sabato 13 febbraio 2016


The Mosaic Sweater!

One and a half years ago, I was idly looking through Facebook posts, and suddenly, on my wall, there was a pic of a very peculiar man ….  

An Italian website magazine had published an article about him, entitled “The Mosaic Man: the man that covered the New York’s pole lights with mosaics” and was telling the story of this homeless man that, since the Eighties, has been decorating an area of his city with mosaics using discarded pieces of tile and glass.

Such a person couldn’t but catch my attention: I’m very attracted by urban creativity that I express through yarn bombing, when people colour one particular area of a place using handmade knitted or crocheted artifacts. At the beginning, this activity had a provocative meaning, as people wanted to highlight a degraded area and catch the attention of the public opinion.

Yarn bombing soon sprung up everywhere in the States and North Europe. Then colonized throughout the rest of the world. Nowadays these events are organized on large scale, not just as objections, but also as a way for aggregating people. The XX century knitting is no longer  representative of the “granny with a cat sitting on a sofa” but of women and men of any age using this traditional craft as free art expression.

In Italy, the first yarn bombing was done on 2012 in L’Aquila, in order to highlight the absence of the post-earthquake reconstruction, that the Italian government claimed to have done. 
I participated in this event and it was so emotional for me that I decided to organize some in my area (Lake Como).  
So I started: in 2012, I highlighted Brienno, a tiny little village on the lake, which was partly destroyed by a flood and never rebuilt. 

Then I involved a group of people in collaborating on a big green cover full of wool flowers to give to a special Como lady, Nonna Pupa, for her 90th birthday. Thirty years ago she, alone, had cleaned an unauthorized rubbish dump in Cernobbio (Como) transforming it into a fantastic garden, full of biodiversity, that she made free for everybody (Giardino della Valle). 

In 2015, together with the Municipality of Cernobbio (Como,) I set up the Tablecloth of beauty that was then used during the literary cocktails organized for some cultural events such as Parolario 2015,  Meeting the Odyssey and Miniartextil 2015: invito a tavola

Last but not least, always on 2015, together with my newborn non-profit association Bottega Volante, I took the so-called “Bio Orto”, a bike completely recovered with 3D wool fruits and vegetables in a famous Como fair, called l’Isola che c’è

But let’s go back to that morning when I saw the pictures of the NYC homeless man on Facebook, I instantly decided that I should thank him in some way for his urban art. An odd idea as we consider the physical distance between Italy and New York, but I couldn’t not do it! I asked a NY friend of mine to look around and track him down, after a while she got an e-mail address and, few months later, the Mosaic Man personally replied.

So my idea was to make a far away urban knitting, entirely dedicated to this outside the box artist. As he was Mosaic Man, what better yarn bombing could I do, than creating a Mosaic Sweater for him?

The sponsor that normally gives me wool for my urban knitting, Tropicallane in Rimini (Italy), soon accepted my idea, sending me lots of balls of orange, blue, violet, light blue, and beige wool. 

All the pieces ready to be put together.

An amazing flash of colors, all for Mosaic Man.

I recruited three friends of mine, that love knitting, (Silvana, Cesi and Cristina), each of us created about twenty pieces, knitting or crocheting, playing with these colors. Then, we gathered to choose the pieces and put the sweater together, front, back and the two sleeves. 

Silvana is knitting the front of the sweater!

I'm working on the back!

Cesi & Cristina are assembling the sleeves. 

While the work was proceeding, I became aware of the difficultly in making mosaics … but as it was taking shape, the sweater was becoming fantastic!

The back is ready!

The front too!!

Still need to work on the sleeves. 

In the meantime, Jim Power (the real name of Mosaic Man) was enthusiastic about getting our gift, even if he hadn’t really understood how a wool mosaic could be.

