Yarn bombers beautify Downtown San Mateo

Lorna and Jill Watt are resident artists at Claremont Studio in San Mateo, and proliferate yarn bombers in the Bay Area. Last year they were asked to participate in Downtown San Mateo Association’s clean-up day to beautify the neighborhood with their knitted yarn installations. This occasion represents a mutually beneficial partnership between street artists and a city planning organization that contradicts the stigma that street artists devalue public spaces with their work.

Ryen Motzek, vice president of DSMA spoke to the fastidious process of choosing artists to contribute to the commercial neighborhood’s character.

“DSMA is more selective with the artists we feature because it’s such a small area,” Motzek said. “Public art is important to Downtown San Mateo because it reflects the style of the community.”

Yarn bombing is a form of guerilla-style street art featuring colorful displays of yarn knitted over public fixtures. Unlike other forms of street art, yarn bombing is not widely considered as malicious form of vandalism because of its whimsical nature, Motzek said.

The Watt sisters recounted their first time bombing in San Francisco. To reduce the risk of getting caught, the two hid under the cover of night, with Lorna crouched down on the sidewalk on the knitting elf shoes on a mailbox and Jill acting as the lookout.

“I tried to think of something to say in case a police officer stopped us, but no one even noticed.” Jill said.

Now seasoned knitters, the two exclusively bomb during the day to interact with the public and gain exposure for their craft. Lorna said that they’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response to their work.

Presently, DSMA is undergoing a change of hands. The future of the group’s art collaboration efforts have yet to be determined as the structural framework of the association are under review, according to event coordinator Katherine Bednarik.

“We enjoyed working with the Watt sisters last year, but we’re going through a major transition,” Bednarik said. “We won’t know about future art collaborations until the new board is organized.”

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