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On the Science of Hyperbolic Crochet

Whilst preparing for a crochet workshop recently, I became engrossed in a thought pattern inspired by the work of Margaret Wertheim and The Institute for Figuring.

When I was at school I was good at textiles. I was also good at physics. I loved making images of atomic collisions and drawing diagrams with coded symbols. The hand drawn representation of scientific concepts helped to make complex ideas tangible and accessible, and my science books were filled with laboriously rendered illustrations, and hastily scrawled notes.

In the grown up world of binaries where the score is always science – one, craft – nil, it is enlightening to know that the tacit knowledge of textile makers is valued by a small number of science researchers and writers at the IFF.

After 2,000 years of just two types of space (the plane and the sphere) the theory of the hyperbolic plane in the 19th century was an enigmatic concept. In the early 21st century its form was made manifest – with a crochet hook and some wool, and it became known as ‘hyperbolic crochet’.

Now, as a plague of monstrous woolly sea slugs creep through art galleries and science institutions, I am reminded that behind every scientific representation there is an aesthetic decision. Images, models and diagrams are not just an alternative language– they are the result of an individual’s creative and artistic impulses.

At my school the art and craft studio was next to the science lab, and the door was always slightly ajar.

And then one day it closed.


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