The Etsy Blog

UK Edition: Save the Guerrilla handmade and vintage goods

The pseudonymous British street artist, Banksy, has recently released a film here in the UK, which supposedly documents the real story of the man who tried to film him. Confused? I won’t wreck it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but it truly surprised and amused me. Leaving the cinema, I couldn’t help wondering if I, the viewer, was in fact the object of ridicule.

I’m not in the habit of taking on the role of film critic but Exit Through the Giftshop is something of a comedic masterpiece, in my opinion. At the very least, it made me want to look into the underworld of the crafts scene. Along the way I’ve happened across all sorts of movements from flash mobs to guerrilla gardening, street art and the like. It’s inspiring stuff and all in such good spirit.

While some may view these acts as vandalism, many artists argue that large corporations have taken over street spaces with billboards and advertisements and that reclaiming public space for art and beauty is important.

Consider this a call to crafty arms — let’s take back the city.

Photos via Deadly Knitshade on Flickr
and Yarn Bombing

The phenomenon that is guerrilla knitting is reported to have originated in the U.S. when a Texan knitter dreamt up a use for her extra yarn. The trend quickly went viral, appealing to crafty renegades worldwide.

Member of London’s Knit The City graffiti knitting group and blogger Deadly Knitshade describes the act of leaving wooly debris around the city as “knitblasts,” while Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain of Yarn Bombing state their philosophy as “Improving the urban landscape one stitch at a time.”

Photos via kittypinkstars on Flickr

After putting out a call for submissions in the Etsy Forums, UK seller kittypinkstars contacted me about her personal experience in guerrilla knitting and her more recent project, Kitty’s Wishing Tree, in which people are invited to submit their hopes and dreams to a colourful installation in the woods:

“I’m inspired by Keri Smith, Canadian author of Wreck This Journal, and also by the belief that there is a little bit of magic out there. I want other people to feel the same — find the child inside you and have something to believe in! I love the idea of finding something special when you least expect it.

Sometimes it does make me feel a bit naughty, especially when my little boy comes with me to keep a look out! I moved onto the Wish Tree idea because, in a day and age when we all need something to believe in, I thought it would be a great way to give a little hope and get others involved in creating something magical! We now have hundreds of wishes on the tree, both from the Internet and passers-by. I also enjoy leaving little notes for people to find and messages in chalk and alphabet sweeties. It’s all in the name making the day to day a little more fun.”

Flash mobs stir a sense of surreal awe in me, so when I heard about Stuart Reid’s inspired proposition to recreate the famous slow-motion gunfight scene from Brit series Spaced in London’s Trafalgar Square, I couldn’t resist grabbing a moment with the guy himself to chat about how the recent event unfolded:

“It all started about six months ago, whilst in the pub with some friends. We were all in agreement about how amazing it’d be to have hundreds of people recreating the scene so I agreed to organise it. I did it out of my love for Spaced and everything the cast have gone on to do. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are my favourite films and meeting actors Pegg and Frost was one of the top 5 greatest moments of my life.

Photos via j0e_m on Flickr

“On the day itself I was really nervous. I’d asked everyone to arrive at 1 p.m. with the actual event starting at 1:15. I arrived at 12:45 and there didn’t seem to be many people there, which scared me a bit! I got a few knowing looks from people as I was standing around, which made me smile. Luckily, as the moment drew nearer, the square started to fill out. Now I was nervous for another reason my dialogue! Sadly I fluffed my lines a bit but I think I got away with it.

“The turn-out was great and I loved every minute of it. If any more people had showed up I think the event would have been too big — I knew out of the 1300 or so people who confirmed themselves as attending on Facebook, only a small portion would actually show, so we were quite lucky really. The main thing was that everybody had fun and nobody got hurt. It only could have gone better if some of the stars had taken part!”

Richard Reynolds has been blogging his “illicit cultivation” around London since 2004, finding easy opportunities in abandoned flower beds, neglected traffic signs and tree pits. He has since gardened alongside hundreds of others and met many people who are doing the same thing all around the world. On the Pimp Your Pavement site, he writes:

“The local overlooked landscape — in both meanings of the word — forgotten about but also in great view is a space in which we can make a very tangible and welcoming contribution to improving our local environment, both ecologically and socially.

“Pimp Your Pavement is a way of giving people, particularly newcomers, a very tangible objective — transforming a patch of pavement and taking back responsibility from the local authorities who have plenty of other things to be concerned with on our behalf.

