by Naomi Lawrence,
FLASHBACK to June 8th 2012
It’s about 9pm and I suddenly remember that tomorrow is the much anticipated International Yarnbombing Day and somehow it slipped my mind. I grab my tape measure, run to the corner of my Cambridge street, and measure a lamppost – its height and circumference. At home I scramble together some knit and crochet swatches then return to sew the piece on, take some quick pictures and then head home. There’s a flurry of excitement in the bakery the next morning on the opposite corner. I hear the staff gossiping about the press and when its my turn to be served I lean across the counter and whisper “it was me”.
I’m hooked and now there’s no going back.
Fast forward 9 years. I am now living in Harlem, NYC and I am known internationally for my ‘next level yarnbombing’ and one of the only fiber artists in the world making large scale 2d crochet flowers. I work with local fiber artists on collaborations, consult community groups who are wanting to make a yarnbomb, teach crochet in schools at the same time as making my art and working on private commissions. My ‘hobbie has turned into a jobbie’.
But it’s more than a job or vocation, this is my ministry and I feel this is where God is calling me to be right now. In the slow patient process of making art with others using the craft of crochet. In 2018 we joined a Christian order called InnerCHANGE ‘a family of Jesus followers whose lives are bound together by common rhythms, commitments and values’. Through this international community we feel better equipped to ground ourselves here and now in our 2nd year of a 3 year apprenticeship we are aiming to grow a team here in New York.
I meet regularly with a group of local women to work on a new piece to beautify the neighborhood and these pieces can take months to make. We work individually at home and keep in regular contact, sometimes meeting once a week in a local church or local community center. These relationships have grown over the years and the women have come to rely on each other as friends, mothers, wives, ex-wives. The emotional support that grows organically is beautiful to see. Then there are the seniors in the Bronx that have an art programmer who reaches out to me and asks if I could work with them to create their own floral mural on the fence of their housing. Four months later I spend 10 hours sewing the seniors flowers onto the fence with one of my local women and we laugh and cry all day. Isn’t God good. I have this life because I am created me to be the woman I am and have the gifts to transform and beautify. And in all this I AM CHANGED.
I’m not the same woman I was when I installed that first yarnbomb in 2012. Boy am I not. I’ve given birth to twins, emigrated to the USA, lost countless friends to chronic illness and addiction and then there’s the whole transformation that comes from finding a way to channel that creative side of me that for so long lay dormant.
These days I’m pretty much working full time on fiber arts projects/yarnbombing and that incorporates all the ‘admin’ involved and there’s a lot of that these days.
Right now it’s Saturday afternoon and I’m just returning from a 4 hr drop-in workshop I run with a local friend at a community center in a NYC housing project. A few women stop by throughout the afternoon to drop off crochet & knit squares for a collective yarnbomb, to collect yarn, have a quick chat or sometimes a long chat. I enjoy the unhurried, slow brewing relationships that develop over time and through consistency. Yes, sometimes there are deadlines and they can be draining but we bounce back and sometimes they’re the ones that pay the bills and enable us to stock up on yarn for future projects.
A community activist and gardener from a community garden in the Bronx recently reached out. They have transformed DOT land into an oasis right beside the Harlem River Parkway and I am helping them to make a 7ft crochet monarch butterfly for the outside of their fence.
I could just make it for them but from day one I invited THEM to make the 200 orange 5” squares and then sew them together at a workshop they hosted in the garden. I see the joy and pride that creators have when they have contributed to a yarnbomb and I want them to feel that. Not just show up and say they love this piece of fiber art created by me but to truly be able to say “I made that” and also “I made this for you” to their neighbors. It will be installed on the outside of their garden facing a busy intersection of a neighborhood inhabited by people who live below the poverty line. Maybe someone will pass by that garden fence one day and will see that butterfly and will feel that they too are loved. These are the stories we retell and maybe those that hear them will wonder if there is a way that they can do something small in their neighborhood. A random act of generosity…
Bio for Naomi Lawrence
Naomi Lawrence is a British Fiber Artist based in East Harlem, NYC. Working with acrylic yarn to create oversized 2-Dimensional site-specific installations.
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