horribly threatened, even though they play an essential role in maintaining many food-fish stocks, and filtering out human pollution and sediment on its way to the sea. But they are neither as picturesque as we like our coastal landscapes to look, nor understood to be useful for the resource extraction model of capitalist economies. Yet I've long loved mangroves, since the summer of 96 when I was taken on a gentle tinnie* trip through some Coromandel wetlands: gliding calmly between these enigmatic trees at dusk felt romantic and soulful.
And last year, in Queensland, I was aesthetically seduced by the other-worldly, diverse and abundant mangroves of the tropics: I often think about how, why and where I could represent their sinuous patterned tangle of buttresses, roots and snorkels. Mangroves and vines are the motivation for my burgeoning collection of french knitting spools, but I've been preoccupied with making other environments, so the mangroves had to wait for the right opportunity.
My motivation for finally making some mangroves now can't be revealed until next year. Suffice to say that for the past couple of weeks I've been french knitting Avicennia marina pneumataphores- the oxygen breathing snorkels that enable mangrove roots to survive in salt water- the only tree that can live in the sea. Avicennia marina are the only mangrove species in New Zealand, and their pneumataphores look like sticks poking up out of the mud at low tide. If you stand on one in your bare feet it hurts, which is enough to make some people want to get rid of mangroves from their local beaches. But I think mangrove snorkels are one of nature's wonders, and I want to make a piece to help people appreciate them as beautiful and remarkable.
Each french knitted snorkel is attached to a small crocheted square. All my yarn was acquired by chance; some left over from the coral, some gifted and some found in second hand shops. I am determined not to buy any new yarn for this project so luck determined the colours and textures I could choose from. Luckily I am delighted with the colours of my snorkels, and managed to find three odd sized balls (that had obviously been unravelled from some previous purpose before arriving at the Salvation Army store) of natural grey wool, the exact colour of mangrove swamp mud at low tide.
Today I finished stitching the squares into a small rectangle, and experienced the wonder of blocking: transformation from wonky and misshapen to flat and square just by wetting and stretching while it dries. My next step will be to wire each pheumataphore so it stands up straight and stiff, then to mount the whole thing for wall hanging. I'll show you the finished piece, and reveal its destination in a few weeks.