Her plan was to leave her colorful “yarn bomb” project in downtown Wichita up for another 10 days.
Instead, crochet artist Tamara Gonzales has decided to undress the bronze sculptures lining Douglas early. If she doesn’t, she said, she won’t have any of the pieces she spent months creating left.
Gonzales, the longtime president of the city’s crochet guild, delighted Wichita last weekend by sewing colorful crocheted clothing onto most of the bronze sculptures installed at various spots along Douglas. She spent months creating hats, scarves, sweaters — even a pair of pastel striped overalls — for the statues to wear, and she saw the project as a way to promote the art of crochet while bringing a little joy to the people who saw it.
She first put the clothes on the statues on Friday, expecting some of the items to disappear. Gonzales said she understands that some people who live on downtown streets are in need of clothing, and her guild regularly provides crocheted clothes, afghans and scarves to charitable organizations.
But the items disappeared at an alarming rate, she said. Of the 30 items she put out, half are gone — and not just hats and scarves. Many of the child- and cat-sized sweaters and capes she crocheted have been taken, and because she sewed them on, whoever took them would have had to cut them off, which would have caused them to unravel.
Gonzales isn’t angry about the disappearance of the items, she said. She wants people to have what they need. But by Thursday morning, the hood attached to the statue of the businessman at Douglas and Main — who Gonzales nicknamed “Walter” — had been snipped off, and the sweater and cap worn by the statue of a boy pushing a wagon had been taken, too.
“I’m still not discouraged,” she said. “I’m just trying to save what’s left.”
This afternoon around 4 p.m., she said, she plans to undress Walter, whose overalls she really wants to save, and she’ll also retrieve the remaining items that haven’t been taken.
Part of her motivation, Gonzales said, is that she was contacted by someone from the Tallgrass Film Festival, who asked her if she’d consider dressing the statues during the festival’s run, which is Oct. 5-8. She liked the idea but had serious doubts the items would make it until then.
“I don’t want to make another pair of overalls if I don’t have to,” she said.
Gonzales, who went before the city’s Design Council to get permission to dress the statues for two weeks, said she still plans to try the installation again next fall, but she’s trying to think of places her crocheted items would be more secure.
Instead of dressing the bronze statues, she said, she may try to find things to wrap behind the fence at the Chainlink Gallery at 121 E. Douglas. She may wrap more trees — the five crochet wraps that she sewed on trees on Douglas as part of this installation are still there — or she might try to wrap items on Douglas that are higher off the ground. She’s also considering making lots of hats — but hats only — for the statues that people in need will be able to take and use.
Despite the difficulties of her “art installation,” though, Gonzales said she enjoyed seeing how people responded to it over the past several days. Now, she’s dreaming bigger.
She’s been wondering lately if the Keeper of the Plains statue on the Arkansas River or the roof of Century II could use some occasional color, although her fear of heights might keep her from pursuing those projects.
“If it was for something like that, though, I’d probably get up there and shake like crazy and just do it for my art,” she said.