Yarn Outlaws of Ladies Fancywork Society Are in Stitches Over Meow Wolf

The Ladies Fancywork Society at its Meow Wolf Denver installation.
The Ladies Fancywork Society at its Meow Wolf Denver installation. Kate Russell
For nearly fifteen years, the members of Denver's Ladies Fancywork Society —  Lauren Seip, Jess Eaton, Tymla Welch and Jesse Dawson — have been crocheting art pieces both big and small to "terrorize your neighborhood" with yarn crimes.

"We’ve been in a long-term relationship together since 2007," Eaton tells Westword. "It’s going really well. So far, so good."

They've bombed fiber-based street art across Colorado, spinning a colorful "yarniverse" throughout the state. Along the way, they've turned their un-permitted practice into a cultural juggernaut embraced by institutions ranging from the Denver Art Museum to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, as well as music festivals such as Arise, Sonic Bloom and the Underground Music Showcase.

And for the past two years, they've joined the 300-plus artists — more than 110 from Colorado — who have secretly been working on the massive Meow Wolf Denver installation at I-25 and Colfax Avenue.

Meow Wolf started as a rough-and-tumble DIY collective in Santa Fe, creating an underground alternative to the city's traditional art scene. In the years since, the group has grown into a massive corporation with early financial support from Game of Thrones author George RR Martin for the blockbuster House of Eternal Return and now a new crew of leaders who honed their skills running big companies with Disney, Lucas Films, LucasArts and Goldman Sachs. There's already a Meow Wolf outpost in Las Vegas, and the company has international aspirations.

Meow Wolf had been on the Ladies Fancywork Society's radar for years. Early on, the members toured the Santa Fe installation, not only admiring the creativity of the various artists' futuristic, psychedelic work, but imagining what they would do in the space.

When they came across the company's request for proposals for the Denver outpost — which Meow Wolf plans to open sometime in the next few months under a yet-to-be-announced name — the Ladies Fancywork Society decided to apply. The members went through an application process they describe as "an RFP, RFQ and LMNOP," and Meow Wolf picked their proposal.
click to enlarge The Ladies Fancywork Society's psychedelic Meow Wolf Denver installation. - JARROD DUNCAN
The Ladies Fancywork Society's psychedelic Meow Wolf Denver installation.
Jarrod Duncan
They signed non-disclosure agreements and got to work, brainstorming their installation while watching Disney movies. Once they had their plans, they collaborated with zoning inspectors, engineers, Meow Wolf staff and sound artist Meason Wiley, who made a recording of their voices and "chopped and screwed it," says Welch.

The Society prides itself on being "fun at parties." The members — who describe themselves as "like twelve-year-old girls...and boys" and are downright garrulous, speaking over each other in madcap fashion — struggled to keep quiet about their work.

"It's been hard," Eaton admits. "We were there for a week solid and have been there on and off and seen so much of the progress. We have so many photos of ourselves and our staging area. ... We have a lot of funny pictures we can’t show. ... At least we have each other."

As for the process of building out their room, "it’s been really fun to be able to have this kind of space — and permit," says Eaton. "A lot of our work historically has been outdoors, where it only lives a year or so. It's great to have something inside."

"It’s also been a huge learning experience for us," adds Welch. "We learned a lot about fire code, which we’ve never had to before."

After having done most of their work in acrylic yarn and plastic structures, safety codes now required them to work with more expensive wool and build their structures out of fireproof metal. But the learning curve took them to new places, they say.
click to enlarge All eyes on the Ladies Fancywork Society's Meow Wolf Denver installation. - KATE RUSSELL
All eyes on the Ladies Fancywork Society's Meow Wolf Denver installation.
Kate Russell
"We're very excited to be introducing everyone to one of our newest friends of the Multiverse," says Seip. "Her name is Midge. She’s a swamp momster — as in mom and monster. We’re excited for everyone to meet her and her babies. She has her own swampy cave room. She’s cozy with her baby monsters. It's a womb room for everyone to come join her. She really wants a babysitter. She’s tired."

None of the members of the Society are mothers. Still, they have bred a monstrous brood of yarn babies, installing more than twenty of them statewide, stitching together a narrative of their own that Meow Wolf has incorporated into its own story. Each baby in the installation has a different personality, as audiences will soon discover.

Now that the group's last stitches at Meow Wolf have been crocheted, what's next?

The members are hunting for a new studio space after being forced out of their Globeville digs. In a city with a rapidly rising cost of living, finding a spot is going to be tough, but the Society plans to stay local.

Although the members have no clue when Meow Wolf Denver will actually open (and even if they did, they wouldn't be allowed to share the date), they all agree on one piece of advice for visitors about to enter: "Do a small amount of mushrooms."

For more about the Denver installation, go to the Meow Wolf website.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris