Scrap Story #4: Promoting Creativity Through Reuse
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
In spring 2004, Ann and I are driving to Asheville to work at an event, we start talking about funding, why The Scrap Exchange should be able to get outside funding, what the value of the organization is. I’m talking about how I remember reading in that very first article I saw in spring 2000, how the director said that getting funding was difficult, she said that funders who supported arts organizations saw it as an environmental organization and funders who supported environmental organization saw it as an arts organization. It didn’t fit neatly anywhere, it was a tough sell, it fell between the cracks.
Ann said she thought that meant the opposite, that you should get funding from everyone. It was doing all these important things at once, everyone should support it.
I said I thought the real value was in the creativity angle. That’s a huge thing these days, businesses are all about creativity, schools want to teach creative thinking and creative problem-solving. There’s this whole thing about the creative class, Richard Florida and all that.
I said that this is what The Scrap Exchange does, it helps you be more creative — being involved with The Scrap Exchange helps you think about things in a different way.
Here’s how I explained it.
I said we live in such a consumer-oriented society that the solution to everything is to buy something. You need something and you think, “What kind of store sells that?”; you have a problem and you think, “What product do I need to get to fix this?”
That’s how we’ve been raised, it’s how we’ve been trained.
The Scrap Exchange is filled with all kinds of things that started out life as something specific but that now can be anything. Some things you can tell what they were — cones and tubes that held thread at a textile mill, plastic trays that held pipettes in a lab — but some things you have no idea.
The first inclination most people have when they come in the store is to say, “What is this?” (Well actually the first inclination is more like, “Holy cow, this is some crazy shit in here, what the heck is this place?”) But before long, your mindset shifts from asking, “What is this?” to asking, “What can I do with this?”
This may seem like not much of a difference, but it’s actually a huge breakthrough.
You are no longer tied to seeking a specific object to solve your problems, something that someone else made just for that purpose. You can now use anything, made for any purpose, to do what you need it to. You are not looking for items, you are in search of qualities — I need something tall and heavy (empty fire extinguisher base?), I need something small to hold loose things (plastic petri dish? CD case?), I need a palm tree.
A palm tree?
In summer 2004, there was a Hawaiian-themed engagement party planned for my friend Beth Graves. Our friend Zoe was helping organize things. She said we need decorations, they want palm trees. I said we don’t need to buy those, we can make those from Scrap Exchange stuff.
This was early days in my Scrap Exchange life. Zoe looked at me like I was nuts. She says we’re going to make palm trees? I say well maybe, we can go look at least. If we can’t come up with anything we can buy them.
We go to Scrap Exchange, we get stuff, we take it to her house, we’re making palm trees. Her boyfriend (now husband) is like what are you doing? We say we’re making palm trees. He rolls his eyes.
Then we run into engineering difficulties, the palm fronds are popping up, we can’t get them to hang down right. Jim is watching us try different things, all to no avail. He goes out to the garage, grabs some 8d nails, comes in and pokes them through the foam to weigh it down. Too heavy, how about 6d. Too low, move them up. A few adjustment later it’s perfect.
Who’s rolling their eyes now? No one can resist the allure of Scrap engineering.
We take the trees to the party, Beth and Zoe’s friend Megan looks at them and says, “Okay, those look way better than I expected.” I was like what did you think they were going to look like? She said, “I had no earthly idea, I could not even imagine it.”
Who needs to buy a palm tree when you can make one from a cardboard mailing tube, leftover green foam strips, and green parachute fabric?
It’s all about creativity.
The Scrap Exchange is filled with things that have been liberated from their past lives, from what they were made for. They are now free to be anything.
Maybe even a palm tree.
Shopping at The Scrap Exchange also allows you to imagine new uses for things you already have. You see all these things in the store that would have been thrown away and you start thinking about things you yourself throw away, that you could use again instead. Or you think about things you have around the house that you got for one thing but could use for something else.
Like using nails to weigh down the fronds of your palm tree.
Promoting creativity through reuse. It’s what we’re all about.
Help! The Scrap Exchange Needs YOU!
Visit the Scrap Exchange website for full details on our fundraiser, or to make a tax-deductible, online donation through PayPal or Network for Good.
Rather go old school? Checks can be made payable to The Scrap Exchange and mailed to 923 Franklin St, Bay 1, Durham, NC 27701.