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Did you ever wonder how the trees got their scarves?
An interview with Bohumila Augustinova, by Dawn Hunter.

An interview feature with 2021 Jefferson Award recipient, Cola City Yarnbombing leader and Columbia Art Center Director, Bohumila Augustinova.

This is a portrait of Bohumila Augustinova.

Above, Bohumila Augustinova, Director of the Columbia Art Center. Photo by Dawn Hunter.

Q & A with Bohumila Augustinova

Introduction: While aesthetically improving the forefront of a local business five years ago, Bohumila Augustinova, unwittingly launched a Cola City art installation winter staple by YarnBombers of Columbia on Main Street and beyond. The Yarnbombers of Columbia is a group that Bohumila spearheaded brings together over one hundred local artists who create unique, brightly colored, and patterned crocheted and knitted forms that they wrap around trees or parking meters during the winter months. The project evolved beyond aesthetics with the emergence of the “Giving Tree” located on the corner of Main and Taylor, downtown Columbia. As part of the tradition, artists hang hundreds of scarfs, hats, and gloves for anyone to take and use from that tree. This past December, Bohumila was recognized for her hard work and community investment with a Jefferson Service Award.

This is an image of a tree wrapped in crocheted yarn designs

Yarnbombers of Columbia art, downtown Columbia, SC. Photo by Bohumila Augustinova.

Dawn Hunter: How did the "Giving Tree" get started?


Bohumila Augustinova: Our first installation by the Yarnbombers of Columbia was on Main Street, and it was during the winter. At the end of our first installation day, an artist noticed a man "stealing" part of an installation wrapped around the bottom of a tree. Later, we saw him walking downtown, and he was wearing it as a scarf, and then we realized that it was not an act of theft but necessity. After that, the group created scarfs, hats, and gloves and offered them free at the tree site to anyone who needed them. It is now an annual tradition. Items are installed during November and are up until mid-March.

Yarnbombers of Columbia art, downtown Columbia, SC. Photo by Bohumila Augustinova.

Yarnbombing, Columbia, SC. This is an image of three different trees wrapped in crocheted designs.

Dawn Hunter: Your Jefferson Award is incredible and well deserved. The Jefferson Award, also known as Multiplying Good, recognizes members in the community who selflessly give of their time, embrace service to others as an essential part of life, and have a positive impact on the community. What are other initiatives that you participate in, other than Yarnbombing?


Bohumila Augustinova: I have volunteered at Transitions for years. In that capacity I have offered classes in crafts, like teaching others how to crochet. I also collaborated in workshops with Brenda Oliver, the former Columbia Art Center Director, at Transitions and we were part of a team of volunteers. I haven't been able to volunteer as much as I would like to during the pandemic. I am able to continue community service and outreach through my role as director at the Columbia Art Center.

This is a ceramic bowl by Bohumila Augustinova.

Scraffito ceramic bowl by Bohumila Augustinova. Photo by Dawn Hunter.

Dawn Hunter: Tell me more about that.


Bohumila Augustinova: Other than our regular roster of classes that we offer at the Columbia Art Center, we work with members and organized groups from the community. Examples of groups that we work with are veterans, the Girls Scouts, homeless, and international groups. We also have a partnership with Sister Care, a national organization that assists women who are trying to escape abusive relationships. There are other initiatives that we participate in, too, like, Art Along the Trail, a dynamic visual and performing arts experience that occurs at Columbia's Riverfront Park.

This is a ceramic tea set by  Bohumila Augustinova.

Scraffito ceramic bowl by Bohumila Augustinova. Photo by Bohumila Augustinova.

Dawn Hunter: What is the most rewarding part of your job?


Bohumila Augustinova: All of it. There are so many examples. I love our international programming because the event is for an entire family, and I witness multiple generations conceive of and create a collaborative art project on those occasions. Our programming features fantastic teachers who are dynamic members of the local art community. I am always looking for people who want to volunteer or participate in some capacity. It is exciting because it is a community-driven job, and my day-to-day activities change based on needs - so it is unpredictable. We offer Open Studio memberships to local artists who utilize the work studio space to create ceramic work. Through their membership, artists are given a 25-pound bag of clay, use of the studio, a shelf for storage, access to various glazes, and use of our kilns. They are able to hand build work or throw pottery on the wheel.

This is a ceramic vase by Bohumila Augustinova.

Scraffito ceramic bowl by Bohumila Augustinova. Photo by Bohumila Augustinova.

Dawn Hunter: Tell me about your art. Have you always created ceramics?


Bohumila Augustinova: No, but I have always been creative. All of my life, I was sewing my own clothes as a young child - when I was the same age as Darcy!


Dawn Hunter: Didn't you win the Columbia Design League's Runaway Runway twice?


Bohumila Augustinova: Yes.


Dawn Hunter: How do you decide what materials to use?


Bohumila Augustinova: My mom was always making something creative, and she was very innovative. I didn't think it was unusual. Making things was just part of life, and it really didn't matter what the material was. I went to college for fashion design, but when I was done with school, I knew I didn't want to pursue a career in the industry. I have never felt afraid to try new forms of expression, and I have made a lot of art work from recycled materials, and I teach classes that focus on sustainability and use recycled materials, too.


Dawn Hunter: You used wire for many projects, too, right?


Bohumila Augustinova: Yes, that is correct. I am originally from Czechoslavakia, now known as the Czech Republic. One summer, when I was visiting home after moving to South Carolina, I borrowed my niece and took a class structured for mothers with small children. Not all of the projects were collaborative, and they offered workshops that were just for adults. One of the workshops was in traditional Slovakia tinkering. That is a tradition where experts in the craft travel from town to town to create a wire cover, or casing, for the clay cooking pots. It prevents them from cracking or breaking during use. I took to the medium naturally, and when I returned to the United States, I started making jewelry, too. I expanded the language of the wire beyond its traditional use, and I have created many projects out of it, including my Supper Table setting for Jasper. That table setting was symbolic and expressive of the late Elizabeth Evelyn Wright's life.


Dawn Hunter: Your current sgraffito work in clay is expressive, too. How do you come up with the color and patterns?


Bohumila Augustinova: When I first started, I found inspiration in mid-century design. Now I find inspiration from the natural outdoor surroundings of my home, like patterns and colors from my garden or ripples from the fish swimming in the pond.


Dawn Hunter: What's next?


Bohumila Augustinova: Well, this week I am participating in the Cottontown Art Crawl on March 12th, and as things slowly open up more, I hope to expand my volunteer work - both personally and professionally. The pandemic has made it challenging to gather in the numbers that some outreach initiatives require. Outreach has been a big part of my life and artistic practice, and I am looking forward to future projects. When I came to Columbia, I immediately felt a sense of community and belonging. I love my work at the Columbia Art Center, and it is rewarding to be part of the process that enables people to be inspired and create. That inspires me.

This is a tree wrapped in a crocheted design that features a mountain neighborhood.

Yarnbombers of Coulumbia art. Photo by Bohumila Augustinova.

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