When Rachel Knudson moved to Bainbridge Island five years ago, she didn’t plan on opening Scrappy Art Lab. But that changed once she felt the “vibe” of the island.
“I really felt the vibe on Bainbridge that people are very much wanting to address waste and being mindful of keeping stuff out of the landfill,” she said. “I tried not to do it because actually, it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work to accept donations, process them, curate them, make it available for someone to do art with it, and then operate that. I couldn’t help it. I had to do it. Scrappy Art Lab was born.”
While living in Berkeley, CA, Knudson originally started a sister art studio called Sticky Art Lab. Previously she was a preschool teacher who often indulged in scrap art with her children.
“I had always sort of been a scrappy artist,” she said. “It’s fun to be creative on the fly. Whether out in nature or using what we had at home, I was trying to figure out how to stay engaged and discover new things.”
When her family decided to move to Bainbridge, she didn’t have a set-plan for what she wanted to do. She had a lot of art items left over so she began “building that library of materials again.”
“What I realized was that there was no place to walk in, sit down and make something with those materials,” Knudson said. “I thought that sort of hands-on venue would be a fun addition to downtown.”
It’s been a hit. “So far, parents love it because their kids are creatively engaged with guidance and support. Kids love it because they can design and build what they like. Hopefully, they learn a bit about resource conservation along the way,” she said.
Scrappy Art Lab opened in August of 2019, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, Knudson’s immersed in a community that has been a huge help.
“I do get a lot of donations It’s really awesome,” she said. “I think people generally on Bainbridge really want to keep the arts alive in all forms.”
In terms of programming, Knudson just started an afterschool program where small groups of kids meet five days a week to work on their creativity and discover new reusable materials to use. Kids are always in the same groups to help mitigate the potential transmission of COVID, and everyone has their own table. The sessions started Jan. 11 and run through March 12.
In the near future, Knudson is hoping to start up camps for the winter, spring and summer if state guidelines allow it. In normal times, Scrappy Art Lab also offers open lab, kid dropoff, parties and workshops. A big hit for the studio during the pandemic has been the art kits to-go, which include guide sheets and materials for reuse projects at home. The studio also serves as a retail store, open a few days each week and all day Saturdays. For details go to scrappyartlab.com
Knudson said the studio is tailored toward kids in the 6-12 age range, stating, “It’s been hard to build anything beyond the kids’ part,” but is hoping to tap into the elderly demographic to do collages once a week, when things return to normal.
‘More art, less waste’
The big question Knudson poses to the community is how do we make more art with less waste?
“When you’re exploring how to build something, nothing is too precious to make a mistake,” she said. “It’s a perfect medium for building with kids. It allows them time to discover the property of things, practice using tools. If we’re going to do good for the planet, we might as well not waste our creativity making something that’s going to be chucked back into the landfill or is toxic to the planet.”
Some of the reusable materials used at Scrappy Art Lab at 123 Bjune Dr. SE #109 include corks, paper, bottle caps, envelopes, cardboard, beach glass, leather scraps, etc. Many of the items have been donated by the community.
“This is all stuff that’s just sitting in someone’s garage,” Knudson said. “We can look at it and build the Eiffel Tower out of wire. We can build a bridge with tubes and popsicle sticks.”
The main thing Knudson wants her students to take away is process over product in order to better understand the importance of reusing materials.
“Beyond what we’re making, it’s about what we’re learning in the process,” she said. “The product becomes secondary. It’s about becoming a confident artist and maker, reducing waste and then discovering the joy of hands-on learning. Those are the big things that I’m about.”