A community coral reef

By Carol Frohlich, Indianapolis Crochet Guild

It takes a community to make a coral reef? Yes! And the Indiana Satellite Reef of the Crocheted Hyperbolic Coral Reef is truly a community art project. In partnership with the Indianapolis Crochet Guild are library groups, a Brownie troop, The Caring Place (an adult day care facility), musicians from the Indianapolis Philharmonic Orchestra, Girl Scouts, staff and volunteers from the Conner Prairie fiber and textiles group, the Franklin Weavers and Spinners, Fishers High School knitting club, Riverside Junior High School, homeschoolers, Avon Junior High School, Indiana State Museum patrons, staff and volunteers. All together, more than 100 people from ages 6 to 92 are crocheting for a cause!

Recently, 16 inmates of the Indiana State Women’s prison, under the supervision of Anna Brown, joined our efforts. These women have made hats and blankets for the community, as well as many of the volunteer scarves for Super Bowl 2012. They seldom receive credit. Cindy DeCamp and I proposed the reef project to this group in June and these women were thrilled to show what they can do. The excitement was palpable! Three weeks later, Cindy and I were brought to tears by the beauty of what these women had done. A mermaid, a treasure chest filled with gold and jewels, trees, fish on dowel rods “swimming,” a dolphin, a sunken ship, an angel fish complete with a fish hanging out of its mouth. They created tree-like structures by coiling paper and then covering them with yarn.

We gave them some coral patterns, but most everything they made was done without a pattern and no special instructions as most everyone crochets in prison. Plastic hooks are the norm. All supplies are donated. Their workroom is an old home economics room, overflowing with projects. Each time we go we take extra supplies for these women. They made us feel so at ease as we crocheted together. We talked about our families, and the things we like to make for them. We heard many positive comments about this unusual project. So much inspiration came from these women dressed in beige!

Margaret Wertheim, the creator and founder of the hyperbolic crocheted coral reef, sent a box of brochures showing other reefs and the women were thrilled as they saw what is being done worldwide and knew they are now a part of it! I only wish these women could see the exhibit! We’ll take tons of photos and make a DVD for them. Their names will be on the donor banner with all the rest of the crocheters!

On our next visit, we’ll take additional booklets from the Institute for Figuring showing the math behind these amazing spheres.

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Telling the whole story

One of the goals of The Indiana Reef is to not only highlight the beauty and wonder of the world’s coral reefs, but also to share how these reefs are affected by human actions and natural events. It does not take much environmental change to stress coral reefs. A slight increase in temperature, growing pollution, disease and increased sedimentation all play a part in damaging coral reefs.

The Indiana Reef will have a section dedicated to showing how vibrant reefs are disturbed by these factors in a section of the exhibit known as The Toxic Reef. Volunteers creating these pieces have worked hard to present a reef that visually shows the stress that underwater coral are currently fighting. On some pieces, the colors of yarn are faded and pale while recycled trash pieces are also attached. The fading of color is one way a coral reef reacts to changes in its environment and is the beginning of a process known as bleaching, where sections of the coral begin to die and turns white. The death of coral affects all the organisms that rely on it as a link in the oceanic food chain.

Efforts are underway in many areas in the world to conserve and protect living coral reefs from environmental dangers. Scientists are currently researching how corals in certain areas of the world seem to adapt to environmental changes easier than others with the belief that these stressors may have happened in the past. For more information about coral reefs and bleaching, check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website.

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Bringing an ocean beauty to life … one stitch at a time

Carol Frohlich is a member of the Crochet Guild of Indianapolis and is coordinating the volunteer effort behind the creation of The Indiana Reef, a representation of ocean coral created through crochet, which will be exhibited at the Indiana State Museum from Sept. 1 – Oct. 31.  Recently, she and other volunteers came together for a work session to determine a plan on how many pieces of crocheted coral will be mounted for display. Currently, the group is experimenting with sewing the coral to upturned baskets.

Indianapolis Crochet Guild members and friends gathered together to make a coral reef. Since this was our first meeting, it was a time of trial and error, cheese, fruit and Mexican dip. We quickly learned to streamline our batting/backing process, making an outline of the basket first and then cutting and sewing these materials to the basket. Using strong thread and sharp needles, we found this to be very labor intensive. I think next time we’ll use hot glue for the attachments. The coral pieces still need to be sewn, no glue for the Stars!

What a pleasurable time we had! Each covered basket had several corals sewn on, and the results were stunning. The big corals were the “Stars” and were surrounded by smaller pieces. It took a lot of work to cover these baskets, and we soon realized that we need to ask for lots of small corals. An occasional fish, too! What began as a two-hour expectation ended four hours later. Thanks to this dedicated group, we now have an idea of how beautiful the coral reefs are and how much we need to protect them.

Interested in getting involved? Everyone is welcome to join in the effort to help make this exhibit a reality. We can’t do it without you! Whether you are an avid crocheter, or just a beginner, you can create a piece of beautiful coral that can be used in The Indiana Reef. For more information, or if you have questions, please contact Carol Frohlich of the Crochet Guild of Indianapolis at crochetcoral70@lightbound.com. And to learn more about programming and other activities related to The Indiana Reef check out the museum’s website.

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