If you’ve ever been to Twillingate, chances are you’re familiar with the work of The Rock Vandal, the alias of Nina Elliott.
Since 2015, the visual artist has been helping add even more beauty and colour to the already lovely town through her spectacular yarn bombs in a variety of objects and figures, like Georgina Stirling (Newfoundland’s first opera singer, born in Twillingate), mummers, Homer Simpson, aliens in spaceships, rainbows, a batch of balloons and more. Her temporary crochet art has popped up in a variety of locations, giving locals and visitors alike something to keep an eye out for, and she’s also worked with a number of local businesses to help add a touch of whimsy and wonder.
Last winter, Nina had made a number of yarn bombs for the Yarnboming Festival in Italy, but the pandemic shut down the world. So that spring, Nina decided to take all of the creations she had collected in her shed and display them in an Outdoor Art Gallery, not only to provide a creative outlet during tense and stressful times, but to help uplift the community. The immersive pieces (some including hopeful and helpful pandemic-specific messages), installed across 2km of Twillingate’s Main Street, also invited people to interact and engage with the art in a safe, socially-distanced way.
This summer, Nina’s back with the Outdoor Art Gallery, which includes nine “A Time in Twillingate” yarn bombs that will be up until the end of September. We recently caught up with Nina to chat about her work and process, and the partnerships that help make it possible.
Business & Arts NL: Regarding your pieces, are they site specific? Do you create them with an idea in mind of where you’d like to place them, or is it more of a fluid process?
Nina Elliott: It’s a mixed process. This year I came up with the theme “A Time in Twillingate” and pitched the idea to the sponsors, Annie’s Restaurant, Crows Nest Cafe, Anchor Inn and Rock Adventures. They then let me know which yarnbomb they wanted on their business. So I made the #timeintwillingate pieces (King cod, a rainbow, Georgina Stirling and auks) knowing the space each would be installed on.
Then I looked at the rest of my collection and the available spaces and made it work – which is why the big mural is such a mixed bag.
Business & Arts NL: What’s your overall creative process like? Do you map out visuals before creating a piece, or do you more so see where the wind takes you?
Nina Elliott: I always follow an image – either I sketch it out or I take inspiration from an image online, like Homer Simpson.
Business & Arts NL: I understand you launched your first Outdoor Art Gallery last summer – a great way for people to enjoy cool art amidst a pandemic! How did the idea come about and how did it go overall? Have you run into anyone who’s come to Twillingate specifically to check out your work?
Nina Elliott: Twillingate is a tourist town so I had been building on the idea of making a summer show without any set plans to launch it. When the pandemic hit, I was working at the hospital and pregnant with my second child. It was all really stressful and I needed a release. I also had three pieces intended for other events that had been cancelled, so it was the perfect conditions to launch the idea! I was overwhelmed by the positive response – people in Twillingate were really supportive by offering their walls and taking and sharing photos online, and the media response was incredible too. The event was featured locally, provincially and even nationally on CTV news!
Local support has been amazing. I’m so grateful that the local businesses support me as an artist and see this as an opportunity for partnership and community development.
There are lots of great reasons to visit Twillingate and this is another draw for people. That said, it’s definitely the biggest yarnbomb show in Canada, so I know I’d make a special trip for it!
Business & Arts NL: What’s your favourite piece so far?
Nina Elliott: That’s a tough one. I’m really proud of Georgina, and love the colours of the hummingbird and the scale of the mural on the Ashbourne premises. Popeye was really good too, and he was stolen, so that’s a classic case of missing the one that got away!
Business & Arts NL: Where can people learn more about you and your work?
Nina Elliott: Definitely connect with me on social. I am planning for this to be an annual event that gets bigger and bigger, and is also capable of travelling to other communities too! So hit me up on Instagram to say “hi” and help me spread the yarn love! I want to cover the whole province with yarn and need your help to make it happen!
Visit The Rock Vandal at www.rockvandal.com.