Reading List


Hanaor, Cigalle  (2007)  Breaking the Mould:  New Approaches to Ceramics London:  Black Dog

Whether new to ceramics and its concerns, or greatly familiar and aware, the structure and scope of this book makes it a very useful reference and source of inspiration when looking at current ceramic practices – plural, as the book usefully distinguishes between several different root concerns for contemporary ceramicists, with the proviso that several of the makers straddle two or more of these concerns.

Three excellent essays set out in detail some of the issues in ceramics:  concerning the nature of vessels (a really engaging essay which relates the original purpose for vessels, that of containing fluids, with a fluidity of thinking – through – doing), the idea of the new (art, function, technique), and a third essay, gorgeous in its clarity, by Claire Twomey on   contemporary clay (object-making, sculpture, hybrids, the role of the gallery…). The book then continues on to showcase – in the best and most useful manifestation of the term – ceramicists under several themed headings – ceramic environments; surreal geometries; the vessel; human interest; beyond the vessel; earthly inspirations; and surface pleasures.  Artists include Richard Slee, Grayson Perry, Claire Twomey, and Keith Harrison, and the old chestnut applies:  there is something here for everyone.

Racz, Imogen  (2008)  Contemporary Crafts  London:  Berg

Contemporary Crafts explores craft practices in both North America and Britain, revealing an astonishingly rich and diverse picture of artisanal work today.

The book ranges across both urban and rural crafts and analyses how the country/city dichotomy creates differing approaches, practices and objects. Analysed in the context of their environment and its localised history, crafted objects are shown to embody or critique particular urban/rural myths and traditions.

Covering both traditional and cutting-edge crafts from the small-scale domestic to large outdoor works, Contemporary Crafts demonstrates how craftspeople today are responding to the changing creative contexts of culture and history.

Chapters include Contemporary Crafts and Cultural Myths; Contemporary Arts and Crafts-makers in Rural England; The Artisan Tradition in Rural America; Critique and Embodiment in Rural England; Material, Space and Place in America, and more. 

Dormer, Peter  (1997)  The Culture of Craft: Status and Future (Studies in Design & Material Culture)  Manchester University Press

Peter Dormer presents a series of lively, clearly argued discussions about the relevance of handcraft in a world whose aesthetics and design are largely determined by technology. One of the key questions discussed in the book is what makes the difference between a craft and a modern technology. What role does the craftsperson play in the professional life of the designer? Is the craft of design itself threatened with deskilling by technology? And what are we to make of the emergence this century of that separate arts activity we call ‘the studio crafts’? What are the cultural barriers that prevent the studio crafts from being regarded simply as either art of design? And finally, what are the values that encourage people to want to make things themselves despite the apparent marginality of crafts? These are among the questions discussed in this collection of essays written by writers who include T.A. Heslop, Slade Professor of Art, University of Cambridge; Dr Paul Greenhalgh, Head of Research at the Victoria and Albert Museum; and Rosemary Hill, writer and broadcaster and biographer of Pugin.


A Theory of Craft: Function and Aesthetic Expression

by Kenneth R. Trapp  2007 University of North Carolina Press


What is craft? How is it different from fine art or design? In “A Theory of Craft”, Howard Risatti examines these issues by comparing handmade ceramics, glass, metalwork, weaving, and furniture to painting, sculpture, photography, and machine-made design from Bauhaus to the Memphis Group. He describes craft’s unique qualities as functionality combined with an ability to express human values that transcend temporal, spatial, and social boundaries. Modern design today has taken over from craft the making of functional objects of daily use by employing machines to do work once done by hand. Understanding the aesthetic and social implications of this transformation forces us to see craft as well as design and fine art in a new perspective, Risatti argues. Without a way of understanding and valuing craft on its own terms, the field languishes aesthetically, being judged by fine art criteria that automatically deny art status to craft objects. Craft must articulate a role for itself in contemporary society, says Risatti; otherwise it will be absorbed by fine art or design and its singular approach to understanding the world will be lost. “A Theory of Craft” is a signal contribution to establishing a craft theory that recognizes, defines, and celebrates the unique blend of function and human aesthetic values embodied in the craft object.


