A couple of weeks ago, to help allay the stress of the assessment and exhibition at City Lit, I spent a day at the gardens of Wakehurst Place with a group called Forces in Translation (FiT).
FiT is a collaboration between basketmakers, anthropologists, and mathematicians – a very interesting interdisciplinary group. At Wakehurst Place they were examining the structures of plant growth, particularly spirals and hyperbolic loops, and how they might be incorporated into basketry.
Spirals are fairly self-explanatory. In mathematical terms, hyperbolic surfaces have negative curvature (a flat surface has zero curvature, while a sphere has positive curvature). We fibre artists, however, would simply call them frills or ruffles :-). In the textile world the most famous example of hyperbolic geometry is probably the crocheted coral reef.
Geraldine Jones is a basketmaker who specialises in cycloid weaving, a looping technique that she has used to produce hyperbolic forms.
We had a go ourselves using rattan. To produce the ruffles, or negative curvature, you have to increase the number of loops quite drastically on each round. This was my piece after a couple of rounds – no ruffles yet!
Geraldine worked on a much larger scale – here’s the piece she was working on!
In the meantime, Hilary Burns was showing visitors how to make willow spirals, using a type of plaiting technique.
All in all, it was a fascinating day in lovely surroundings.
Find out more about Forces in Translation here.