Candice Ferns-Foster and the Gorilla Knitting Crew
Candice Ferns-Foster and the Gorilla Knitting Crew are taking do-it-yourself crafting to a new, public level. With her entire family of six involved, the group decorates the streets of Sacramento one tree at a time. Now they have taken it from the streets to local art shows and festivals. For Ferns-Foster, it’s about more than the art. It’s about making her children culturally aware.
How did you start knitting?
My daughter (Bella, 12) and I actually learned on YouTube and she picked it up faster than I did. Then we saw this video, “Knitta, Please!” It’s about [Magda Sayeg] who knit bombs everywhere. We saw it here in Sacramento, and I was like, “I so wanna go do that.”
Wait, so you learned on YouTube?
Nobody really taught us. I only crochet, and we just knit with the looms. At first, it was frustrating. But once you learn how to do it, it’s really easy. We got probably like 10 of our friends to start knitting, too.
How did you come up with Gorilla Knitting?
I lost my job in June, and then unemployment denied me. So I was like, “How the heck do I make money?” People started inviting us to go to festivals and music and art shows. So instead of it being guerilla knitting, we would use an actual gorilla symbol, so it would be fun for the kids. We would actually take them at night, but now that we have so many shows, we’ve been just knitting for shows.
What was the first thing you knit-bombed?
The first time we did it was the tree in front of Phono Select. They had it up for four months and they just took it down.
How do you fit the knit on what you are bombing?
It’s like a blanket and then you use one piece of string to weave it through. We use a bigger needle to thread it through, and you can just put your finger through it. We kind of guesstimate how long it’s going to be.
Does this cost a lot?
On everything we do, we spend under $35 a month. My friends will come out for a while and they’ll support us by bringing us yarn. We were so broke one time and everyone was like, “Just knit beanies, and we’ll sell them for $5 or something.” I was like, “I don’t even have yarn!” And within three days, 10 people came over and just brought loads of yarn.
Who’s in your crew now?
It’s all our family—there are six of us. With our friends included, there [are about] 20 of us. They’ll all come over and we have different things that we do, but we all get together and work on our art. We don’t paint anymore, but we’re really supportive and want to expose our kids to as much art and music as we can.
What role does your husband play?
He helps us out with whatever, pretty much. He’s neutral and does whatever we need. When we have shows, he’ll load up the van with the five cases we bring. Everything we do is do-it-yourself, so he helps make bags to sell our goodies in and things for us to show our work on.
What are you most proud of?
Mainly, I’m proud of our family. We had this view of how we wanted to raise our kids. We could stay this way, and we wouldn’t have to be so conformed. Our culture is pretty cool.
Are there any upcoming events?
We did Streets of Soul, which was our first art show. Other than that, it’s been festivals. We have the Day of the Dead festival on J Street, we’ll be painting faces. We’ll have to take a month [off] and that way, during Christmas, we can go and give beanies to the homeless. Or we could make goodie bags. We can do something like that.
So your kids know all about donating and being charitable?
Yeah, they’ve done the Relay for Life—we did the one for lymphoma. We don’t really celebrate Christmas; we give our gifts to less fortunate. We’re not at all fortunate, but we just want to instill giving back to the community so they can see what it’s really all about. At the last school she went to, Bella played the trumpet for kids that were confined to their wheelchairs, and she made friends.
Would you ever think of getting your own store?
I’m not that much of an entrepreneur. I think Etsy is cool right now, and networking. Since I was let go, we’ve been focusing on the kids’ school and finding friends that are into the same stuff as us. We’re just taking it slow.