The Persistence of Craft

by Paul Greenhalgh

2002 A&C Black London

Studio Craft, in effect, started with the Arts and Crafts Movement, and developed throughout the 20th century. This work looks at studio arts from woodworking, ceramics and glass to jewellery, metalworking and textiles, and discusses the factors that have shaped their development. These range from philosophical considerations such as ethnicity, tradition and Post-Modernism to practicalities such as the development of new techniques and equipment.

Paul Greenhalgh is currently the president of the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design. He was previously Head of Research at the V&A in London. There he curated and wrote the accompanying book to the highly successful Art Nouveau exhibition. He has written a number of other books and he is a frequent contributor to a wide variety of journals.

A little pompous, maybe but this is a serious book about the subject of craft. The language especially from Greenhalgh is a little highbrow but I don’t think it is beyond the ability of most people to comfortably read. I found some very interesting insights into the history of Craft and how it has become the category that exists today. Subjects such as gender, culture and economic contexts are covered. The pictures are of a very good standard and create a nice balance with the text. Craft is a subject often overlooked or misjudged I feel this book helps to make clear a few of these inaccuracies and demonstrate that professional craft production does create relevant interesting objects.


Thinking Through Craft

by Glenn Adamson

2007 Berg

‘At a time when technical skill has been widely dismissed or outsourced in the production of art, Glenn Adamson crucially adds an entire spectrum of hand-crafted objects to the creative history of the post-war era. And at a time when theoretical frameworks have stagnated, these objects, in his hands, bring with them a fresh and sophisticated set of interpretive perspectives.’ Thomas Crow, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University ‘Adamson asks provocative questions about the marginalization of craft within the discourse of modernism. Best of all, he writes with a lucidity, energy and engagement that takes the reader with him all the way.’ Pennina Barnett, Goldsmiths College, University of London ‘A highly original contribution, Thinking through Craft is both thoughtful and exacting about crafted objects and the lessons provided by the artists’ time, labor and material inventiveness.’ Modern Painters ‘A pathbreaking book” Elissa Auther, University of Colorado Throughout Thinking Through Craft, Adamson offers such provocative readings of both fine art and craft history that are likely to instigate radical new ways of thinking about each. Maria Elena Buszek, for Surface Design This book is … full of thoughtful and pertinent analysis and achieves an impressive theoretical take on the role of studio craft within the history of modern art. The Journal of William Morris Studies

Product Description

Co-published in Association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London This book is a timely and engaging introduction to the way that artists working in all media think about craft. Workmanship is key to today’s visual arts, when high ‘production values’ are becoming increasingly commonplace. Yet craft’s centrality to contemporary art has received little serious attention from critics and historians. Dispensing with cliched arguments that craft is art, Adamson persuasively makes a case for defining craft in a more nuanced fashion. The interesting thing about craft, he argues, is that it is perceived to be ‘inferior’ to art. The book consists of an overview of various aspects of this second-class identity – supplementarity, sensuality, skill, the pastoral, and the amateur. It also provides historical case studies analysing craft’s role in a variety of disciplines, including architecture, design, contemporary art, and the crafts themselves. Thinking Through Craft will be essential reading for anyone interested in craft or the broader visual arts.



The Craftsman

by Richard Sennett  2008 Allen Lane  London

A brilliantly original exploration of mankind’s ability to express itself through craft

Product Description

Why do people work hard, and take pride in what they do? This book, a philosophically-minded enquiry into practical activity of many different kinds past and present, is about what happens when people try to do a good job. It asks us to think about the true meaning of skill in the ‘skills society’ and argues that pure competition is a poor way to achieve quality work. Sennett suggests, instead, that there is a craftsman in every human being, which can sometimes be enormously motivating and inspiring – and can also in other circumstances make individuals obsessive and frustrated. The Craftsman shows how history has drawn fault-lines between craftsman and artist, maker and user, technique and expression, practice and theory, and that individuals’ pride in their work, as well as modern society in general, suffers from these historical divisions. But the past lives of crafts and craftsmen show us ways of working (using tools, acquiring skills, thinking about materials) which provide rewarding alternative ways for people to utilise their talents. We need to recognise this if motivations are to be understood and lives made as fulfilling as possible. The book divides into three parts: the first addresses the craftsman at work. This is a story of workshops – the guilds of medieval goldsmiths, the ateliers of musical instrument makers, modern laboratories – in which masters and apprentices work together but not as equals. In its second part the book explores the development of skill: knowledge gained in the hand through touch and movement. A diverse group of case studies illustrates the grounding of skill in physical practice – from striking a piano key to the use of imperfect scientific instruments like the first telescopes or the anatomist’s scalpel. The argument of the third part is that motivation counts for more than talent. Enlightenment thinkers believed that everyone possesses the ability to do good work, and that we are more likely to fail as craftsmen due to our motivation than because of our lack of ability. The book assesses and challenges this belief, concluding by considering craftsmanship as more than a technical practice, and considering the ethical questions that craftsmen’s sustaining habits raise about how we anchor ourselves in the world around us.



