Friday, April 15, 2011

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project

If you spend any of your time in the fiber world, you may have heard about the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project. It was begun by Margaret and Christine Wertheim, two sisters from Australia who wanted to bring attention to the devastating impact that global climate change is having on coral reefs. It turns out that crochet is an excellent medium for creating coral shapes, and at the same time is an excellent model of complex geometry--who knew! Here is a bit of background from their website:

One of the acknowledged wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef stretches along the coast of Queensland, Australia, in a riotous profusion of color and form unparalleled on our planet. But global warming and pollutants so threaten this fragile monster that scientists now believe the reef will be devastated in coming years. As a homage to the Great One, Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring instigated a project to crochet a woolen reef.

The sisters, who grew up in the state of Queensland, began the project in 2005 in their Los Angeles living room, and for the first four years of its life the Reef took over their house, gradually expanding to become the dominant life-form in their home. At the same time the project began to expand into other cities and countries until it has now become a worldwide movement that engages communities across the globe from Chicago, New York and London, to Melbourne, Dublin and Capetown. The Crochet Reef is a unique fusion of art, science, mathematics, handicraft and community practice that may well be the largest community art project in the world.


The Crochet Coral Reef has become a traveling project as well now, with satellite exhibits touring to various cities around the world. One of these shows has been at the Smithsonian in Washington DC for the past several months, and I finally got down to see it last weekend--just in time since it's only there for another week. It was AMAZING. In addition to some pieces from the Wertheim's original reef, local crocheters from the DC area had made pieces and combined them into a huge mound of "coral" in the center of the exhibit. It was so cool! I could have spent hours looking at all the individual pieces that went into making the reef--the colors and shapes and detail were just incredible. I also took a ton of photos but somehow the pictures don't do justice to the three-dimensional nature of the sculpture.

Here is a video of Margaret Wertheim explaining how the reef began and what it has come to mean. It's about 15 minutes but really well worth watching!



(The direct link is here if your browser doesn't like the embedded video.)

And some of my own photos:

reef14

Look at the details! In this picture, the piece on the left with the blue and purple is a giant clam:

reef13

Part of the reef was done in whites and grays to show the "bleached coral" that happens when sea temperatures get too warm and the coral die and lose their color:

reef10

And look at this adorable sea urchin!

reef8

Branched coral:

reef6

This one is all beaded crochet--WOW.

reef4

I love this photo--see the jellyfish hanging in the middle?

reef2

I put some more photos in an album over on my Flickr page if you'd like to see those as well, just click here. And if you get a chance to see one of the exhibits, DEFINITELY GO! And if you want to go to the one in DC, move quickly, it closes on April 24th.

Have a wonderful weekend!

4 comments:

Shanti said...

Hi Julie! I've seen the site of the Coral project before and it's amazing... I was very tempeted by your pictures and thought "why they don't have water?? they'll die!!" I know everything is crocheted but it's incredible how real all looks...
I tried to make one once, it consumes an amazing amount of yarn!!!!

Clara said...

I too have seen some of this project but online of course. It is simply amazing and beautiful....and inspiring!

Kristine said...

That is a TON of yarn. Truly amazing that it can come to life like that. Thanks for sharing.

Kat said...

I'm so jealous. I was going to see that and I couldn't get any of my friends to come with me. I'm so glad you had a good time. I love your pics.