Magda Sayeg is a textile artist who lives and works in Austin, Texas. Her work began as a way to take her knitting out onto the streets, starting a textile graffiti revolution. She has been credited with being the mother of the yarn bombing movement. Magda’s Spyrographs, Yoga Balls, Knitted Coasters and Keychains available for sale at TenOverSix LA and Dallas.
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Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Houston but also spent time in France during my high school years.
Have you always been creating art?
I didn’t consciously choose art, but I always wanted to work in a creative field – that may have meant baking and cooking to designing clothes…. and now working with this medium.
What made you start knitting?
I first started in high school when I wanted to make a scarf for a boyfriend I had – we broke up before I finished it so I didn’t really think about it until I started it years later.
Where did you get the idea to start yarn bombing public spaces?
I started with the door handle to my clothing shop and witnessed a surprisingly strong reaction by people who passed by. It intrigued me, so I wanted to see what the reaction would be to wrap something outside of my world and in the public space. The reaction was even stronger. It made sense at the time to keep exploring this. Clearly I was developing a passion here-everything was new back then … covering a tree seemed like a really cool idea 10 years ago….or a park bench, fire hydrant, etc.
What did you start putting knitted art installations in places where they don’t “belong?”
That’s what intrigued me – that was the premise to me – “where does this NOT belong?” I was drawn to places where knitting didn’t have a place. It was interesting to see where this material could coexist. In most cases, something sort of magical happened… it made the object or surface come to life in a way that didn’t exist before.
How does color play a role in your pieces?
Clearly color is essential and plays a major role in my work. Color just makes sense, because usually the objects or surfaces I am covering are lacking in color …..or at least bright colors. This allowed me to get “Dr Seuss” with color and pattern and even form.
Do you think your work is helping to modernize knitting and crocheting?
Clearly this form of street art is recognized globally now. One can stumble upon a wrapped stop sign pole almost anywhere in the world. Do I think I’ve modernized it? I think the reason why people respond to the work is because it’s taking knitting out of its domestic environment and doing something somewhat rebellious with it. I think anyone who has an unconventional approach to craft is hard to ignore. It’s been described as subversive in that it falls outside the expectations of what people believe knitting is for. In most cases, it is to keep you or your loved ones warm. My knitting goes beyond function. I’m not making pullovers-I’m wrapping city busses with it.
What is the largest piece you have ever done?
Pieces started to compete with each other. The scope of work always seems to be insurmountable at first but exciting as well. For instance, the 6 story column in Dover Street Market NYC for Comme de Garcons was equally challenging to the double decker bus in London. But it’s not a matter of size — some of the smallest pieces can have the most meaning and impact.
What do you want people to know about your work?
I come from the thinking that I want people to assess it on his/her own. I’m not the kind of artist who feels like I need to explain the concept or mission. Although I do enjoy speaking about my work in an academic setting, I also see no need to explain to a 5 year old that “you’re smiling because of this reason.” I want people to enjoy it or not to enjoy it, and both reactions are valid. My work allows for people to enter into a dialog they otherwise wouldn’t have with their surroundings. It enhances the ordinary in everyday life. When people engage with this change unexpectedly, I feel like I have done something right.