Fresh Ideas and the People Who Bring Them to Life
Fresh Idea #5: Crocheting Coral Reefs
Inspired by their love of the Great Reef Barrier, as well as higher geometry and feminine crafts, sisters Christine and Margaret Wertheim—natives of Queensland Australia—began crocheting the coral reef ten years ago in their Los Angeles living room. Today, Crochet Coral Reef, which has long outgrown the sisters’ coffee table, is one the most acclaimed and largest science + art projects in the world.
The Wertheim sisters, founders of The Institute For Figuring (IFF), a non-profit dedicated to giving laypeople greater understanding and appreciation of some of the headier realms of science and mathematics, began making coral forms using the technique of “hyperbolic crochet” discovered in 1997 by mathematician Dr. Daina Taimina at Cornell University
The sisters elaborated upon Dr. Taimina’s techniques, developing an entire taxonomy of reef-life forms, including “loop kelps, fringed anemones, crenelated sea slugs and curlicue corals.” The process for making the forms involves a basic pattern or algorithm. The mathematically pure shape can be varied to form endless variations on the theme. Thus, Crochet Coral Reef is ongoing and ever evolving.
IFF describes the project as “a woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world.” IFF sees the project as a kind of experiment in mathematics and invites crochet enthusiasts everywhere to discover the infinite possibilities of the techniques.
Crochet Coral Reef exhibits, workshops and community projects have taken place everywhere in the world from Arizona to Abu Dhabi. In fact, the project has become so popular that any new Satellite Reefs are now being crocheted in plastic, to emphasize the damage to the oceans by our plastic waste.
Note: In June, IFF’s Crochet Coral Reef will be shown at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts alongside Leonard Da Vinci’s famous drawings of water in his remarkable book, Leicester. For more information: Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Click here for information about how to start a Satellite Reef.