A good yarn: Colorful art on the Asbury Park Boardwalk

Art Under the Sun: HotTea's yarn art

Artist Eric Regier often finds himself immersed in his art. Regier, who professionally goes by the name HotTea, is the creator of an eye-catching sight on New Jersey's Asbury Park Boardwalk, an immersive, 100-foot-long art installation made up entirely of colorful yarn. 

"It's rainbow-esque," he said. "It's actually supposed to be the sunset and the sunrise with the land and water in-between. I decided to sort of mix all that together into one installation, and it being so long – a hundred feet long – I thought it was a good opportunity for people, as they're walking through the space, to experience all of that."

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The street artist known as HotTea changed his medium of choice from spray paint to yarn. His latest installation hangs in the Casino on Asbury Park, N.J.'s Boardwalk. CBS News

The installation is made up of nearly 6,000 strands of yarn, which doesn't always play nice with sea breeze.

HotTea set to work untangling a knot: "You really just have to pull each thread out one by one."

"I know what it's like to untangle a necklace, and this is so much worse!" laughed "Sunday Morning" producer Sara Kugel.

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The artist untangles strands of yarn in his Asbury Park installation. CBS News

"Well, yes, it's just tedious and, yeah, there's really no easy way of doing it. Untangling the yarn is part of the process."

Yarn is one of HotTea's trademarks. Once a graffiti artist, he sought out a new medium after one too many run-ins with the police.

"And then a memory of my grandmother teaching me how to knit when I was, like, five or six years old came back to me," he said. "And so we just decided to start using yarn – it's not going to damage any property, you know, like spray paint does."

This Asbury Park property, once a casino, was abandoned for years.

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Built in 1929, the Casino building on Asbury Park's Boardwalk had been vacant for years.   CBS News

"The casino building was always a wonderment to me," said Jean Hampton, "and when I discovered HotTea's work, there was a beauty in the movement and color, and I thought, 'Oh, that'd be so cool inside this building with steel and all these cold colors."

Hampton is curator of the Wooden Walls Project, an organization bringing art to the Boardwalk. It's an endeavor that began in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore.

"What had happened is there were wooden walls everywhere [where] there was some sort of damage to a building," Hampton said. "And so I said, 'Can I start putting art on these walls?' And they're like, 'Oh yeah, sure.'"

Since then, Asbury Park has added about 50 murals, attracting eyeballs and crowds. HotTea's work is even a popular site for engagement photos for couples about to tie the knot.

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Murals on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. CBS News

Those photos, however, will likely last longer than the art. The wind and salty sea air is taking a toll on the yarn, but to HotTea, that's part of the beauty.

"I think the aging of the yarn is a good thing in this case," he said, "because it kind of goes with the idea of the building. You know, this building has been through so many different stages or phases of identity.

"The yarns are going to change, and I think conceptually it works well with the building. I think it'll still be interesting to me, and I think people will still find it beautiful in its own way."

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HotTea's yarn art. CBS News

     
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Story produced by Sara Kugel and Roman Feeser. Thanks to editor David Small. 

      
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