I first noticed HOTTEA on a railing near the library in Uptown. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what it said.
I’d never seen anything like it, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what it might mean. Soon I started seeing the tag all over the city on fences and spray painted on yarn strung between signposts.
Some might see a tag like this as an act of vandalism or even littering, but to me, it was a mystery. A question. A possibility.
As I wondered about the tag, I watched it slowly unravel. It became a reference point for me each time I went to the library, reminding me that I wasn’t the only one in this city. Someone else was out there speaking with string. I thought they were talking to me in a code I had yet to decipher.
Eventually it was gone. The moment passed, and the conversation ended. But it was just the beginning. Now I knew to look.
That’s what so inspiring about street art–it can take us by surprise to create meaning where there was once just a wall, or fence in the case of HOTTEA. It can make us ask questions we might never ask or look closely at spaces we might otherwise miss.
The artist explains his view of the project on his Vimeo page,
“The project is a comment on all relationships good and bad and the things that lie between them. Like the phrase itself Hot and Tea are two totally different words brought together to represent something new, which reflect on the media and surfaces that the project makes use of.”
I love this. HOT +TEA = HOTTEA. Together something new. Now that is inspiring. (Read more about how the project started in this fascinating article from MPLSArt.)
This past Saturday HOTTEA took over a new space. His latest installation is indoors–at the HAUS Salon in Minneapolis. Five new pieces, including HOTTEA’s grandmother looking down on the salon from above and an array of thousands of yarn strings hanging over the salon’s washing station in a piece called “Sometimes I Wish Upon a Star,” are on display at the salon in a show sponsored by MPLSArt. He even nodded to traditional graffiti in this piece that superimposes a yarn tag over a photograph of a train car. This show is your chance to see what HOTTEA can do with all the time he needed to craft his code. Don’t miss it. (See more photos of the show in this slideshow from MPR.)
Even among yarn bombers, HOTTEA is unique. His weaving work stands out among knit and crochet pieces featured in the book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti. Authors Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain write about the appeal of yarn graffiti:
“The juxtaposition of yarn and graffiti is humorous to some artists while others see it as a more serious act that builds on a long-standing practice of renegade street art. Others do it to escape the boredom of tedious day jobs. Some want to liberate the needle arts from their long-held association with utilitarian purposes. Yarn bombing can be political, it can be heart-warming, and it can be funny. Most of all, yarn graffiti is unexpected, and it resonates with almost everyone who encounters it, crafters and non-crafters alike.”
I may never be able to do much with yarn (despite my mother’s tireless efforts to teach me to crochet), but from now on, I will be open to its possibilities. I hope you will be too.