I have a dream to start a creative re-use center. There, I said it out loud. Now I need to make it happen.
Creative re-use centers are springing up all over the country. Some have been around for decades, like Scrap in Portland (1998) or The Scrap Box in Ann Arbor (1983). But now we need one in every community!
My friend Becky was the first person to tell me about a creative re-use center because she lives in Ann Arbor and has patronized The Scrap Box forever. So I started asking around about whether there was such a place closer to me.
The first person who knew what I was talking about was Jen Athanas from Jen-A-Fusion. She told me about ScrapDC back in April. I kept trying to visit, but most of their hours were during work days or in the evenings during the week, and weekends are so crazy too. But today I decided enough was enough. We were going to visit ScrapDC! And the nice thing is that they just moved into a bigger facility a few weeks ago, so I got to see the new place.
Just What I Hoped It Would Be
This volunteer-run organization has done an incredible job getting everything set up in only a few weeks! The shelves and storage are filled with very nifty stuff for creative re-use.
Getting Tips On Starting My Own Creative Re-Use Center
I was super excited that I got to interview Heather Bouley, one of the founders of ScrapDC. She had run a creative re-use center in New Orleans for a few years and when she moved here, she wanted to start one. She was working part-time and keeping the doors open on ScrapDC. She says that studies show that if you can keep the doors open for a year with volunteer effort, it is likely your name will be well enough known in the community, and you can reach a tipping point to have a paid employee. It also means you can apply for grants and have more success with fundraising in general.
I asked Heather for her tips about starting a creative re-use center:
- Ideally, get the space donated by an organization in your community who sees the values of creative reuse (environmental and community building).
- Build a group of keen volunteers who make things happen, especially those with a natural interest in organizing materials.
- Say no to materials that won’t sell – and the things that sell the most are fabric, sewing notions and other craft supplies like pipe cleaners.
And the good news is that she told me where to get a whole bunch of other tips. There is a new book by the person who started Scrap in Portland. I have just ordered it – it’s called The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Creative Reuse Center by Kelly Carmichael Casey. You can order it from Lulu or Amazon for $20. Kelly is going to visit ScrapDC on October 3rd when they have their official grand opening in the new location.
I talked with a long-time ScrapDC volunteer, Claire Giammaria. She said that it is her creative outlet to volunteer here. She heard about a ScrapDC event where they handed out a box of recycled supplies and you had a contest to see who could make the coolest thing, kind of like an Iron Chef crafting event. She was so intrigued that she started volunteering.
Heather says they have fundraising events on a regular basis. They have not tried online fundraising such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo yet.
There are also some finished recycled crafts for sale at ScrapDC in their “ReBoutique.” We bought birthday gifts for Nora’s friend Savannah from there – a scarf made by local clothing design / remaking company Think Outside the Store and a beaded necklace too, along with a gift bag and homemade card.
Other Shopping Highlights
Besides birthday gifts, we also got fabric for the kids’ Halloween costumes. Nora wants to be some kind of ephemeral ghost / bride / smoke thing, so we got some beautiful tuile fabric with little pink flowers embroidered all over it for $2.
Russell wants to be a monster, inspired by the characters in the app My Singing Monsters. He wanted to be a Furcorn, which has bright green fur, but we found this super fluffy purple fur, so he is willing to invent his own monster species if we use this.
For me, the highlight was a giant bucket of multi-colored fluffy woolen fibers which is exactly the kind of stuff rug hookers love. We hook this kind of rough fiber to add incredible texture to art rugs. I forced myself to buy just one bag for now, until I see it go into a rug.
Visiting ScrapDC helped me form my vision more clearly about what a Trashmagination Creative Reuse Center would be like. I’m super appreciative to Heather for talking with me about her experiences, and hope we become colleagues in the creative reuse movement here!
Also, if you are an artist living in DC who would like studio space, ScrapDC is looking for artists to rent studios of various sizes in their new location, 3101 12th Street NE.
Oh! And one more awesome tidbit of news. Heather told me there is another creative re-use center that has just opened in Alexandria named Upcycle. Can’t wait to visit!!!