As we speak in the September sunlight behind the Marsh Commons, Tibora Girczyc-Blum is still catching her breath from dancing in the Samba parade at the North Country Fair. Her whole group stitched together its outfits from reused materials. At our table built from used railroad ties, the sun glints off of her shimmery gold top, and she points out the pathways around us made from broken up chunks of old concrete.
"Here's what I have, here's what I want to do and now I'm going to do it," says Girczyc-Blum with confidence. She's one of the founding members of SCRAP Humboldt. SCRAP stands for School and Community Reuse Action Project, and its hip creative reuse center is located in the Marsh Commons on South G Street in Arcata. With a little more than a year under its belt, SCRAP has quickly emerged as a critical resource for people looking to acquire or offload art, craft and office supplies.
SCRAP's 850-square-foot shop is packed to the ceiling with innumerable items that have taken a direction away from the dump (14,000 pounds so far) and now sit, ripe with possibility, waiting for reuse. Girczyc-Blum and her crew have cultivated a 21st century not-only-is-it-cool-to-reuse-stuff-but-it-also-helps-the-environment vibe — a place where artists, crafters, teens and elders can all come to satisfy that creative urge.
A Humboldt native, Girczyc-Blum spent time living in San Francisco and relied heavily on the creative reuse centers that populate the Bay Area. Upon returning home, she saw that the Arcata Community Recycling Center had closed, taking with it a huge resource for reuse. She bounced around to some creative reuse conferences and found a place called SCRAP in Portland. With the help of former recycling center educator Patti Johnson and artist Spring Garrett, she applied to the Oregon non-profit to start a similar venture in Arcata. After six months of fundraising, organizing and proving that this area truly needed a place like SCRAP, they were accepted into the organization. The Portland group is SCRAP's fiscal sponsor and provides their business model, branding and guidance. "Here's how we do things, here's what we do," they told Girczyc-Blum, "Now you do it in your community in whatever way fits best."
A year later, keeping up with the influx and demand for materials is tough. SCRAP relies completely on donated goods, with stuff arriving daily from citizens, businesses and places like Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods. "We never know what we'll have. We never know what we're going to get!" says Girczyc-Blum. Filled with fabric, yarn, art supplies and even "weird and quirky" things like CPR dummies and dental molds, SCRAP has become an important hub for connecting creative people to supplies they didn't even know were available. Artists have material request cards on file at the shop, and teachers can fill out donation requests via SCRAP's website. Of course, most of their business comes from the small business owners, parents, crafters and artists who regularly visit the store to peruse the ever-changing inventory.
In October, SCRAP is presenting Humboldt County's first ever Rebel Craft Rumble. This ain't your grandma's craft show! In front of a booty-shakin', DJ-bouncin' crowd, this live crafting competition promises to mix the sass of Project Runway with the grit and vigor of Iron Chef for an all-out intergalactic craft battle of felt-and-adrenaline-fueled fury. Four teams from various nonprofits will be presented with a scenario where they'll craft a solution out of preselected materials directly from SCRAP's shop. After 10 minutes of cheers and heckles from the audience, their creation will be judged on creativity, artistic value, technique and utility. Winners of the first round will compete with the winners from round two for the glorious title of Extreme Ultimate Supreme Craft Master. SCRAP is modeling the event after an annual one in Portland with a few Kinetic and Humboldt twists, and proceeds will support SCRAP's educational programs.
Events like the Rebel Craft Rumble highlight the energetic, funky community that has evolved around creative reuse. Girczyc-Blum gets a serious look in her eyes when she talks about SCRAP's educational mission. "We want people to be responsible in how they consume but also responsible in how they use materials." She notes that recycling has come to dominate the three R's, but "remember those other two? They're pretty cool!"
The Rebel Craft Rumble is on Saturday, Oct. 19, but you don't have to wait that long to check out all that SCRAP has to offer. Stop by during Arts! Arcata on Friday, Oct. 11, when you can meet the Rumble teams (with names like "The Sparkle Ninjas," who wouldn't want to meet them?) and peruse the re-boutique, the part of their store that features finished works that are at least 75 percent reused. SCRAP board member David Bethuy will be the featured artist, showing his "Vegan Taxidermy" series.