Crochet Reef At Smithsonian's Natural History Museum Is a Masterpiece of Yarn


Hyberbolic coral reef at dusk photo via Erin Pettigrew

It is has never happened to me before that a friend forwards me a photo of a crocheted piece and I say "that is beautiful, I must check that out in person." But the photos I've seen of the Hyberbolic Crocheted Coral Reef (yes, a mouthful) on display in Washington D.C. are lovely and lifelike. The corals, sea anemones' and sea stars look real in the photos. I missed the exhibit while it was in New York, but will definitely make it down to D.C. while it is still at the Natural History Museum until April 24, 2011.


Brain coral reef photo via Margaret Wertheim Looks like the real thing!

From the photos, it seems surreal that yarn could be made to look like aquatic creatures and coral reefs, and yet they really manage it. Beyond being beautiful to look at, the exhibit also has an environmental message. The exhibit is the work of at least 800 women and men, ranging from a three-year-old to a Centenarian, who hope that through their work they can attract attention to the degraded state of the World's coral reefs. Twenty percent of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed in the past few decades. Global warming, ocean acidification, overfishing and overpopulation are all threats that face coral reefs.


Hyperbolic crochet corals and anemones with sea slug by Marianne Midelburg photo via flickr

The organizers, Margaret and Christine Wertheim, are from Australia, where the project, which has since traveled around the world, started began.The sisters, an artist and a scientific journalist, wanted to highlight the blight of their beloved Great Barrier Reef. Beyond being beautiful and carrying an important message, the exhibit also shows the hyperbolic geometry of coral. In 1997, mathematician Daina Taimina recognized that the crochet stitch represents this complex geometry.


Atoll wild photo via Margaret Wertheim

Wherever the exhibit travels to, the Wertheim sisters encourage the local community to create its own reef. These community efforts remove some of the bleakness of the message that the colorful coral reefs may not be around forever, and provide hope that by working together maybe we can avert disaster, and the coral reefs will outlast us after all, even if that three-year-old ends up being a centenarian.

The photo link/story tip was sent to me by Liz Worthy who is also an awesome artist.

More on Coral Reefs

Bad News for Coral Reefs: Global Warming Causes Bleaching and Death
6 Steps To Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Noisy Coral Reefs = Healthy Coral Reefs

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