Thursday, May 17, 2012

Crochet Mathematics: Clouds

wispy clouds adorn majestic mountains
Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy painting landscapes - while there are a few topics I enjoy painting, clouds have always amazed me. Something so wispy and soft - something that when touched will disapate to a molecular level right before your very eyes.

I spent hours as a child laying in the grass looking up at the sky, wondering where they were going, how fast they were moving, and what they would look like when they got there. We played the "shapes game" ... I still play it - even when my children aren't around.

There is something magical about them....

and mathematical.

And even better.... they can be crocheted.

The Concept
The first thing to understand is how clouds are formed. The actual formation starts on the ground. Water in or on the ground evaporates into the air. The rising air, through expansion, cools the water vapor and some of those molecules stick together faster than they are torn apart by their termal energy (Weather Questions, 2010). Then as these clumps occur, they form visible droplets or ice crystals and the cloud forms. If the drops are smaller, the top of the cloud will appear brighter on top and darker on the base (Weather Questions, 2010).

One type of cloud is the cujulus cloud, which is united by complex fractals. The topology of a cloud resembles that of couliflower.

Architect and future artist, Ciro Najle, spent years of his life designing more efficient fog collectors that assist people living in dry climates to gather water from the air. Being able to translate his knowledge of fog into art involved a serious amount of mathematics.

Crocheting the Concept
Close Up (Austen, 2012)
Najle's knowledge of fog and clouds allowed him to work with a team of over 40 crafters to create a mathematically correct cumulous cloud using crochet. The reason he chose crochet is because crochet is "the perfect medium for representing fractal structures because its surfaces can be subdivided again and again by varying the length of neighboring crochet lines" (Newitz, 2012, paragrah 2).  By being able to do this, the necessary curvature of the cloud is captured (Austen, 2012).

 The Hanging Display (Newitz, 2012)

To create the art on display in the basement of the exeperimental sci-art gallery, Le Laboratoire, Najle worked with several local Argentine crafters to create the panels representing 1,664 different diagrams that pinpoint the intersections of the yarn which form the shapes of the clouds. To be mathematically accurate in generating the shapes necessary to reproduce a crocheted cumulus cloud, the crafters square represents one of the models produced by Najle (Huffington Post, 2012).

The white yarn cloud hangs from the ceiling and is lit from above. It hands approximately 3 to 4 feet from the ground at its lowest point.  The shadows on the ground are familir - they are clouds.

The most amazing aspect of this art display is that it can be touched. People can walk through the folds of the crocheted cloud - touch them and admire them. The only thing these clouds do not do is disappear when touched.

While I have yet to find information about each diagram that Najle produced and the specific mathematics behind it, it doesn't make this piece any less breath-taking.

Austen, K. (2012). Touching the crocheted clouds. Retrieved May 17, 2012 from

Huffington Post. (2012). 'Cummulus': A mathematically accurate sculpture of crocheted clouds. Retrieved May 17, 2012 from

Newitz, A. (2012). Artist uses crochet to create mathematically accurate sculptures of clouds. Retrieved May 17, 2012 from

Weather Questions. (2010). How do clouds form? Retrieved May 17, 2010 from


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