Friday, 23 September 2011

craft communities and sustainability

Connecting Craft and Communities is a networking project "to enable participants to examine the changing cultures, politics, practices and skills of Craft in the 21st century."
As part of that I attended a 2 day meeting at Dartington Hall focusing on crafting sustainability. It was a wonderful informal gathering and whilst folks were presenting short papers as a focus for disscusion others were knitting or embroidering.
I think we need to see a better picture of that wonderful roof
There were a bunch of good short presentations I'll just flag a couple of links the Small Is Beautiful project looking at small local businesses and shops in the Soth West, particularly the sort of place you can take stuff to get it mended, a declining asset that helped sustainability by keeping stuff in use and out of landfill.

Carolina Escobar Tello asked how material culture related to happiness. She presented good research showing that happiness does not corelate with degree of material consumption, that genuine happiness is more likely to be found in sustainable societies and that the happy planet index is a better judgment of well-being than GDP. Carolina felt that currently designers were merely meeting and adding to consumers desires, we need a new breed of designers to challenge how people live and meet thier true needs for a happy life.

Most interesting of the lot for me was Kate Fletcher (a good craft surname) 
She talked about sustainable design in fashion, not an industry we normally associate with sustainable thinking. Her current project "Local Wisdom" looks at the craft of use, where most clothing manufacturers loose interest the moment the garment is sold Kate is studying how people wear, wash, alter, mend clothes and particularly how some clothes develop more character and meaning which in turn keeps them out of landfill.

Finally Jaqueline Atkinson presented the results of research into quilting and wellbeing, see this Daily Mail write up and NHS critique whilst this was only a small qualitative survey it did beg the question why no more research has been done into this area. The benefits of art therapy for instance are well documented.

In the evening I ran a spoon carving session, good to get craft academics, making craft.

and over the way they were doing embroidery.

At the end of the 2 days we split into groups and discussed what we felt the key things to act on for a more sustainable future were and how we would achieve them. Here were our groups feelings.

Key goals

  • change peoples habits of consumption
  • move from passive consumers to active citizens
  • share products and services
  • reduce material and energy consumption
  • reconnect; with community, niegbours, family, friends, earth, nature
  • build safe positive communities
  • true materialism; a positive, sustainable and healthy way of relating to material stuff
And our means to getting there?
  • sharing skills, by sharing skills we also share values
  • encourage individuals to organise skill share events
  • use enabling spaces for events eg village halls
  • use digital media to spread the message
  • this was all beginning to sound rather like craftivism but with a broader range of crafts
  • finally we got rather idealistic and imagined a "social tax" where in your 70 years in society you had a duty to give something back.
Most important of all we felt the sustainable message had been rather sold as a negative message, all about doing without stuff that is fun, like petrol. We felt we needed to show that contrary to popular belief excessive consumption  does not bring happiness and that a simpler life with more time and less money is often more fun.

And on that note I went off to the beach.
the surf was a bit messy but I had borrowed a little surf kayak which was great fun.
This is my home from home, it even has a chopping block in the back for itinerant spooncarving.
My last comment on environmentalism is why don't we all avoid white? White clothes in particular simply do not work with any sort of environmentally friendly washing cycle. So having stayed one night in the rooms at Dartington hall my impact involved washing pure white sheets and towels and most folk no doubt throw away the soap bar after one use. That soap bar is made from palm oil no doubt grown on cleared rain forest land, I am buggered if I am going to use 2% of it and throw it away.

1 comment:

  1. Quite Right!! Waste not want not, isn't that's what it's all about?