Member events

Materials and resources

Alison McDonald
Wednesday Feb 23 | 2022


Explore hyperbolic geometry to make STEAM informed sculptures

Materials list

Prepare a few materials and tools before the workshop and follow along with Alison to make a sculpture using ‘hyperbolic geometry’.

You will need quantities of ‘loops’ and ‘ties’. Whether you prepare the minimum loops and ties or the maximum, you’ll be able to learn new and unconventional techniques.  

  • Collect or make 50–100 loops.
    • Collect loops from used materials such as pplastic bottle neck rings (e.g. milk, softdrink)
    • Make loops from used materials such as cardboard strips (e.g. cereal box) or plastic (e.g. milk bottle)
    • Make or purchase 50–100 ties to join loops
        • Small cable ties are ideal. Some hardware and discount stores sell packs of 500 in 4–5 colours for $5–$6 (e.g. Bunnings, Kmart)
        • Or make knots during the workshop using string tied into knots and trimmed.
    • Tools to cut and join strips for loop making and tie trimming
      • Scissors 
      • Box cutter
      • Stapler (regular size, not mini)
  • Timing tip!
    We made loops for the workshop using 2L milk bottles and we discovered the following…
    • 1 x 2L milk bottle makes 15 loops
    • 4–7 milk 2L milk bottles needed to make 50–100 loops
    • 4 minutes to make 15 loops = 16–28 minutes to make 45–100 loops

    Even if you don’t get the chance to prepare the materials, stay and view the workshop to see Alison in action while she shares key concepts about her approach to sculpture making.

    Alison McDonald, - Artist Townsville

    Alison McDonald’s 20-year art practice is based in Townsville. She creates artworks that explore and inspire social change by combining her passions of environment and recycling. The chosen media ranges in size from epic sculpture to microscopic jewellery. 

    McDonald’s work is shown in national and international group and solo exhibitions, including Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi and Strand Ephemera. Her artworks are also in collections of Royal North Shore Hospital, Visy Education Centre, Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville City Council’s Integrated Sustainability, Catholic Education, Central Queensland University, Rockfield Technologies, Energy Super, Monterey Bay Aquarium (California) and Stadiums Queensland. 

    McDonald completed her Bachelor of Visual Art (Hons) in sculpture and painting from James Cook University (JCU), then a Master of Art in Public Space at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She has also been artist in residence at Aberystwyth (Wales), and twice at Red Gate Gallery (Beijing). McDonald taught sculpture at JCU and TAFE (Technical and Further Education). Her solo exhibition Wanton, Wild and Unimagined at Umbrella Studio (Townsville) travelled nationally to 13 galleries from 2016 to 2019.

    Stimulus to explore before or after the workshop

    Artwork, stage show and exhibition: Ring cycle (2021) — Wearable Art Creatives (hyperbolic headpiece)

    Pose 2021

    Up close (Pinnacles Gallery)

    Daina Taimina, Mathematician, Cornell University
    Book: Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes — Tactile mathematics, art and craft for all to explore (2009)
    Video: TED Talk — Crocheting hyperbolic planes (2014, 16:55 minutes)

    This talk shares the story about how female mathematician Daina Taimina used crocheting to challenge stereotypes about mathematicians, because “mathematics is not scary when you can touch it and make it yourself”.

    Taimina discovered the value of making maths tactile when she used it to illustrate the complex concept of hyperbolic geometry to engage her university students so they could “hold theory in their hands”, to teach it ‘better’ than she experienced 20 years earlier as a university student herself. 

    Taimina’s talk also shares that she “learnt how to be an artist” when she was invited to exhibit her hyperbolic crocheted artworks.

    Margaret Wertheim
    Science + Art project: Crochet coral reef (PDF. 664KB)

    Mathematics Stack Exchange
    Diagram: Exponential growth

    Maths Craft Australia
    Guide: How to crochet a hyperbolic plane (PDF. 664KB)

    In the workshop, Alison will share a tour of her Townsville studio and key aspects of her art practice. For example, Alison innovatively combines traditional techniques for fabric making (e.g. crocheting, knitting) with techniques for making with plastic (e.g. tying, knotting) and metal (e.g. welding). Alison will also discuss processes for collecting unconventional discarded materials like plastic (e.g. bottles, lids, neck rings) and metal (e.g. hooks) en-masse to upcycle them into large-scale and public artworks using a range of sculpture techniques for joining and constructing (e.g. heating, drilling, hammering). With Alison’s guidance, she’ll expand our repertoire for using unconventional techniques and materials to make sculptures that extend our art making with a new range of possibilities.


    For junior and senior students, Alison’s sculpture making supports processes for projects to make collaborative artworks or independent responses with links to STEM learning. For example, some of her artworks use Maths concepts like hyperbolic geometry, negative curvature, exponential growth, adding, multiplying and patterns. Plus, many artworks also link to Science with themes related to the environment, sustainability and impacts of pollution on the ocean and wildlife. Also,  manipulation of hyperbolic geometry and negative curvature is found in nature and food, such as: leaves (e.g. holly), flower petals, lettuce, kale, banana, potato chips (e.g. Pringles), coral, nudibranch sea creatures, virus. Senior students may like to exploit the potential for using everyday materials, tools and techniques to make mixed media sculptures with contemporary approaches.