The Intangibilities of Form: Skill and Deskilling in Art After the Readymade

by John Roberts  Verso London 2004

Many people who look at art today decry it for the lack of craft skill in its production, whether it be painting, photography or sculpture. In “Intangibilities of Form”, John Roberts sheds an entirely new light on this obsolescence of traditional craft skills in contemporary art, exploring the technological and social developments that gave rise to those postmodern theories that suggest that art may not require an author and certainly not one with any technical ability. Envisioning Marcel Duchamp as a theorist of artistic labour, Roberts describes how he opened up new circuits of authorship to the artist. He then looks at how these approaches proliferated in art after the 1960s and in the rise of Conceptual art. In explaining why the question of authorship has been so fundamental to avant-garde art and neo-avant-garde in the 20th century, “The Intangibilities of Form” is a formidable history of the hidden labours of the artwork.



Chapman, Jonathan  2005  Emotionally Durable Design:  Objects, Experiences and Empathy  London:  Earthscan

One of the first reactions of many Applied Arts students when they begin thinking about their creative practice in sustainable terms is a kind of hopeless, “I shouldn’t make anything at all!”  Chapman’s book provides the antithesis to this kind of thinking.  It’s not that the world needs fewer objects – or rather, it is that the world needs fewer objects, but we need to look at the reasons why we consume so mindlessly, and why we are so willing to throw things away, before we can change our behaviour.  This book is a much-needed critical exploration of the psyche of consumption and waste, that needs to be read alongside more prescriptive or illustrative collections of sustainability solutions.

Chapman’s question – why do we throw away products that still work? – is explored using a combination of psychology (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Fromm’s having and being, theories of attachment, the act of making meaning), a story/narrative metaphor, and material awareness.  Each chapter has a useful summary in point form.

Tellingly for this project, the discussion of our relationship with objects eventually finds itself discussing relationships:  “So, besides reckoning with discarding and recycling, product design includes setting up or adapting relevant services:  cleaning, repairing, upgrading, transport, spare parts, information desks and, in some cases, even facilities to support shared use.”  (183) 

Clark, Hazel and David Brody 2009  Design Studies:  A ReaderOxford:  Berg

Readers are always good to get students started with a subject and this one is very useful indeed, with chapters on…

Fuad-Luke, Alastair (2009)  Design Activism:  Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World  London:  Earthscan

Design Activism’s main strength is its wide-ranging nature, and this is frequently a benefit of Fuad-Luke’s work, for example, with his Thames and Hudson publications, The Eco-Design Handbook (2009) and The Eco-travel Handbook (2009). In the first section of Design Activism, Fuad-Luke covers the activist territory very broadly, offering not only a chapter on the historical origins of design activism, but also providing a variety of frameworks for thinking about design activism followed by a range of contemporary examples.

Design Activism also looks at examples of practice, and these are broadly organized into activism that addresses over-consumption and activism that addresses under-consumption. In the over-consumption section Fuad-Luke addresses behavior change, alternative methods of production, eco-efficiency, “contesting the meaning of consumption,” and social cohesion/community. For activism targeting under-consumption he covers shelter/water/food, education, and health.
The last section of the book deals with co-design, a form of participatory design. This section details the history of the co-design approach with respect to open source models and other related models (for example meta design, slow design, social and inclusive design) and offers a good process model for co-design. There is a chapter devoted to co-design tools such as social software for distributed collaboration and co-design events. Fuad-Luke links co-design explicitly to activism by proposing that, “participation emancipates people by making them active contributors rather than passive recipients. It is therefore a form of design humanism aimed at reducing domination.”

