Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

March 20 – June 11, 2010
Science Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin

Toxic Reef, crocheted from plastic shopping bags and cast-off plastic debris.

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During Spring 2010 the Crochet Coral Reef was on exhibition at the Science Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin. Founded in 2008, Science Gallery was established for the purpose of doing exhibitions at the intersection of the sciences and the arts. The setting of the gallery within a college context enables a unique collaboration between curators and an academic community. For each exhibition, science and engineering students are trained as “mediators” to work as on-site guides engaging visitors in discussions and demonstrations of the underlying science behind the art.

The installation included a purpose-built Maths Chapel, a newly created Bleached Bone Reef, and a wild, site-specific incarnation of our all-plastic Toxic Reef.

For the Crochet Reef, Science Gallery was a perfect setting for the mathematics underlying the project –  the gallery floor is laid out in the pattern of a Penrose Tiling, a 2D mathematical “tessellation” that reflects symmetries of higher-dimensional hyperbolic spaces. The room asserts its own identity — the very opposite to the canonical ‘white cube’ — and for Reef, the ensuing mix of styles added up to aesthetic whole more than the sum of the parts, a look we describe as Alice-in-Wonderland on Acid.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • A specially built “Holy Jewel Room” displaying delicate works by the Reefs’s most skilled Core Contributors, in a series of Pod World vitrines.
  • A new pop-art wonder-work by the mysterious Dr Axt, entitled Reeficus Yellownicus, plus her original crocheted Reeficus in red, white and pink – that inspired a Bjork costume.
  • An Irish Satellite Reef created by the people of Ireland.
  • A section of the Latvian Reef, along with a selection of hanging panels from the Latvian Schools Reef.

The Irish Satellite Reef was organized by Irene Lundgaard and Orla Breslin with contributions from Felt Makers Ireland.

The Latvian Satellite Reef was coordinated by Tija Viksna of Gallery Consentio in Riga. The Latvian Schools Reef was co-led by Tija and Laila Strada of the Children’s Art School in Mazsalaca.

The Crochet Reef Project has been supported by grants from the Annenberg Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Norton Family Foundation.

Dr Axt’s Reeficus Yellownicus.

Photo by Dr. Axt
Reef sculptures in gallery

Irish Satellite Reef. During 2009 and 2010 women across Ireland began making corals, bringing a high level of crafting skill. A focus of their reef was an elegiac bleached section, featuring pieces of Irish lace.

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View of crochet coral reef sculptures installed in gallery next to windows.

The Latvian Reef (detail). A special feature of the Latvian Reef, which is showing on the second floor of the Dublin gallery along with the Irish Reef, is several ingeniously composed hanging ‘pods’ that bring together the work of many individual Latvian crafters in an anthropomorphic dangling delight.

View of crochet coral reef sculptures installed in gallery next to windows.

The Irish Reef (detail) seen here at the top of the stairs on the Science Gallery’s second floor.

Crochet coral reef sculptures installed in gallery.

Another vibrant ‘pod’ from the Latvian Reef, hanging in front of the IFF’s signature orange wall. In the background is our classic Carnation Coral Mound with Tendrils by Marianne Midelberg and Sarah Simons and a glimpse through to the Ladies Silurian Green (Kelp) Reef.

screen full of rainbow colored crochet corals

A detail of the Latvian hanging ‘pods’.

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Crochet coral reef sculptures installed in darkened gallery.

The “Maths Chapel”. This special feature of the Dublin exhibition allowed us to focus on the mathematics behind the Crochet Reef Project. The room contained two original prints by M.C. Escher from his famous Circle Limit Series representing hyperbolic space, as well as a series of pedagogical crochet models by Dr. Daina Taimina. The Eschers were kindly lent by collectors who are friends of the Science Gallery: Ron and Barbara Cordova who lent Circle Limit III, and Mr and Mrs Paul Firos who lent Circle Limit IV. We thank the all for their generosity.

Crochet coral reef sculptures installed in darkened gallery.

