On Mondays in January, February, and March this year, I spent a couple of hours in the warehouse of Arts & Scraps, working with and thinking about their materials. Arts & Scraps is a non-profit in Detroit that takes donated/recycled industrial and craft materials and uses those materials to create kits and projects for kids. One use of these kits is in schools (they are available outside of school, too), which is cool because these kinds of activities are getting cut out of the school day for many kids.
I worked on this volunteer project with Barbro, an artist and product designer from Germany who was in Detroit on a residency and looking for something like a job but not a job. Barbro had the project lined up with A&S before her arrival, and I just happened to get in touch with A&S about volunteering at the same time.
We made samples of existing kits and created new kits based on themes, using the materials from the warehouse. It was fun to wander around the warehouse, which is filled with boxes and boxes and boxes of just stuff, picking up materials, and thinking about how they can be used. We had to keep in mind that the projects have to cover many age groups, have to also be appealing to adults, and that the main goal is not the end product but the experience of creating and challenging kids to think. A lot of the materials are grey and black, so it was a challenge sometimes to work in color. The kits also should be self-sufficient, and come together without the use of glue, tape, etc. (many of the pieces have a sticky side).
It was a fun project, and it was great to get to work with some different materials be design-challenged in ways I’m not challenged in my day-to-day work. Our work there is a good example of “creativity within constraints.”