Shop owner needled over yarn-bombing

A small tree in Conway has sparked a controversy. The tree was the subject of a new and unique form of art that apparently someone didn't like. By order of the city, the artwork was removed from the tree Wednesday.

The art form is known as yarn bombing, yarn storming or guerilla crochet art and it features colorful knitted wraps around items like trees, vehicles or statues.

After Ed and Barbara Streeter moved their glassworks shop, Conway Glass, to Laurel Street last October, Barbara decided the street looked a little dull and needed some color. That's when she happened to see a website about yarn bombing.

"I talked to a couple friends on Facebook and they're like, 'Wow, we should do that in Conway with those beautiful oak trees and have some fun,' " said Streeter.

Streeter asked a friend to knit a wrap for the tree outside her store. It was a project that changed with the seasons, starting with Halloween decorations and then Christmas. The pink and red Valentine's Day wrap looked so good, Streeter decided to leave it on the tree well past February 14th.

And all along, people seemed to love it, Streeter said.

"People come and take their picture in front of it, little kids come and hug it, people touch it, and it's really just a fun, fun project."

Apparently, it was not fun for everybody.

Someone filed a complaint about the tree to the City of Conway. Responding to the complaint, city administrator Bill Graham told Streeter last week the yarn bomb had to go, along with a similar wrap around a nearby city light pole.

The Streeters, dismayed about the complaint but resigned to the fact the artwork had to go, used a pair of scissors to cut down the tree wrap Wednesday, along with a sign she had posted on the tree quoting a line attributed to England's Queen Victoria: "Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous."

Graham admitted to NewsChannel 15 that the city only got one complaint, while receiving several emails supporting the yarn art.

But that's not the point, he said. "It's not about popularity. It's about what's legal."

Graham said without Streeter receiving the city's permission to place the artwork in a public space, the yarn bomb was considered graffiti.

Graham said if a group wants to do a special yarn art event in Conway, the city would be happy to consider it, but the group has to ask for a permit first.

"What might be art to one person might not be acceptable to other people," he said.

Streeter said she still wants to do yarn art around Conway, maybe on trash cans or park benches. And next time, she will ask city officials first.

As for her sign about artists being dangerous: "Some people don't understand us, but we're not dangerous, I promise," Streeter laughed.