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Alien Campsite

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By guest blogger Stephen Duneier, the Yarnbomber

Almost immediately after completing my yarnbomb installation at Lizard's Mouth in the mountains of Santa Barbara, California, where I wrapped 18 massive boulders in fiber art, I went to work on what would become the Alien Campsite. That was 7 months ago.

Lizard Mouth Image Credit:

This would be my 7th large scale installation in the Los Padres National Forest and perhaps the most ambitious yet. For the 4th time in 2 years, I opened up the yarnbomb arsenal to contributions from knitters and crocheters around the world. By the time the deadline rolled around, I'd received contributions from 656 people in 41 countries and all 50 states. Many sent tiny abandoned WIP's while others delivered intricate fiber art masterpieces. I appreciated them all. Nordstrom's, Limited Express and local artist, David Diamant, donated mannequins to the cause, while world renowned art gallery, Sullivan Goss, assisted with funding.

In order to obtain a permit, I first had to be approved by the US Forest Service's biologists and archaeologists, as well as the Chumash Tribe. Thankfully, with 6 large scale installations having been successfully executed, I have a positive track record and reputation with the USFS. In fact, after Lizard's Mouth, a USFS spokesperson was quoted in the press as saying, It's a unique, creative enterprise. It encourages people to get out there. This is a positive. That sentiment helps when submitting a new application.

I spent 7 months experimenting with fiber glass, wood, wire and metal to create the elaborate creatures and camping tents to be exhibited 50 miles from downtown Santa Barbara, and 15 miles up a winding, narrow mountain road, outside of Los Olivos. I learned a lot about working with these new materials.

bare alien 1 Image Credit: bare alien 2 Image Credit:

For instance, it's a bad idea to use high power saw to cut fiber glass. (The heat liquifies the resin and makes quite a mess.)

24 yarn covered tents and 10 whimsical aliens were installed in the wilderness on Friday, January 23rd and, as it is with all of my projects, were to remain for 9 days, before being removed without leaving a trace. On Saturday, close to 200 people made their way up to this gorgeous location in the mountains. Kids played, cyclists stopped to take photos and big smiles were ubiquitous.

alien campsite 1 Image Credit:

That night, gale force winds wreaked havoc in the mountains across Southern California, knocking out power, spreading fires, and tearing apart the Alien Campsite. I slept no more than 50 feet from the installation and all through the night, powerful winds shook my shelter and their deep roar kept me awake. The alien's tent frames snapped and so too did many of the metal posts which held the aliens upright. At sunrise, when I assessed the damage, I knew it was over. Not wanting anyone to drive all that way to find an empty space, I notified would be visitors that I was packing it up.

Projects 3 & 4 were both torn down by critics within 36 hours of their installation. Project 5 was interrupted for over a week by a forest watchdog group. Now Project 7 was cut short by Mother Nature. 7 months of work to exhibit for 36 hours. Seeing as how one of my main objectives is to draw people back to nature, I'm sad that so few had a chance to go see it, but I can't complain about the journey itself. I learned a lot working with new materials and experimenting with new ideas. Plus, I got to spend two days in one of the most beautiful locations on earth.

I plan to repair the aliens and expect them to make another appearance in the future.

alien campsite 2 Image Credit: alien campsite 3 Image Credit: alien campsite 4 Image Credit: Susan Bell Photography alien campsite 5 Image Credit: alien campsite 6 Image Credit: alien campsite 7 Image Credit: Susan Bell Photography