“The campaign will be a more palatable way of inviting the authorities who are in charge of most of our pavements to participate in this grassroots enthusiasm. In cities around Europe (Zurich, Berlin, Amsterdam, and to a much lesser extent London) I’ve seen how guerrilla gardening can change the authorities’ view of their responsibilities, and I’m keen that these examples are inspiration to encourage change in more places.”

Photos via tolentinoarts

St. Louis based Etsy seller, Justin Tolentino (a.k.a. toelntinoarts) has been involved in the hip hop and graffiti scene since the tender age of 15.

After graduating from Memphis College of Art and trying to secure a job in the corporate world, he decided to pursue the dream of becoming his ideal of a “true artist” — one who paints for himself. I asked Justin to shed a little light on the world of street art:

“The obvious message is to fight the system, to fight the power and get all ‘public enemy’ in your face. I think that each artist has their own message. When I first started writing on buildings and public property as a teenager filled with angst, my main mission with graffiti was to get entirely bogus — go as big as possible and make sure anywhere I went I could see my tag. The other purpose at that point was to make my presence known to all the other writers in the city (which didn’t happen to be my hometown).

“Nowadays my intent on the streets is more about making people think about the world they live in —  who might spend the time to make the art, and why? If you think about the type of people who end up doing street graffiti, they are the talented, the intellectual, and mostly the lower or lower-middle class. The only way to look at life and the state of the world from that point of view is to use humour, to laugh back at it — make fun of ourselves and make fun of those we don’t agree with. We are the street smart alecs with our mouths closed. Our visuals are doing the eye kicking.”

Further resources:
Wish Jar
: How to Be a Guerrilla Artist
TIME Photo Essay: Top 10 Guerrilla Artists
Cast Off: Knitting on the London Underground

Have you been involved in street art or a guerrilla craft project? Let us know in the comments.

Don’t forget to contact AmityUK if you’re inspired into action!

Street Art Blog Posts | Guerrilla Gardening Posts | Items Tagged “Graffiti” 

The UK Edition

  • darlingmink

    darlingmink says:

    Wow, that is all amazing. I knew about flash mobs for a while, but the knitting and gardening is new to me. I wish I knew how to knit. It's on my list of things to do, but I'm waiting for one of my family members to have the time to teach me. As for the guerrilla gardening, I have a hard enough time taking care of my own yard.

    5 years ago

  • inthepaint

    inthepaint says:

    Thank you, great article!

    5 years ago

  • Minxshop

    Minxshop says:

    I'm planning on working on gardening all this weekend, so maybe I can sneak some plants into into someone else's garden for fun. Unfortunately I live in the country, so the likelihood of anyone noticing is low. Really low. I looooove the knitting. I never heard of it or saw it before.

    5 years ago

  • StudioZen

    StudioZen says:

    LOL! Fun article!

    5 years ago

  • ialbert

    ialbert says:

    Thanks for such a unique article. Adding to your list

    5 years ago

  • cityroad

    cityroad says:

    Great article - thanks Amity!!! My daughters loved the guerilla knitting we spotted on railings close to the Art College where we live - there was obvious confusion as they really thought gorilla's were out and about knitting on the streets ;-)

    5 years ago

  • trinketsncharms

    trinketsncharms says:

    I think the gardening one is awesome! Although sadly I can see councils calling it "illegal" and digging up the plants, and ignorant teenagers stomping on the flowers for the "fun" of it :(

    5 years ago

  • 1AEON

    1AEON says:

    Yarn Bombing sounds crazy! i consider it the most laid back relaxed thing that is on the world, but apparently it could be illegal and badass as graffiti. Learning everyday..

    5 years ago

  • thelightningbolts

    thelightningbolts says:

    i got caught in the 'ipod silent dance party' in Liverpool St Station last year. It was hilarious! I had no idea what was going on!

    5 years ago

  • Studio6or7

    Studio6or7 says:

    Nice article. I'm a big fan of colorful and artful graffiti in drab places. Love the guerilla knitting!

    5 years ago

  • bodicegoddess

    bodicegoddess says:

    I'm a big fan of more art in city areas - especially yarn bombing. I'll have to try it sometime! In the meantime, I'd love to give special mention of my city of St. Paul, who is embracing this idea of integrating art into common spaces. They've got an initiative going now where folks can submit poetry, and the selected poems will be rendered into sidewalks all over the place. It's an initiative that's been going on for about two years. I feel proud to live in a place that works with its artists to such a level.

