Christchurch Maths Craft Day 2017
by Phil Wilson and Jeanette McLeod
The first ever Christchurch Maths Craft Day was held on Sunday 18th June in the Great Hall at the Arts Centre, and was a great success. The day-long event combined eight hands-on craft stations with a series of public talks. Nearly 1,800 visitors tried their hands at a range of mathematical crafts including creating string art, folding an origami octahedron, building a fractal sculpture, making a Möbius strip, flexing a hexaflexagon, crocheting a hyperbolic plane, drawing and colouring mathematical objects, and exploring Penrose tilings. The craft stations and the large crafting area were staffed by an enthusiastic team of volunteers, drawn from University of Canterbury students and staff, and local school teachers. Doors opened at 10am, and the Great Hall was buzzing when Lisa Davies of One News arrived at 11am. Her piece on the Christchurch Maths Craft Day, including interviews with Jeanette and Phil, aired on the news that Sunday evening, and was shown later on Seven Sharp. The room continued to buzz all day long, and the clamour for some of the stations was so intense at times that the volunteers found the craft stations being pushed backwards by the weight of people! We were also delighted that Bunsen Café and Rutherford’s Den, next to the Great Hall at the Arts Centre, both reported being run off their feet with extra business from our visitors.
As well as celebrating maths and crafts, the Christchurch Maths Craft Day was also a celebration of the return of the University of Canterbury to the city centre, and a resurgence in city life after the 2010-2011 earthquakes. Following extensive restoration, the Great Hall has regained the beauty of its glory days when it was the Great Hall of Canterbury College, constructed in 1882. With its polished wooden floors, lofty ceiling, carved stonework, and giant stained glass windows, the space is an attraction in its own right.
At this event, Maths Craft were keen to celebrate the connections between science, art, craft, and history, and so we were delighted to partner with UC Arts and the Teece Museum of the University of Canterbury. UC Arts recently partially relocated to the Arts Centre, which was the site of the University prior to its move to Ilam in the 1960s, so the location couldn’t have been more perfect. One of our speakers, Dr Patrick O’Sullivan, Head of Classics at the University of Canterbury, gave a fascinating talk on the ancient Greek connections between maths and beauty while surrounded by the unique collection of ancient artefacts in the Logie Collection housed in the brand new Teece Museum. Many of our visitors also enjoyed the Museum, which had even higher visitor numbers that day than on its opening weekend.
Our morning speaker was Associate Professor Clemency Montelle of the University of Canterbury, who led a packed audience through a hands-on demonstration of the surprising amount of mathematics in our clothing. It’s not every day that a mathematician is seen publically tying children together with oversized t-shirts in the name of science! The audience was spell-bound and entertained while learning about the topology of clothing. Our final talk of the day was given jointly by Professors Hinke Osinga and Bernd Krauskopf of the University of Auckland. Hinke and Bernd spoke about the Lorenz manifold, a fascinating mathematical object which is important for understanding chaotic systems such as the weather. Hinke and Bernd worked out how to turn their mathematical calculation of the shape of the Lorenz Manifold into a crochet pattern, which Hinke then crocheted. They also commissioned a metal sculpture of the Lorenz Manifold. Their engrossing talk covered the maths, the craft, and the art of the Lorenz manifold and led to many discussions afterwards.
It was such a pleasure for the Maths Craft team to engage so many people in a wonderful atmosphere in a beautiful location, to be a part of Christchurch’s resurgence, and to see mathematics on the evening news. The event was a great success, for maths and for Christchurch, and we hope to be able to honour the requests of so many of our guests who said, “please do this again!”