Last Fall I had the opportunity to visit the site of the original Haystack campus, in Montville, Maine. This was where the school began in 1950, and would exist for the next ten years before moving to our current location on Deer Isle. Starting a school is both a radical idea and a profoundly generous act that seems to hinge on the belief that there is something so important and vital it must be shared with others.
Though there have been many changes to that site over the years, the original clay and weaving studios, as well as some cabins and the central building where evening lectures were held, still exist. Walking around the property, I was struck by the simplicity of it all. A local carpenter, named Ed Sewall, designed and built most of the structures, which were rustic but also thoughtful in design and sufficiently suited to the needs of that time and place.
The very idea of a school that awards no degrees and has no permanent faculty or student body remains as unconventional today as it was back then. Standing in Montville and thinking about the campus Edward Larrabee Barnes would later design on Deer Isle, it struck me that the confidence and conviction necessary to imagine what Haystack could become was nothing short of remarkable. It represented an almost incomprehensible leap, which had everything to do with establishing an environment that valued reflective thinking and a close examination of materials and processes within a creative and supportive community. More than sixty five years later, this wonderful experiment has led to a place that models a way of living in the world with compassion, curiosity and wonder.
Visit a Craft School!