As part of our project to re-imagine the Hockley Flyover using art we asked fiber artist Flo121 to make some yarn bombs for the flyover. This is part of an art experiment to see how different forms of art might change how we feel about the space, provide opportunity for sharing positive messages and creating vibrant community public spaces.
Flo121 installed five yarn bombings on the railings above each of the subway entrances inside Hockley Circus and put a wrap around one of the trees. Check out our interview with Flo121 below and see some slected images of the yarn bombs installed down in the flyover or better still if its safe for you to do so hit the streets and go check them out in situ.
Interview with Flo121
What got you interested in making Yarn Bombs and how did you get started?
I took up crochet over ten years ago as a way to help with my mental health, I had read an article about the benefits and was trying to find a great outlet for me to focus on. It was probably the best decision I ever made and has proven time and time again that it helps. However, there are only so many things you can make for yourself and your friends and one day I decided to decorate the tree outside my house. I had always had an interest in street art and had never actually seen anyone yarnbomb anything, but I wanted to make my view out of the window one that was brighter and more colourful. I hooked up a quick chain of flowers and went and wrapped it around the tree. I loved it, but what amazed me more were the reactions of the people who passed it every day. Photos were taken, smiles were seen and that started me thinking about doing much more!
Tell us a bit about the Yarn Bombs you have made and if there are any key themes of your work that you like to explore through your art?
I love to do a bit of everything! Pop culture is my favourite, so fun characters that give me that nostalgic feeling are fab. I also take an interest in women's rights, nature and my surroundings and current events. All these things can reflect in my art.
We love the six Yarn Bombs you did for Ghost Streets recently down in the Hockley Flyover which went up on the railings above each of the subway tunnels and one tree wrap. Tell us a little about your inspiration for each piece and the characters that you used?
This was really such an enjoyable experience. Covid-19 had just hit and lockdown was fully underway and the effects of that were on the minds of the whole country if not the world. I was asked by Ghost Streets to create 6 pieces based on the themes of resilience, gratitude and communities coming together as well as thinking about the space. The first three pieces I did were a celebration of the NHS, with everything going on and our Thursday night claps of course I needed to do a piece dedicated to the NHS, they have truly been heroes throughout this whole pandemic. I also did a tree wrap, my first ever, I went with a rainbow, a symbol of hope! I also feel this brings attention to the tree within the center of this space which can be easily missed amongst the grey concrete and nature has recently been flourishing because of us all being indoors. My other piece was “CatDog”. On my first visit to the space to get ideas for what to do for my work I had a flashback to the first time I had visited this space on a school trip back in 1995. We had come to visit the William Mitchell climbing wall and check out the public art and it really stuck in my memory. Because of that and my love for pop culture I wanted to bring some of that fun and colourfulness into Hockley Flyover. Bringing together that theme and the theme of togetherness and community I decided to recreate CatDog, from a Nickelodeon kids program from the 90’s about a cat and dog who were conjoined siblings that had to work together.
My next three Yarn Bombs were again along the similar themes, with another rainbow, this time coming out of a cloud, when I started to create these pieces there were signs that the country was getting ready to open back up again, I had been called back to my retail day job and it made me feel that there was more hope to come from this cloudy time. I also decided to produce a piece based on the William Mitchell sculpture climbing wall but in my bright and colourful style, this was really fun and really great for me to reminisce from my childhood. The last piece I just wanted to celebrate friendship. After 10 weeks of mostly being on my own in my home I really came to find out who my friends were and those people I will forever be grateful for. I have shown this in my piece of Spongebob and Patrick, two best friends that go on wacky adventures and their friendship gets stronger and stronger!
You mentioned that you visited Hockley Flyover as a school kid and we would love to know how it felt to be back later in life hanging up your art?
It felt really great! What I love about this project is that we hope to bring communities into a useful space. It made me realise that although I love wandering the streets of Birmingham, looking at the history and where we come from, not everyone does. This was a place I had forgotten about and hopefully my art can make the place feel like a place people will want to visit and experience the space for themselves.
Was there anything special or that you reflected on whilst you made this work during the COVID-19 lockdown?
I spent a lot of time reminiscing about my childhood and the friendships I have made along the way, it also really helped me have a good old think about my life now and what I want to do going forward. I think the COVID-19 lockdown experience has been a good thinking experience for most and I know that I would LOVE to continue doing what I am doing and aim for much bigger and better going forward.
What difference do you think art such as Yarn Bombs can have in public spaces especially those in areas like the Hockley Flyover where they are underused by the local community?
I think that public spaces, such as Hockley Flyover get a bad reputation because of graffiti being thought of as vandalism and a place that isn’t taken care of as well. However, I think in recent times Street Art and Graffiti has started to change in the minds of many as a way for art to be shared publicly. There are some absolutely stunning artists out there, especially in Birmingham, and I have found people are willing to visit just to see the amazing bright and colourful pieces within a space. Yarn Bombing is a little different, it is a very feminine craft that gives off warm and cosy vibes with nostalgia to that cardigan your grandma made you as a kid. People don’t seem to see it as vandalism but instead a beautiful and fun thing to see, because of this I do believe that we can make spaces like Hockley Flyover a positive creative outlet, we can bring warmth to an urban environment and hopefully that will encourage the community to use.
If you could put more Yarn Bombs down in the Flyover what would you like to do?
I think the big thing that springs to mind is actually getting people into the space in the first place. It would be great if my art could be seen from the outside of the space, before people enter the tunnels around the edge. The trees around the edge of the flyover would be a great place to add some colour to the outside space and create an inviting environment. Also perhaps on the railings on the entrances into the tunnels around the Flyover. I think it would be really great to also see other beautiful works of art from local artists to make it a more inviting and artistic space.
Please check out Flo121 on Instagram we love her work and hope you do too? If you check them out at the Flyover share a photograph with us on Instagram #hockleyflyoverproject