In all honesty, I didn’t have just one gift for him … For several years, I’ve been volunteering in a soup chicken in Como where, and a couple of years ago, I met a man who, after losing his job, devoted himself to alcohol and was living like a tramp. He told me once, that he used to be a smith, so one day I gave him a fork and asked if he could transform it into a necklace. His skill was amazing, and since that day he’s been creating wonderful fork and spoon jewellery. When I told him about my odd idea to carry the Mosaic Sweater to that particular homeless artist in NYC, he immediately decided to create something for him too: a J necklace, coming from a fork, for Jim Power.  In that moment, I completed the first goal of my urban knitting: I had succeeded in connecting the Italian Fork Man with the NYC Mosaic Man!

The J necklace, made by Fork Man transforming a fork.

While we knitters were knitting our colorful wool pieces, I also had to organize my trip. I decided that such a journey shouldn't take me into the NYC hotels, I therefore contacted SERVAS, an international association of travelers, where people can host others and/or can be hosted in their homes. I wrote to some NYC hosts and three ladies wanted to help me in my challenge. On February the 2nd I flew with the Mosaic Sweater and the J necklace in my baggage.

I spent eight fantastic days in New York City and I accomplished my “task”. 

I’ve been accommodated in three different areas of NYC, Greenwich Village, Upper Town Manhattan and Central Park, at three very interesting ladies’ places: one was a niece of Peggy Guggenheim and, in the past, had translated some novels by famous Italian writers of the last century. Another one, a real globe-trotter and fantastic host, shared her strong dedication for charity work with me. Last but not least, an Venezuelan ex minister during Carlos Andrés Pérez government, who is now in asylum in the States after the arrival of Chavez and Maduro that, unfortunately, devastated her country.

But, above all, I met Jim and spent two amazing days with him and his mosaics!

One of Jim Power's mosaics, on the Broadway
After many years living outdoors, he had a governmental apartment in a huge building on the East Village where he lives with his beautiful and beloved 14 y.o. dog, Jessie Jane. A small place, that is also his studio: pieces of glass, tiles, tools, glue, some of his works, pictures and books about him are everywhere in that apartment.
The beautiful and sweetie Jessie Jane and her plush toys!

He told me how and why he's spent the last thirty years dedicating his life adorning the East Village: he wants to keep alive that community, fighting against the destruction organized by the more extreme building businesses. 

He explained to me all the tricks of his trade, how he chooses the small pieces and the best tools to use and the powerful glue he invented (a glue that let his mosaics stay in their place, even after thirty icy NY winters …).

Mosaic Man showing me how to make his mosaics
While I was walking from West to East Manhattan, from Greenwich to the East Village, to meet him the first time, my mind was full of doubts: would he accept such an original and colorful sweater? Would he eventually wear it? Would it fit or be too big? It’s not easy to knit a sweater without knowing the right size … but when I saw his eyes wide open, full of joy, in front of the Mosaic Sweater, I had no doubt: he loved my gift! Same thing for the J necklace. “I saw many fork jewellery so far” he told me after wearing both the sweater and the necklace and hearing Fork Man’s story “but they were never done as perfectly as this one! You can tell that Fork Man is a real artist!”

We went together to the East Village looking for his mosaics, so I could admire them in person. It’s been really touching seeing how all the people of that area know and thank him for his work. And being personally proud, as we received so many compliments for our Mosaic Sweater and my journey to New York, that I did exclusively to get in touch with him.

A detail of one of his mosaics. 

The Lucky Luciano Mosaic. This gangster lived  nearby this light pole.
One of his cool mosaics.
A detail of one of his mosaics. 

THANKS, Mosaic Man! Thanks to you I could venture in such an unique and unforgettable journey experience! I had definitive proof that when you do something for the others, it's far more "rewarding", than if you were to something for yourself!

Jim taking me throught the East Village to look at his mosaics while wearing his new Mosaic Sweater.
Don’t stop, Jim, keep on spreading your art and beauty in this gray, impersonal and selfish world. And keep on inspiring persons like me who, drawn by an uncommon strength, came overseas to meet you!
Jim and me, together!

2 commenti:


    1. Ciao Jim, it was a pleasure meeting you!!!
      Keep in touch!!!
      a big hug to you and to Jessie!!!