2018 was my first year of not being a paid employee and someone recently asked me to list the highlight. Having retired from over thirty-five years of full-time work, I was exploring different horizons – craft, writing, editing, exercising, volunteering. Much of this required me to step away from my natural inclination for solitude- perhaps I should produce a retirement for introverts guide.
Anyway, I’d like to share this particular highlight with you.
Contibuting to a community art installation
The 2018 Commonwealth Games came to the Gold Coast, my home of the past twenty years. A friend-of-a-friend encouraged me to apply to be part of a community artwork – Urchins in Australia. The application process was quite a serious affair and I wondered if perhaps I was aiming far higher than my crochet skills would allow.
When I was selected, I was delirious with excitement and pride. I trotted down to the local café, temporary home of the project curators. Here, I collected two large spools of 3mm white, double-braided polyester cord and a pattern which was described in text and accompanied by a chart with hieroglyphs that I had seen in crochet pattern books and dismissed as ‘all too hard’ for me! All I needed, I was advised, was a 5mm crochet hook and my crochet skills.
Doubt clouds my confidence
I got stuck into the project immediately, and soon became overwhelmed by pangs of doubt and inadequacy. The cord was thick and awkward to handle; the hook didn’t seem large enough for the job. Where I had imagined delicate, lacy motifs, the patterns represented huge, 40 cm pices! I crocheted, unpicked it, crocheted, unpicked it, over and over. I just couldn’t achieve anything like the design on the chart! I needed help, but this would mean I had to ‘fess up that I wasn’t the skilled artisan I had professed to be. Swallowing my pride, I contacted the curators who kindly provided me with phone numbers for others who were creating the same shapes, as well as the link for a Facebook page.
This was the start of some beautiful online relationships – turns out I wasn’t the only one having issues – what a relief! The support of my fellow-volunteers was amazing. One lady invited me to her weekly craft group where I could sit and talk through the pattern interpretation; another posted photos of the piece as she completed each section; one person humorously posted a pic of her crochet hook – end broken off from the intense pulling and twisting; another complained of the blisters on her hands. The feeling of support though social media was amazing.
In the pic below, you can see some of us in front of one of the urchins. Each Urchin is 5 metres wide and 3.3 metres tall, made from 17,000m of white polyester rope.
It was pretty special to see how each of our parts formed a beautiful mobile sculpture. If you would like to read about the technicalities of the project, please have a look at the article below.
Story adapted from ‘Urchins in Australia’:http://choishine.com/urchins_australia_concept.html
The Urchins in Australia are a newly commissioned super-scaled crochet artwork with crochet patterns made for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, Festival 2018. Creator Jin Choi borrowed from the cultural and natural elements found in Queensland to design the lace patterns. Motifs represented the state’s ubiquitous Flying Foxes, indigenous Lace Monitor Lizards, black and white Nerite Sea Shells in Bargara, and combine these unique natural elements with visual symbols from the Commonwealth.
Volunteer local community residents of Gold Coast and Queensland created and assembled the motifs and patterns created by Choi+Shine.
INTERACTION WITH THE CITY, PEOPLE AND NATURE
The Urchins, with their diaphanous lace form and alluring formation, celebrate the spirit of the city during this exciting time. The project is a community artwork that engages local volunteers who crochet motifs according to the same patterns. This community engagement ensured the artwork became as meaningful and significant.
The Urchins interact with natural light during the day, and glow when illuminated at night. With penetrating low sun at dusk, the lace appears to be glowing while the long, while elongated shadows are ever-changing with the wind. The kinetic nature of the Urchins allows for flowing and rhythmic movement throughout the day reminiscent of the endless waves of the ocean. The lace filters the beautiful sunset at Appel park while the dappled light from the water surface reflects onto the glistening lace. At night, the mysteriously hovering and glowing large Urchins create a sense of magic as if time has stopped.
THE URCHIN STRUCTURAL SYSTEM
The Urchins are made of a hand crochet fabric shell held in tension over a metal frame that is suspended from Dyneema cables, fastened to steel trusses hold the Urchins in place. Because the structure is lightweight, the suspending cables are thin, and barely visible during the day.
The crochet fabric shell is illuminated by multiple white spotlights, creating the illusion of an evenly glowing structure. Each Urchin’s membrane uses about 17,000 metres of polyester cord, with each Urchin weighing about 110kg.
Jin designed the Urchins for simple installation. The 20 segmented panels come together with a series of metal ribs at ground level at the site; later they are suspended and anchored to a top and bottom ring.