Landing at TEDx Tucson in Arizona, January 2017
He is not an animated character from Pokemon Go, but Stephen Duneier has been drawing people outside to play, while building a global community of enthusiasts for more than four years. His movement has active participants in 41 countries and all 50 US states, but it isn’t part of the digital revolution. In fact, his is a uniquely analog endeavor that is leading a resurgence in the popularity of long forgotten art forms, requires the use of snail mail and involves participants venturing into the wilderness to collect their rewards.
Mr. Duneier is a large-scale installation artist known simply as, Yarnbomber. His medium, as you might imagine, is yarn and his canvas until now, has been the Los Padres National Forest in the mountains surrounding Santa Barbara, California. It began as part of his 2012 new year’s resolution to do twelve charitable things that didn’t involve writing a check and learn twelve new skills. At his wife’s suggestion, number four on his list was learning how to knit. Whereas most would start with a simple scarf, he chose to create a sweater for a massive eucalyptus tree that stands 2.6 miles up the Cold Spring Trail, overlooking the exclusive neighborhood of Montecito. In order to complete the project on time, he invited visitors to his blog to contribute anything they wanted to make with yarn and he would incorporate it. A few heeded his call, and the installation was a huge success.
When exhausted hikers unexpectedly stumbled upon his whimsical, Seuss-like project it evoked the Whoa’s and Wow’s you’d expect, but it went beyond that. These outdoor enthusiasts described a spiritual connection to the installation. Total strangers approached him, and with tears in their eyes, hugged and thanked him. Over the next nine days, word of mouth grew, inspiring more and more locals to make the trek beyond their comfort zones to see the mirage-like installation before it disappeared forever.
In the years since, Duneier’s projects grew bigger and more complex, as did his community of contributors and visitors. In 2014, he received contributions of all shapes and sizes from 388 knitters and crocheters in 36 countries, which he combined with his own work to wrap 18 massive boulders at a remote location called Lizards Mouth. The installation took him nearly a year to create. The last three months of which required him to be on location for 8 to 16 hours a day. In the end, it was on display for just three days before being removed without leaving a trace. The following year, 656 contributors from 41 countries sent him their work to be incorporated into the Alien Campsite, an installation comprised of 10 aliens and 24 tents made of yarn in the backcountry high above the wine country of Santa Ynez. It was removed two days later.
Duneier and his contributors, known collectively as the Bomb Squad, are now hard at work on his most ambitious project yet. Armed with a yarnbomb arsenal from previous installations that already covers more than 5,000 square feet plus new contributions, support from his sponsor Red Heart Yarns and, for the first time, assistance from others with the actual installation, Stephen is planning what may be the largest yarnbomb ever created. It is scheduled to be unveiled in downtown Tucson and the University of Arizona campus this January, coinciding with his TEDx Tucson talk.
The installation is called, “Dreamer”, in reference to John Lennon’s iconic song, “Imagine”, wherein he invites the world to join him in imagining a world living in peace, without any reasons to kill or die for. It’s a sentiment that resonates with Stephen and the global community of kind and creative people he has been actively curating. “There is something magical about people of all ethnicities, colors, races, and religions, wealthy and poor alike, joining together from every corner of the map for a collective experience of pure whimsy. In moments like that, you realize, you’re not the only dreamer after all.”
Contribute your own fiber art!
As always, the rules are, there are no rules!
Set your creativity free!
610 S Park Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85719