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Dreamer Yarnbomb in Tucson


We spoke with Stephen Duneier, the Yarn Bomber, about his recent Dreamer Yarnbomb in Tucson, AZ. He put yarn-covered aliens on the roof of a children's hospital, and wrapped the building in colorful panels contributed from people all over the world. Read our Q & A with Stephen about this amazing project.

Photo credit: Stephen Duneier, 1. What was the inspiration for the Dreamer yarnbomb? There has been so much ugliness in the world lately. People seeing everything as black or white, making little effort to see things from the perspective of others. In the middle of the madness, John Lennon's Imagine came on the radio. Imagine there's no countries It isn't hard to do Nothing to kill or die for Imagine all the people Living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one I hope someday you'll join us And the world will be as one Imagine no possessions I wonder if you can No need for greed or hunger Imagine all the people Sharing all the world. You may say I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one I hope someday you'll join us And the world will be as one

Well, I thought, I'm that dreamer and I'll bet I'm not the only one. So, I decided to put together an installation that would draw fellow dreamers together and show what can be accomplished when we do. I wanted to show that people from all these countries and states aren't as divided as the news and most vocal among us would have us believe. What better way to show that the world isn't black or white; that it is an amazing array of colors and shades, than with an explosion of colorful fiber art in the most unexpected of places. I hoped that for just a few days, I could interrupt the divisiveness, and remind us that life is also about whimsy, color and community.

Photo credit: Stephen Duneier, 2. How long did it take to organize?

I've been gathering the fiber art for nearly five years now, but opened to contributions specifically for Dreamer about 6 months ahead of the installation. I've been designing and creating the aliens for almost 2 years. Some of them were part of 2015's Alien Campsite installation, while quite a few, more extravagant aliens made their first appearance at Dreamer.

3. What was the process of getting it organized?

I have more than 60,000 connections via social media, so when I am planning a new collaborative installation, I make an announcement that I am accepting new contributions. My projects are true collaboratives, where artists have free rein to create anything they'd like. I put no restrictions on them. Many send old works-in-progress they were happy to be rid of, but many make true works of art based on the theme. I never throw anything away, so if a piece isn't used in one installation, it will be used in another. Some of the pieces have been in up to 5 installations.

4. Who contributed knit and crocheted pieces?

My BombSquad, as I call them, is made up of nearly 1,000 fiber artists from 44 countries and all 50 US states. The overwhelming majority of whom I will likely never meet in person, but in my mind, they are good friends. When I see a piece, very often I can recall the contributor, their story and even the card or cookies that it arrived with. I follow them on social media, they follow me and each other. Over the 5 years, it has grown into a global community of the kind and creative. Of course, my own work is in their too, including the world record setting granny square.

Photo credit: Stephen Duneier, 5. Who helped set it up?

There were roughly 20 Tucson Dreamers who opened boxes, catalogued contributions, helped stitch pieces together on location and two who got up on a ladder and the roof to help with the installation itself. To be honest though, the installation is a very personal thing for me. I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to how I want colors to come together, how the building, rocks or trees join with the fiber art and even the style/quality of the stitching that connects pieces. So, it's difficult for me to outsource the most physically demanding aspects of an installation. Having said that, the facilities crew at TMC for Children were absolute stars. Without them, the installation would not have been possible.

6. What was the reaction?

This was my first installation in an urban area. Actually, it was my first outside the wilderness of the national forest. It was a new phenomenon for me to have people going about their daily lives walking by while I did the installation. I really enjoyed the instant feedback, the interactions with people trying to get their head around what was happening. So often, it would begin with them standing in front of me with their mouth open, forming a sort of smile, but no words coming out. I would help by saying, You want to know Why? don't you. I loved those moments and those conversations. Keep in mind, this was a children's hospital and maternity ward I was wrapping, so there was a constant flow of kids in distress and expectant mom's in labor entering, many of whom could also see me from their rooms and exhausted and sometimes elated people coming out. One little girl who broke her leg on her birthday asked her sister to ask me if she could have something from the installation. I gave her a piece that had been used in the Lizard's Mouth yarnbomb. Around 8:30pm that night, she came out of the hospital proudly wearing it like a cape as she got in her car to go home. She was smiling from ear to ear as she waved goodbye to me. Bottom line, the reaction was phenomenal. Tucsonians were incredibly welcoming, supportive and appreciative every step of the way. I'm really hoping to go back and do an installation in their mountains soon!

7. How did you use Red Heart with it?

Whether it's to make pieces or stitch them all together, Red Heart is all I use. It's durable, colorful, and consistent. What more could a yarnbomber ask of his most important tool?

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