The JafaGirls were formed in 2005, but a love of arts and crafts has been a lifetime passion for artists Nancy Mellon and Corrine Bayraktaroglu. It was at a Yellow Springs Arts Council meeting in 2005 that they discovered a mutual joy for creating art mischief together, along with a desire to spread the word about local arts, artists and community. They find yarn bombing to be a strangely powerful and fun way to recontextualize traditionally held notions of knitting/crochet and street art. It elicits a range of emotions, ideas and questions. The act of putting the art up in public is an important part of yarn bombing for the JafaGirls. It gives the community an opportunity to interact, to see how it happens, ask questions, share opinions and join in.
The JafaGirl’s first big ventures were with the Yellow Springs Arts Council. In 2007 they put together an interactive community show called “Is It Art?” The same year came the Chamberpot Gallery in the local public restroom. There they curated a yearly community show that included twenty-four local artists over the gallery’s three and a half years. In 2008 they staged a community “Graffiti Show” and out of that grew the “Knit Knot Tree”.
Both the Chamber Pot Gallery and the Knit Knot Tree garnered international publicity for the art duo and for Yellow Springs. “We were tickled pink and a bit surprised. It was an amazing roller coaster ride that still is going on. The Chamber Pot Gallery was just this year featured in an article in the Taiwan Airlines inflight magazine. Who’d’a thunk?”, said JafaGirl Nancy Mellon.
Other JafaGirl “arty adventures”:
• Yellow Springs Arts Blog (2006-present): Created by Corrine Bayraktaroglu to showcase community art.
• Dayton & Corry Streets downtown public “gallery” (2008-2012): Roughly 70 yarn bomb works by the JafaGirls have been installed there. Seven books have been published featuring different JafaGirl installations. In addition to Yellow Springs, they have also had Yarn Bombs installed in Columbus, OH, Ann Arbor MI, Hershey, PA, Taiwan and England.
• What If? Project (2009): Photographs and art mischief questioning boundaries and displaying the words “What if?”
• Free Art Fridays (2005-Ongoing): Works placed around downtown Yellow Springs are left in “finders-keepers” fashion for the public
• “The Kiss” project (2009 and again in 2012): A community performance art piece that included more than 85 couples.
• Skeleton Postcard series (2010): Photographs by Corrine Bayraktarolgu that depicted a full sized articulated wooden skeleton in various places around Yellow Springs.
• Bits and Bobs (2010): Radio chats about art with the JafaGirls on BlogTalk Radio.
• Mr. Plato (2010-11): A repurposed, felt mosaic-covered resuscitation doll who traveled around to different businesses in and out of town.
• “Flower Power” (2011-12): A community project that involved three months of weekly public meetings to make flowers. These were then installed as public works of art on flower poles, railings and more.
• Traveling Gum Wall (2011): A fundraising project sponsored by the Yellow Springs Arts Council, which involved people purchasing a piece of gum, chewing, then sticking it onto a collaborative mural.
• Peeps in the Park (2012): Installation of twelve art pieces on a public wall at the 100 Corry Street Art Park.
“The theme of using craft towards community building is a thread that weaves through JafaGirl works. They use processes and forms of art often considered too ladylike, too old fashioned or irrelevant for “high” art, and they blow those preconceived notions out of the water. Nancy and Corrine craft for a purpose—to bring community together, to encourage a questioning of one’s surroundings, to make people smile, and sometimes to convey strong messages about politics and culture. They show that hard messages can sometimes be best conveyed through soft materials”, according to YSAC Arts & Cultural Manager, Deb Housh.
“Our modus operandi has been to try and drag others into our mischief, whether they were adult, child, a local policeman, artists or non-artists. Luckily in Yellow Springs it wasn’t hard to do”, says JafaGirl, Corrine Bayraktaroglu aka Jafabrit
Works and narratives about the JafaGirls are part of a newly released book entitled Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In.