Surrounding the Math Chapel was the exhibition’s ‘Holy Jewel Room’ in which we displayed many of the Reef’s finest works by our most skilled and dedicated Contributors, including our remarkable Beaded Reefers: Sarah Simons, Rebecca Peapples, Sue Von Ohlsen and Vonda N. McIntyre. Each work in the room was displayed in a small lighted vitrine like a series of reliquaries. The darkened space with its pools of light and the dramatic vista of the Penrose Tiling floor added up to an exquisite Jewel-like whole.

Crochet coral reef sculptures installed in darkened gallery.

‘Holy Jewel Room’ vitrine featuring electroluminescent wire coral pieces by Eleanor Kent.

Crochet coral reef sculptures installed in darkened gallery.

‘Holy Jewel Room’ vitrines. Left: a composition from the Beaded Reef, with pieces by Rebecca Peapples nestled in with iridescent models by Sue Von Ohlsen. Right: a flotilla of Beaded Jellyfish by Vonda N. McIntyre.

Lace doilies as part of installation in darkened gallery

‘Holy Jewel Room’ vitrine featuring staghorn corals by our new Japanese contributor Mieko Fukuhara. Each of these delicately grown pieces has a small magnet crocheted into its ‘roots’ to make it elegantly free-standing! In the foreground is Sarah Simon’s tiny, precisely-designed Diatom Book.

Crochet coral reef sculptures installed in darkened gallery.

‘Holy Jewel Room’ vitrine featuring beaded works by Anita Bruce and Pom-Pom Towers by Arlene Mintzer (also from her Garden of Aqua Flora Collection).

Detail of a sketchbook.

Holy Documents. Since the Reef’s inception, we’ve been collecting ephemera from our contributors. Shown here were a dozen from our archive. Left: letters from Dr. Axt. Right: price tags from doilies by anonymous Chinese factory workers.

A woman making adjustments to hanging crochet coral reef sculptures.

Christine ‘hangs out’ with the Latvian pods as the sun goes down on opening day.

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IFF Core Reef Contributors:

  • Christine Wertheim and Margaret Wertheim (CA / Australia)
  • Sarah Simons (CA)
  • Evelyn Hardin (TX)
  • Anna Mayer (CA)
  • Dr Axt (OR)
  • Heather McCarren (CA)
  • Helen Bernasconi (Australia)
  • Marianne Midelburg (Australia)
  • Barbara Wertheim (Australia)
  • Helle Jorgensen (Australia)
  • Anitra Menning (CA)
  • Shari Porter (CA)
  • Vonda N. McIntyre (WA)
  • Ildiko Szabo (UK)
  • Nancy Lewis (VT)
  • Sue Von Ohlsen (VA)
  • Rebecca Peapples (MI)
  • Clare O’Callaghan (CA)
  • Eleanor Kent (CA)
  • Kathleen Greco (PA)
  • Aviva Alter (IL)
  • Catherine Chandler (IL)
  • Nadia Severns (NY)
  • Arlene Mintzer (NY)
  • Anita Bruce (UK)
  • Mieko Fukuhara (Japan).


  • Ann Wertheim
  • Elizabeth Wertheim
  • Quoin
  • Alicia Escott
  • Erika and Monika Simmons
  • Pate Conaway
  • Paula Peng
  • Allie Gerlach
  • Spring Pace
  • David Orozco
  • Karen Frazer
  • Karen Page
  • Lynn Latta
  • Barbara Robinson
  • Kristine Brandel
  • Cindy Bennish
  • Diana Simons
  • Dagmar Frinta
  • Jill Schreier
  • Pamela Stiles
  • Barbara Van Elsen
  • Njoya Angrum
  • Siew Chu Kerk
  • Jessica Stapp
  • Kat Ramsland
  • Barbara Wakesfield
  • Amber Reyes
  • Ranu Mukherjee’s class at CCA
  • Katy Bevan
  • Rosy Sykes
  • Beverly Griffiths
  • Jane Canby
  • Jennifer White
  • Sharon Menges
  • Linda Shirey
  • Ellen Davis
  • Tane Clark
  • Nancy Yahrous
  • Barbara Robinson
  • Shirley Waxman
  • Lily M. Chin
  • Sally Giles
  • Jemima Wyman

Plus unknown doillie makers and Chinese factory workers.

Exterior facade of a museum covered with glass.

Science Gallery, Dublin

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