Let’s start this right. Yarnbombing isn’t attracting any attention from Homeland Security. The artistic endeavor is actually uses colorful yarn and fiber as a creative form of natural graffiti. Practiced across the country, Santa Barbara’s is fortunate to have a master practicing the craft right in our backyard
Steve Duneier has taken knitting to new heights since he started in 2012. He also loves the outdoors and spends as much time as he can on Santa Barbara’s trails. With his stories and photos, Duneier inspires people to be more creative and have more fun outside wherever they are – especially in the mountains.
RootsRated : How does a chief investment officer at a global investment firm get into crocheting and "detonating" yarnbombs?
Steve Duneier : Each year I challenge myself with some odd set of resolutions. In 2007, when we first moved to Santa Barbara, it was to hike every trail in the front country, even though I'd never been on a hike in my life. As part of the learning resolution, my wife suggested I try knitting. My first scarf turned out to be a debacle. While sitting under a 40-foot tall eucalyptus tree, 2.6 miles up the Cold Spring Trail, memories from my childhood of the artist Christo wrapping the islands in South Florida in colorful fabrics inspired me to attempt a yarnbombing of that tree instead. Eighty-two days later, on the 2nd annual International Yarnbombing Day, the project was finished.
RR : Unlike other yarnbombing trends, which tend to be in urban settings, you exclusively yarnbomb along Santa Barbara's mountain trails. What inspires you to install crocheted colors along scenic hikes?
Duneier : Actually, yarnbombing also goes by the name "urban knitting", so you are correct. I am driven by 3 simple objectives with my yarnbombs:
First, "Ars Gratia Artis" or art for art's sake, meaning there is no corporate, governmental or even moral attachment to it. It's pure whimsy.
Second, to draw people back to nature. I am amazed how many people live within a mile of our trailheads yet never use them. If I can draw a few people onto the trails or push a few further up them, then more people will see the value in them. That improves the chances that they will remain protected long into the future.
Third, show the power of a truly analog endeavor in an increasingly digital world.
RR : Have you ever received any opposition to your installments?
Duneier : People who opposed the work actually tore down the last two installations. The first by a father and his four kids, who proudly tore it down because they deemed it "unnatural". The irony of their act of defiance was that they hadn't paused to pick up the empty water bottles that littered the ground at their feet, nor had they made any attempt to wash away the graffiti my installations were temporarily covering.
RR : What has been your most challenging yarnbomb installation?
Duneier : The most recent installation at Seven Falls was by far the most dangerous and challenging. I created a huge sunburst out of reflective yarn with a 16-foot wingspan and hung it 40 feet above the second to last pool. It required serious teamwork, some questionable free climbing choices and a lot of prep work.
The thing that is unique about yarnbombing in the mountains is that you have to consider the impact on the environment and your fellow hikers, boulderers and rock climbers. I know most of the routes, but I also take the time to ask those who use these spots for specific purposes about their needs. I want to make sure I don't get in anyone or anything's way. I adhere strictly to the "Leave No Trace" philosophy, so when my projects are removed after just 9 days, there is no evidence of them ever having existed.
RR : Hundreds of people have mailed their needlework to you from all over the world for your projects. What does it mean to you to have such national and international participation?
Duneier : It's just pure insanity, plain and simple. I'm a reclusive guy who spends most of his free time hiking alone in the mountains. To be the central figure in a global social phenomenon is just unfathomable. What I've discovered is that there are a lot of people out there who share my love of the outdoors, passion for art and a desire to be involved in something that is pure and positive. Having this connection with people I've never met from around the world is perspective altering, but it is simply an extension of the feedback I've received from those who have stumbled upon the installations in person. I've had total strangers come up to me, with tears in their eyes, hug me and thank me for doing what I do. When I sit off to the side and hear hikers chatting with each other and panting as they make their way up the trails, and then suddenly, in mid conversation just exclaim, "Whoa!" and smile, well, that's the payoff for me.
RR : What's the vision for the upcoming Lizard's Mouth project?
Duneier : It begins with the gathering of hundreds of randomly sized, shaped and colored contributions from fiber artists around the world. On May 1st I will know what I have to work with including my own pieces and those from the previous installation. I then map it out, grouping pieces together, selecting which boulders will be targeted and organizing for the installation, which will happen Friday, May 23rd beginning at 2:00pm and go on until it's finished.
Send yarn to:
1482 E Valley Rd #616
Santa Barbara, CA 93108