19 February 2014
Photographed and Written by Julia Benton
Edited by Amy Pettifer
Most teachers can only dream of having access to a huge, local warehouse filled with perfect art supplies and sold at a fragment of their original cost. However, in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood, that dream is a reality thanks to SCRAP (Scroungers Center for Reusable Art Parts), an edgy, creative reuse center that breathes new life into old objects and re-distributes them affordably to the creative community.
The first non-profit operation of its kind, SCRAP was founded nearly 40 years ago as an initiative to provide supplies to San Francisco Public School teachers. The center accepts donations of quality re-usable materials like textiles, buttons and paper, as well as office supplies from businesses and individuals, which are then sorted and made available to schools, artists and parents at a discounted price.
The warehouse is a veritable Aladdin's cave, organized by type of material and housing everything from fabrics and buttons to papers and yarn.
Executive Director Shuai Chen, a recent Stanford graduate and an avid jewelry maker, says that the most coveted items are notions like leather, felt, fleece and foam core, but that they accept more bizarre donations such as hundreds of animal X-rays from a veterinarian and beautiful costume veils from an SF opera performance. These unusual materials - as SCRAP founder Anne Marie Thellen herself hopes - position the warehouse, not only as a supplier, but also as a catalyst; a constant source of inspiration for innovative creative projects.
SCRAP's environmental, as well as social, impact is impossible to deny. In 2013, the SF warehouse diverted 258 tons of reusable materials from landfill, into the hands of 38,000 artists, teachers, non-profits, and creative people. The project is also self-sustaining, with money raised covering running costs as well as funding free materials pick-ups, school field trips and a program of creative reuse workshops for teachers.
Their sustainable business model has inspired as many as 40 iterations and independent entities in cities such as Denton, TX, Traverse City, MI, and Washington, DC. SCRAP PDX, for example, was set up in Portland in 1998 and is now responsible for a vibrant program of activity including a 'Camp Scrap' - for 1st through 6th graders - and the rowdier 'Rebel Craft Rumble' where the most intrepid local makers go head to head for the title of Portland's Craft Master.
This growing population of similar organizations is a testament to the appetite for sustainable thinking, creative problem solving and collaboration; an inspiring model for creative minds everywhere.
For more information, Lancaster Creative Reuse has an excellent directory of reuse centers across the United States.