Pink Craftie visits the coral reefs of the IFF February 21, 2007

Last night Cathy of California and I had the amazing chance to visit the Institute For Figuring headquarters in Highland Park and see their crocheted coral reefs before they travel to the Andy Warhol Museum. I was just wowed by the work — there were hundreds of individual coral pieces, arranged into incredible tableaus in every color you can imagine, on every flat surface, and everything was so tactile and layered and cool in person.

Christine and Margaret Wertheim of the IFF graciously invited me to take pictures, so Pink Craftie got to do quite a bit of exploring…

Pink Craftie's tour of the coral reefs at the Institute for Figuring

…and if there’s such a thing as a natural habitat for an adorable little pink-and-silver robot, I’d argue that it’s within a fancifully crocheted underwater ecosystem. Pink Craftie seemed right at home!

Christine gave us a personal tour of the reefs — two main configurations are going to Pittsburgh (and then Chicago) as a show, and many others are staying here in Los Angeles. Here she is with one of the most captivating pieces, a huge, remarkable orange reef that curves and curls in every direction.

Christine of the Institute for Figuring with one of the many coral reefs

This piece was made by twin artists in New York, out of pipe cleaners. It is just unbelievable to look at.

Pink Craftie visits the coral reefs at the Institute for Figuring

In addition to their beautiful, colorful and lively reefs, the IFF is creating a parallel project: a rubbish vortex — crocheted from plastic and trash — to simulate a huge and toxic underwater waste dump north of Hawaii. As all this plastic has inevitably found its way into the ecosystem, the ocean life around it is dying from ingesting it. The members of the IFF have been saving their trash and recycling for the last year to include in this rubbish vortex.

Last, Christine and Margaret told us about three of their most prolific contributors:

Helen Bernasconi is a mathematician and sheep farmer in Bonnie Doon, Victoria, Australia, who shears and dyes wool and spins it into her own yarn to crochet with. She creates complicated spreadsheets to record her designs — the coils and curls on these reefs are exquisitely specific. The colors are rich and deep and dark.

Pink Craftie visits the coral reefs at the Institute for Figuring

Marianne Middleberg, in Bendigo, Australia, uses all recycled materials in her work: for these pieces, she unravels thrift-store sweaters and crochets the reclaimed yarn — I love the detailed edging she adds.

Pink Craftie visits the coral reefs at the Institute for Figuring

And Christine and Margaret met Shari Porter of Rialto, California, through the Los Angeles County Fair last year, where all three of them showed their crochet work. She enthusiastically agreed to create reefs for the project, and she says her exuberant, colorful pieces are guided by the Lord, and she is the conduit for the design.

Pink Craftie visits the coral reefs at the Institute for Figuring

For more information on the Institute:

The Institute For Figuring website
IFF publications
IFF galleries online
IFF membership
IFF on flickr

The IFF is also exhibiting a new show, “The Logic Alphabet of Shea Zellweger,” at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, which opens on Saturday, March 3. Details are here. I’m looking so forward to it — hope to see you there.

And some other interesting crochet I’ve spotted recently:

Cathy of California visits the World Famous Crochet Museum in Joshua Tree
Diane of CraftyPod interviews Afya Ibomu, author of Get Your Crochet On

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