I first saw photographs of Knitta’s yarn graffiti in an exhibition at Urbis, Manchester and I was excited and inspired, they had made knitting cool and interesting and anyone can do.
Angel : When and why did you get interested in knitting?
PolyCotN: I never was as interested in knitting as I was when I started knitta. It never clicked. It took too long. I felt I had no friends that were worth spending the time and effort to knit a blanket or scarf.
A: So tell me how Knitta and yarn graffiti was born?
PC: It wasn’t as clear cut as you may assume. I simply wanted the handle to my store front wrapped with knitted material( I own a boutique here in Houston). I sit at my desk with a glass and steel facade to stare at all day. I thought a splash of color would soften the hard edges. Once I did that it set off a light. I instantly witnessed the reaction of others-they would touch it and want to know more about it.In the next few days we wrapped the stop sign pole a block over. the reaction was even more intense-with people getting out of their cars, and taking pictures in front of it.
A: What do you sell in your boutique?
PC: Lines you can’t find here in Houston, if not Texas. My husband owns the book store next door. The websites are http://www.rayehouston.com and http://www.domystore.com check them out!
A: Yeah ill be sure to check them out, sounds exciting, recently I went to an exhibition here in Manchester and saw some photos of yarn graffiti but i didn’t get the name of who did it? would it have been Knitta? are you guys the only ones doing yarn graffiti?
PC: There have been many groups that have formed since Knitta started. It makes me very happy. Did you see it at the Urbis?
A: Yes thats right, was it you guys?
PC: Yes, I’ve been getting quite a few emails from that show. I wish I knew more about the space. Ideally I could set up an exhibition of sorts, fly over there and tag . I would LOVE this. Our support in Europe and Great Britain is enormous. I hope it’s not like the same love Germans have for David Hasslehof-Germans love him and his rock . ….we don’t
A: Is there any message you want people to take away with them or is it just visual stimulation?
PC: It is both. I believe one of the reasons knitta has become so popular is that it takes knitting to a different level as well taking graffiti.
A: I must confess that i have taken up knitting because of you guys
PolyCotN & 24kt Purl Nekklas
PC: That is great that you are knitting now! I knew a guy that knitted a beautiful sweater that said BEER on the front. Quite attractive. I think it is great. The idea that knitting is put out on the streets graffiti style -making this knitting outlaw is awesome!
A: Are you a fan of aerosol graffiti?
A: What graffiti artists do you like?
PC: We opened a gallery a few years ago(now closed) so I was really exposed to a lot of what is going on in the art scene. I was just starting to get familiar with some of the better known graffite artist. I think one of the first shows I went to was Barry Mcgee. Later on a bought a small piece-the only one I could afford.
A: Can you tell me more about the gallery, as I’m sure loads of people would love to open their own gallery, what sort of barriers did you have to overcome and what advice would you give to other people wanting to do the same?
PC: Yes. It was more my husband. It was great what we did with it in 3 years-really made connections in NY/LA. But here in Texas it was sort of like we were suspending reality. It doesn’t work the same way as it does in NY. There aren’t enough people here that collect contemporary (good) art. There is a lot of money , but they play it safe-and buy stuff isn’t current. We were selling more work outside of Texas. It ultimately felt like an expensive hobby. I don’t mean to discourage or anything.
A: Right so its a difficult business?
PC: It was fun. The art shows , meeting the artists, collectors, dealer,etc. Unfortunately it was a business too and we weren’t profiting. If you have a lot of money then go for it!
A: The key problem was the location?
PC: Yes, It’s like trying to be a successful actor in the film business w/o moving to LA.
PolyCotN & 24kt Purl Nekklas
A: Are there many magazines over there that promote contemporary art?
PC: In Houston, not within a critical dialogues. All the good art magazine are based in NY or overseas
A: So PolyCotN for people who have not come across Knitta describe what you guys do, how many of you there are and what are the crews names?
