More than 100 invited artists converged on Honolulu for this year’s POW! WOW! Hawai‘i 2014—a weeklong event celebrating street art with gallery shows, lectures, mural projects, concerts and even schools for art and music. On Saturday, Feb. 8, a reception for the event’s opening exhibition, POW! WOW!: Exploring the New Contemporary Art Movement—curated by Andrew Hosner of California’s Thinkspace Gallery—was held at the Honolulu Museum of Art School.
Before entering the main gallery, attendees were greeted by two mermaids towering more than 10 feet tall on the school’s front porch. The brainchild of fiber artist Hanasaurusrex (aka Hannah Busekrus), these hand-knit and crocheted beauties entitled Daughters of Triton mark the artist’s third year participating in POW! WOW! Hawai‘i. Above, the artist poses with her work in a photo by Cher Takemoto.
A self-proclaimed yarnbomber, Busekrus describes the term as a form of street art where, typically, a knitted, crocheted or woven piece of fabric is sewn onto an object in a public place. From lamp poles to parking meters, the pieces are popping up all over—including the columns of the museum’s art school. (As part of TheFuzz, she also yarnbombed the Spalding House garden in 2012.)
In her artist statement, Busekrus explains the concept isn’t new: “Yarnbombing or yarn storming, may not sound familiar to most. Its beginning is often credited to a knitter in Texas, in 2005, but if you look a little deeper, you will find even more humble origins, dating back much earlier, and before a name was given to the practice. Since 2005, though, yarnbombing has been developing into a new form of community expression. There are now a number of well-known artists pushing its boundaries resulting in its growing popularity. And now, in cities around the world, you can find pieces popping up in the most random of places and on a variety of surfaces.”
We caught up with Busekrus, a former Honolulu resident who was back in town for POW! WOW!, to find out more about the mermaids and just exactly what makes a yarnbomber’s knitting needles click.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m originally from Houston, Texas. I moved to O‘ahu in 2006 and lived here for seven years prior to moving to Sacramento, Calif., a year and a half ago. I am a self-taught artist; I’ve worked as a graphic designer and illustrator for the past 14 years. But about five years ago, I began taking on fewer clients and transitioning my focus to fiber arts, which I do full-time now, only taking on an occasional design job when it really piques my interest. I have an Etsy shop—Hanasaurusrex—where I sell my micro crochet and amigurumi (Japanese knitted dolls) pieces.
Where did you learn to crochet and knit?
My grandmother and mother taught my sister and me to crochet as a means to keep us busy during our summer trips to the tiny East Texas town where my great-grandmother lived. I gave it up for many of my teenage and young adult years, but picked it back up after I moved to Hawai‘i.
I had always wanted to learn how to knit, but the two needles, which have no hooks on the end of them, kind of intimidated me. But in 2010, I met a new friend, Bethany, who introduced me to the Aloha Knitters, here in Honolulu. They are a group of knitters and crocheters who meet weekly in small groups all over the island. And it was there that I expressed my desire to learn to knit. I made another friend there, Kathey; she gave me a pair of needles, a pattern for a wash cloth, and showed me how to make the basic stitches. And I just loved it! I turned that washcloth into a seven-foot scarf (or “snake blanket” as my mother-in-law likes to call it) because I just couldn’t stop, and I wanted to learn how to change colors, and then I wanted to learn how to make cables and so on and so on.
Why do you yarnbomb?
I yarnbomb for a lot of reasons. But, I guess, the main reasons would be… I love creating pieces that really capture people’s imaginations. I am a very conceptual artist; my yarnbombs will almost always have a concept behind them. I am trying to create a memory that will last past the life of the piece, which when out in the elements can be very short. I love seeing people interact with my pieces… touching the fabric, taking pictures with the work… it’s so much fun and I can tell it’s fun for the other person too.
How did you come up with the idea for Daughters of Triton?
I knew as soon as [POW! WOW! Hawai‘i founder Jasper Wong and event director Amy Luu] told me I’d have Linekona to work with that I wanted to work with the [front porch] columns. I’d wanted to do a column-type yarnbomb for a couple years… I did my homework on [several] concepts and, ultimately, decided on creating mermaids. I found there has been a long history of mermaid lore in Hawai‘i, and the shape of the mermaid worked well with the tall and slender columns. They also allowed for a lot of detail and creativity in creating all the elements, which was fun and challenging for me.
In my researching mermaids, though, I found there were many different interpretations of their folklore. I decided upon naming them Daughters of Triton, because Triton was a merman with two daughters, Pallas and Athena. (Although, I do not think Pallas and Athena are represented as mermaids in Greek mythology; I took some artist liberties.) I liked that Athena, among other things, was the goddess of arts and crafts.
How long did it take to make the mermaids?
I worked on conceptualization and planning off and on for a few months last fall, making swatches, ordering yarn and developing my patterns. I had another project ahead of them, so once I was finished with it and free to start the mermaids, they took the remaining two months I had to finish before POW! WOW! Hawai‘i began. For those two months, I worked anywhere between 10 and 16 hours a day, seven days a week, knitting or crocheting. They are the largest project (in size) I have done to date.
Since you made the majority of the work at home in California, how did you know that the pieces would fit on the columns?
I asked for the column measurements, and then my husband and I took those numbers and made a wire-mesh column replicating them. We had to cut it in half because it wouldn’t fit inside our apartment. Even in half, though, I was able to use it find my gauge, measure pieces against it and make sure my proportions were all good. I didn’t actually get to see them as all one piece until we put them up on the columns at Linekona! It was really great to see how well they fit, a “whew!” moment for sure.
Which do you prefer: crocheting or knitting?
I get asked that question a lot, but I really don’t prefer one over the other. I enjoy being able to do them both because it allows me to choose which method will best produce my idea. So, maybe for amigurumi I like crochet better, but I would definitely choose knitting over crochet to make a pair of socks.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about? What’s in store for POW! WOW! Hawaii 2015?
I do have some fun collaborations in the works for this coming year, but nothing ready to promote. I plan to spend most of the year creating new products for my shop and releasing some of my patterns as downloads and kits. I have no idea what I may do for POW! WOW! next year… I’m still recovering from this year!
What’s your advice to people with no experience who want to get into knitting, crocheting and/or yarnbombing?
Try to find your local yarn store (LYS) and/or a local knitting/crochet group. If those don’t exist, or even if they do have one where you live, go to YouTube! There are so many wonderful tutorials on YouTube, and if you’re a visual person like me, watching a video is way better that looking at an illustration. My knitting group taught me the basics of knitting, and they were great support to have for asking questions to and bouncing ideas off of, but everything else I learned on YouTube. I still Google tutorials on new techniques I want to learn!
Hanasaurusrex’s Daughters of Triton are on view through March at the Honolulu Museum of Art School. Read more about the artist on her website.