Masquerading under the alias Will Crochet and the cover of night, Jess Williams and her yarn crew crochet granny squares for social good. From rainbow hearts she hopes will “delight whoever sees them” to messages encouraging political participation, the colorful installations are scattered along South Lamar Boulevard and throughout Austin.
Ten years ago, Williams turned to crocheting in the emotional aftermath of divorce. After the 2016 election, she again found solace in yarn as she channeled her political anger and anxiety into art and joined the craftivist movement.
For Williams, crocheting is both therapy and a platform. Alongside her yarn crew, dubbed Yarn and Fiber Aficionados of Austin (YAFA!), Williams plans large-scale street activations, like a 4-foot-tall crocheted sign spelling “Vote” ahead of the 2018 local election. The group meets the third Sunday of every month at Rio Rita to collaborate with anyone who wants to crochet. Williams sells individual pieces at Stardust Vintage but specializes in nontraditional street art, attaching her work to stop-sign poles and walls throughout Austin.
“More what I’m interested in is testing the boundaries of crochet because it is such a traditional art and craft, and I really am kind of straddling…more than one world, I’ll say, but really that fine line of art and crafts,” Williams says.
Besides encouraging Austinites to vote, she’s passionate about using her art to support environmental issues. She shops exclusively at female-owned and -run Austin Creative Reuse, a secondhand art-supply store, and only uses recycled yarn in her projects. She also crochets on her daily bus commute, one of the ways she supports environmental conservation.
Follow her commuter crocheting on Instagram at #capmetrocrochet and keep up with this craftivist and see more of her work @willcrochet.