Fuad-Luke comments that conventional notions of beauty are those that align with financial profitability, a profitability that is ultimately destructive in social and environmental terms. He argues that instead, “we need new visions of beauty—we could call this beauty, ‘beautiful strangeness’, a beauty that is not quite familiar, tinged with newness, ambiguity and intrigue, which appeals to our innate sense of curiosity,” a beauty that, rather than stemming from profits, stems from resilience.

Fuad-Luke, Alastair  (2005)  The Eco-Design Handbook:  A Complete Sourcebook For the Home and Office  London:  Thames and Hudson

The Eco-Design Handbook presents objects for every aspect of the home and office, including the most environmentally sound materials and building products.. An introduction puts forward the history and latest thinking in green design strategies. Then there are two sections devoted to illustrated descriptions of objects for domestic living and products for the office or work-related activities. Finally, a vast reference source, defining available materials, from organic to specially developed eco-sensitive composites and then providing information on manufacturers, design studios, green organizations, online information, as well as further reading and a glossary of useful terms and concepts. It covers a wide range of ‘alternative’ products, from day to day household items, furniture, modes of transport, to solar pv panels. The main part of the book features brief product descriptions with accompanying photographs, followed by contact details of the designers/distributors.

A source of inspiration and ideas.  Demonstrates that it may be possible to combine cutting edge with low-impact living through the use of responsible, imaginative design.  A hopeful book:  you will have to decide how much of the design is ultimately sustainable, and on what grounds.

Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change

by Victor Papanek  1985 Thames and Hudson

The honest use of materials and having an honest approach are at the heart of Papanek’s fundamental laws on how anything should be designed. His views on ecology, recycling and the social affects of design were truly ahead of his time. His structures for problem solving, brainstorming techniques and idea generation are equally amazing. A book that should be re-read every couple of years to realign your design approach and ensure you’re not just making things worse.



Louv, Richard  The Last Child in the Woods

Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World

by Walter V. Reid  2006 Island Press

Increasingly, cracks are appearing in the capacity of communities, ecosystems, and landscapes to provide the goods and services that sustain our planet’s well-being. The response from most quarters has been for “more of the same” that created the situation in the first place: more control, more intensification, and greater efficiency. “Resilience thinking” offers a different way of understanding the world and a new approach to managing resources. It embraces human and natural systems as complex entities continually adapting through cycles of change and seeks to understand the qualities of a system that must be maintained or enhanced in order to achieve sustainability. It explains why greater efficiency by itself cannot solve resource problems and offers a constructive alternative that opens up options rather than closing them down. In “Resilience Thinking”, scientist Brian Walker and science writer David Salt present an accessible introduction to the emerging paradigm of resilience. The book arose out of appeals from colleagues in science and industry for a plainly written account of what resilience is all about and how a resilience approach differs from current practices. Rather than complicated theory, the book offers a conceptual overview along with five case studies of resilience thinking in the real world. It is an engaging and important work for anyone interested in managing risk in a complex world.





Carson, Rachel (1962) Silent Spring.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin

Leopold, Aldo (1968)  A Sand County Almanac.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press

Monbiot, George   ‘The Stock Market Crunch is petty compared to the nature crunch.’  The Guardian, 14 October 2008

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability

by David Holmgren

2002 Holmgren Design Services

In this challenging work, leading permaculture expert David Holmgren questions whether mainstream concepts of sustainability dodge the critical issue of global energy peak, and asks if there are ways to live within nature’s limits whilst providing a secure future for our children and justice for everyone.  Rob Hopkins of the Transition Towns movement rates this book highly and having nearly finished it can see why, and tend to agree. If you just want to get stuck in then try more practical guides (in the UK try The Earthcare Manual; albeit not cheap) first however if you’re looking to marry the work of your head and hands then I recommend it; he’s obviously been doing a lot of thinking as well as doing. It’s quite oriented to Australia but no less interesting for that. 