PC: We are a group of women that take our knitting out on the streets. Just like graffiti artist we have reacting to our urban environment, using our surroundings to show our work, unsanctioned by the authorities and making it beautiful with fuzzy bright colored yarn. If there is any message to send it is that beauty can be outlaw. We consist of 5 members: PolyCotN(me),
Woops…24kt Purl Nekklas, P-Knitty, Knotorious N.I.T, and Granny SQ,
A: What kind of feedback have you been receiving, and how have the press been reacting to what you guys do?
PC: Sometimes Mascuknittity comes into help. He’s great and has really interesting color sense. Feedback has almost been completely great. I think whenever anyone puts themselves in the public forum there will be people to criticize it. So we have had emails that ask why we don’t put are work to get use like blankets for the homeless and sick babies to emails proposing marriage.
A: I’ve been reading on forums people talking about what Knitta does and mostly it was really positive the only negative comment was that the knitting will degrade in time and become weathered, what is your response to this?
PC: Just like graffiti, it is exposed to the elements. In a way that is what makes it special. I have come back to places after months -like the “welcome to Manhattan” sign in NY. It is very weathered but that is what it is supposed to do. We have all seen some beautiful graffiti that ultimately is covered up by the gray muted city paint.
The Standard Hotel
A: Tell me about the exhibition that you recently did in LA?
PC: It is fun to see how people are getting around that. do you hear about the guy that uses a power washer? The cops don’t know how to arrest him b/c he is essentially cleaning the cement.
A: Was it photographs or an installation piece?
PC: It was and installation. It was great! I must say I Love the commission pieces. It has been real fun. The standard is this ultra hip hotel that has a glass box behind the front desk that a live model sits in for 12 hours a day. They wanted us to tag this box. Instantly I though we should make it look like she is in an aquarium. So we made seaweed looking strips -like 125 and hung them from the ceiling inside the box. We mounted 2 fans to create a sway/movement. It really worked out well.
A: Wow that sounds amazing, what other pieces have you done that you especially enjoyed?
PC: The monorail column in Seattle was incredible for us. It was the first large scale piece we did. It took over 50 ft of knitted material to cover. I did a call out on to our mailing list for volunteers. We got pieces from all over America. one woman knitted 18 ft . That goes from my front door to my back door. HUGE. and she wrote a note saying thank you…to us! Most of them thanked us for letting them be a part of it. I almost got teary.
Monorail Column, Seattle
A: I especially like the brown and yellow piece with the skyscrapers in the background that looks fantastic
PC: Oh that was for a rice university music fest, I think that one got taken and sold on ebay
A: Really that was a great piece, I’m still on plain knitting so will be a while until i can do letters. How do you see yarn graffiti evolving?
PC: I don’t know. It never started with that question.It was open ended. It’s been amazing but it is hard to predict. I would enjoy seeing it influence others in a way where they may choose to think creatively and question conventional wisdom.
A: Do you have any creative plan yourself? anything you would like to do?
PC: I would like to tag as much of the world as possible. I would love to do more exhibits. I love that my children are growing up with this in their lives. Hearing my 4 year old shout out “there is a knitta piece!” still cracks me up.
A: Do you have any funny stories of when you’ve been out tagging?
PC: Well one of my few brushes with the law was in NY. A cop came up to me while I was putting an 8 foot piece on a light pole. I told him I was part of a church and we were doing a scavenger hunt for our youth group. He smiled and drove off. I n America, no questions asked when it has to do with religion.
A: Thats cool, have you heard of a graffiti artist called Banksy from the UK he did some graffiti under a bridge and wasn’t disturbed as he was wearing a council uniform they thought he was official
PC: I love Banksy. We sell his books at Domy. I love the humor in work, It’s like Banksy said, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission”.
A: How do you attach the knitting?
PC: Every location has its unique challenges. We’ve used everything…even standing there and crocheting the piece together, we like the idea of the piece being more permanent so we have switched to tying more.We love to inspire others. You know there are these cool needles out now that have light tips…so you can knit in the dark. cool huh!
So theres no excuses now you can knit in bed in a nightclub anywhere! if you’ve done some yarn graffiti, please send us the photos we’d love to see them
All of the photographs were taken by Jonathan Hokklo