The Scrap School

May 20, 2009 at 6:43 am | Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment

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Scrap metal gets a second life (and a chance to become art, robots and vehicles) at The Crucible, a nonprofit housed in a sprawling 56,000-square-foot Oakland, California warehouse where salvaged materials are used for a constant stream of classes for kids and adults in neon, jewelrymaking, glasswork, kinetics, blacksmithing, enameling and more. Local industries donate scrap of all kinds along with still-usable machinery and computers. Discarded bottles and windowglass are used in The Crucible’s glasswork classes. Discarded electronics are used in kinetics and robotics classes. An entire garage is stocked with salvaged bikes and bike parts. The warehouse is studded with scrap-metal sculptures, spiral staircases and fixtures whose components would otherwise have ended up at landfills.

Because intensely energy-intensive activities are The Crucible’s raison d’etre, its environmentally minded staff strive to go green in whatever ways possible. Biodegradable cornstarch flatware is used at all events, and employees and students are encouraged to commute via bicycle and public transit. Since 2006, the facility has been solar-powered.

We visited The Crucible last Friday (see pic above) to attend the 2009 Oakland Indie Awards, celebrating energy-conscious local artists and businesses. One big winner — nabbing the Greenie Award — was the Awaken Café, a downtown espresso bar/art gallery constructed in the scavenging spirit. Its counter-front and all trim were built from salvaged redwood planks. Its permanent menu was made from a door. Its tile backsplash was made from recycled glass. (Currently on exhibit at the café are hauntingly realistic paintings of men’s socks and underwear on recycled kraft paper by Oakland artist Terry Furry. Developed in Germany in 1879, the kraft process enables the recovery and reuse of inorganic pulping chemicals to transform wood into wood pulp.)

So much to salvage, so little time….

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