Around Puget Sound, a green sensibility starts young: Kids learn to recycle as toddlers, cheer on spawning salmon every fall, and can list the merits of a worm bin. But as fans of eco-crafting hotspot Seattle ReCreative know, being green can be creative, too. This north Seattle wonderland of "creative reuse," which moved to new digs in Greenwood earlier this year, fuses education around old-school skills such as fine art, woodworking and sewing, with a 21st-century mission to find new life for materials that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.
Seattle ReCreative was started by two Ballard moms with a similar dream. Emily Korson, an artist and educator who moved to Seattle in 2013, had visions of creating a family-friendly alternative art space. Jenna Boitano, a nonprofit leader who had served as Board President of The Scrap Exchange in Durham, North Carolina, dreamed of establishing a center similar to The Scrap Exchange. When they met (through a local moms' listserv, natch) a "lightbulb" moment happened. Why not open an art-focused reuse center in Seattle, one that nurtured both the community and artists by offering affordable access to art materials and education; reduced waste by redistributing materials destined for the trash; and offered opportunities for teaching artists?
Drawing on their respective backgrounds, they opened Seattle ReCreative in a church basement in 2014. Rapidly gaining a loyal following, it incorporated as a nonprofit and moved earlier this year to a more expansive space in the happening hub of Greenwood Avenue.
The new space is a one-stop shop for families who want to get creative and learn together. Downstairs, you'll find a bright, beautifully cluttered retail area packed with every kind of secondhand material imaginable: buttons, fabric scraps, vintage postcards, old puppets and greeting cards, as well as art and craft supplies. As you peruse for treasures, know that your purchases are helping ReCreative divert literally tons of materials from the waste stream.
ReCreative also hosts opportunities for families to get creative each week, from drop-in classes such as a toddler-friendly "Paint Playground" to family woodworking workshops to a Saturday skill share for all ages. Upstairs, parents in need of a break will find a bright play space (free of charge to use), with fort-building material, a train table, books and blocks, and more.
Why does creative reuse matter? And how can families do it together? Korson and Boitano took a few minutes to answer ParentMap's questions.
Tell us more about Seattle ReCreative's start?
We fundraised and facilitated outreach activities in early 2014, and then with the support of the Phinney Neighborhood Association, we taught children’s classes and collected materials in the basement of the Woodland Park United Methodist Church for four months last year. Last September, we incorporated Seattle ReCreative as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, forged a partnership with Ballard Reuse, and planned for a full-scale launch in January of this year.
Why this space and how does it serve ReCreative's mission?
Given the scope of our ambitions, we never intended to stay in a church basement long-term.
The space on Greenwood Avenue was ideal — it had a visible storefront in a walkable area, it was located near other inspiring organizations like the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, and it was a dynamic space with different rooms and areas that could be dedicated for varied purposes, such as a retail store, workshop, and kids’ play space.
In the long term, ReCreative aims to establish a facility as environmentally impactful as a few of its models: Materials for the Arts in New York City (diverted 800 tons of material in 2013); The Scrap Exchange in Durham, North Carolina (diverted 70 tons of material in 2013); and SCRAP in Portland, Oregon (diverted 140 tons of materials in 2013).
And actually, we’re well on our way: In collaboration with our partners at Ballard Reuse, we have diverted 43 tons of usable material since January. It’s fantastic having a walkable storefront location, and supporting all our activities with just 2,200 square feet of space and two storage closets is posing an interesting challenge.
You have an amazing collection of goods for sale. What are some of the more unusual items?
You could find many of the items in our shop at a typical arts and crafts store, like paint, brushes, canvas, frames, fabric, greeting cards, and paper. However, atypical items like vintage ephemera, wine corks, bottle caps, tile sample, prescription bottles, and fabric scraps make our shop unique.
Whether you’re into decks of old playing cards, “Labyrinth” posters, National Geographics dating back to the 1930s, Sigmund Freud puppets, or the gamestore oddities of yesteryear, we’ve seen it all.
There’s a little something for everyone, and since we accept donations daily, our inventory is constantly changing.
What's a new program you're excited about?
We received a Youth Arts Grant from the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture to lead a class called “The Art of Destruction” for teens this fall. During this free eight-week course, we are exploring the themes of destruction and repair in contemporary art and literature, documenting what we see as “broken” in our society, and then creating artworks inspired by these experiences. The aim of this program is to encourage teens to reflect upon aspects of social life that are both personally relevant and politically charged — such as environmental impact, censorship, violence and social justice.
What's in store for future classes?
The possibilities are endless, but we are specifically working on developing additional programming, for adults and children, in sewing, drawing and painting, printmaking and book arts.
If Seattle ReCreative was an animal, what would it be?
A unicorn: it’s one-of-a-kind, a creature of your fantasies and you have to see it to believe it. Also, in a pinch, we’re pretty sure it could haul a ton (or two?) of fabric and notions.
If you go ...
Where: Seattle ReCreative is located at 8408 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle
Drop-in activities and classes: Below are just a few of the offerings, which also include ongoing classes such as origami, intro to fine art and Maker Mania. Check the website for a current list.
- Paint Playground class is a sensory-based materials exploration class is designed to introduce your 1- to 5-year-old to art-making, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.–noon (Saturdays are bilingual for Spanish-speaking/learning families.)
- Friday Crafternoons are a drop-in class on Fridays from 3–5 p.m., with a featured "Crafternoon Special" project each week, for anyone ages 4 and up. Both of these cost $10 per session or $50 for six sessions when you purchase an Early Artists Class Pass. An added sibling is 50 percent off.
- The free Saturday Skill Share Program happens every Saturday from 10 a.m.–noon. Each week a volunteer comes to share a skill with the community, from knitting and sewing on paper to wool felting, paper bead-making, and framing. It's frequently all ages.
- There are also classes such as adult bookbinding, after school children’s fine arts classes, and family woodworking workshops.
- This summer Recreative piloted a summer day camp for two weeks in late July, which combined experiential art-making and exploring local urban ecosystems.
Other ways to get involved: There are opportunities to volunteer at Seattle ReCreative, including sharing skills, teaching a workshop and more. Check seattlerecreative.org/volunteer.
More green fun in Greenwood
Want to make a day of it? Here are other hot family spots in the Greenwood area.
Across the street from Seattle ReCreative, stop by G&O Family Cyclery, the local experts in biking as transportation for families.
Right next to Seattle ReCreative, Chaco Canyon is an organic vegan café offering fare that’s both uber-healthy and kid-friendly (vegan rubens, rice bowls, fresh smoothies).
For more of a pub experience, nearby Yard Cafe serves up American pub food and craft microbrews with a Latin twist in a pleasantly roughhewn space.
Seattle Public Library’s Greenwood Branch is a lovely, light library with a kids' section, story time and more.
Top Ten Toys is Seattle's mecca of toy stores, with the latest in innovative, eco-friendly toys, a train table, weekly story time and more.