Crochet, Math, & The Ocean

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum An exhibit at the Natural History Museum combines seemingly disassociated elements - crochet, math, and the ocean. So, what do these things have in common? A fabulous new exhibit entitled, "The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef," tells the story.

Blue section of the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

In the late 1990's mathematician Dr. Daina Taimina made an amazing discovery. She created a model of hyperbolic space using the unlikely medium of crochet. Up until that time mathematicians thought it was impossible to create such a model. This discovery was important because crochet can mimic forms that are found in nature, including coral.

Enter in Margaret and Christine Wertheim, co-founders of The Institute for Figuring. They created the traveling coral exhibit to showcase environmentalism, the mathematics of hyperbolic geometry, and the handcrafted art form of crochet.

The resulting project is currently at Smithsonian's Natural History Museum.

Close up of the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

Another element that makes this project so unique is that it is ever changing and expanding. Ocean Science Educator Catherine Suterac recently explained that crochet artists from the DC area contributed to the exhibit that is currently at the Museum. Over 800 contributors submitted more than 4,000 individual pieces.

The day I toured the exhibit I was lucky enough to run into one of the lovely artisans. Jamie Roberts was there visiting her 1st crochet piece that is now part of the exhibit.

Picture of crochet artist Jamie Roberts

Jamie explained that she found out about the project through a local knitting group. "It's so exciting to contribute to a large community project like this," she said.

Picture of Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef exhibit

The exhibit also tells an environmental story. In the ocean healthy coral reef has lots of color.

Healthy coral reef from The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef exhibit

Climate change has bleached some of the reef turning it a white color.

Bleached Coral Reef

Finally, pollution in the ocean has caused toxic reef. The exhibit has a section that is full of discarded elements including plastics and CD's.

Toxic coral reef The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef exhibit

The exhibit is so powerful, beautiful, and dynamic I had trouble capturing it in just photos. Thus, here is a video just so you can get a sense of the size and overall feel of the artwork:

Crochet Coral Reef - Smithsonian Natural History Museum from Kaarin Moore on Vimeo.

As a fashion blogger I was specifically interested in this project because crochet is such an old art form. I've been seeing many crochet accessories popping up on Etsy and at handmade craft fairs. If you are interested in learning more about crochet there are a number of books about it on Amazon including 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet: A Collection of Beautiful Blooms for Embellishing Garments, Accessories, and More by Lesley Stanfield.

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is open through April 24, 2011. It is located in the Natural History Museum on the First Floor in the Sant Ocean Hall. The Museum is open every day except December 25th and hours are 10:00AM to 5:30PM.

Have you seen the exhibit? Do you crochet? What do you think of the project?