Yarn Wars

Local Artist Transforms With Colour

Local artist Heather Utah takes her art to the streets. Photo Heather Utah
Photo Heather Utah

If you have recently wandered around the Mile End or Plateau, you may already be familiar with Heather Utah’s yarn bombs.

Yarn bombs are friendly attacks on lampposts, stop signs and other urban signage. Utah carefully crochets sweater-like fabric around the poles in bright, cheerful colours.

For Utah, because of their handmade and unique nature, yarn bombs often open dialogue among residents of the neighborhood and make the urban landscape more personal. “It’s up to us to transform [the city’s landscape],” she said.

“My favorite place to [yarn bomb] is on no-stopping signs, because I find it such a funny thing that you have to move—you have to keep moving. I find that really intriguing in my own artistic practice,” Utah said.

The yarn bombs can last up to a couple of years and survive the Montreal winters without fading in colour. According to Utah, the bombs usually last a while, and if they are taken down, it’s either by the city or by the community.

On Thursday, this Concordia fiber arts student and conceptual artist is launching her ‘zine, a yarn bombing how-to and hosting a vernissage for her new exhibit, Luxation, at gallery Usine 106u.

The ‘zine is sewn by hand, drawn and put together by Utah.

“It is a sort of manifesto,” she said. “Except it’s very much more personal.”

The ‘zine has a call-to-arms tone that, according to the artist, is supposed to inspire people to be proactive and make a difference in their communities.
“I made the ‘zine as a sort of history as to why I yarn bomb, and it’s also a how-to, how people can tag immovable objects in their city to make them more colourful, a little softer, a little bit more surprising,” she said.

Luxation takes a gentler look at generally aggressive and violent items. Composed of crocheted weapons like a giant AK-47 pillow, hand grenades, a morning-star mace, a chainsaw and an axe, Utah uses “a lot of really bright colors so it comes across as really comical. It’s almost like a joke,” she said.

The juxtaposition between metal and yarn—hard and soft, rigid and fluffy—is a motif in Utah’s art. “Life is so uncomfortable and so painful already,” said Utah. “I want to make really comfortable art and stuff that can cause people to be like ‘Ah, I can take a moment and actually enjoy what I’m looking at, so it’s not so loud and abrasive.’

“I just want to do my own thing and let other people know that whatever they can do, they can do it—the possibilities are endless, and you are the only person who can make your own world.”

The vernissage and ‘zine launch is happening Thursday, Oct. 7 at Usine 106u (160 Roy St. E.)

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 08, published October 5, 2010.