The Limits to Growth: The 30-year Update

by D.H. Meadows

Earthsc an 2004

Overshoot: when demand overtakes supply. The events of the 1970′s should have acted as wake-up call, but they now seem like a distant memory: the three-day-week, the power cuts, the petrol rationing coupons (never implemented). Since 1972, growth has been given a huge boost by globalisation, and the take-offs in China and India.  When this book was published in its 1992 edition  the authors warned that unsustainability was already evident: deforestation, climate change, the ozone hole.  They pointed to the failure of various international summits to get a grip on the problem. The Kyoto protocols were some sort of triumph. But the lack of urgency is widespread. Yet it’s all something we know. We all know, for example, that the oil is going to dry up some day.  But when that time comes, all the lost local skills will suddenly be missed. For that is what it will be: a return to the local economy. Your food, your shelter, your clothing, will all have be sourced locally. In the UK’s case it’s drop-back over two hundred years, minus the skills that were around in those days. So, for the third time since 1972, the authors lay it all before us: what needs to be done. First, and most difficult, they require something more than political action, they require an end to individualism as we have known it. This is the leap many people will not be able to make. Out must go the competition for individual power, status, and wealth which are the engines of our current society. Good book, well written, the prophecies from the original book are proving to be true – there is time to save the human race but the political will is not there.




Solnit, Rebecca (2007) Acts of Hope:  Challenging empire on the world stage.  Massachusetts:  Orion Society

Deep Economy: Economics as If the World Mattered

by Bill McKibben  2009 Oneworld publications

Since the end of WWII, the English-speaking world has created a new outlook on the individual and social relations. Where once we were part of small town rural communities or even close-knit urban neighbourhoods, now we’ve moved a major part of our population into the suburbs. Single houses, fenced or hedged keep us insulated from each other and the world. McKibben calls it “hyperindividuality” with each of us following the myth of More and Better. The resulting high consumption lifestyle has masked the true costs of how we live. Growth is not a value to ne desired; community is.  Personal interaction is best enhanced, according to McKibben, by the shift to local food and other products. Community-supported agriculture is a major aspect of this book. The money you spend in this way remains in your community. In some places, that has given rise to a local currency to facilitate support for local farmers and manufacturers. The author stresses that our situation doesn’t require rapid nor radical change in how we live. What he seeks is a “patient rebalancing of the scales”.  The difficulty is that our new mind-set has kept us from considering which ones are available to you and how to utilise them best. A network of local businesses, baker, butcher, green grocer, clothes, books, restaurants, tool shop, energy supplier, bicycle shop, doctor, dentist, accountant, web designer, electrician, schools, teachers, etc. supporting local agriculture (food, fruit, green energy) all within a 20-minute walk, 30-minute cycle of the local population.

Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered

by E.F. Schumacher

1993 Vintage (new edition)

First published in 1973, this study looks at the economic structure of the western world in a revolutionary way. Schumacher maintains that man’s current pursuit of profit and progress, which promotes giant organizations and increased specialization, has in fact resulted in gross economic inefficiency, environmental pollution and inhumane working conditions. He challenges the doctrine of economic, technological and scientific specialization, and proposes a system of intermediate technology, based on smaller working units, communal ownership and regional workplaces, utilizing local labour and resources.  The point of this book is to radically question what we mean by progress and try to understand what has gone wrong when some of us live in almost obscene wealth while large parts of the planet barely get by. This book is an attempt to understand things we all seem to have forgotten: what is value? what actually matters in life? should the means always justify the ends? what is work for? and who put all these economists in charge? The writing is easy to read and still very persuasive. Schumacher appeals to uncommon sense: our feeling of how the world should be. And, unlike the other armchair-revolutionaries, he has actually tried to make it happen. Buddhist economics is a most beautiful idea.




