What are Scrapstores?

Scrapstores are a wonderful source of inspirational materials for experimental printmakers.

Most  Scrapstores run as charities, and the purpose is to provide low-cost materials for creative play, crafts, and community projects.

All sorts of foam

All sorts of foam

They collect clean waste from local industries, and also swap materials between members in the network of scrapstores.

Some stores offer new art and craft materials at discounted rates. You will often find creative workshops at the Scrapstore where you can put ‘reducing, reusing and recycling’ into practice in a community setting. At the same time, you will also be helping to improve the environment and society by reducing waste in landfill.

Expect to be surprised

Archiving storage tubes

Archiving storage tube

The thing I love about Scrapstores is that you never know what you will find, or what to expect. One thing you can be sure of is that you will be surprised and inspired.

Make sure to allow plenty of time for your visit as the store is an Aladdins cave of amazing things, many of which will suggest new possibilities for printmaking activities.

You may go with something in mind, I usually pick up sheets of acetate, (excellent printing plates) and thick sheets of rubber, (great for making printing stamps).

The real fun is when you stumble on something unexpected that sets you off in a new direction. You may come across piles of odd shaped offcuts from different manufacturing processes. They could be card, rubber or plastic, all great for stencilling or mono printing – the sheer volume of scraps is enough to get you playing with new designs for prints.

Last time I was at Scrapstuff I found a barrel full of 4m long bendy flagpoles, (your local garage probably has some flying outside). I left with several of them, plus a new plan to print a set of outdoor banners to promote my next exhibition.

Liberate your creativity

Stiff plastic for printing plates

Stiff plastic for printing plates

I always like my students to feel free in their use of materials and this is much easier if they don’t cost much.

It is liberating to have generous supplies and this encourages experimentation without the worry of spoiling things or wasting things.

If your printing plates are made of expensive copper, you may feel a little inhibited to experiment. Start with plastic sheets from the Scrapstore and let your imagination run wild.

Save that copper for another day.

Be prolific

Holey felt to inspire prints with circles

Holey felt to inspire prints with circles

In David Bayles and Ted Orland’s book ‘Art and Fear’ they describe an experiment in which a ceramics class was divided in to two groups. Half the class was to be graded on the quantity of work they produced, the other half on the quality of their work.

“Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the ‘quality’ group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories….”

This is particularly true for printmaking – just keep doing lots and some of it will be great!

If your materials are plentiful and low cost you can happily print away, allowing your creative juices to flow; save the judgement till the end when you can switch to a critical mindset and edit the results.

Organise your studio

Get organised with storage crates

Get organised with storage crates

As well as materials for practical printmaking, Scrapstores are full of useful storage ideas. You are likely to find cardboard tubes, crates, old shop fittings and more.

These will be handy to store all your new resources after a couple of visits to the Scrapstore…..

Find your local Scrapstore

You can never have too much white card

You can never have too much white card

There is a network of Scrapstores across the country, and sometimes extra temporary ones pop up, especially during summer holidays.

Have a look at the ‘Reuseful’ website for information about UK scrap stores.

Scrapstuff at Sunnybank Mills in Leeds is my local one and these pictures were all taken there on a recent visit.

Help! I don’t have a scrapstore nearby…..

Apart from being a real place and an ideological movement a Scrapstore is also a state of mind.

As a curious printmaker, you are already no doubt an opportunist scrounger, making use of unusual textures and materials.

Lovely new ink mixing tins

Lovely new ink mixing tins

When you put on your printmakers ‘glasses’ you will start to spot useful things everywhere you go.

I recently got excited about piles of army catering tins in a dark corner at the back of the surplus store. I recognised them as perfect ink mixing pots to replace the old baked bean tins and assorted plastic jars I have been using.

You don’t need to rely on conventional art supply shops. For a more interesting life cultivate a Scrapstore philosophy and visit charity shops, or scrounge offcuts from local businesses – and scour the street for discarded treasure.

You could even start your own scrapstore…..

Tell us about your recycled printmaking adventures below, and if you have pictures of prints made with recycled materials share them on instagram using #thecuriousprintmaker.