Having Fun while Helping Mother Earth

Earth Day is April 22, and there are many crafty ways you can participate in the love-fest for our home. One way to get involved is to participate in art and craft fairs that use and advocate the use of leftover material and tidbits that would normally be considered trash. Richmond Art Center’s Upcycle fair is just such an event. The activities they offer at this FREE hands-on event show visitors how to use creativity to turn trash into treasures.

Upcycle is still new (this year was its second go), and already it’s run like a years-hardened event. The organization, atmosphere, and layout create a low-stress, high-fun environment with activities for all age and skill levels. The event is held at the Richmond Art Center, mostly in the inner courtyard, and this year it took place on Saturday, April 12, from 1-4 p.m.

The activities Upcycle offers makes even the grownups give in to the gleeful cries of their inner child, especially when presented with the opportunity to make something like a drawing robot. Poptart, the seasoned crafter, put me to shame at many of the booths, but  I still walked away with something I was proud of. We tried most activities, and though some booths were busy and required people to wait to participate, the wait was worth it. Besides, it was entertaining just watching what everyone chose to make. It was also heartwarming to see kids enjoying learning about the value of reusing materials and giving the earth as much of a break as possible.

The first activity we did was make screen-printed patches with Joyce Shon and Monica Gyulai. They explained how screen printing works and what to do and then let us apply the ink to our patches. Poptart then made a robot that draws by itself at the California 4-H Foundation. The gentleman at the booth taught everyone how to attach markers to a paper cup and to attach the battery pack and rotor to the top of the cup. The table and the nearby ground were covered with paper, so when a robot was finished, it could be set loose on a blank canvas. This was my favorite station. I loved seeing all the robots humming away and imagining the chaos they would happily cause in each creator’s home.

We then made bracelets out of bike inner tubes with Holly Carter. There were numerous examples available to guide one’s design, and Carter was generous with advice and instructions. All of the equipment and supplies one could want were available, and we were impressed with everyone’s results. There was a young girl next to us who created two bracelets like a pro.

The final activity we did was make a metal leaf with Ed Lay. He taught us how to fold the metal, cut it, pound the side to elongate it to the shape we wanted, and then fired the metal to make it pliable enough to open and finish. He was able to tailor his instructions to any skill level and age, and everyone seemed to be happy with the result of their work.

Other activities that were a joy to observe was the creation of a garbage can by Daud Abdullah and visitors using glass shards, glass beads, and other items, the blending of smoothies by stationary bike with Urban Tilth, the weaving of small rugs with Susan Sterling, and the creation of hats with Kiki Rostad. There were many more booths and activities to choose from. While enjoying the activities, we were treated to the otherworldly yet delightful sounds of the Crank Ensemble. They had a variety of what appeared to be hand-crafted instruments that made a music to resonate with one’s inner funk and quirk.

We walked away from this event with a wonderful variety of creations, and everything was free! However, many booths had donation jars to help make up for the materials used.  All of the activities were quick and easy to complete, and visitors of all ages seemed to enjoy them. Check out the Richmond Art Center website to learn more about the booths and performances: http://www.therac.org/html/calendar.html#upcycle.

Also, check to see if similar craft events are happening in your area. With a little creativity and a big imagination, you can craft a better tomorrow for the planet, and you won’t be left empty handed.

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