Schumacher, Ernst F. (1993/1974) Small is Beautiful:  A Study of Economics as if People Mattered.  London:  Vintage – and

Schumacher, Ernst F.  (1993)  This I believe and other essays.  Dartington:  Green Books

 Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age

by John Michael Greer

2008 New Society Publishers

This book looks at the spiritual problems of trying to wake people up to the coming decline, namely their slavery to the myths of progress and science. Greer outlines a very different future to the technological one I grew up with in the 1960s – moon bases, space holidays, underwater cities. Where Greer differs from Jim Kunstler, is his explanation that societies take 250 years to decline and collapse, rather than the ‘Road Warrior’ vision where the oil runs out and the world turns into a nightmare of looting and Darwinistic struggles for survival. Greer uses the phrase ‘catabolic’ to describe where we are going – a study of how a society slowly eats itself up in the same way that a long distance runner will actually start to consume his own muscles without replacement nutrients. This catabolic process will be speeded up as we go past the peak of oil production – this may have already happened. What we face is a process of drawn out contraction and decline BUT we are just going through what every other civilisation has been through before.




Villiers-Stuart, Poppy and Arran Stibbe (eds.) (2009) The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy (multimedia version).

Villiers-Stuart, Poppy and Arran Stibbe (eds.) (2009) The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy.  Dartington:  Green Books

(For a longer review of the above book, go to :  it’s too long to reproduce on this page but here’s a section):

A handbook is supposed to be a reference or collection of instructions which can be readily consulted, and this is both, but not initially.  One of the difficulties with sustainability is that its scope is both broad and deep:  the book covers a field ranging from the need for embracing a Taoist approach in life and teaching, through permaculture and developments in technology, to carbon, consciousness, media and cultural literacies, by authors from the fields of engineering, art, permaculture, outdoor education, anthropology, literature, mathematics, business studies, climatology, ecology, and linguistics, ending with four chapters on education transformation for sustainability.  It can certainly be used as a handbook, but it needs to be read and digested thoroughly first.  Luckily this is a pleasant task.  The selection of material, the layout of the chapters, and the sense of building a deep understanding through progression are tangible here. 

The book is arranged in a very specific chapter order to facilitate its being read from cover to cover, providing a structured overview of many aspects of sustainability, and allowing any reader to build up a cohesive picture of the field.  This kind of “Love Actually” approach, where the picture is built up of many smaller narratives which collectively illustrate what might otherwise appear to be a behemoth of a subject, is engaging and satisfying.  Chapters are both grouped and progressively linked – for example, the first seven chapters broadly cover the attributes, dispositions, or ways of thinking which can be seen to underpin the later chapters on assessing the roles of different types of technology. These first chapters, rather than covering the environmental problems facing the earth (where most sustainability literature begins), understand that social, cultural and economic problems underlie the actions that lead to the environmental problems…

This book can function simultaneously as an introductory reader, as a sourcebook for further reading and research, as a kind of workbook or source of exercises for students, and as a structuring device when devising ways to teach sustainability.  It is far-reaching and inclusive and will provide a multi-layered resource which could be used in many different teaching and learning situations.

Buell, Lawrence (2005) The Future of Environmental Criticism.  Oxford:  Blackwell

Garrard, Greg (2004)  Ecocriticism.  London:  Routledge

 Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect

by David W. Orr

2004 Island Press

In Earth in Mind, noted environmental educator David W. Orr focuses not on problems in education, but on the problem of education. Much of what has gone wrong with the world, he argues, is the result of inadequate and misdirected education that: alienates us from life in the name of human domination; causes students to worry about how to make a living before they know who they are; overemphasizes success and careers; separates feeling from intellect and the practical from the theoretical; deadens the sense of wonder for the created world. The crisis we face, Orr explains, is one of mind, perception, and values. It is, first and foremost, an educational challenge. The author begins by establishing the grounds for a debate about education and knowledge. He describes the problems of education from an ecological perspective, and challenges the “terrible simplifiers” who wish to substitute numbers for values. He follows with a presentation of principles for re-creating education in the broadest way possible, discussing topics such as biophilia, the disciplinary structure of knowledge, the architecture of educational buildings, and the idea of ecological intelligence. Orr concludes by presenting concrete proposals for reorganizing the curriculum to draw out our affinity for life. Dr. Orr’s analysis of the root causes of our environmental problems is powerful and persuasive. Rather than trying to address the corrective actions for the symptoms (ozone holes and global warming, for example) he identifies their fundamental sources and focuses his proposed corrective actions on them. The lack of any meaningful educational content on what it means to be a citizen in a closed ecology on a planet with finite resources is at the centre of why the environment continues to deteriorate. 




