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Satellite Reef – Latvia

Hyperbolic crochet workshop at the Musturs knitting club in Riga, Latvia. January 2009.
Workshop photos courtesy of Ingrida Birkante.

It was with great joy that the IFF learned that the women of Latvia are making a coral reef. This is especially beautiful news because Latvia is the home country of Dr Daina Taimina, inventor of hyperbolic crochet. The Latvian Reef Project was initiated by Tija Viksna, a fiber artist and owner of Gallery Consentio, a small craft store and gallery in the Latvian capital, Riga. On January 12, 2009, the Latvian Reef got under way seriously with a Hyperbolic Crochet Day held at the Musturs (Latvian for "pattern") Knitting Club. With help from Dr Taimina, Tija had prepared a short introduction to the Reef Project and a helpful handout flier for participants. It was the first in a series of workshops that will be held throughout the year, leading up to the debut of the Latvian Reef in Gallery Consentio in August.

Writing about her project in an email, Tija explains:

"As Latvian women are extremely passionate about knitting, stitching, crochet or any other kind of handwork, the project has found _very_ many ‘ears to hear’ and hands to crochet!! The Latvian Reef should be ready by the beginning to middle of August. It will be firstly exhibited in our gallery, because we could not find other place in Riga. But we do hope that when the people will see all the beauty of the creations, we will be invited to exhibit in other places. We have already received some invitations from places outside Riga."

Hyperbolic crochet coral forms made by Latvian Reefers. Photos by Guna Meija.

In addition to the Latvia Reef itself, Tija has also instigated a schools' project "dedicated to the Reefs and the Baltic Sea." Children from all over Latvia have been learning to crochet corals and almost 50 schools have participated so far. Their models will be brought together for a special exhibition, opening at Gallery Consentio on May 30. The schools project, which was launched in January 2009, is co-led by Laila Strada, principal of the Children's Art School of Mazsalaca.

Says Tija:

"Our main idea was to inspire the kids to take a moment to think about the environment, about our sea, about things they can personally do to express their care and to make the situation become better. We are inviting the children to dedicate their handwork to the Baltic sea, as the waves can also look like hyperbolic planes, and our sea is also threatened. If we are lucky enough to find some sponsors, the exhibition could travel to several cities in Latvia starting September, when the kids return to schools after the vacations."

Dr Daina Taimina has also crocheted a special hyperbolic plane dedicated to the Baltic sea that will be exhibited alongside the childrens’ work.

A tiny hyperbolic crochet coral under development in the hands of a Latvian Reefer.

Tija has posted information about the Latvian Reef on her Gallery Consentio website.

She has also created a blog to showcase the Latvian Reefers' work:"where all the already made corals gather to make a virtual reef. Just to give the ladies a feel that the small pieces each of them is creating while being at her home, are a part of something growing large and beautiful when put together."

Hyperbolic crochet workshop at the Musturs knitting club in Riga, Latvia. January 2009.
Workshop photos by Ingrida Birkante.

Writing about her project, Tija tells us:

"One thing we have, probably, done different then in other places where the Reef has been or is crocheted, we, with my collegue Ilze Sauleskalne - who is the biggest help with the project - have been giving free hyperbolic crochet workshops in several Day Care Centers for intelectually and/or mentally challenged. As the principle of this 3D crochet is so simple, it is easy to learn and makes fun creating different forms and shapes."

"Why I am doing all this, is only because of the immense joy to see how the people can co-work, co-operate, co-think on a theme so critically significant to all of us. (And that at the moment when many people in Latvia are losing their jobs, becoming not able to pay debts, feeling miserable while seeing that the government has made huge mistakes, which are not to correct any more... ) If only few of the crocheters will continue to live being aware of the things she/he can do for the health of the environment, then all my effort will have been worth it."

Hyperbolic crochet coral forms made by Baiba Pilane. Photos by Baina Pilane.

We at the IFF are deeply moved by the communal spirit of the Latvian Reef project and we applaud Tija's remarkable efforts. We hope that other galleries in Latvia will offer to exhibit the Latvian Reef and the children's exhibition. We hope that we, too, will one day have the pleasure of seeing both shows.

Seen here - above and below - are some of the emerging works from Riga.

Dace and her hyperbolic shawl at the Musturs Knitting Club in Riga.

Latvian women have a long tradition of handicraft and before they discovered the Reef Project they were making shawls with the characteristic crenellations of hyperbolic crochet. There are now hundreds of these shawls all over the country, and they have become a kind of emblem of the Musturs Knitting Club. Tija is inviting all Reefers to wear their shawls to the opening of the Latvian Reef in August, which should surely make for "an awesome view."

In her work on the Latvian reef, Tija is helped by her "closest collegue and best friend" Ilze Sauleskalne. "Even though Ilze does not crochet," Tija says, "she was the author of the idea to make hyperbolic crochet workshops at the Day Centers. I also would like to mention my Mom, Biruta Jansone, who does help me a lot with good advise and support."

Invaluable support for the project comes from the handcrafters’ club “Musturs” – see:

Tija Viksna at home in Latvia, crocheting a hyperbolic coral made from small left-over pieces of yarn that she has collected over the years.

Here is what Tija says about her own handicraft practice:

"First of all I am an extremely creative person in any aspect. I truly need all the knitting, crochet, embroidery and all the other handicrafts as well as the designs of interiors, landscapes and gardens – all the creative work I am doing on daily basis. That is something I can’t live without. I put all my heart and soul, experience and knowledge in it."

Tija Viksna's hyperbolic crochet homage to the Baltic Sea and coast.

Describing her gallery in Riga, Tija writes:

"My gallery is a place where artworks of various Latvian and foreign artsists, designers and crafters are displayed. A special accent is put on HANDwork. I also have started a very special project: about every 3 months there is a collection of 12 artworks (The Special Dozen) on some previously defined theme created. The thing that is special about it, is that these works are created by co-working of at least two artists/designers/crafters. The process goes like this: one of them creates some pieces and then entrusts his/her works to another person/artist, who then works on them from this point. There are no terms or conditions of what is or is not allowed to do with the half completed works. There is full freedom of creativity allowed. With full respect to the work of the first artist, of course. I am sure - and I have already experienced it in life - that in these time of mistrust and fear, and considering that artists are a very egocentric and self-sufficient folk, this is a very beneficial, healthy, and really worth-it game to play."

For photos of some of these collaborations see the following web pages: - 12 Symbolic Crowns (Tija in co-creation with her mother -- painter Biruta Jansone). Tija crocheted the elements and details, posted them to Biruta packed in a box and Biruta put them together to crowns. 12 Stones in Woolen Shawls (Tija and textile artist Kristine Rutka). Kristine made the felting, Tija did the embroidery. - 12 Collars (a co-creation by Biruta Jansone (painting on silk) and Jutta Ruka (modeling and sewing)) - 12 wood+textiles sculptures “My Father’s Birds in Venice”, Tija in co-creation with her father – graphic artist and sculptor Janis Roberts Jansons). "Father made the wooden sulptures, then handed them to me only knowing that I am going to add some “textile art”."

Hyperbolic crochet homage to the Baltic Sea by Dr Daina Taimina, entitled "Land and Sea".
The piece was specially made as a contribution to the Latvian Reef, to which Dr Taimina is acting as an advisor, supporter and inspirer.
Photo courtesy of Dr Taimina.