German Knitting Guerillas Go Global
By Alison Kilian
Lennartz-Lembeck, who lives in Remscheid, packed her trunk full of essential supplies before setting off for Velbert.
It took approximately 200 hours of labor and 400,000 stitches to complete the project.
"It's about words and art, putting art in an open space and not necessarily a museum," she says of B-Arbeiten's work. The group, whose name is a play on the German word "bearbeiten," which means to edit or alter, revises city streets with their colourful creations in hopes of getting passers-by to reconsider their surroundings.
The tree shows off its stripes at night.
The work of knitting guerillas "Strick & Liesel" has an activist focus. The Dortmund-based duo, who maintain their anonymity, have created the "Fluffy Throw-up" knitting project to protest nuclear power, a hot-button issue in Germany these days.
Unlike some knitting guerrillas who follow the lead of traditional graffiti artists like Banksy and keep their identities secret, Lennartz-Lembeck has taken on the role of yarnbombing ambassador, installing her creations openly and during the daytime, which often spurs conversation with curious strangers.
B-Arbeiten proves that knitting graffiti need not be limited to urban centers. The group has work in both urban and rural areas. Here, the German word for space, "Raum," decorates a lonely lakeside area.
Over the last several years knitting has evolved from a grandmotherly hobby to a trendy diversion, but American Magda Sayeg is commonly credited with taking the trend to the streets as the creator of the yarnbombing movement in 2005. Within a few years the Houston, Texas resident had a large enough "granny graffiti" following to create her own crew of yarnbombers, who called themselves Knitta Please.
Other groups have emerged around the world, including in Germany, with outfits like the Katernberger Strickguerilla in Essen and the Dortmund-based Strick & Liesel. The Dortmund duo has already made headlines by using knitting to protest nuclear power, a controversial topic in the country. Their project, called "Fluffy Throw-up," involves knitting yellow-and-black radioactive warning signs onto everything from tree trunks to street lamps.
While Lennartz-Lembeck's goals don't mirror the more subversive yarnstormers like Strick & Liesel, she does say that social and political questions always play a role in her work. "I understand it as a means of disruption, even though it's done in an affectionate way," she explains.
A bright-yellow knit sign proclaiming "Futuro," the Spanish word for future, found a new home in Spain. One of her knit flowers can be seen hanging from a tree in Haiti, where it was sent after the country's devastating 2010 earthquake. Meanwhile she's expecting photos of a new installation after a recent shipment to France, while four other pieces were just mailed to the US. Belarus and Iceland are next, she says.
"Besides that I'm finishing entire sentences. In the long-run there will be a story," Lennartz-Lembeck told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "The project is constantly changing and growing."