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hyperbolic geometry and fiber art

October 25, 2010

This past Saturday I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History so I could see for the first time the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef exhibit that I helped curate. Hundreds of fiber artists across the country, including many in the Mid-Atlantic region, contributed items that they crocheted or knitted to be a part of the reef. Early in my involvement in the preparations for the exhibit, I realized I would not be able to contribute an item that I made, but I was determined to participate in some other fashion. I mentioned my interest in helping build the reef to the coordinator of the volunteers. I persisted in asking at every opportunity, and in due time, I was one of about 60 volunteer curators. I had expected (hoped) that the building process would allow me to directly sculpt the finished reef, but that’s not how it worked out. Still, I enjoyed the experience I had of being part of an immense collaborative effort.

And when I saw the finished reef, I found I could appreciate the entire assembly’s amazing diversity, ingenuity, and creativity. I did look for the sections of blue, and red, which were the ones I worked on. I was happy to see individual items that I remembered placing in context, as well as those I did not remember seeing.

I saw many people who looked for their own item(s), then looked for items made by their friends, guild members, etc. While I know that members of my guild contributed crocheted items (I found out about the project through my guild), I do not personally know any of them, and I did not see any of their items either in progress or when they were finished. So I felt no particular attachment to any individual piece. Which meant I could marvel at all of it, without feeling like maybe my own item did not measure up to others’ skill levels. (Or panicking because I could not find my item.)

Through my involvement with this project, I learned more about coral reefs, and the problems they are facing worldwide, as well as learning of the existence of in floating piles of trash in the oceans. I haven’t yet figured out what I can do about any of these problems, but now that I’m aware of them, I will be considering my impact on the environment in new ways.

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