In June, Malin Kristine Graesse submitted her master’s thesis ”The Weaving World of Deep Ecology and Textile Design: Locating Principles of Sustainability at Austvatn Craft Central”, which will defended in august 2017.
In 1970, a social scientific research project, mapping the socio-political conditions of Nord-Odal municipality, put into effect their vision of a craft central that would offer employment, solidarity and community self-reliance. The project was named Austvatn Craft Central. With Austvatn Craft Central, traditions of home craft as supplementary income and potential for social betterment, was revitalized. This thesis seeks to locate principles of sustainability within the ideology and practise of Austvatn Craft Central, by analysing the enterprise in light of the philosophy of Arne Næss and the ideas of William Morris.
What seems to unite the philosophical assessment of Næss, the poetics of William Morris and the practical design endeavours of Austvatn Craft Central, is a deep-founded respect for nature. These principles might not have been explicitly articulated at Austvatn Craft Central, as they were by Morris and Næss—but the focus on local production, natural raw materials, respect for the local community, and the pursuit of re-orienting craft towards social responsibility, testifies to an understanding of interconnectedness and co-dependence—key concepts in both Morris and Næss.
For Morris and his compatriots, human well-being could only take place within a system that was established in close connection to nature. Nature was understood as their home and source of inspiration, in all practical as well as ideological endeavours. Næss realised that ecological principles, such as that of symbiosis and diversity, had to be incorporated into every aspect of social systems as well. In relation to production of commodities, local, climatic, cultural, and geographical particularities had to be incorporated into the whole production process.
The key to designing for a sustainable future lies in the past—or at least so it has been suggested by ecologically concerned design theorists from William Morris to David Orr. This thesis seeks to investigate this claim by taking a close look at how historical technologies and practices informed the social design initiative of Austvatn Craft Central, the ecophilosophy of Arne Næss and the design ideology of William Morris. If the question as put forward by Orr is, how we can “[…] reimagine and remake the human presence on earth in ways that work over the long haul?”, then the thoughts and visions of the designer, the philosopher and the craft central may provide a history lesson for design today.