Hikers approaching Lizard’s Mouth, a popular bouldering spot on the crest of the Santa Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara, were caught off guard back in May when they encountered an incongruous sight—brightly colored “yarnbombs” covering 17 sandstone boulders. To create this landscape, Steve Duneier, a 47-year-old hedge-fund manager from Brooklyn, enlisted the help of 388 knitters and crocheters from 36 countries and all 50 states. “I’ve been trying to get people out into these places they don’t normally go,” he says.
Duneier recalls growing up in South Florida and being fascinated with the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who, in 1983, wrapped eleven islands in Biscayne Bay in pink fabric. At his wife’s suggestion two years ago, the former derivatives trader took up knitting, and that impetus helped transform Duneier into his incarnation as the Yarnbomber.
“Each year I set some odd resolutions as a way of forcing myself to push beyond my comfort zone. In 2012, it was to learn 12 new things,” Duneier says. His New Year’s resolutions transcend more typical ventures like quitting smoking and losing weight. (He also went vegan, unicycled up a mountain, and built homes for the needy in the Apache Nation in Arizona.) As for knitting, Duneier never enjoyed it. “It was supposed to be this Zen-like thing that I heard people describe, but it was aggravating and frustrating,” he says. But crocheting, which he learned by watching videos on YouTube, was another story. “From the minute I started, I enjoyed it,” he says.
That’s probably an understatement. Duneier didn’t just do a few granny squares; he proceeded to lug (with help from his son and a couple of friends) six backpacks filled with 400 square feet of yarn 2.6 miles up a trail for his first yarnbomb—a 40-foot Eucalyptus tree.
What’s next? This month he’s creating a tent city made of yarn, fiberglass, chicken wire, and repurposed wood, to house some “crazy-looking creatures.” Duneier is also working on a 1000-square-foot granny square that he’s aiming to complete by December 31st, just in time to claim his Guinness World Record.
A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 34 under the title “Not Your Grandma’s Crocheting.”