    5 years ago

  • adrienneaudrey

    adrienneaudrey says:

    I had never heard of guerilla knitting before. Very interesting. I love this kind of stuff.

    5 years ago

  • kadlubik

    kadlubik says:

    the phone booth looks inviting! I have seen some bikes with knitted parts, fun!

    5 years ago

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts says:

    Very interesting!

    5 years ago

  • Mattie714

    Mattie714 says:

    That is probably one of THE coolest articles I've read since being on etsy. The videos are amazing... I wish i was there to take part in all of it!

    5 years ago

  • mythunderstood

    mythunderstood says:

    Great post! These are times ripe for artistic expression.

    5 years ago

  • finestimaginary

    finestimaginary says:

    Really enjoyed reading this, Amity, thanks for writing :)

    5 years ago

  • Floreal

    Floreal says:

    I love the style of art expression... its so bold.. fearless...

    5 years ago

  • gemagenta

    gemagenta says:

    This post was very fun!! :D Pimp your pavement is a lovely idea :)

    5 years ago

  • candacejean

    candacejean says:

    I am amazing by Banksy. I'll for sure have to see his film! This is such a great post.. I love the bravery of guerrilla artists.

    5 years ago

  • wensaccessories

    wensaccessories says:

    Much FUN!!!

    5 years ago

  • meteor

    meteor says:

    Soo interesting...Really impressed..Thank you AmityUK !

    5 years ago

  • YouAreYou

    YouAreYou says:

    Wow! This is quite amazing !

    5 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat says:

    It all looks like a great idea for cities, but please don't leave "tree cosies" in place for long enough to damage the tree & don't seed bomb the countryside as it can unbalance local ecosystems.

    5 years ago

  • Ebruk

    Ebruk says:

    Great article. Thank you.

    5 years ago

  • tanisalexis

    tanisalexis says:

    I've had HEAPS of fun participating in a collective idea called "It's Yours, Take it" through fickr groups. It started with a group that was giving art away on the streets every Friday (Free Art Friday) and blossomed into this "It's Yours Take it" group which has had cities worldwide participate. A city signs up, a bunch of artists send in their art, and the organizers then bring all that art to a chosen spot in the city to display and give away to the public. It has been wildly popular and so much fun. Please check it out if you can! some great artists on there. :)

    5 years ago

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage says:

    loving it!

    5 years ago

  • genisepark

    genisepark says:

    This is really a wonderful idea for lots of metro areas especially the pimping of pavements.

    5 years ago

  • annawoz

    annawoz says:

    Flash mobs are organized in Poland, too. I have two teens and they go for it. It is much fun when they tell me about it.

    5 years ago

  • craftscafe

    craftscafe says:

    wow, the knitblasted tree reminds me of my heart tree i made for my wedding celebration! it's beautiful!

    5 years ago

  • poppyswickedgarden

    poppyswickedgarden says:

    this iis just too much awesomeness! Great article!

    5 years ago

  • tomokotahara

    tomokotahara says:

    The book "Yarn bombing" is neat. I like to look at street arts.I often check something new on street walls.

    5 years ago

  • soule

    soule says:

    Thank you for featuring the Stencil Nation book, it's a wonderful book chalked full of Great artists (including myself) how to's, tips and tricks!

    5 years ago

  • ArgentaCollaborative

    ArgentaCollaborative says:

    --> proud guerrilla knitter and gardener. "the more you know" *doo doo doom doom!*

    5 years ago

  • monocotoleydon

    monocotoleydon says:

    Gorgeous. I love seeing color, art, plants and just more actual life in cities, especially, Everything can be so drab and it's like all the gray drags everyone down with it. I have so much admiration for people who spend their time and energy to make things a bit brighter, and fill the world with more wonder, beauty or just surreal speculation.

    5 years ago

  • TessaKim

    TessaKim says:

    I love it! I had no idea there were gardening and knitting mobs either!

    5 years ago

  • SilkstoneDesigns

    SilkstoneDesigns says:

    Great article! Brilliant work, I love it!

    5 years ago

  • KnockKnocking

    KnockKnocking says:

    Yes!!!!! I love street art and have been known to be a guerrilla knitter in the darkness of the night! Awesome post.

