2014 was an incredible year for green design – and here’s why. We’ve seen technological breakthroughs ranging from airborne wind turbines to Tesla’s first battery-swapping station and a floating device that could clean the world’s oceans.
In March of this year, we unexpectedly received an email with the subject line, “Asante Sana (Thank You) from Kenya!” It was sent by a woman named Nirvana, who is part of a team working to empower rural Kenyans with life and entrepreneurial skills. It seems that their goal is to inspire people to challenge the current social and cultural systems that tend to keep rural Kenyans impoverished. Read part of Nirvana’s first email to us:
Dear Alabama Chanin,
You inspired 39 rural Kenyan women and men to start a tailoring class to learn hand sewing! They thought they had to have a sewing machine to learn tailoring. They also thought only poor people sewed by hand!
My American team and I are living in rural Kenya to teach Kenyans how to move beyond survival entrepreneurship. When so many community members said they wanted a tailoring class, I had to get creative. I knew there had to be a way to empower these youth without having to buy or find at least 20 sewing machines. So I Googled “hand sewing.” Of course, that led me to Natalie and Alabama Chanin!
When they realized that hand sewing is an art that people will pay the big bucks for, they were clearly inspired. They also loved learning that Natalie started with second-hand clothes. Your story is so perfect for these students! Every Monday and Friday from 10:00 am to noon, a core group of at least 21 students meet together to inspire each other to master hand sewing as a means to becoming tailors.
Our first group project is to make three new curtains for the local church that graciously hosts many of our classes, sewing and others. The current embroidered velvet curtains are at least 20 years old and are falling apart! We’re using this project to teach them the value of criticism for the creative process. These youth have been taught to be good students, to do perfect work and to make no mistakes! What a challenge to open their eyes to the power of critique! We are learning how to teach the students to have the sensibilities of an artist.
Our first response was: Wow. We’ve so often marveled at the power of the internet, its potential as a teaching tool, and its ability to connect those all over the world in shared experiences. We know this to be true and have seen it in action, but this connection felt larger—like a confirmation that the Alabama Chanin mission of sustainability and advancement of the “living arts” has meaning on a global level.
Recycling plastic may be expensive, but we've got oceans of it to deal with, both literally and figuratively. This project will spin out enormous capacity for innovation -- Imagine the 3d printer tough enough to use recycled materials!
After witnessing their doodling artistry, it should come as no surprise that medieval scribes had a host of ideas to work around bad parchment, from webs of silk embroidery to cheeky illustrations, the blemishes were incorporated right into the physical texts. Although a different medium, the process is uncannily similar to the ancient Japanese process of repairing broken ceramics, Kintsugi, where fractures in pots or bowls are mended with precious metal, acknowledging the history of the imperfect object instead of discarding it.
Susan Davis Cushing's insight:
Akin to both boro and kintsugi. Perhaps we are beginning to find that Sustainability includes the art of innovative repair.
With another recently published book, author and professor Sass Brown took time to share her vision and take on sustainable fashion with rêve en vert. To date she has carved an illustrious path and remains one of the leading figures and pioneers of this sector of the industry. Her vision for ReFashioned: Cutting-Edge Clothing …
If you have missed @Sass Brown's incisive, highly moral writings on Ethical Fashion, do check her out! Clicking through will lead you to a wealth of resources, inluding a new book from her in October and links to many other pathways in this complcated push-me-pull-you world of great humanitarian concern.
Metropolis Magazine Design Education for a Sustainable Future Metropolis Magazine In his introduction to Design Education for a Sustainable Future, published recently by Routledge/earthscan, Rob Fleming says his premise “is remarkably simple.
For Riz Boardshorts, the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic choking up the world's oceans is 5.25 trillion pieces too many. The British swimwear label wants to transform some of that dross into the world's first 100 percent recycled board short.
The Future Living house took twenty six designers to create it, with every technologic leap analyzed to make sure all proposals were possible by 2050. It’s a paradigm shift in home resource creation and location with water using gravity to generate pressure and energy harvested from solar and wind. Air, water and waste are cleaned using a living bio wall.
Development in rural African communities is often limited by lack of access to reliable power – hospitals, schools and businesses all require a steady source of electricity in order to function. The government of Ethiopia just announced plans to address this need using the AORA Solar-Hybrid system. The AORA system is ingenious because it is modular and uses less water than other systems, but perhaps best of all, the concentrated solar tower looks like a gorgeous energy-generating tulip high in the sky.
This is a great step in the right direction: a company can only be truly sustainable by creating work, not just giving away a pair of shoes in an effort attract American teens to cause-related marketing. Tom's success has allowed it to move to a full loop, giving real skills to those in need. Kudos to Toms for closing the loop! "Feel good" moves to the real do-good!
The CSPA provides a network of resources to artists and arts organizations by gathering and distributing information from partnering information sources, and through the development of special initiatives designed to enable sustainable practices...
Susan Davis Cushing's insight:
The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts aggregates amazing projects which deserve attention. You'll be seeing lots more of them here. Check out the the first in a a series I'll be posting here.
There’s nothing wrong with “art for art’s sake,” the notion that works of art don’t require a justification or need to serve a higher purpose. But it’s also kind of cool when they do transcend that philosophy and send a specific message.
That’s certainly the case with artist Michael Jantzen’s design for his Eco-Seed Sowing Machines. The solar-powered structures would contain a large number of flower seeds that would be automatically released in small amounts whenever evidence of environmental degradation was observed around the machines.
Jantzen calls the project “a symbolic public art response to environmental degradation,” and he’d like to see the machines located in places around the world where environmental damage is the worst.
Susan Davis Cushing's insight:
Imagine a piece of art that would blossom where environmental destruction is the worst, drawing more attention to the area as signals cause it to activate into a work of flowering beauty. Would it get your attention? Would it be a call for action? When funded, this artist's designs will change some landscapes significanlty.
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