McDonough,  William and Michael Braungart  (2003) Cradle to Cradle:  Remaking the Way We Make Things  New York:  Rodale

 Where this book scores above many other books on similar topics is in its scope – it deals with industrial design, not with what individuals can do with recycling - and its almost fanatical (quietly fanatical) insistence that we can go on as we are if we only change the way we design things.  Many people have been very inspired by its approach and its method.  And it is true that the authors have, at the time of writing, a successful and (as far as one can tell) growing business based on the principles expounded here. 

I’m just not so sure…After one edition using environmentally friendly polymers, the book was reprinted on recycled paper, which perhaps says more than anything else about the reality of this approach.  I would love for it to be true.  So would many people who take one look at the way our excessive consumption is heading and then bury their head in the sand in fear that the future is going to be full of giving stuff up and no more shopping sprees.  I’m just not convinced.  Waiting for the second book that proves me wrong.


Astyk, Sharon  (2008)  Depletion and Abundance:  Life on the new home front, or, One Woman’s Solutions to Finding Abundance for Your Family while Coming to Terms with Peak Oil, Climate Change and Hard Times.  Gabriola Island:  New Society Publishers

This is my new favourite book.  As Peter Bane of Permaculture Activist has written, “This is a wonderful book about a terrible subject; situation – we’re screwed.”  Astyk doesn’t go into great detail about the twin drivers of change (whether we want it or not), climate change and peak oil, though she does point the reader towards sources of information should more be needed, and she does give a basic primer.  What she does look at is how we might prepare for the changes that are heading our way – emotionally, intellectually, physically (fiscally…). 

I don’t know when I last read a book so steeped in deep understanding of economic, geopolitical, and sociological issues which was at the same time so encouraging and pleasant to read.  This is the book to read after you’ve read and digested the other transition and peak oil factual books; it gives practical ideas and plans, but it also – perhaps most importantly – gives a vision of hope.

Sections are divided into “Where Are We?” (the primer), money, family, home, food and health, and recompense (what we get out of doing the difficult things).  Along the way we get stories, examples, mythology, shopping lists, gardening tips, and pep talks.  Underpinning everything in the book is a deep moral sensibility – that it is not just a lifestyle choice based on our own desire to save our families, but one based on a conviction that fair shares for all is not just a soundbite but a daily lived practice.

Hopkins, Rob (2008) The Transition Handbook:  From oil dependency to local resilience.  Dartington:  Green Books

What I’ve found with my own work on sustainability with students is that, although they are initially resistant to having to delve deeply into such areas as psychology and contextual theory when they just want to go and save the world with art, a deep understanding and grounding in the root causes of how we humans got to this place is essential for any meaningful intervention.  This is the same approach taken in The Transition Handbook:  the first section outlines the position we’re in (“The Head”), and then the second section uses models and theories from addiction, grief and shock researches to explain some of the processes we might go through on coming to terms with the situation as it is (“The Heart”).

“The Hands” is the practical part of the book which explains the steps necessary for setting up your own transition network.  It covers principles of permaculture (not just the gardening but the observing and the planning which can be applied to any system), how to get communities aware of the issues (film screenings for example), how to get planners and other government bodies on board, how to run productive meetings, how to make an energy descent plan.  Most importantly, the book is clear about the need for this last part to happen – individuals can’t effect great change, and governments have too much invested in the status quo to do what needs to be done.  But communities can make a difference, and this book shows how we might start.




WEBSITES  A beginner’s guide to peak oil.  An article about a forest walk which changed the perceptions of those who went on it – and it was never publicised.  and  – read together to see why we need to transition…


Resurgence. (publishes articles on creativity, ecology, spirituality and frugality.  The money issue is a particular eye-opener.  Has ‘taster’ articles available on the website)

American Craft Magazine

Craft & Design Enquiry

Craft Culture

Craft Research 

Journal of Visual Culture

Journal of Modern Craft


Art Jewellery Forum

Craft Gadfly

Craft Unbound

Critical Ceramics

From Sketch to Product

Making a Slow Revolution

Paua Dreams

The Craft Word

Center for Craft, Creativity and Design

Craft Talk