Karlie King recently covered a large section of guardrail on the bridge with brightly coloured yarn, which she said was very well received.
“Visually it connected the two communities and a number of the people who crossed it in vehicles stopped,” she said. “I had about 100 people in vehicles alone stop and chat, not even counting the walkers and bike riders. It’s probably the most successful art project I’ve ever done.”
King was funded by the Saskatchewan art board’s Indigenous Pathways Initiative for the project and is reapplying to go back and finish the railing. She said she was hoping to get it finished in the week she was there but didn’t have enough time.
King has done yarn bombing before and is a noted ceramic artist. The Saskatchewan native studied at Memorial University and had been to the communities a few times before as part of her academic research. She said always wanted to do a project in the two communities.
“I had always had it on my mind that I wanted to return and do an art project there. Like most of my other projects it came from my intuition and whenever I thought about what I wanted to do there the bridge always popped into my mind.”
She said from there it went to the idea of something that would entice people to cross the bridge. Soon after she started though, it turned into something different.
“After my first morning on the bridge, I had put up about 10 Afghans; I began to notice an interesting phenomenon. People would not touch the bridge wherever the metal was but as soon as they got to the knitting, they would run their hand along the bridge. Wherever the yarn bombing was and whenever it stopped they took their hand off.”
She said the original artist who had started yarn bombing was very aware of any metal surfaces she had to touch in the winter and it really bothered her.
“Basically, she just started knitting cozies for every cold surface she crossed in her daily routine. I found it really interesting that I did the exact same thing and the exact same result occurred with the cold metal. Its brighter, its warmer, its more engaging, it’s all those things.”
She wasn’t alone in the knitting though. People stopped to help her and one little boy really stood out in King’s mind.
“This young man, he was on his bike. He stopped and talked to me for a while, knitting away. I noticed when he rode off that he was on his bike the whole time,” she said with a laugh.
King said she would like to thank the Labrador Institute and Grenfell Campus for administering the program and making her feel at home. She hopes to be back to North West River and Sheshatshiu soon to finish the railing.