Crochet Oceans, Beads in Space

Just in case you were wondering how awesome handcrafts could be:

The Institute for Figuring is traveling the country with a crocheted coral reef. It grows at each stop, since along with lectures on the dying ocean reefs, they teach crochet classes and add the finished projects on. The IFF Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef combines environmental activism, a smattering of feminism, and mathematics into multi-colored ruched woolly bits, now measuring over 3,000 square feet.

Apparently, in addition to calling attention to the destruction of the wet environment, crochet helped solve one of the oldest problems in mathematics- whether space can be described in geometry as anything but flat (you learned that one in high school) or spherical (you might have learned that one a bit later on). The third option, hyperbolic space, is the one Einstein used for relativity. From the IFF Website:

Mathematicians’ skepticism about hyperbolic space had been based in part on their inability to imagine how it would look, for they had no way to model it physically. Most were thus astounded when, in 1997, Dr. Daina Taimina, a Latvian émigré at Cornell University, presented a hyperbolic structure made with crochet…

Lettuces and kales – the crenellated vegetables – are manifestations of nearly hyperbolic surfaces, while in the oceans, corals, kelps, sponges, nudibranchs and flatworms all exhibit hyperbolic anatomical features. And so a woolly manifestation of a reef is not as unlikely as may first be supposed. Through the lens of crochet we may thus discern a hitherto unsuspected line connecting Euclid to sea slugs. Ways of constructing once perceived as “merely” women’s craft, and dismissed from the cannon of scientific practice, now emerge as revelatory forms of a more complex, embodied way of thinking about the world both mathematically and physically.

Apparently you can crochet a third hyperbolic geometry just by predictably increasing your stitches too much. Thus, it’s not a mistake, it’s a discovery. Pictures are up at the IFF website.

From the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of space! Devorah Sperber is making images from Star Trek of shiny beads and spools of thread. The beads she uses make it look like Captain Kirk is actually being beamed up- all the time. Yes, that’s as cool as it sounds. For a Fiber Optics part, she makes mosaics of spools of thread, then encourages the viewer to look at them through a magnifying glass, as a commentary on both human perception, and the number of Star Trek Episodes about mirrors. Check out the low-res, upside-down Spock through the glass- he’s still dreamy, of course.  Those Vulcans, and their bedroom eyes.

They’ll both be in NYC at the same time- the crochet reef gets there April 4 (location is in the first article) and the Star Trek stuff is up until April 26th at the gallery with the Spock picture link.  Sounds about time for my spring break trip.

Handcraft Update:  Sorted my fabric this weekend, gathered supplies for watercoloring some lampshades, knit another inch, and am headed off now to cut out a and sew together a fabric flower.  Have been awed and inspired by these articles. Currently plotting to quit my job and make a living watercoloring lampshades.

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2 Responses to “Crochet Oceans, Beads in Space”


  1. 1 andrea March 21, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    i’ll buy a watercolor lampshade!


  1. 1 Photo Albums: Coral Reefs « Virescent Trackback on April 24, 2008 at 7:24 am

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