The basement space below Vino 9 Bistro in Paeonian Springs has just about everything you can think of—bottle caps, ribbon, yarn, markers, crayons and pencils of all colors. There’s even some colorful vintage floppy disks.
It’s not the space of a compulsive hoarder, although Jess Griffin admits that artists can be known for those habits. Instead, it’s the flagship location of the NOVA Creative Reuse Center, a space inviting imagination and creativity.
Griffin has a history with creative reuse centers. She first encountered one when visiting a friend in Durham, NC and immediately fell in love.
“I’d always been a creative reuse artist, I just didn’t know there was a name for it,” she said.
Griffin always hand-made gifts for her friends in high school, reusing everyday items—from old sheets of music to road maps—to create something unique. In the reuse center, she points to bouquets of flowers made out of maps; a mirror made out of old CDs; and jewelry created from everyday odds and ends. The shelves of the center are lined with items that many wouldn’t think twice about tossing into the trash—the tabs of aluminum cans, wine corks, vials from pill bottles, even old computer parts. But each item, to some inconsequential, can inspire an artist.
As she quickly became a disciple of the creative reuse concept, spending years commuting to Washington, DC, to volunteer at the city’s version of the center, Scrap DC, Griffin knew she wanted to replicate the concept closer to home. She put together a funding campaign last year and received enough not only to register as a nonprofit, but to have some seed money to open her first location.
Griffin recalled driving past the “for rent” sign in Paeonian Springs several times before reaching out to see if the space would work. Although the office space she eyed was not in the budget, the building owners showed off the small basement space.
“I thought, ‘this could work,’” she recalled.
She opened the reuse center in the cozy space in March, and since then has been collecting donations from the community, items that many would throw away but instead can be used to create something. Creative reuse centers, she noted, are not only about encouraging creativity but reducing waste. And that goes to the heart of the center’s mission, Griffin said, changing the perception of everyday items, creating a mindfulness of overconsumption and waste, and, of course, encouraging creative exploration.
Griffin said she would like to find room to create a mini makerspace area in the center so visitors can put their creative juices to work with the items they find there. Until then, many come to the center for discounted coloring books and art supplies, buttons, beads, LEGOs, yarn, gift supplies, and more. She even had one customer who just needed CD cases find what he needed there.
She plans to host workshops and summer camps for kids and also encourages community members to tell her about their personal interests. In addition to support from the community by way of patronizing the center or monetary donations for the nonprofit, the center also needs a dedicated trove of volunteers to keep it organized and stocked, Griffin said. And down the road, she hopes to be able to provide employment to people just starting out, or perhaps re-entering the workforce after a difficult situation.
Griffin said she hopes to be a part of the spark that draws people to explore creative reuse.
“I want to be that person that inspires the next artist,” she said. “I want to bring this to someone else the way it was brought to me.”
The NOVA Creative Reuse Center is located on the lower level of 40602 Charles Town Pike, beneath Vino 9 Bistro. For information about hours of operation, upcoming camps or classes, how to donate or volunteer or more, go to novacrc.org.