When I was a pup, my family lived in Maryland, and I got to hang out at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Whenever I’m anywhere near the area (all too seldom, I’m afraid), I visit the museums. My favorite is the Natural History Museum.
A few years ago I heard about The Institute for Figuring’s Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef. Begun by two Aussies, Margaret and Christine Wertheim, it exists to bring public attention to the damage to the Great Barrier Reef.
I had been exploring hyperbolic surfaces as they relate to craft work. Both the crochet and the beadwork had attracted some attention; every summer I give the Clarion West students and instructors yarn creatures, and every so often I donate a bead creature to a charity auction for some good cause. When I saw an article about hyperbolic geometry in Science News, I wrote Ivars Peterson to tell him how much I’d enjoyed his articles over the years. He wrote an article about the bead creature that I sent him, which was quite a kick.
I was fascinated by what other people were doing along the same lines. The Coral Reef became a community project, and the community spanned the world. I sent some bleached coral fingers for the reef, and later on some bead creatures, and was very pleased when the work was included in installations in Chicago, New York, Boston, Lost Angeles. In Dublin, the bead creatures had a corner all to themselves.
The Smithsonian installation opened recently in the Natural History Museum. It’s a thrill to be in it. My creatures in the picture are the red jellyfish in the middle and the red and white anemone on the lower right.
Vonda N. McIntyre is a founding member of Book View Cafe. She is a contributor to Breaking Waves, a benefit anthology for the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund, and the author of The Moon and the Sun, an alternate history set at Versailles, in the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, when modern science was just beginning and Natural Philosophers searched the world for new and exciting discoveries… including sea monsters.