    5 years ago

  • CositasSeriasVintage

    CositasSeriasVintage says:

    Love it! Very cool article!

    5 years ago

  • redsofa

    redsofa says:

    cool story! thanks for sharing :)

    5 years ago

  • PixelWildChild

    PixelWildChild says:

    Wondeful article!!! Guerrilla Knitting is super! I've seen it in a Blog sometime ago... it is a gorgeous idea! one of these things that can happen only in the UK. Thank you for a very cool article with a lot of ...POWER!!!

    5 years ago

  • desertnana

    desertnana says:

    love love guerrilla creativity spread anywhere and everywhere I did not know knitting had come on board the knitted telephone booth just makes me dance with joy!! Wonderful article! Thank You so kindly for sharing this with us

    5 years ago

  • GoodGriefGlass

    GoodGriefGlass says:

    Such a different kind of article. Thanks! Love it!

    5 years ago

  • VelveteenHabbit

    VelveteenHabbit says:

    What would our utilitarian functional busy places be without art for relaxing, soothing, refreshing, inspiring and challenging us to see in a new way...pretty dull and depressing!!!!

    5 years ago

  • loulahbelle

    loulahbelle says:

    fantastic article! i'm all for guerrilla gardening :o) the knitting is a new one to me!

    5 years ago

  • SingerRaven

    SingerRaven says:

    Wow-Thanks so much for this article! I have been guerrilla gardening for years and had no idea that there was a whole community of us!!

    5 years ago

  • recycledwares

    recycledwares says:

    vandalism? i think the knitting is beautiful and it might even be biodegradable.

    5 years ago

  • OrientalCultureHmong

    OrientalCultureHmong says:

    I love this theme, Oh, these are so cute.!

    5 years ago

  • steinschmuckdesign

    steinschmuckdesign says:

    Absolutely cool, UK, has his so very unique Style, that I totally adore!!!

    5 years ago

  • mazuli83

    mazuli83 says:

    I love the work of Banksy. He's a legend.

    5 years ago

  • ErikaPrice

    ErikaPrice says:

    Great fun! I enjoyed "Spaced", and just love the knitted cover for the phone box!!!!!

    5 years ago

  • pasin

    pasin says:

    Cute .love them

    5 years ago

  • bysweetmom

    bysweetmom says:

    great article...guerilla knitting is superrr

    5 years ago

  • artangel

    artangel says:

    I'm definitley in the "art not vandalism" camp (well, assuming of course it is art - there's a world of difference between Banksy and some teenager scrawling "Bez woz ere" on a bus shelter!) Guerrilla art is a beautiful idea. I love the idea of art outside galleries and accessible to everyone going about their daily business. Art should be part of life!

    5 years ago

  • Harem6

    Harem6 says:

    Great idea!

    5 years ago

  • ClementinesJewelry

    ClementinesJewelry says:

    so cool! great article

    5 years ago

  • nowonder

    nowonder says:

    such a beautiful and colorful work!

    5 years ago

  • MagicLace

    MagicLace says:

    Wow Great article. I love the idea!

    5 years ago

  • BombusLane

    BombusLane says:

    I'm already a fan of Bansky graffiti. His Nola street art/print is my all time favourite.

    5 years ago

  • vivikas

    vivikas says:

    Love love this article!!

    5 years ago

  • Iammie

    Iammie says:

    So fun!

    5 years ago

  • italianpostcards

    italianpostcards says:

    I saw the Banksy film at the Sundance Film Festival. It was brilliant!

    5 years ago

  • FrenchKnot2U

    FrenchKnot2U says:

    What a bit of leftover yarn can do to cheer up dreary old London in the Winter-humorous and a fun spin on "tagging". And much healthier than aerosol cans! Guerrillas go green!

    5 years ago

  • Mariken

    Mariken says:

    Veryyyyyyyyyyyyy cool article! love it.

    5 years ago

  • tolentinoarts

    tolentinoarts says:

    thanks Amity great work... thanks again.

    5 years ago

  • eyeshoot

    eyeshoot says:

    What a great article and thank you so much for featuring my Not a Photo Opportunity picture!

    5 years ago

  • HollyyS

    HollyyS says:

    I loved reading this so much!

    5 years ago

  • CuriousTuesday

    CuriousTuesday says:

    Awesome article! It would be a dull place to live with out these creative people pushing the conventional boundaries.

    5 years ago

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    275 days ago