Since my neighbour has my one and only (so far) copy of Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery at the moment, I can’t show you pics from the book. I can’t show you my sister‘s fabulously funny Love Gun either (but you can see it here — didn’t they pick the best, most smarmiest guy to photograph it with?). And I can’t show you the beautiful photos of my three little embroidery projects hanging in Vancouver’s beautiful Stanley Park… but I can show you pics I took before I mailed them off to Leanne Prain.
When I first starting thinking about the whole idea of unexpected embroidery in the context of Leanne and Mandy Moore’s first book, Yarn Bombing (yarnbombing website here, book link here), I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the idea. I had visions of people madly stitching oversized cross-stitch patterns using chain-link fences in place of Aida cloth, or leaving little embroidered messages of hope tucked inside library books and behind cereal boxes at the grocery store… but I was caught up in a spurt of bird-watching and nature-walking and nest-making, and I just couldn’t reconcile the need for urban graffiti embroidery with the natural space my mind was currently exploring.
Until I went for a walk with my dear friend and her daycare kids, and we spied bird nests in the crook of a tree, and chipmunk homes in the middle of a path, and all sorts of other bits of the unexpected. The kids were delighted with every find, and an idea began to coalesce in the back of my mind.
A few days later, I happened to be walking downtown amidst skyscrapers and concrete walls and metal gratings and signposts and streetlamps every which way you looked… when I spied a bird flying into a snug little nook created by a decorative cement ledge at the corner of a building. A few feet further on, I spied a spiderweb filling the space between a street sign and its post. Then a small cluster of asters and buttercups in the crack of a sidewalk. A little past that sat another nest, this one wedged in the corner of a ventilation grate and filled with tiny little eggs and a very protective mother.
It was graffiti, of a sort. Mother Nature’s version of graffiti adorning every possible space of this concrete jungle we call ‘civilized.’ With every new thing I noticed that day, my smile grew bigger and my heart grew more joyful, and yet no one around me seemed to be paying any attention. No one noticed. It was invisible to most people. And yet, had they noticed, it wouldn’t have caused annoyance or frustration or anger like graffiti of the spray-painted kind. Had they taken a moment to look, to really look and enjoy and appreciate the robust strength and delicate fragility of these small bits of nature… well, I like to think it would have made them smile.
If only they noticed.
That thought, that desire to draw attention to the little bits of nature all around us… it stuck with me. It stuck so firmly that as I started contemplating an embroidered version of a yarn bomb, I just knew that it had to draw attention to the natural. So, without further ado, here are my little bits of Natural Graffiti!
All three are little “kites” you could hang from a street sign or a lamp post or a railing, and all three have twig “frames” to give them shape, and dangly bits hanging from the corners. The first nest has three little speckled eggs made from felted wool roving and nestled in a half-circle of spider-web stitch. The second nest is done in a woven stitch called Queen Anne stitch and has two little felted eggs from green wool roving with brown french-knot speckles. The spiderweb is done in a combination of cotton floss and DMC Light Effects in white, with clear, white, and light blue bead “dewdrops” all over.
When I was making them, I imagined them hung in urban environments and sterile city parks as a way of drawing attention to the natural world hiding in our human-built places. Graffiti, of a sort, and an homage to what Mother Nature does so well.