Tag Archives: coral reef

The Crochet Reef: Hyperbolic Crochet Art

Laurie says:

I was staying with Vonda McIntyre when I was in Seattle last week. Vonda makes amazing undersea creatures based on the hyperbolic crochet technique. She told me about an exhibit, The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, that was recently at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in DC. I wish I had known about it sooner. I’m always fascinated by the conjunction of science and art. One of these days I’m going to play with a microscope and photography.

It included included some of her creatures, including the one below. I’ve admired Vonda’s work for years and posted here about an installation I did for her on another visit here.



The idea of The Crochet Reef was originated as a homage to the Great Barrier Reef which is threatened by pollutants and global warming.  It was created by a world wide community of artists using classically feminine techniques.



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 Smithsonian explains about hyperbolic space:

In 1997, Dr Daina Taimina, a mathematician, discovered how to make physical models of the geometry known as “hyperbolic space” using the art of crochet. Until that time many mathematicians believed it was impossible to construct such forms; yet nature had been doing just that for hundreds of millions of years. Many marine organisms embody hyperbolic geometry in their anatomies, including corals. This geometry maximizes surface area in a limited volume, thereby providing greater opportunity for filter feeding by stationary corals.

Two of Vonda’s creatures are in this photo, the red jelly fish in the center left and the sea anemone in the lower center right.


The elegiac Bleached Bone Reef, featuring red-and-white coral tree by Quoin. Rubble coral piles by Margaret and Christine Wertheim and unknown Chinese factory workers. Miniature beaded corals by Nadia Severns, Jill Schreier and Pamela Stiles. Beaded jellyfish by Vonda N. McIntyre, white floaters by Evelyn Hardin, vintage doilies by makers unknown. In the background is the Branched Anemone Garden.


Brains, Coral, and Helixes: Oh My

Laurie and Debbie say:

I (Laurie) was in Seattle staying with Vonda McIntyre and visiting with friends last week. Vonda is a marvelous (and multiple-award-winning) science fiction writer and she is also a maker of fabulous sea creatures.

Her house has really magical clusters of anemones, jellyfish and other creatures of the sea. They’re made from tiny beads and are three-dimensional, vivid and alive. While she was there I helped her set up a window box with semiprecious rocks and lots of her undersea denizens.

beaded sea creatures in Vonda McIntyre's window

Vonda and her sea creatures have also been written up in Science News Online.

She told me a lot about crafts based on math, science and nature, a design area I was unaware of. When I got home I talked to Debbie about science/crafts and we decided it would be fun to blog about it and show you some examples and links.

quilt of brain cross-sections

This quilt is from the Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art (no, really!).

Neither of us is as clear as we would like to be on exactly what a Lorenz manifold is, but apparently crocheting “the famous Lorenz equations that describe the nature of chaotic systems” was both a complex task and turned out to be a very good way to demonstrate a multidimensional concept in a three-dimensional world.


Debbie has followed science artist Bathsheba Grossman for some time; she does astronomicals and molecules in metal or lucite, and also some stunning science concepts, like this Quaternion Julia fractal carved in lucite.

Quaternion Julia fractal set

The Institute for Figuring brings us this giant coral reef project, crocheted by thousands of volunteers from around the world. The link includes an email where you can contribute your own piece of the reef (or of their “Toxic Reef,” made from yarn and plastic trash).

crochet coral and anemone garden

There’s lots more, and here’s a pattern for a hand-knit DNA helix scarf that any knitters out there can make for themselves.

Many of the above links are from Vonda.