Transition Town Totnes (TTT)

Sustainable Makers is a group run by Richenda Macgregor at Transition Town Totnes which is exploring exciting initiatives to arise out of the inevitable changes following post peak oil production. I have been working with her and other artists/makers on the project and wrote the following statement expressing the aspirations of the group:

Transitional times raise questions that require us to re-evaluate our assumed directions and solutions based on currently held beliefs. For those willing to look towards new horizons across uncharted and perhaps formidable terrain, the inherent fears associated with change may gradually be seen as nothing less than the most appropriate challenge and an exciting opportunity of our time. This time of “post peak oil” has made us look back at a paradigm which offered routes to things which with hindsight didn’t produce the satisfaction we dreamt of. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the way we experience the everyday objects in our lives, where ownership has taken over from stewardship and acquisition from appreciation.

Nature creates forms that are simultaneously effective and beautiful, and we appreciate this because we recognise it as the same cellular content that connects us to all life and the living web of our own planet. We save and revere artefacts of those cultures where that reflection gives us a picture of their integrated connection to the land, whether through spiritual practice, seasonal celebration, daily life and death, or simple function. At this time it is hardly surprising that we turn to the remaining indigenous cultures of the world in the hope of finding solutions to the crisis of our own culture.

It is on that bridge where function and beauty merge that we find the expression of the craft makers. Theirs is the sensibility of balance between vision and material in the changing context of the time. They are in a unique position to respond to change. In scale, versatility, individuality, accessibility and adaptability the work of contemporary crafts people lies between large scale manufacturing industry and the purely expressive arts, and yet is capable of extending into either.

Aims and Objectives:

Sustainable Makers aims to:
• Support the development of new creative responses to cultural change and to offer a spirit of support and inclusivity in the search for new solutions to the ecological challenges that lie ahead.
• Encourage the making of work that does least harm to the environment by helping makers assess the ecological consequences of their practice and supporting them to change.
• Promote a greater understanding of the philosophy and practicalities of sustainable making to the larger community.
• Help the community be creative and discerning in developing their own awareness of the importance of choosing more sustainable solutions to everyday living, and the role hand made products may have in this.
• Create opportunities to exchange knowledge, share resources, develop new experimental practices, and to research and revive cultural traditions.

Social events:

Sustainable Makers is about community and integration within a locality, sharing values between craft makers, and the bigger picture of what we need to address culturally at a major transitional time. The end of peak oil production offers us a global symptom of social and practical problems, in our relationship to each other and the planet, and therefore the intention of Sustainable Makers is more than replacing the fast lane of consumerism with a set of remedial activities in an opposing fast lane.

Sustainable Makers is a group for all makers who want to be involved in exchanging their ideas, for those who are prepared to share responsibility and take an interest in developing the community. We will look at how we can broaden and enhance social, cultural and economic values within the community and exchange ideas and skills through semi-structured networking events. Makers, suppliers and retailers will be welcomed to take part in social events and celebrations. Those who want to be can be included in an accessible directory and database.

Within the ethos of Transition Town Totnes the development of an awareness of the importance of buying locally created products and creating from local materials in a conscientious way will be promoted, so it will be important to network with other Transition Town groups. This will give new opportunities for skills and methods exchange and to share different approaches.

The following plans are being considered:

1) Setting up a Sustainable Makers studio & workshop space suitable for several functions including:
• a combination of larger spaces for group work such as workshops/teaching & specialist technologies, and smaller individual units to be let to makers committed to researching and developing sustainable practice in their particular discipline (including possible short term incubator units for recent post graduates.)
• a range of specialist equipment and technologies within the communal workspace. These could include kilns for glass/ceramics, welding equipment, construction tools for wood and board, etc. (Inductions and supervision will be essential for this)
• IT facilities, Web production, marketing tools.
• an office/meeting room.

This could be set up as a “not for profit company”, with a membership basis. Rent would be charged for permanent workspaces, communal workspaces could be rented on an hourly basis, and specialist facilities could also be paid for on an hourly basis. Individuals would run their own businesses from their own workshop premises under normal rented conditions. The possibility to develop the premises as an Ecological Building College will also be considered. (Project to be developed depending on location and opportunities)

2) Exhibitions plotting new routes for sustainability with commentary & written output, such as the suggested themes of “Cradle to Cradle” tracing a products life cycle, or awareness raising activities such as an “Eco-train” to London. We will also arrange various other fun activities, taster workshops and so on, to involve the local community.

3) Encouraging the production of a percentage of work by makers specifically aimed to be for the local community in addition to their normal production.

4) Participation in TTT events such as the Great re-skilling & Christmas markets.

5) Databases of makers with specific interests and abilities, including a website for skills exchange based on the LETTS scheme (Local Exchange & Time-Trading Scheme) or old bartering system, galleries interested to exhibit their work, suppliers who might be interested in reciprocal promotion.

6) Production of leaflets, cards, a possible booklet and quarterly newssheet.

7) A brand for Sustainable Makers with appropriate conditions (including labelling and marketing developments)

For more info contact:
Richenda: 01803 865 033 Email:
Natalie: 07791134408 Email:
Jonathan 17814511506

Compiled/written by Jonathan Middlemiss