In early April, Denverites were devastated when the iconic Big Blue Bear leaning against the Colorado Convention Center was seen sporting an unwelcome splatter of green paint down its back after an unknown vandal struck the four-story tall sculpture.
But that wasn't the first time the steel and fiberglass giant -- officially titled "I See What You Mean" -- had been decorated by the dark of night.
In 2011, the bear was bedazzled with an eight-foot ball and chain fashioned from 15 miles of blue acrylic crochet yarn. Starting at 4 a.m., a girly gang of street artists known as the Ladies Fancywork Society
needed just 21 minutes to add the intentionally temporary yet equally illegal accouterment, one of the many yarn bombs that have spruced up the Mile High City since 2007.
Crocheters gone wild The Ladies Fancywork Society have created several high-profile art pieces around town.
The Colorado-based creative collaboration was initially inspired by "lots of crocheting and nowhere to put it!" says Lauren Seip, one of the "four-ish" LFS members. When the girls got together, "Yarn bombing was just starting to be a thing around the country, but still very much not mainstream."
Though originally anonymous, the Ladies have slowly edged closer to the spotlight as their work has becoming increasingly recognizable about town and civic authorities tend to look the other way when the bombs are planted. Even still, the guerilla artists go by pseudonyms -- Esther, Maxine, Lucy Lynn and Jeanne Lois -- the names of their grandmothers.
The fancifully feminine installations bring the stereotypically domestic craft out of the home and into the public sphere, with works sometimes seemingly sprouting out of the ground in projects such a crocheted garden, colorful designs wound ‘round tree trunks and chain-link fences. What began as an underground street artist guild determined to disperse fiber creations across cityscapes has evolved into a phenomenon of global proportions: in Denmark a pink blanket delicately veiled a military tank and in Paris, France rainbow threads have been found filling the cracks of city streets.
Making art more accessible
Back in Denver, high-profile pieces the LFS ladies have fabricated include: leg warmers for the dancer sculptures, also outside the Convention Center, project partnerships with Denver International Airport and recently, a knitted patchwork splash MCA Denver commissioned to greet guests.
"We're basically always working on something," says Seip. She and Tymla Welch, another "Lady," founded Lowbrow Denver
, a modern art gallery in the DIY-friendly Baker neighborhood
Though LFS and Lowbrow aren't technically correlated, the aesthetic is comparable both in-store and on the street and the goal remains unchanged to make art more accessible.
For those who characterize LFS tags as vandalism, Seip says: "Haters gonna hate. I think vandalism is more of an act that's purpose is destruction -- like the splash of green paint. What we do is definitely creation. Sometimes we tag a sculpture because we hate it, and sometimes…because we love it."Pieces for a new project sit on the table while the women crochet.
Regardless of the girls' relationship with the sites of their artistic pursuits, "We want people to see our shit!" declares Seip.
Currently the crew is "knee-deep in yarn" for projects to promote the Denver Art Museum
's summer Spun: Adventures in Textiles series. The month-long bomb is scheduled to explode onto the local art scene August 30.
"Denver is a hugely creative city," says Jamie Kopke, a manager in the education department of the DAM. "The city is trying to brand itself that way. I think visitors are going to be in for a really delightful surprise. Ladies Fancywork has such an amazing ability to work with their material and has transformed the concept of crochet."
Seip shares the same sentiment -- excited that the city embraces her and the other ladies' artistic endeavors.
"It's a great city to be living as an artist," says Seip. "Denver as a whole has embraced us far more than any of us probably expected. It's great to have the city so enthusiastic about what you do, so much so that they approach you for more."
When asked if the group has any broad message they'd like to share with the world, Seip has two words: "Crochet hard."
Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.