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Sarah Simmons


Anemones crocheted from graduated colors of mercerized cotton by Sarah Simons.

Sarah Simons was the first reef contributor and has proved herself consistently to be a master of pattern and form. Sarah has invented several whole genera of crochet reef organisms, including what we refer to as her Ernst Haeckel forms, inspired by Haeckel's beautiful scientific drawings of radiolarians. She particularly likes to work with mercerized threads and is a highly technically skilled crocheter. Unlike us she can read patterns and delights in mastering extremely complex traditional patterns and then turning this knowledge into extraordinary sea creatures. A few of her crochet radiolarians can be seen below, each as individual and astonishing as the creatures in Haeckel's radiolarian catalog.

Crochet radiolarian, made from mercerized cotton by Sarah Simons.

Sarah's immense instinct for pattern and form is related - we hypothesize - to her skill as a musician. In addition to the piano, she also plays the clarinet. Music, of course, is made up of temporal patterns and it seems that Sarah is able to transpose her years of training in rythym and tempo into complex spatial analogs. As well as being a crocheter, she is also a highly skillful knitter and loves to take on the challenge of really complicated knitting patterns! Her mastery of the plastic arts also extends to beading, which she has recently taken up to extraordinary effect, initially incorporating beads into her crochet models and eventually branching off into pure beading. We are planning to include some of her beaded works in the Reef and look forward to updating these pages with further examples of her work.

Crochet radiolarians, by Sarah Simons. All are sea creatures adapted from traditional crochet patterns. Each has inspired new evolutionary lines of crochet coral organisms.

Sarah has also been a major contributor to the IFF Bleached Reef. Below is a detail of this Reef in the IFF's Chicago exhibition, incorporating at left several of Sarah's incredible welk egg-case models. Structurally these models are extremely long thin hyperbolic strips, which naturally want to twist into spiral formations - Sarah was a pioneer of this form, which also lends itself well to modeling kelp. Visually the ones shown here are amazingly like the egg sacs that welks extrude, which may sometimes be picked up on beaches. The very fine musk-colored model at far left is edged with embroidery beads - one of Sarah's first excursions into beading. This remains one of our all-time favorite reef models.

The IFF Bleached Reef with welk egg case models by Sarah Simons. At the center of this heap is a rock-pile covered with blue corals by Nancy Lewis.

Crocheted cactus flowers by Sarah Simons, made from graduated and mixed shaded of mercerized cotton.

Sarah works at the Center for Land Use Interpretation and the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, where she runs both organization's Center's bookstores, among many other activities. She has been a vital part of the Center's important publishing program and was a co-editor of the recent book Overlook: Exploring the Internal Fringes of America with the Center for Land Use Interpretation. In addition, she also works for the IFF, where she is director of publications and is responsible for overseeing production of IFF books, postcards and other printed materials.

No entry on this talented woman must fail to mention that Sarah is also one of the core contributors to the IFF Cactus Garden, for which she created a whole taxonomy of cactus flowers. Actually these graceful forms began their lives as corals, but they spoke to us so strongly of the desert that they helped precipitate a new installation of the Cactus Garden which debuted in Chicago in the Fall of 2007 and which remains one of the IFF's most delicate and lovely works.