Upcycle Creative Reuse Center

I have a dream of managing a Creative Reuse Center. Recently my family visited the Upcycle Creative Reuse Center in Alexandria, Virginia. I got to interview Susan Miranda, one of the co-founders of this center which opened in June 2013.

Since then, they have run summer camps and children’s programs. Susan says the enrollment in their children’s programs doubled from the summer to the fall sessions. Hooray!

Susan had tons of great tips on running a creative reuse center. She says she wished that people would go to creative reuse centers first, and then if they need to supplement, they can go to a more typical craft supply store. That makes so much sense. First, people would save a lot of money because at the creative reuse center, you pay a flat rate for anything you can fit into various sizes of bags. But also – why buy new when you can save something from landfill? But the only way this will work is if we have a creative reuse center in each community, because I’m pretty sure people in my town don’t want to drive all the way to Alexandria or DC to buy some craft supplies.

Bob & the kids do Take-Apart activity at Upcycle

Bob & the kids do Take-Apart activity at Upcycle

Family-Friendly Place

The visit to Upcycle went well because there was an Open House happening at the same time. There is an Open House there every Saturday with an activity that is family-friendly and doesn’t require registration. It costs $5 per person. The theme during our visit was a Take Apart table where you could use tools to take apart old technology, and then you could put it back together into whatever craft you’d like.

My kids love Take Apart events ever since we took apart our broken treadmill. Russell made a face from the components that he took apart:

Russell's finished craft at the Take-Apart open house at Upcycle

Russell’s finished craft at the Take-Apart open house at Upcycle

It became clear that Susan was a teacher when she started talking with Russell about his project. She was truly interested and you could tell she was in her happy place getting him to talk about it. I bet she is an amazing teacher.

Yarn Bombing Activity

Near the front door, two volunteers worked steadily to sew together knit green squares for a “yarn bombing” event. In the Del Ray community during the holidays, Susan says people put decorated trees at intersections. They are going to make a tree out of knit green squares to participate.

Work area at Upcycle

Work area at Upcycle

Great Fabric and Jewelry Areas

My mom aka The Recycling Queen had a good time sorting through the fabric area at Upcycle. We noted that it was a good idea how they presented the fabric. They put rolls in a vertical position, rather than piling the fabric up on shelves. When it is horizontally presented on shelves, people are shy about pulling out the fabric on the bottom. When you think about it, most fabric stores present fabric vertically on rolls.

Mom checking out the fabric section at Upcycle

Mom checking out the fabric section at Upcycle

Then Mom and Nora discovered that there were some drawers filled with secondhand, mostly costume jewelry. They went to town on those drawers. Susan said those drawers are very popular with customers. Nora got a bunch of necklaces and bracelets. I think she could have dug through those drawers for 2-3 hours.

Mom & Nora love the jewelry section at Upcycle

Mom & Nora love the jewelry section at Upcycle

Thumbs up to Upcycle for offering an activity that keeps the family happy while the crafters shop! We had a great visit and look forward to coming again.

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