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Institute for Figuring: Why Coral and Crochet Are Perfect Together
By: Lion Brand
Coral reefs are not often the first thing you think of when you think of crocheting. Yet, the Institute for Figuring (IFF), founded by sisters Margaret and Christine Wertheim, has taken crocheting to a whole new level using hyperbolic crochet to make a gorgeous coral reef model.
Margaret, co-director of the IFF, said that the crochet coral reef project started about four years ago almost by accident. The two sisters, who hadn’t crocheted in close to 20 years, were inspired to pick crochet back up by the work of Dr. Daina Taimina, a math researcher at Cornell University, who discovered that hyperbolic models could be made with crochet in 1997.
Originally from Australia, the Wertheims have created this homage to the Great Barrier Reef — in the form of crochet coral, sea anemones, and kelp — meant to draw attention to its degradation caused by pollution, climate change, and over-fishing. Hyperbolic crochet allows the Wertheims and their collaborators to mimic the shapes of numerous species of marine life in an intricate and unique way, allowing them to create a poignant model of the natural wonder that we are at risk of losing. The crochet coral reef is also a beautiful and incredible intersection between geometry and handicrafts.
The IFF holds public events, as well as putting out publications, on the 'poetic and aesthetic aspects of science and technology.' It features works made with such materials as yarn, paper, and plastic, and participates in exhibits all over the United States.
The Institute for Figuring Monet Reef. Photo © The Institute For Figuring

Three smaller sections of the reef are currently being shown at the Andy Warhol Museum, in Pittsburgh, PA, as part of the exhibit, "6 Billion Perps Held Hostage! Artists Address Global Warming." It will also be featured at the Chicago Cultural Center from October to December this year, and will be at L.A.C.E. (the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) at the beginning of next year.
For more information about the crochet coral reef and the Institute for Figuring, please click here.

Hyperbolic crochet sea urchins by Margaret Wertheim. Photo © The Institute For Figuring

Authored by Lion Brand

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