Beetle Kill and Aspen Die-Off

by Jason Dilworth


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In the summer of 2011, a designer crossed the country on a bicycle and was disturbed by what he saw in the Western United States—whole stands of pine and aspen trees dying or dead. And whole towns dying or taken over by one employer, the historical economic diversity and self-sufficiency lost to the whims of the international economy. He told another designer who was also disturbed by the maple, ash, and hemlock trees she saw dying in Eastern forests and by the fact that the towns she grew up in were dying and jobs were shipped to other parts of the country or overseas. But they were designers. What could they do?

At first, they had no idea. Then they travelled to East Iceland and met the people behind MAKE by Thorpid, a project combining traditional materials, modern design, and community development to spark sustainable economic development and an idea began to form. What if they drew together people with different areas of expertise? Different skills and backgrounds? What if they connected foresters with furniture makers with storytellers with members of the community? What if they tried to create an environment where all of these individuals could help find goods that could be made from diseased wood within the affected communities? And so Designers and Forests was born.

From July 29th to August 10th, these two designers will be bringing people together in Utah for the inaugural project of Designers and Forests, Beetle Kill and Aspen Die-Off. The state's forests are steeped with history and varied topography—full of natural beauty, unforgiving deserts, and lush high elevation forests. There are plentiful stories to be told and we look forward to adding our own, sharing it across continents with others who are interested in using creativity and collaboration to address broader social and environmental issues. People who are interested in creating healthier forests and making better opportunities for not only artists and designers but for citizens of small beleaguered towns as well.

This summer, we will work, hike, prototype, learn, share, design, and create. However, to make this project a success, we need your financial support. We need to raise $4,320. This money will be used for transportation, lodging (renting of camping gear and tents), and the materials and expenses of organizing site specific workshops. Any additional funds that we raise will be used to help offset the cost of meals. For your contribution you will be given one of many gifts, ranging for postcards to a limited edition hand bound books. All the gifts will showcasing our work and cause. All contributors will also have the first pick to purchase any of the work that is created during the project.

Match Funds are not currently available.

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