The art project Brave New World was created by D20 Art Lab; Sergio Marchesini og Raffaella Rivi. (AI teknologi)

A laboratory for future green solutions

This is so exciting: how can we vi bring the makers’ knowledge into play?’ says Dorthe Møller Paulsen when I meet her and Marta Gasparin in Bornholmerhuset (the Bornholm House) at Folkemødet, the annual democracy festival on the island.

Dorthe Møller Paulsen is head of the secretariat for Maker’s Island Bornholm; Marta Gasparin is head of research for Hephaestus, a four-year EU Horizon project that involves institutions of education and organizations from several countries. One of the most recent initiatives in this project is the partnership between Maker’s Island and BOFA to establish ‘Future of Craft Green Living Lab’ on Bornholm.

The project is currently in its initial phase. Thus, the specific content is still in the process of being determined, but the overall goals are in place:

Our aim is to influence the craft ecosystem in Europe and, in particular, to promote economic, social, environmental and cultural sustainability in the craft sector throughout Europe. Our goal is not just to preserve craft but to appreciate and vitalize it as an economic activity, a cultural activity and a social activity,’ Marta Gasparin explains.

The green laboratory will develop tools, training courses for makers and a strong network of stakeholders and projects.


HEPHAESTUS, a four-year EU-based research project that runs until the summer of 2027.

One of the project components is a ‘Future of Craft Green Living Lab’ on the island of Bornholm that will test potential solutions in relation to the principles of the circular economy: reuse, extension of product life, efficient use of resources and low environmental impact.

HEPHAESTUS is also the name of the Greek god of crafts and technology.

Read more

New knowledge rather than preservation

One of the goals of the Hephaestus project is to identify endangered craft techniques and to explore whether traditional techniques, methods and tools can help promote the green transition. However, the green lab on Bornholm has a slightly different ambition:

‘The [HEPHAESTUS] project involves a variety of craft ecosystems, each pursuing its own approach and bringing its own history into the project. But here on Bornholm, local makers are acting as ambassadors for the project and bringing in their knowledge and their way of working with clay. So far, most of the makers are ceramicists, but we would like to include more makers working in other materials,’ says Dorthe Paulsen.

‘Digitization of traditional crafts is part of the [HEPHAESTUS] project. How do we include endangered crafts? This issue is probably most urgent in Italy, where certain working methods are disappearing, because there is no younger generation ready to take over. On Bornholm, the situation is quite different; here, the main issue is how to promote development. We have a brand new generation thanks to the [Royal Danish Academy’s craft] programme, which has a strong focus on recycling, digital aspects, 3D tools and so forth.’

A new match for craft makers

Crafts have certain unique qualities that are relevant to industry, Dorthe Paulsen explains:

‘It is not necessarily hugely sustainable to bring more products into the world and achieve economic sustainability by increasing the production output. Instead, makers can apply their knowledge in other contexts.’

‘Makers have an understanding of materials and design processes. Their knowledge of materials can be really useful in the industry, especially in relation to recycling all types of materials. Similarly, their grasp of design processes enables them to see the potential of things to become something else,’ she adds.

‘That could be an interesting topic to address and test in the Living Lab. That’s also what’s interesting about partnering with a waste management utility [BOFA]. This partnership holds the potential for a very productive collaboration between two industries that might not, at first glance, seem like an obvious match – but they really are.’

Material studies and a break with the consumer

Partnering with BOFA provides an opportunity to look into both energy development and the utilization of waste products.

‘In terms of energy advances in industry, the most relevant issue seems to be how crafts can benefit. How can we reduce energy consumption, for example in kilns, which use a lot of power?’ says Dorte Paulsen, adding,

‘In terms of materials, there is great potential in crushing clay and glass. That is an area we would like to explore in the Living Lab, using the crushers we have on Bornholm. However, this might bring up new challenges which we will also need to find answers to: What happens after the crushing? How can we know what chemicals the crushed material contains, so that we can make sure it is safe to use for food and other purposes? We might also see some form of aesthetic backlash, or consumers might balk if they are asked to pay the same for brand new and recycled products.’

How can we give makers a role in society that engages their ability to come up with alternative modes of production and consumption?

Alternative business models

The project will not directly investigate consumer behaviour, but it will consider business models that might support and promote crafts.

‘We want to challenge and test business models. Until the second industrial revolution, craft was the dominant form of production. The [second] industrial revolution changed that, shifting the emphasis to efficiency and quantity. Some of these points are actually addressed in the exhibition Brave New World,’ says Marta Gasparin.

As part of Folkemødet, Maker’s Island and HEPHAESTUS invited the artist group D20 Ark Lab to create an exhibition with AI-generated images that show an alternate world history in which craft (or decorative art) is still the dominant mode of production.

‘Could we actually slow down and learn from crafts in a post-industrial society? How can we give makers a role in society that engages their ability to come up with alternative modes of production and consumption? We need greater care and concern for products. In the makers’ shop [ Arts & Crafts Association Bornholm’s shop in Allinge], there is so much care and love,’ says Marta Gasparin.

Theme: Green Production

Does it even make sense to create new products in a world where mountains of waste shape landscapes and the planet’s resources are exhausted by February? Humanity faces massive challenges to preserve the planet as more and more people have the opportunity to join the consumption party. Formkraft explores how crafts artists and designers are contributing to the green transition.

Read theme

More knowledge in the archive!

The Formkraft archive contains a goldmine of articles with digitized journals from 1948-2009 and new publications. Search the ARCHIVE.