Handmade: Treasure hunt for supplies at Arts & Scraps

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Are you someone who’s purchased a lot of craft supplies with plans for making something wonderful to share with the rest of the world, but never found the time? Or, have you recently lost a loved one who stashed away the secret mother lode of exquisite yarn, fabric, beads, etc.? Or, are you the owner of a local manufacturing firm with lots of leftover materials that could be put to good use by creative individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford such items?

Well, if you answered “yes” to any of these questions, Arts & Scraps, 16135 Harper in Detroit, accepts donations of clean, mold-free items that can be used for all sorts of crafting projects by children and adults of all skill levels. The nonprofit organization was started in 1989 by three women, including director and co-founder Peg Upmeyer of Detroit, who has remained active with the program. “We saw a need in the community for people working with kids, and to have materials that were affordable,” explains Upmeyer. “On the other hand, there are so many things that are thrown away. It’s just connecting parts of the community.

“We pick up from about 190 different factories and businesses. We pick up 28 tons of stuff a year, and individuals bring (in) materials. We don’t pick up at people’s homes,” adds Upmeyer. The items they get from factories fall into three categories — errors and overruns, obsolete materials and outdated samples. “We only get things when they have no value to the company. We have one vehicle that’s on the road picking up items — our ‘Ten Buck Truck.’ If you donate $10, we put your name on the vehicle permanently. We have all kinds of names — pets, grandchildren, schools, and even names in computer code. We’ve raised over $13,000 asking people for $10.”

Staff and volunteers are responsible for pricing the industrial scraps and other items that come in, and they’re always “scaled to be affordable.” Upmeyer says, “Most of the items are sold in bulk. When we sell things by the bag, we sell them for less. That’s our nonprofit purpose.”

Items that can be found at Arts & Scraps include scrapbooking materials, yarn, stamping equipment, sewing supplies, fabric, ribbon and wine corks. You just never know what you’ll find. “We can never get enough wine corks. There are a lot of hot wine cork projects,” says Upmeyer. An entire room is devoted to the 5 tons of fabric they go through each year.

“Think of us as a place of good intentions. When people thought they were going to do something, and life happens, and they don’t. So when people pass their things on to us, they know they’re going to find a good home, and they support the work we do in schools,” adds Upmeyer. “The work we do in schools is all about hands-on learning, and a lot of science. We teach kids to think, and hands-on learning really helps kids understand things better. We work directly with 56,000 kids a year, with most of the programming on location for lack of transportation to Arts & Scraps.”

And who’s behind the scenes, making things happen at the much-needed Arts & Scraps? “We have the equivalent of six full-time staff members, but we get 10,000 volunteer hours a year to process the donations and to get the material ready for kids to use, so it’s a very labor-intensive process. There are 300-plus different types of items in the store,” informs Upmeyer.

If you’d like to donate your unwanted craft or manufacturing supplies to Arts & Scraps, just visit artsandscraps.org and search “Get Involved” to view the list of items they accept. Volunteers are always needed, as well. Interested persons can walk into the 5,000-square-foot store anytime. Hours of operation are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com. For more news and giveaways, visit her blog at detroitnews.com/crafts.

Contact Arts & Scraps at (313) 640-4411, or visit artsandscraps.org.