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Hand-Stitched Hamlet

The Knitted Purl, The Oyster Bay Main Street Association and the Oyster Bay East Norwich Chamber of Commerce joined forces with world-renowned artist, Carol Hummel to the launch their project of creating the Hand-stitched Hamlet, which unites communities by bringing them together to complete a culturally rich art project. The project kicked off on Saturday, Sept. 21 with “Bagels, Bites & Banter” with Carol Hummel and The Purl Girls.  All enjoyed yummy bagels, fruits and Mimosas at the shop. It was the beginning of the project that will be completed at the season’s start of the 2014 ArtWalk next spring.

You can see examples of the project in the trees along Audrey Avenue that are wearing their “cozies.” You can also tell people that Oyster Bay has been yarn bombed. That is the term fiber artist Carol Hummel has used worldwide, as she brings her community uniting art projects to the world.

Hummel was at the Knitted Purl on Saturday meeting the Purl Girls and opening up the crate of synthetic macramé yarn she had ordered for the work. Crocheted hooks at the ready — they are the size of an index finger — the group were given the dimensions of their piece. Interestingly, all working with the same pattern they create different sized pieces. Crochet is forgiving in that it stretches when the pieces are fitted around the trees and slip stitched in place. They can last up to four years, not damaging the tree’s growth since they stretch.

A photograph of the Tribute Tree Hummel did for a Public Art Competition, went viral on the Internet, she said. The Tribute Tree in black and red, the school colors, was created by Hummel and her daughter Molly Sedensky in response to a school shooting at Ohio’s Chardon High School on Feb. 27, 2012, about 15 minutes from their home. The tree will be up for four years, the time the students involved will be there.

Hummel has been yarn bombing cities in Norway, Switzerland, India, Italy, Ireland and all over the United States starting in 2003. “It’s amazing how universal it’s become,” she said. For awhile crocheting was “so out of vogue,” but simultaneously, everybody started crocheting. That included college kids. It seems to be nostalgic: kids wanted to make hats and scarves, something cozy in this complicated world.

A sculpture artist, Hummel said her new fiber art form began after her divorce. “I was unraveling,” her whole life was coming apart. She took an afghan and stretched it wide and unraveled the center of it, which re-woven, formed a red carpet welcoming the rest of her life. She had gotten her MA in art at Penn State and her undergraduate degree is in photojournalism. She started writing stories and then turned to sculpture.

The concept of the wrapped trees, she explained, is talking about “cover versus confinement.”  It can be viewed as comfort versus confinement and is about choices: if you stay or if you decide to be happy; or to get out.

“Now the project is ongoing to save the world by adding color and happiness through community building while creating the artwork.” It takes people of different ages and different parts of town; everyone gets involved.

The hamlet project began in Oyster Bay when Patty McSkane of the Knitted Purl saw that Hummel was coming to New York City. She asked her to extend her stay and come to visit Oyster Bay to plan a project. Patty, a board member of the Main Street Association of Oyster Bay reached out and asked them to become involved financially. The OB-EN Chamber of Commerce saw the value in the project and joined on. McSkane is also funding the project, personally.

In the goodie bags at the end of the MSA’s End of the Season Benefit Party held on Oct. 26, at the newly reconstructed Creek Beach Club, guests received a layout of the streetscape plans and an invitation to sponsor a location. Large trees are $200, standard trees, $100; light pole, $40; information kiosk, $80; a bandstand canon, $75; and the entire bandstand, $435. The cost incorporates a donation to the Youth & Family Counseling Agency of Oyster Bay-East Norwich.

There are about 38 trees involved in the project that will cover the area from Townsend Park, and the Derby-Hall Bandstand to the west and the Life Enrichment Center on the east; and on South Street north from the Knitted Purl to south to the Friends of the Bay and the kiosk in the alleyway.

She has worked globally with related projects including one using strands of string in the colors of those countries that have nuclear weapons. If they weave the colors together there can be peace, she said. In India, they used the colors of their flag to do trees. That tree was for encouraging environmental health, a greener planet.

Hummel said a study done after a yarn-bombing project was in place, said the crime rate goes down. “It just perks up everybody.”

You and your family will have the opportunity to sponsor a tree, light pole, gazebo column or even one of the cannons in the gazebo in front of the town hall for the larger installation in the spring. Proceeds from the sponsorship fees are going right back into the community through donation to The Youth and Family Counseling Center of Oyster Bay-East Norwich.

Interested crocheters and knitters are invited to sign up at the Knitted Purl, located at 80 South St. Call 558-7800 for information.