Museum’s yarn bomb explodes with pizzazz

Yarn bomb aficionado Sharon Silverman gets ready to transfer the snake from her car trunk to the museum.

A slithering 40-foot-long creature has established temporary residency at the Delaware Museum of Natural History, but if the thought of a mammoth reptile makes you recoil, this one offers a more positive spin.

Created entirely of yarn – about 9,000 yards’ worth – this fuzzy critter is hanging from the ceiling near the front entrance of the Delaware Museum of Natural History, complementing the museum’s latest special exhibit, “Titanoboa: Monster Snake.”

Sharon Silverman puts the finishing touches on the grizzly bear's snowflake encasement.

Sharon Silverman puts the finishing touches on the grizzly bear's snowflake encasement.

The display is part of a collaborative fiber arts project spearheaded by Sharon Silverman, a Birmingham Township woman who had an interest in yarn bombing – a trend of using vibrant fibers to enliven public spaces. Considered a more civilized form of street art than graffiti, yarn bombs often show up unannounced in places that might benefit from an explosion of color.

Occasionally the embellishments aren’t welcomed, but many are commissioned by entities such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Silverman, who had no designs on a potentially unappreciative venue, said she approached Halsey Spruance, executive director at the Delaware Museum of Natural History, where she once worked.

Silverman said Spruance not only embraced the idea, but also suggested a snake, which then begat the addition of other adornments. Outside the museum, multiple sculptures and signs received creative yarn treatments, such as the grizzly bear’s crocheted snowflake coat – consistent with nature, no two are alike - and the Galapagos tortoise’s bold patchwork carapace.

“I wanted to create something whimsical and captivating to promote the fiber arts and encourage people of all ages to look at their world in a new way,” said Silverman, adding that she appreciated the support and enthusiasm she received from Spruance and the museum’s staff. “It’s because of their hard work that everything has gone so smoothly.”

Silverman said the yarn used for the project, most of which is acrylic, was donated in part by Plymouth Yarn in Bristol. Other donations came from volunteers, who sent in segments for the snake and other elements from as far away as Hawaii.

Daniel McCunney (left), the museum's communications manager, and intern Helen Bilinski show off the tortoise's new shell.

Daniel McCunney (left), the museum's communications manager, and intern Helen Bilinski show off the tortoise's new shell.

A proponent of recycling – the snake is filled with used newspaper and plastic bags - Silverman said she plans to reconfigure the crocheted creations into blankets, which will be donated to the Friends Association for Care and Protection of Children in West Chester.

Anyone interested in learning more about the project should plan to visit the museum on Sunday, Dec. 14, from 1 to 3 p.m. Silverman, the author of five books on crocheting, will be on hand to answer questions and teach visitors how to “finger crochet.”

Silverman said she hopes the project might inspire other ones. “I’d love to do this for other institutions,” she said.

The Delaware Museum of Natural History is located at 4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, De., 19807. The exhibit will be on display through Jan. 26. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.delmnh.org or call 302-658-9111.

 

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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