Saturday, April 12, 2014

Richmond Art Center's Upcycle

     You really can't say you've fully enjoyed the Bay Area until you've taken advantage of its unique creative opportunities. This is an area filled with artists, crafters, and visionaries. It's also an area where people look at the everyday and see the fantastic, and their materials matter just as much to them as the things those materials make. When you see all the wonderful creations that give the Bay Area a lot of its character, it's hard to resist the urge to participate in that creation. So why try?  The Richmond Art Center's Upcycle fair is one opportunity to get your hands crafty in an earth friendly and conscientious way. The whole focus of Upcycle, as the name implies, is to reuse materials for art and practical items that are considered trash or leftovers.
     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. There are many great things about this art and crafting extravaganza, but two of my favorite are that it's free, and it's not just intended for kids. 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. Driving is probably best for this event, and parking is available (and also free) on the road and in the Center's parking lot.
     The variety of things to do at Upcycle pretty much guarantees that no one will be bored. Even grownups seemed unable to resist the gleeful cries of their inner child when presented with the opportunity to make something like a drawing robot. I went to the event with a seasoned crafter, and while she put me to shame at many of the booths, 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.
     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. My sister, the crafter, 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 was 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. If you want to participate in a family-friendly event that has a good purpose and teaches valuable lessons, then this is a definite miss-me-not. Check out the Richmond Art Center website to learn more about the booths and performances:


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