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Craft and Sustainability


Reflections on ways of knowing and doing in the past, present and future 



Sustainable development is more than a concern with climate change and/or recycling. It is an emerging field of studies that pushes the boundaries of our thinking and action towards a paradigmatic shift in the way we look at the world, at nature and at humankind, raising awareness that the physical, social and intellectual worlds are interconnected and interdependent.

Craft, we argue, has an essential role to play in this paradigmatic transition to more sustainable societies. Exploration of the nature and practice of craft contributes both to alternative and more creative definitions of “sustainability”, and to current debates on the “persistence” of craft and its role in “modern” societies. Craft, we believe, can be seen no longer as existing against or in spite of modernity; on the contrary, in the context of sustainable development, it clearly emerges as “ a modern way of thinking otherwise” (Adamson, 2009:5).

Definitions of craft and sustainable development


There are many and diverse understandings of “craft”; we broadly define craft as “the application of skills and material-based knowledge to relatively small scale production” (Adamson, 2009:3). At the core of this definition is recognition of the process; of “making”.


Concerns for the environmental integrity of the planet and the need to achieve equitable development outcomes for all humans alive today and for future generations are inextricably linked. There is growing recognition suggesting that this concept also challenges our perceptions of the role of humanity. Sustainable development thus demands critical analysis both of planetary sustainability and of the economic, social, and humanistic project that lies at the core of the current environmental crisis.


On craft and sustainability

Such views of sustainable development promote changes in all realms of life including ways of thinking, modes of engaging with the environment and models of knowledge production. Craft offers a fertile alternative way of thinking about the world, and could be a catalyst for the re-assessment of how we choose to relate to the natural environment and with each other. It is this kind of consciousness, the awareness of one’s own human-ness, that is essential to achieving the transformation that sustainability requires.

The emphasis on “making” opens up new channels for transformative educational experience. The capacity to creatively engage with the ever-changing conditions of the wider environment, implicit in making, also lies at the core of the concept of resilience.

Craft provides opportunities to display concerns for material sourcing and the relationship of the maker with the natural world. The conceptual framework of sustainable development also offers support to craft. The potential to reconfigure our economic system towards a new understanding of prosperity and re-localisation that includes elements other than just the economic ones, provokes support for craft that aim beyond the development of full time enterprises. Craft can contribute to the building of re-localised, resilient communities.



Craft and sustainability engagement


We are engaged in a number of initiatives to explore the relationships between craft, art and sustainability. See below for further information on these activities.



For further insight to our views on craft and sustainable development, see:

Emilia Ferraro, Rehema White, Eoin Cox, Jan Bebbington and Sandra Wilson (2011) Craft and sustainable development: reflections on Scottish craft and pathways to sustainability. Craft + design enquiry 3: 1-26.




Who we are

Scoping Study on Craft and Sustainability in Scotland

Designing Environments for Life

Craft and Biodiversity

Other Activities

Other resources and partners


Jump to other Research Projects at SASI

More than GDP: Measuring What Matters

Designing the transition to sustainability: resourcing community resilience

Accounting for Biodiversity: Low carbon intellectual renewal

Craft and Sustainability

Designing Environments for life

Saving Energy at the Workplace

Sustainable Development Commission database