When I was a child I loved nothing better than making stuff out of bits and bobs destined for the bin. I cannot count the number of cardboard box, tin foil, loo roll monsters I made when I was little. A pile of cardboard, string, glue and poster paints fired up my imagination and made me think ‘what shall I create today?’
Across the UK there are a network of Scraptores UK that continue the tradition of helping children to use their imaginations and create something with their hands. Each scrapstore is a treasure trove of clean scrap waste materials donated by business to be reused by local children in whatever way their creative urge takes them. The range of materials in any of the scrapstore changes each day and could include card, paper, textiles, paint, cork, wool, cardboard tubes, netting, gauze and many other things.
Scrapstores promote ‘play without rules’ and understand the importance of creative play in a child’s development. Every child needs to have the chance to squish clay, get covered in paint and look at a pile of scrap and think ‘what could I make with that?’ Scrapstores offer affordable craft materials to a wide range of bodies working in education, training, arts and culture, environment and conservation and projects involving children and young people. By taking familiar objects we all recognise from everyday use and encouraging children to use them in new and unusual ways, Scrapstores foster creative expression. The organisation has already helped out over 80,000 community groups by providing access to an exciting variety of materials.
Whilst local branches operate as separate entities, ScrapstoresUK was set up in an attempt to coordinate the work that individual scrapstores do across the UK. ScrapstoresUK acts as a champion for the movement and raises public awareness, facilitates fundraising and attempts to make each scrapstore run in an effective and efficient way. They also offer a useful online directory of all the scrapstores, so if you feel inspired to find out more, their website will have all the information you need to track down your local store.
All Scrapstores have different means of accessing their scrap materials. In some you need to pay an individual membership fee, at others you simply pay for the scrap you take on the day. Membership is generally offered to groups who work in creative play, care, educational and therapeutic settings. A number of Scrapstores also have shops open to the public selling good quality art and craft materials from glue to paintbrushes to complement the scrap.
We paid a visit to my local scrapstore which is based in Bristol to find out more about the work they do. The Bristol Children's Scrapstore is one of the oldest in the UK and has been open for over thirty years. To access the main scrap warehouse you need to be a member, but the Bristol branch also operates a craft supplies store called Artrageous Store which is open to the general public. Artrageous is a thriving business where you can find a wide selection of goods including art supplies such as glue, paint and modelling clay, they also stock puppets, wooden toys and musical instruments. Every other weekend Artrageous throws open its doors and invites children to come along and try out the craft materials. These ‘Super Saturday Sample Sessions’ encourage children to gain hands-on experience of creating a finished crafty item from scratch. The friendly staff encourage kids to get their hands on raffia, felt, glitter, crayons and lots of gloopy glue. All the proceeds from Artrageous support the Children’s Scrapstore and help to maintain local community projects working with local children.
Alongside Artrageous is the adjoining Children’s Scrapstore warehouse. There are an abundance of crafty delights with large containers filled with netting, colourful gauzes, plastic tubes, surgical masks, piles of remote controls, reels of sparkling paper, mounds of foam shapes, towers of take-away cartons and even the odd shop mannequin. Each item was destined for landfill and through Scrapstores it can now find a new life in a creative project.
The Scrapstores movement is something to be cherished and supported. By encouraging creative play, children learn communication skills, creativity and problem solving, team work and collaboration and a willingness to experiment. As with all charity projects, Scrapstores needs resources to keep functioning. Whether you donate scrap, volunteer your time or become a member, there are many ways to keep your nearest branch operating. Now I’ve discovered my local scrapstore, it would take a gang of foil covered, paint daubed, googly eyed cardboard box monsters to keep me away! **all photos were taken by my niece Jessica Chappell, you can see her blog here www.kingofthesheep.blogspot.co.uk