Four Really Big Ideas

By Alissa Walker Comment


In the last session before lunch on this second day of the Art Center’s conference, we were served four slam dunk presentations that made us see craft as a way to change a small corner of the world–by hand.

Jane Olson is chair of the board of trustees of Human Rights Watch, and told her heartbreaking stories of traveling to Bosnia to counsel women rescued from rape camps. She used knitting to connect to the women, eventually teaching them to adapt burlap sacks into fashion (Olson was wearing one of their designs). The women were so empowered by this experience they ended up modeling their creations.

In his quest to find affordable solar energy, Bill Gross of Idealab said there’s three ways to change the world:
1) Be a politican
2) Be a preacher
3) Be a designer
He also recommended that “most things fail, so fail often and fast.”

Maurice Cox is the former mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, a city that requested it be reverted to “town” status to protect it from excessive growth. They even made up a word for it: reversion. The town of 50,000 is striving to be a walkable, accessible community, with no parking lots and a huge public chalkboard that faces city hall for residents to voice concerns.

Martin Fisher of KickStart took on the heady task of designing to end poverty by making low cost tools for East African rural farmers. They created an irrigating machine that operates pretty much like a Stairmaster (above). The KickStart Super Money Maker (no joke–they named it to sell) has started 40,000 new businesses.