Yarn Bombing Near Aspen

May 29, 2013

Memorial Day weekend brought luscious green views for drivers along Independence Pass. And there was an extra dash of color along Highway 82. Less than ten miles east of Aspen, large yarn creations appeared in a grove of Aspen trees.... looking like giant socks or leg warmers, wrapped around the tree trunks.

On Monday, two women were among several who pulled over to look more closely.

“At first we were really confused about what they were because we had never seen them before. But we knew we had to stop and check them out.”

Sophia Ben-Hamoo and a friend had already heard about the art along the highway. They grew up in Aspen and had spent the holiday weekend at home. And the two pulled over while on their way back to Denver.

“This is yarn bombing, and it is a set of handmade, crocheted afghans that have been put on the trees. Not attached to the trees but put on the trees.”

The artist wanted to remain anonymous, which she says is in the spirit of yarn bombing. It’s a trend that may have been around since 2004, mostly in urban areas. The artist for this project lives in North Dakota, but has ties to the Aspen area.

“I did it as an homage to my dear uncle Don Rayburn, who died about a year and a half ago. When I was a young woman, I came to the mountains and my uncle pointed to the aspen trees and how they grew, and how the trees grows on a runner root, they are interconnected, and I took that as a life less as, well, human beings, we grow intraconnected as well.”

Rayburn lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for decades. He worked for the Aspen Skiing Company, often helping pioneer new changes like snowmaking, terrain expansion, and detachable lifts. So for Memorial Day, the artist, his niece, decided to do a yarn bombing to draw attention to the aspens... and the interconnectedness he’d pointed out to her so many years before.

“The idea is you come up to the turnoff, and then if you go down the path, and then you’re in the midst of the trees.”

Reporter: “Would you walk down with me?” 

Artist: “Yeah, please.”

Artist: “Don’t you see, it’s quieter here? It’s made so that you can come thirty feet away, and have several different experiences. The blues pull your attention out, so they’re a little bit at the edge of the perimeter. And do you see there’s a specific design that goes out? So you still have a distant reach? And over here the patterns draw your attention all the way through... you see how you feel close but...”

Reporter: “And those are kind of zig zag—a series of zig zag ones.”

Artist: “Right.”

The yarn bombing is in the White River National Forest, something the Forest Service says hasn’t happened before. A spokesman for the agency says this kind of creative effort is a bad idea for public lands... but officials are still deciding what to do about it. The artist says people driving by seem to enjoy her project.

“Well the truth is I’ve had much more of a positive response than I expected. For a while I was carrying around scissors saying if you’re that mad, cut them down. But nobody’s been mad.”

The artist plans to leave the afghans up for two weeks to a month.