For the last six months 38 crocheters, knitters, and needlefelters have worked together with the community arts and crafts shop paper village to create a woolly coral reef.
It’s been a great project to get involved with, for not only did participants get to practice new skills – I learnt ‘hyperbolic crochet’ and how to needlefelt – but it was a fab opportunity to meet other crafty people in the local area. Since beginning back in November all sorts of lovely coral models and fishy friends have been brought into Vicky at the shop, but it was only when it all came together in to one window display last week that you really got a sense of how much work had gone into the reef and how beautiful it looks. The photos really don’t do it justice.
I mentioned hyperbolic crochet – this is a fascinating technique pioneered by University lecturer Daina Taimina who wanted to make visual representations of complex mathematical concepts. She set out to model a hyperbolic plane, essentially a shape that is the geometric opposite of a sphere. So, rather than curving in on itself and having a closed surface, as is the case with a sphere, a hyperbolic plane curves away from itself at every point. This comes about due to an exponential increase in size as the plain grows. In terms of crocheting, then, you start out by crocheting around in a circle and continue to make it exponentially larger with each round. By starting with a circle of, say 10 double crochets in the first round, you would then do two double crochets into each of the first stitches for the second round (total 20 stitches), then another two double crochets into each of the stitches for the third round (total 40 stitches), two double crochets into each stitch for the forth round (total 80 stitches), and so on and so forth. The result is a structure which looks remarkably like coral, or a brain (or ‘brain coral’ as we’ve been calling it!) Physically creating these shapes gives you a real sense of how this mathematical principle works in practice, the first few rounds seem to take no time at all but by the time your piece is 20cm round it can take hours to get all the way around it. I’ve never found maths quite so interesting before!
Learning to needlefelt was also pretty exciting, although somewhat less complicated on the whole. Needlefelting is a method of creating felt without the use of water. Instead, practitioners will use wool tops and a needle that is covered in notches. These notches work to tangle the smooth wool tops, making them stick together. The more the fibres are poked and prodded, the stronger and denser the structure becomes.
Vicky ran several workshops during which she showed people how to do this to make a fish (or seahorse, shark, squid….) which are also now a part of the display. I love the creativity people have brought to their creatures – each of them looks so individual and they make such colourful additions to the reef.
As well as being a great creative project and a way of bringing people together, the woolly reef also sits alongside an exhibition to draw attention to the plight of coral reefs around the world. Definitely well worth a read. The reef is on display NOW at Paper Village and will be there until the end of June. Paper Village is at 200 North Street, Southville, BS3 1JF and is open Tuesday – Saturday 10am-5pm.