By Leslie Dinaberg
Artists often use their work to provoke discussion or emotion, but Yarnbomber Stephen Duneier’s colorful creations are site-specific installations designed to get people out to the middle of nowhere.
In this case, “the middle of nowhere” is Santa Barbara County’s plethora of hiking trails. Duneier’s seven projects to date include creating an Alien Campsite on Davy Brown Trail; a series of covered boulders at Lizard’s Mouth; a reflective starfish above the pools at Seven Falls; a spider web at Sasquatch Cave in the playgrounds of Lizard’s Mouth; an enormous boulder on Saddlerock Trail; an ongoing Guinness Book of World Records attempt to create the world’s largest crocheted granny square; and creating his first project—cloaking a 40-ft. tall eucalyptus tree on the Cold Spring Trail’s east fork with a gigantic knitted sweater—which took place in 2012, just 82 days after he picked up knitting needles for the first time ever.
All of Duneier’s projects are done in a way that doesn’t permanently disturb nature, with permission from the U.S. Forest Service. “The forest service has actually been really supportive, now that I have a track record with them, and they know that I’m not just some guy who wants to use the land for my own purposes,” he says.
The other consistent element in a Yarnbomber project is that the installations stay up for just nine days. “The first weekend is all about people just stumbling onto it, then there are five days during the week, when nobody goes hiking very much. The second weekend is all about word–of–mouth. It sort of builds…but I don’t really want crowds; I just want it to be on people’s radar. And having it for nine days, you can’t procrastinate. You’re either going to go see it and make the effort today or you’re just not going to see it,” says Duneier.
The projects, many of which are done in collaboration with artists from around the world, have opened up a world of new experiences for Duneier, whose day job is writing about and managing investments, as well as teaching Decision Analysis at UCSB’s College of Engineering.
“I’ve always been speaking on macroeconomics; talking at big conferences…but now I’ve started talking about making dreams come true; this has been a little offshoot of the yarn bombs,” he says. The audiences vary, but the idea is “how do you have these grand visions and actually make them happen?”
His next “grand vision,” launching sometime this summer, incorporates metalwork and gemstones. As to where and when it pops up, the website yarnbomber.com is the best place to stay tuned.
Says Duneier, “I’m kind of a yes guy…I really don’t know where it all will lead.”
Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.