Magda Sayeg is heralded as the Queen of Guerilla Knitting, a movement that emerged five or six years ago and introduced a new way of thinking about public art. Echoing, microcosmically, the work of prolific twentieth century artists Christo and Jean-Claude, Sayeg decorates and interrupts the urban environment by wrapping street signs, statues and fences in multicoloured patches of knitted yarn. The pieces appear without warning, with no insight to the artist’s process, and, beyond the existence of the artwork itself, no evidence that the artist was even ever there. This sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? If you replace the knitting with paint and markers, isn’t this exactly how graffiti comes about? Both appear unexpectedly, both contribute colour, imagination and practised artistic technique to the urban space, both involve the defiling of public property. Why is it, then, that Sayeg has earned herself a place in this year’s celebrated public art exhibition ‘Art & About’.
Austin Texas Artist, Magda Sayeg, aka PolyCotn is the founder of Knitta Please, a group who is re imagining the potential of knitted yarn as a street art medium. It started when Magda knitted a simple door handle and has now evolved to “yarn bombing” utility poles, monuments all over the world. In Mexico they covered a whole bus in yarn.
Fueled by adrenaline, Knitta Please has taken this American tradition usually relegated to sweaters and booties and have gave it a new life by “inspiring a new generation of knitters who no longer view function as the sole purpose for knitting.”
When did you first start to knit and what attracted you to yarn as a medium?
When I was 15, I started to knit a scarf for a boyfriend. We broke up and the scarf was still not finished. I put it down for 15 years. I’ve always been attracted to the look, feel, and flexibility of textiles.
How long and when did you make the connection or recognize that knitting can be a new street art form?
By time I picked up knitting again, street culture had made it’s way into music, art, fashion, and advertising, and I loved it all. I was interested in the act of knitting as opposed to its traditional function, like knitting sweaters, socks, and hats, so my first piece was a door handle. I didn’t really consider the implications of what I was doing until I knitted a stop sign pole. People would stop and take pictures. It started popping up in blogs. At the time I lived in Houston which is not known for it beauty, so I got together with friends and started going out at night and covering everything. Soon a lot of people were wanting to join the group/crew, and we named it Knitta Please. We began documenting the work and posting on flickr. We added a website. I received emails daily asking to join or permission to do the same in other places outside of Houston. We hit a chord, and it was fun to watch it gain momentum.
What kind of reactions have you received as a result of your work?
Soon after I started, I had local coverage in Houston, but it wasn’t until the New York trip that Knitta began to take on a life of its own. A week after coming back I was in bed, watching Saturday Night Live, and Tina Fey was doing her “Weekend Report” segment. As part of the skit, an image of a yarn ball with knitting needles appeared at the top of the screen, and she began to report on a group of knitters who had recently tagged New York. My jaw dropped, and the phone began ringing.
Image from artandabout.com.au
Image from hastaladesign.com