Standing on the corner of Glass Street and N. Chamberlain Avenue in Chattanooga, Tennessee, you'd think that there was a celebrity stopping by. Passersby whip out their phones, take pictures, and excitedly discuss what they are seeing with each other.
"The first week it was up there, it caused a bit of congestion," laughs Gail Mitchell McKeel, a resident of Chattanooga. "Everyone loved it— it was new, fresh, and, frankly, really cool!"
Surprisingly enough, it isn't a celebrity who is causing all of the traffic... it's yarn.
Specifically, it is a 32 by 15 foot trolley knit out of yarn on the side of the headquarters of the Glass House Collective, an organization whose goal is to revitalize East Chattanooga and rebuild the community.
The artist, Olga de Klein, has been gaining notoriety because of her brash style, known by those in the industry as "Yarn Bombing."
"It feels like a whirlwind!" she explains. "Over the past couple of years, I have gone from being an art student getting 'honorary mentions' in international art galleries to being commissioned to essentially take over an intersection... It's unreal... I really didn't think it would grow this fast!"
Almost as interesting as the type of art she creates, is where she creates it. Atelier 18, her studio, was never meant to be a place of art.
"It actually used to be a soup and sandwich restaurant... and not much has changed," de Klein jokes. "In fact, I keep my yarn in the chafing dishes down in the kitchen!"
Though success has been following her nonstop, she makes a point to mention that she is not letting it go to her head. She knows that a big reason for her success is the fact that she has a great team behind her.
"For example, I get all of my yarn from Nicole Snow, the founder of Darn Good Yarn. I can't begin to explain how exceptional working with her has been!" says de Klein. "I call her, explain the project, and within 30 minutes of brainstorming she tells me exactly what amount I'll need and she sends me the most vibrant, gorgeous yarn you have ever seen— when I get a package from her, it's like digging in Pandora's Box!"
Nicole Snow, winner of the 2013 FedEX Small Business Grant Contest, believes that de Klein's project is right in line with Darn Good Yarn's mission statement... and loves being part of "phenomenal, passionate projects like this."
"Darn Good Yarn's goal is to provide high-quality, fair-trade yarn to those who put their heart and souls into their projects... but also want to make sure they are helping others around the world. There is no room for compromise with those who get their fibers from us," she explains when asked about the Trolley project. "Olga is a perfect example! She puts her heart and soul into her projects and wants to make sure that others feel it... but she doesn't want to inadvertently use yarns made with child labor or poorly paid workers."
Even though the Trolley project is still fresh in people's minds, de Klein is already brainstorming her next project.
"I have a lot of different ideas I'm playing with right now. I love being able to use art to make those around me feel a slew of different emotions...and when I get that "yes" feeling, nothing stops me from there."