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Crocheting Street Artist Olek Facing Charges in London, But Details Still Unclear

Crochet artist Olek is famous for covering several NYC public art works in yarn, including the Wall Street Bull (photo via olekappeal.com)

News has been bubbling about yarn-bombing sensation Olek’s recent legal troubles in London, but the situation still remains unclear. On Sunday, December 11, the artist sent out a Facebook message to a few friends, claiming that she will spend the holiday season “fighting for her freedom” and directing them to the site Olek’s Appeal for further details. Cat Weaver, who has worked with Olek, and is a Hyperallergic contributor and blogger at The Art Machine, confirmed the news with Olek over Skype and posted the FB message as well as a statement from Olek’s lawyer, Paul Morris, that provides some clues as to what the artist is facing:

Olek recently arrived in London in order to fulfill a variety of professional engagements; the first of which was to donate a piece of art work to a charitable organization. On October 6th after donating a piece of her art to the charity at a show in London, Olek was involved in an incident with a drunk and aggressive male who behaved reprehensibly.

The incident happened extremely quickly and not knowing anyone in London or able to access her cell phone for numbers she was swept up into the legal system and treated very poorly. This has resulted in very serious charges being leveled against her which she strenuously denies. She has not even had the chance to state her case before a Court and she must await a statutory timetable before she can present her case properly.

Hyperallergic spoke with Olek this morning to find out more details about the incident, but the Polish-American artist has been instructed by her lawyer to remain silent about the case or the charges against her. I also reached out to her attorney, Morris, but have not yet received a response. Olek insisted, “I am not guilty and I want to fight the charges.” In response to her charges she noted, “I didn’t know it could be so drastic.”

She mentioned that at first many people thought that her call for help over Facebook was a scam, which prompted her to reach out to assure people it was real.

Olek noted that she was arrested on October 6 and spent Thursday through Monday in a holding cell until a judge saw her. She was then granted bail, but spent another night in jail when the paperwork was delayed.

Olek’s American and Polish passports has also been confiscated and the American Embassy told her there is not much they can do. “They told me that if I went to jail they would visit me and that the jail I could go to is well known for arts and crafts,” she said. “But that’s it.”

Olek was at first forced to be home between the hours of 8pm and 6am every night and wear a tracking bracelet around her ankle for over a month. Her lawyer was able to remove the curfew and also change the conditions of her bail so she could travel to Poland for two shows in November.

Olek now must remain in London and will return to court on December 22, after which she may be able to speak more openly about the case. In the meantime the artist is preparing for her show at Tony’s Gallery in London scheduled to open on January 13, 2012. Olek is asking for donations to help pay her mounting lawyer bills.

If you wish to donate to the artist you can do so at Olek’s Appeal by purchasing photographs of her crocheted creations.

UPDATE: Cat Weaver has spoken to the Olek’s dealer, Jonathan LeVine, who told her:

I don’t think that the charges are that serious … but I just think that she was just treated in a certain way.

And in New York, I feel that it would have been a really minor incident. And for whatever reason it turned into something bigger than maybe it should have.

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