Around the country, art pop-ups are wowing visitors and becoming Instagram sensations. In Dallas, Sweet Tooth Hotel has a reputation for offering immersive art experiences. This Spring, Sweet Tooth Hotel opens Intangible, its 2020 art installation featuring the work of seven fiber artists.
Created in collaboration with the Craft Yarn Council (CYC), Intangible will be “a colorful fiber fairytale you can sink your hands into.” Sarah Guenther, public relations coordinator for CYC, says her organization has been collaborating with Sweet Tooth Hotel for over a year to pull the project together.
Not just an “Instagram museum”
“A lot of people refer to pop-ups like this as an ‘Instagram museum,’” said Guenther, a place to go to take selfies with beautiful backdrops. But she said that Intangible goes deeper. “We want people to put their phone away for a minute and touch the art, experience it.”
CYC strives to make yarn cool, to show people that yarn arts aren’t old-fashioned. In fact, Guenther said, they’re currently gaining in popularity. An estimated 53 million Americans know how to knit and crochet, and approximately 38 million of those people are active in those crafts.
Guenther explained that collaborations like Intangible help educate people about the incredible versatility of yarn. Over 2.5 million feet of yarn is being used in the installation, and the artists are employing at least nine different techniques. “We want to show people that you can really do innovative things with yarn,” said Guenther. All yarn has been donated by CYC members—yarn companies, accessory manufacturers, publishers and industry consultants.
The artists met in Dallas in early March to begin installing their work at Sweet Tooth Hotel. Each has her own space to fill as she pleases, and many have been sharing peeks of their work on Instagram.
Yarn bombing NYC
London Kaye, a Los Angeles-based yarn bomber and full-time crocheter, is outfitting two rooms in the installation, one of which pays homage to New York City, where she got her start. One of the techniques she’s most known for is mimicking leaky pipes, making it look like crochet is spilling out of pipes onto the street. For Intangible, she’s recreating that work on a larger scale, using fabric cut into strips to spill freeform crochet onto the floor in a cool rug vibe that’s colorful and bright.
Yarn can be nostalgic, said Kaye, and her goal is to take a medium almost everyone has a connection to and flip that upside down. “I truly just want to make things that brighten people’s day.”
Making tactile memories
In another room, textile designer Molly Margaret Sydnor is weaving tapestries to cover almost every surface. She’s playing with themes of childhood and memory. Sydnor’s excited for people to take selfies with her art…but she hopes they also put their phones down and touch everything. “I know what it’s like to just take pictures of everything you see, but not experience it. I’m guilty of it too,” she explained. She’s weaving in surprise textural elements that won’t be visible in pictures, ensuring the physical experience is truly special.
Retro vintage meets Japanese street fashion
In a 30-foot hallway connecting two rooms, crochet designer Twinkie Chan is creating cute, colorful, food-themed amigurumi—the Japanese art of crocheting or knitting small stuffed yarn toys. Chan isn’t a full-time crocheter, so she asked her Instagram audience for volunteers (she called them her “crochet elves”) to help her create the 200-some pieces she needs for the space.
A writer of patterns and books, she’s accustomed to teaching her designs. “You do have to let go of your perfectionism a little bit” when outsourcing work, she explained, but she’s thrilled with the results. “People can expect something delicious-looking…sort of like if Wes Anderson went to Harajuku,” she said.
Meeting some cozy creatures
“I always wanted to have a museum or art gallery where people could touch,” said textile artist Hannah Busekrus. So for Intangible, she created a cozy collection of gigantic tufted creatures for visitors to hug and engage with, like Marty, the seven-foot-four-inch-tall non-binary rat. While gender isn’t the main theme of her installation, she allowed all of her creatures to tell her their gender, not the other way around. “I’m not a super-craftivist,” she explained, but “I do have a voice and I do like to speak up for the marginalized.” Marty already has their own fan base online.
Visualizing herself in the work
Fiber artist Niki Dionne, director of communications and social media for CYC, is using her work to explore themes around black women’s identity, as well as visualizing plus-size women. “Coming from a space of not seeing all of the things that I am, a black plus-size woman…it’s important for me, that my work shows women like that.”
Dionne is filling her installation with extra-large pom poms, which she makes using a rotating loom. They range in size, with the largest topping out at about four feet, and are constructed like a pouf so visitors can sit or lie down on them.
“I hope that people will lounge in there and take pictures…just reveling in the softness,” Dionne said.
“I always had this sense of wanderlust growing up,” said fiber artist Jackie Lawrence, whose work focuses on landscapes. She’s latch hooking giant panels, packed with rich texture and vibrant colors, that will create an otherworldly “colorscape” experience. In recent years, Lawrence has explored her own spirituality, trying to connect with something larger than herself. “Making larger-scale work ties into that; you’re literally being dwarfed by the work,” she said.
The black sheep of yarn
Muralist and black line illustrator Alli Koch said she’s the black sheep of the installation. She wears only black, her work is only in black and white, and this project marks the first time she’s working with yarn. “Yarn is very linear in a sense. String just looks like a line,” she explained. She’s not using any color in her space (she calls it a “palette cleanser”), which will be filled with large cross stitch pegboards in a floral pattern.
Through Intangible, Sweet Tooth Hotel is opening doors for fiber artists, she said. “We come from different backgrounds, we all look different, and our art looks different,” she explained. “But we can all come together and make one beautiful installation. I don’t think people know how big this is going to be.”
Cozy at the Sweet Tooth Hotel…and at Home
Intangible was currently scheduled to open April 18, 2020, but organizers say opening day is postponed until sometime this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guenther said that even if the opening is delayed, she hoped people at home can find ways to explore yarn crafts in the interim. CYC’s Stitch Away Stress self-care research, released in March 2019, shows how powerful yarn crafts can be when it comes to de-stressing:
- 97% of respondents said knit, crochet or other fiber crafts help them slow down
- 94% said knitting and/or crochet is one of the self-care activities they engage in
- 70% said they feel relaxed after they finish their self-care activities
Once the installation opens, CYC and Sweet Tooth Hotel will donate $1 from every ticket sold to Warm Up America, a non-profit organization that encourages volunteers to knit and crochet afghans and clothing for people in need.
Jenni Grover is the founder of the School of Creative Resilience, where she teaches people how to tap into their innate creativity, grow it as a resource, and use it to boost resilience and joy. She currently offers digital courses, in-person workshops, and consulting services. Jenni is also Vice President of the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild.