As a young mother, teacher and artist, Rachel Knudson actively looked for a space (outside of her home, and specifically her dining room table) where she could take her kids to craft and create art in a social environment using fun materials and cool tools, all the while having a great time doing it. At the time, she and her family lived in the Bay Area and although she found a few places that came close, they didn’t quite fit the vision Rachel had in mind.
Having spent a few years teaching preschool and facilitating after school activities and summer camps, Rachel decided to launch her own creative reuse art studio in Berkeley, CA in 2011 (Sticky Art Lab). As she explained, “The ‘Art Lab’ concept was gaining momentum in the early 2000’s through movements like the Maker Faire and their Make magazine, and of STEM and STEAM concepts in everyday school curricula, and various tech and art hubs focused on creative innovation.” Using the “lab” concept, she combined her teacher training in the Reggio Emilia approach—which supports the whole creativity of the child—to build a space where kids and families could explore their own creativity, either individually or together, and not worry about the mess art projects can produce.
When Rachel and her family moved to Bainbridge Island in 2015, she concentrated on raising her kids (Mickie, 19 and Sofia 21, both Bainbridge High School graduates), and pursuing other creative outlets. As she told me, “I am a teacher, facilitator, and collaborator…I am a lifetime illustrator and dabbler in many forms of art, big format acrylic painting being one of my favorites. I love digging in the dirt and planting things, cooking with the family, and sharing stories and ideas.” However, it was her love of working with children and families that made her realize the vision she created in Berkeley could easily expand to Bainbridge. “I saw the space open up on Bjune Drive and decided to give it a try, thinking that Bainbridge would be supportive of a family arts space, and of the idea of repurposing old materials.”
In late 2019, Rachel got to work creating Scrappy Art Lab and she hasn’t looked back since. In addition to promoting creativity and exploration through art, one of the main tenets behind Scrappy Art Lab is the reuse of materials, “We are trying to use what comes in the door as reuse donations from the community, and trying NOT to buy new material,” Rachel said.
They do have to purchase certain things, such as tape and glues, however the donations they receive often set the tone as to what’s made, “We get a lot of fabric and yarn, so we learn to hand-sew stuffies, and weave fabric strips into old frames. We get wood scrap, so we learn to hammer nails, use a screwdriver and an awl, screw eyes and wood glue. We get lots of paper, so we collage landscapes, make simple books, build paper towers, marble mazes or board games. We often start a project with an idea prompt, and the kids and families really take off with it, so it’s always unique.”
When choosing the name of her “art labs”, Rachel feels that both Sticky and Scrappy help to promote playfulness, experimentation and emphasize that more can be done with less. The reuse of materials that might otherwise be thrown away teaches mindful resourcefulness towards the commitment of environmental stewardship.
Scrappy Art Lab offers several programs, such as the Saturday Art & Build Labs, which cater to family activities, one hour kid drop-off, and small groups of grown-ups. They explore the use of all genres of art including watercolors, drawing, collage, jewelry-making, and building things like paper castles, tinker robots, wooden sculptures, cork boards and much, much more.
“We like to feature different materials every week, pull something out of the back room and try to see what we can do with it. What happens depends on who is working with it…There are project ideas and materials on the tables already, but there is also a chance to explore all the stuff on the shelves. Also, if you have a languishing project from home that needs new inspiration, use our space, tables and materials to get it done!”
Scrappy also offers Kid Drop-Off (get some “parent” time while the kids explore art), Summer and Seasonal Camps, Parties (for a special occasion, or any reason for that matter), After School Programs and Workshops. Click here to learn about all their programs.
In addition to the full-time job of managing Scrappy Art Lab, Rachel is a member of Zero Waste Bainbridge, is involved with the Master Gardeners of Kitsap County, and has worked with the Green Team for the Rotary Auction, managing leftovers from the sale. Despite the pandemic and operating at half capacity, Scrappy has reused (approximately) 1000 wine corks, 1200 toilet paper tubes, 900 metal bottle caps, 680 plastic bottle caps, 24 reams of paper, 350 tea and butter boxes, and an unknown about of scrap fabric since 2019. If you’d like to donate to Scrappy, click here for details and instructions.
To see Scrappy Art Lab projects in action, visit their Instagram and Facebook pages. You can also visit them at the First Friday Art Walk – Moonlight Market (in the Bainbridge Island Town Square) on Friday, June 3rd for fun kid activities.
Rachel is hoping to feature local volunteer artists in new workshop programming! If you have a skill or interest you want to share with kids, youth or adults, please reach out. Projects can be simple, something old used in a new way, a fun way to repurpose an ordinary thing, a painting technique we can use on a reused canvas or board, etc., to be taught in a fun weeknight or weekend program. If you’re interested in volunteering (or possibly working part-time), contact Rachel Knudson at email@example.com
To subscribe to The Island Wanderer Blog, click here.