Karie Bookish Dot Net

The Story of a Bench

As a rule, I have an uneasy relationship with yarn-bombing. Done right and with purpose, yarn-bombing can be an effective way of practising craftivism (using craft as protest and promoting social change). It can transform a community and serve as a visual marker that something is not right. Sadly, I see too many press releases using yarn-bombing as a thoughtless exercise to “get the knitters on board” and throw a few pom poms at a tree as an empty PR exercise.

But then there is this bench and I want to share its story with you. It is deeply affecting as well as a story of how yarn-bombing can be an incredible story-telling tool.

This bench sits in a remote corner of the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow, Scotland. This particular bench is hidden away at the back, close to the rose garden and the 16th century garden. Most visitors never make it that far, but the location is a favourite spot for many local people. I live next door to the Botanics and you will often find me knitting somewhere in that little area when the weather’s nice.

Local textile artist and production designer Rita McGurn passed away two years ago, and her daughter decided to yarn-bomb the bench. Most of the benches in the Botanics bear small memorial plaques, but this bench needed to be slightly different as a tribute to a woman who was described as “colourful, eccentric and a little irreverent”. Some of the pieces were crocheted by Rita herself before she passed away, while other pieces were made by Rita’s friends and family.

I came across the bench on a sunny day. As always, this corner of the Botanics was almost deserted – except people were lined up to look at this piece of art. A young couple was sitting on the bench for a long time, stroking the pieces of fabric and admiring the colour. A family stopped to have their children photographed (“no, don’t touch the flowers – say cheese – no sit still – now look at me”). A small group of people stopped for a long time and I wondered to myself if they were friends of the family. As I saw more and more people stopped to engage with the bench – taking photographs, sitting down, touching it – I realised that they were drawn to it as an art piece. Some had read about the bench in local papers – others just came across it in passing. Everybody slowed down and took a moment to reflect.

There is something so very moving about this yarn-bombing effort. It is a deliberate gesture carried out with care and love. The bench lights up its little corner of the park and the ephemeral nature of the piece makes it incredibly poignant. It is one of my favourite pieces of yarn-bombing I have ever come across. If you are nearby, I can only urge you to catch it before it disappears forever.

You can read more about Rita and Rita’s daughter, Mercedes here.

10 Thoughts on “The Story of a Bench

  1. That’s gorgeous; and a lovely story. Thank you for sharing it…

  2. Maddie on April 9, 2017 at 6:27 pm said:

    I have similar feelings about yarn bombing but this is so lovely and such a fitting tribute.

  3. Such a beautiful, and appropriate gesture.

  4. jean006 on April 10, 2017 at 9:56 am said:

    This is truly lovely to look at. It has a purpose. A super way to remember a person.
    Normally I look at yarn bombing and just don’t get it.

  5. the world is filled with hideous yarnbombing.. badly designed an executed – a regular check on social media bears this out and as for the ‘come and give my business / org free publicity’ on the backs of exploited womenlabour don’t get me started. But this is lovely.

  6. Sara MW on April 10, 2017 at 11:37 am said:

    What a lovely, colourful memorial. Thank you so much for sharing this tribute.

  7. Shuna Marr on April 10, 2017 at 1:22 pm said:

    This is one of those ‘gosh – spooky coincidence’ moments. My husband and I haven’t been to the Botanic Gardens in years but we decided to go over the other day and while wandering around the park we came across this bench and took a photograph of it. I wondered what the story was behind it – and now I know. :-)

  8. Purlewe on April 10, 2017 at 5:25 pm said:

    A friend of mine was there this weekend. She took photos of this and sent them to me. Thank you for giving me more information, and I will pass it along to her as well!

  9. Thanks for sharing this – it’s a perfect use of yarn bombing with a real purpose.

  10. How touching, it really puts it in perspective to read the back story to this yarn bomb, what a wonderful tribute

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