Shannon Palmer likes to knit sweaters on trees. Colorful sweaters that clothe branches and hug trunks. She also likes to knit sweaters on fences and other public objects. She proudly calls herself a “yarn bomber.”

“Yarn bombing is a way of bringing people’s attention back to things that they’ve stopped looking at,” she says. “It’s a reminder of the beauty around us, which we typically forsake in our day-to-day business of getting to and fro.”

A growing international craze, “it’s called yarn bombing because it’s an explosion.
An explosion of color, an explosion of whimsy, an explosion of laughter and happiness,” she says.

“You can walk by a tree every day and not see it. All of a sudden, you walk by one day and see it has a sweater on it. You stop and go, ‘Oooh, I did not expect to see that,’ and it makes you smile.”

As leader of the nonprofit organization Yarn Bomb Jax, Palmer orchestrated a project during One Spark that involved decorating the trees in Hemming Park with sweaters. Now, Palmer is involved in a public art exhibition for St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary. She is decorating an eight and a half foot obelisk for Compassionate St. Augustine’s Obelisk Art 450 project. With the assistance of fellow Yarn Bomb Jax member Jen Hawkins, she is creating a work of art that will spotlight compassion in the nation’s oldest city.

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Twenty-five accomplished artists from around the First Coast and beyond are decorating obelisks using a variety of mediums and materials—and Palmer is proud that Yarn Bomb Jax was selected to participate. Compassionate St. Augustine is a nonprofit that seeks to influence, inspire and grow a culture of compassion in the city through advocacy, awareness and action. Yarn Bomb Jax’s obelisk will be decorated with intricate knitted and crocheted pieces that tell a story about two compassionate individuals in the city’s history: Civil Rights leaders Henry Twine and his wife Kat.

The obelisks are replicas of the 30-foot coquina monument to the 1812 Spanish Constitution that sits in the city’s plaza, says Compassionate St. Augustine Executive Director Caren Goldman. Made of wood and fiberglass, they are “blank canvasses” that the artists are using to interpret compassion historically. The finished products will be exhibited at the Crisp-Ellert Art Museum of Flagler College through September and then displayed at outdoor locations throughout
St. Augustine through January 2016.

The Spanish Constitution was the “most progressive constitution of its time,” Goldman says. It was based on four pillars: human rights, democracy, freedom and compassion, “and those are all values we try to affirm in many different ways.”

Palmer’s blank obelisk was delivered to her Springfield Jacksonville home in early summer, and she has been working on it since. Hawkins’ crocheted pieces will enhance the finished product. Palmer’s grandmother taught her to knit as a young child, and she says she’s been knitting ever since. With yarn bombing becoming a staple of the public art scene, it looks like she will be carrying on the tradition for a long time to come.