Oh please, can I weld something? After a complicated series of turns and twists up a staircase, I make it to the mathematical jewellery making workshop at the College of Art‘s Silversmithing and Jewellery department. A large crowd of students from a wide range of courses is arranged around ancient desks, watching a slide-show about mathematics.
The topics? There are four of them, each related to a craft. Platonic solids, symmetrical regular three-dimensional polygons, made into earrings and pendants. Möbius strips, mystical objects with only one side, made into earrings. A superhelix, two spirals twisted around themselves to supercoil and become a helix in themselves, made from wire and shaped into pretty little things. And finally, Borromean knots: Any two of the three circles aren’t linked, but together they hold together in an indestructible Viking knot. Even Odin thought they were pretty neat. And we will make them into leather bracelets.
The amazement and confusion is thick in the room, and we‘re all itching to get started, chatting away and counting shiny beads.
Susan Cross helps us with her expertise in jewellery making, while Julia Collins and Martina Matrtajová provide a theoretical background to the maths side of the craft. Their instructions are clear and delivered patiently, and soon smiles spread around the room as dodecahedrons, Möbius strips and complicated jewellery knots are accomplished.
For those of us with a particular interest, there is ample opportunity to talk to the organisers from both a mathematical and a jewellery background to find out more about the techniques we are applying. At the end of the three-hour workshop (I could’ve stayed for longer!) we walk away with some new skills and lots of shiny pretty things.