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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Words of Wisdom from Hyperbolic Coral Crocheters

Written by Sarah Barnes

You may recall Dearbhaile and Jocelyn writing about their trip to see the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef at The Hayward last month. As they said at the time, this man made reef (partly put together by keen crotheting volunteers using recycled materials) draws attention to the plight of the coral reef that is being destroyed by our disposable lifestyle; ‘Over 50 years plastic trash has accumulated in the North Pacific Ocean and is now a mass that is 4 times the size of England and 30m deep. Consequently, the coral reef is disappearing at a rate five times faster than the rainforest; each year 3,000 square km is obliterated.’

Whilst making pom poms at Amy Lamé’s Pom Pom International event at ‘Prick Your Finger’, I was lucky enough to bump into some of the volunteers who had put their time and crocheting skills into forming part of the Crochet Reef. Crafty activists Alex Willumsen and Khadija Ibrahim were kind enough to take the time to pause their pom pom making and tell me all about how they got involved in the reef.

Taking a well earned break from pom pom making are (L>R) Gemma, Khadija and Alex.

“We saw an email going out saying crocheters were needed to contribute to this coral reef,” Alex tells me “So we stepped up to the plate and we attended.”

“We’d never crocheted in our lives either.” Khadija goes on, “So it was a bit of a challenge, but so much fun. It’s very democratic, anyone can go and add to it. You don’t even have to be very good! We felt very welcome.”

“Crochet is a very forgiving craft” Alex says, almost thankfully “The crocheted coral reef has imperfections but, as in nature, things don’t always turn out perfectly”

Khadija agrees; “It does represent nature in a way. I like the word organic to describe the process, it’s very organic the way people just come and add their pieces. It kind of grows.”

Of course, the crocheted reef isn’t just an aesthetic wonder. It’s very existance aims to highlight the fact that litter, dumped by humans without a second thought, is eroding the natural beauty of real reefs. “You had to crochet with recycled material so it was a little bit of a challenge.” Alex says “We used cassette tape which is quite sticky and quite difficult to crochet with. You know what, though, a Waitrose bag makes a lovely pattern. The white and the green looks lovely!”

“We’d never done anything like this.” Khadija admits “We just went to this one workshop and the first piece that we ever made went on display.” “Honestly, that was such a sense of achievement.” Alex beams.

Apparently Chicago is the next place the reef will visit. As we contemplate the organic nature of the reef, a reef that is growing with it’s contributors (“About another 10 people attended on the day we went, but there were several sessions.” Alex tells me) the mind boggles at how large the reef may become as it makes it’s journey across the globe.

“It’s accompanying a professionally made coral reef that’s going on display in the Hayward gallery” Khadija explains. “But,” Alex interjects “the amateur one is actually better!”

We are then joined by Gemma Tucker, a fellow pom pom maker and fledgling crafter (“I once made a whole dress out of crisp packets, if that counts?” she says) and it’s a good opportunity to talk about Pom Pom International. I ask Gemma if she has enjoyed her pom pom making experience;

“It’s a very therapeutic thing to do.” she says, and when I ask her if pom poms might change the world she responds positively; “Definitely!”

“There’s something about doing a craft which makes conversations come to the surface that wouldn’t normally be there,” Alex contemplates “and I think that’s very interesting While your hands are occupied your mind is more free to wander.”

Let’s hope that all these crafty minds can help wander us towards a brighter future!


The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef can be seen in the Hayward Project Space and Royal Festival Hall Level 2 Foyer until the 17th of August.

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