Cryptography Quilt – Fabrication

Cryptography Quilt


Back of the first maquette (prototypwe of the Cryptography Qui;lt on the right)

The Cryptography Quilt was designed and fabricated by Dominique Ehrmann, Li-Mei Lim and Mary Williams. It was part of Dominique’s design from the very beginning. Even in the earliest ⅛ scale maquette, presented at the Joint Mathematical Meeting 2020, one can already recognize the Cryptography Quilt in blue and white tones, with its big central padlock. (In contrast, the reverse, which would ultimately become the Great Doodle Page, was one of the last components to “gel”.)

Name of each block
Visual of the blocs

The subjects and design of the individual blocks in the Quilt were discussed in many (Zoom) meetings by Dominique, Li-Mei and Mary. Blocks were put together by each of the three fabricators, and pieced together and bound into one large quilt by Dominique.

Sketch of Li-Mei

From drawings to quilt blocs

In 2022, at its very first exhibition venue, in the flagship building of the US National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC, the Mathemalchemy installation fascinated Gilles Brassard, one of the cohort of new International NAS Members joining in April ’22. He spent hours discovering many aspects of the installation, and was delighted to find that Mathemalchemy’s artistic director Dominique Ehrmann was a fellow Quebecquois. When he expressed his regret that the Cryptoquilt contained no panel on quantum cryptography, Dominique offered to explore the addition of a quiltlet that would feature quantum cryptography.

On the plane back to Montreal, Gilles sketched for Dominique a drawing made by his collaborator Charles Bennett, which playfully illustrated the quantum algorithm for secure key distribution that Gilles and Charles had designed together. Dominique checked with the other members of the Cryptoquilt group; after they agreed with her addition of a quiltlet on this new cryptographic topic, several months of discussion followed among Gilles, Charles, Dominique and Ingrid Daubechies; the latter ended up making a 3D virtual model to find the best viewing angle for Dominique.

Once a drawing was approved by all parties, including vivid and alert frogs, jumping or not, Dominique made the new small quilt. She had just enough fabric pieces left (from the fabrication of all the other Cryptoquilt blocks, and also of the leaf border for the verso) to make it work. The new quiltlet was ready just in time to be attached to its larger sibling just before the opening of the Boston University exhibit, in January 2023.

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