting and crocheting under the shade of the fresh spring leaves.
Jackson had never been to iMPeRFeCT before. When she saw the happy crew, though, the day's errands became an afterthought. She decided to pull up a chair, get her crochet hook out and join them.
A collaborative finish
For the closing day of the gallery's multimedia "Spectacle" show, writer, filmmaker and artist Bonnie MacAllister teamed up with fellow fiber artist Melissa Maddonni Haims for a public "knit bombing" at Maplewood Mall.
Everything in the mall was fair game for yarn, except the trees, which Haims said are "already beautiful."
"This is all her fault," said Haims of her longtime collaborator MacAllister.
"I couldn't think of anyone better to come knit-bomb the place than Melissa," added MacAllister, whose art show included 118 photographic, yarn, fabric and multimedia pieces designed for viewing with 3D glasses, which were provided. "I'm pretty sure it's the first 3D fiber show in Germantown."
From drab to colorful
Jamie Campbell — an artist who was also on hand Saturday, having already teamed with MacAllister on exhibits and in a band — likened Maplewood Mall to your grandmother's "ratty old couch," worn out but well-loved.
She said Saturday's event was like the newly crocheted Afghan blanket that Grandma makes from time to time.
"As soon as you come in the room," said Campbell, "you can see something has changed."
MacAllister noted that she likes the way natural variations in the yarn itself, and the shape of the underlying object, help to determine the final product.
That kind of flexibility in art-making is particularly good for kids to practice, she said, pointing to the "immediate carnivalesque transformation" the colorful yarn brought to the mall.
Of the unsanctioned, public show of fiber art, MacAllister said, "Unlike graffiti, it doesn't deface. It embellishes."
While the artists realize city policies don't always look kindly on their public decorations, they said they haven't had trouble in Germantown.
That runs counter to other sections of the city. Rapidly crocheting a bright blue and green cover for the squat concrete pegs that Maplewood Wall visitors use as impromptu seating, Haims admitted, "I did get chased out of Love Park once."
Strenghth in knumbers
Gallery owners Rocio Cabello and Renny Molenaar were happy with the turnout for the event.
Stitching what resembled a long, striped stocking onto a parking-meter pole outside the gallery storefront, Cabello said she initially feared no one would want to hang around knitting for four hours, but an enthusiastic group descended, sharing yarn and boxes of chocolate chip cookies.
Haims and MacAllister undertook some outreach efforts to make the public-art session a success.
That included an invitation to the members of a Germantown knitting group which meets every Tuesday afternoon at the nearby Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library.
Many of the Tuesday knitters joined in on Saturday, tugging strands from a wildly-colored communal supply of all types of yarn.
Greene Street resident Lea Myers, a library group knitter, was making her first visit to iMPeRFeCT.
She worked on a large brown-and-blue piece that included a wide stripe of irresistibly fuzzy, multi-colored fiber she called "eyelash yarn."
Myers said that when she finished, she wanted to stitch it into place somewhere low enough for passing kids to touch it, so that in a life that has a lot of hard corners, youngsters can remember "there's a softness to the world."