On my first day with Creative Bug... really my first hour, I was taken on a surprise field trip. We headed to SCRAP. Every time I had read about it online, I felt like it was crazy that I had never gone. And now I was on my way, with my sweet new friend, Ava. We drove down Army st. (now called Cesar Chavez Blvd.) under the freeway over passes and beyond my old neighborhood of Precita Park to go to the more industrial part of town I remembered fetching lumber from as a girl. We parked down a small street, next to a huge warehouse surrounded by chain link fences that had been decorated and embellished with junk and trash in the most inspiring way. SCRAP! I only have my phone pics, but that will give you a taste. I stepped into the cavernous depths and looked up at shelves and shelves of rescued materials organized to the last little washer and wire. Each aisle reached up to the old wooden rafters and was devoted to its own specialty: paper, textiles, wood, glass, toys... amazing!
As I looked through the boxes of of wooden scraps, there was a section separated from the rest and labeled "free of nails and safe for children's projects". I started to cry. Ava didn't question my tears... my goodness, this place would bring any one with my passion for recycled ingredients to their knees. But it was something deeper that had been stirred... a memory. A piece of me. A coming home. Ok, I know I'm all drama these days... but 2012 has been nothing short of dramatic for me.
I called my mom later that day, and I told her I went to SCRAP. Synchronicty is my middle name, as you know. She was currently on the opposite coast in Atlanta presenting at the National Association for the Education of Young Children's annual conference. Her workshop was titled: Re.Cycle, Re.Purpose, Re.Use: Incorporating Found Materials for Creative Expression into the Early Childhood Curriculum. I come from good stock, eh? She confirmed the recognition I had felt, and then some.
So here's some San Francisco history for you. SCRAP was founded in 1976 "to breathe new life into old objects and reduce waste". It currently diverts about 200 tons of materials that would be heading to the landfill and makes it accessible to artists, tinkerers and educators. The 70's were the beginning of a cultural consciousness about the environment and San Francisco was at the forefront. My mother, an artist and educator, took me to Scrap frequently when she worked at The Toy Center (thus the familiarity even though it was housed in a new location). In 1977, with a Ford Foundation Grant and funding from the Rosenburg Foundation, my mother and a close friend founded The Toy Center- which provided an innovative and much needed service to low income families and parent playgroups. With the help from the SF Childcare Switchboard (now the Children's Council) they rented an old double storefront on 24th street near Mission St. It had been an old pharmacy with gorgeous glass cabinets and oak counters. They transformed it into a community space to teach workshops on how to make educational toys out of recycled materials. The supplies came from none other than SCRAP. There were recycled cardboard ice cream bins filled with odds and ends to reinvent, including those little scraps of wood I recognized at the current SCRAP. I remember spending hours tinkering at the Toy Center when my sister was a baby. My mother carried her around in a Snuggly when she wasn't teaching other mothers how to use a dremel jigsaw to create their own wooden puzzles from photographs. It was my job to care for her when my mother had to demonstrate the power tools. I still have one of those puzzles somewhere in my attic. I love that puzzle.
It's not like I didn't remember that The Toy Center was a part of my childhood... of course, I did. It was always part of my family's lore... but last week when I returned to San Francisco to film workshops on how to make something out of nothing...
I felt the full circle of a family legacy falling into place... something akin to putting all of the pieces together in one of my mother's puzzles. Sometimes the road we follow is filled with unchartered territory and other times it's the continuation of your heritage. I think this path I'm on is a bit of both. I'm so proud to be my mother's daughter!
But that's enough story time and lofty talk for this Friday, the bike inner tubes I brought home are calling out for some experimentation! Do you think my sewing machine can handle them? I bet you'll be making something this weekend, too...
|*photo taken by my son who's quite interested in those tubes!|