'Yarn-Bombing' Returns to Downtown San Mateo

Downtown San Mateo is going rogue with two blocks of colorful yarn bombed trees for the holidays in a new project pairing economic development with the arts.

A yarn-bombed tree in downtown San Mateo. Credit: City of San Mateo
A yarn-bombed tree in downtown San Mateo. Credit: City of San Mateo
Trees won't go cold in downtown San Mateo this year.

To kick off the holiday season, downtown San Mateo is adding a new form of public art to this year’s tree lighting ceremony: 35 trees and safety pylons along 3rd Avenue in the heart of the downtown district will wear colorful hand knit sweaters, also known as yarn bombing.

As an innovative economic twist, The Downtown Art Project has paired sponsor United American Bank with local artists to install the artwork during a corporate team-building exercise.

On Tuesday, Dec. 3 from 9:00-11:00 a.m., United American Bank’s President and CEO, John Schrup along with a team bank employees will get a quick sewing lesson from sisters Lorna and Jill Watt, the local artists who hand loomed nearly 40 miles of yarn for over 50 hours in Lorna’s downtown home studio to make the tree sweaters. 

“As the only community bank headquartered here in San Mateo, we are very pleased to support the community we serve.  We appreciate being associated with all the exciting developments here in San Mateo.” 

The Watts exhibited the process at November’s First Friday in San Mateo, where locals got to try their hand at the knitting machines. The sweaters will stay up through Jan 2014.

Tech startups in downtown San Mateo have sparked a demand for corporate team-building exercises.

“Local businesses want team-building exercises near the office that can be completed in a day or less. Many also have corporate philanthropy mandates. We saw a clear opportunity to connect economic development with the local community,” said DSMA Executive Director, Jessica Evans.

The Downtown San Mateo Association matches up businesses with artists to paint murals, install yarn bombs, and host pop-up galleries downtown.

A play on terms like photo bomb and graffiti bomb, yarn bombing is a new counterpoint in street art culture that has swept the globe in recent years thanks to its inclusive and ephemeral character.

Downtown San Mateo Artist in Residence Lorna Watt proposed the new holiday decorations in light of public enthusiasm for her recent yarn bomb installations downtown.

“Residents keep emailing us how much their kids love the squid tree on B St and Tilton, so I thought we should go all out for the holidays to say thanks.”

The Downtown San Mateo tree lighting ceremony is at the San Mateo Transit Center on Sunday, Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m. followed by the Caltrain Holiday Train at 6:30 p.m..


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