Mooste is a tiny village in south-eastern Estonia with a lively international arts and crafts community. The life of the community centres around an historic steading and its surrounding complex of red brick farm estate outbuildings, gates, walls and majestic valitsejamaja (manor house), set in relaxing countryside. Each of the outbuildings has its own function and focus and hosts different kinds of arts and crafts workshop.
The old manor’s grain-drying kiln is home to Vanaajamaja, a nonprofit educational organisation that provides training programs, promotes Estonian traditional architecture and serves as a centre of knowledge for historic buildings and log house renovation. In this cosy old stone building, the Vanaajamaja team organises several courses on Estonian traditional building, and provides continuing professional development and skills advancement for carpenters. Their course calendar is full of exciting training possibilities in traditional building beginning with 1-day refresher courses and information seminars progressing right up to full 10-day, hands-on, practical logbuilding courses. Once or twice a year they offer logbuilding, timber frame or other traditional building courses for international masters, students and enthusiasts.
The earth building and clay plastering workshop is run by Saviukumaja who produces and sells clay and lime plaster, compressed earth blocks, clay blocks, clay mixtures for straw bale houses, and masonry mortars etc. Their main interest is in clay buildings. By constructing and renovating clay houses, they continue to revive the farm architecture of Southern Estonia. Unlikely most production companies, they also spread knowhow and skills of how to work with these materials, they organise workshops and courses for those who want to gain professional certificates.
Next door to Saviukumaja is a wood restoration workshop where you can bring your old doors or windows and at the skilful hands of local masters, they will be made as good as new again. They also make replicas if the timber is already too decayed to be saved and restored. In addition, there is also a master bow-maker, originally from South-Africa, who has set up his workshop here and makes hand-made wooden bows that are used in competitions all over the world.
Mooste is home not only traditional architectural and carpentry crafts but also to a textile handicrafts studio and wool workshop. At Sireli Farm woolshop, all kinds of lambswool products are produced – from warm woollen socks to majestic fur coats. The blacksmith of the village works in a tiny old forge right next to the main gates.
One very unique and attractive collaboration is MoKS – a non-profit artist-run project space. With its diverse approach and open atmosphere, MoKS holds a unique position within the Estonian and greater European cultural context. Their main activities include an international Artist-in-Residence programme, organising Art Symposia, workshops for adults and youths, art and community events in Estonia and abroad, and participation in various international projects in collaboration with other arts organizations and cultural institutions. With its broad scope and focused environment, MoKS is the only project of its kind in Estonia and enriches the life of small countryside community of Mooste.
Over the last hundred years, the manorhouse building has hosted the local secondary school; the renovated vodka distillery accommodates the Estonian Photo Tourism Centre, and contains a suite of cosy rooms used as a photo studio, accommodation and for various events. The former steam-driven sawmill and flour mill was rebuilt to form a 60 seat village theatre, and much of its special atmosphere is created by the interior of the old mill. For big events, one of the stone barns was rebuilt as a folk music hall that hosts several big concerts and theatre events, weddings, parties and first and foremost, an annual folk music festival at the end of April.
A recycling shop also occupies one part of Mooste manor. This tiny, crowded shop is home to all kinds of domestic goods that have been saved from the trip to the rubbish dump. The idea behind the recycling shop is similar to garage sale or street sale events held in the US – instead of throwing away goods that are no longer needed in your household, you can bring them to the recycling centre and they might find a new home. At the end of the day – everybody is happy and there is a little bit less rubbish on our planet.
In addition there is a folk music-school where local kids and adults can study traditional folk music instruments.
Mooste was famous for its tradition of growing flax. The flax-processing workshop is now a welcoming guesthouse offering accommodation.
The history of the manor itself goes back to 17th century when the Baltic German von Nolcken family started to establish a household there. The buildings you can visit nowadays were mostly built in the beginning of 20th century. During the Soviet Era the whole property was misused by a local collective farm and it was only renovated during the last 10 years. Each house has found a new useful function, but there still are opportunities for further potential – some stone barns are waiting for the chance to be renovated and turned into new attractive workshops/houses.