Last winter, Tammy Zemliska and Doreen Hartman met when both were selling repurposed jewelry and home furnishings at Kim & Eddy’s on Montana Avenue.
In talking with other artists who were also into repurposing and upcycling, as it’s called, they saw that there was a big need for work and studio space in Billings. They began looking into the possibility of opening a business where they could lease studio space to artists and also sell their creations.
Hartman, while doing some investigation on the Internet, discovered SCRAP USA, which describes itself as “a national network of creative reuse centers.”
Founded in 1998 in Portland, Ore., the nonprofit organization’s goal is to help teachers, students and artists gain access to inexpensive art materials while promoting recycling and reuse and diverting materials from the landfill.
Zemliska said Hartman came to her and said, “I think this kind of encompasses everything you want this business to be.”
They soon got in touch with Kelley Carmichael Casey, national executive director for SCRAP, who encouraged them and told them that Billings “really needs this,” in Zemliska’s words.
After signing on as a satellite of SCRAP USA, the partners did some online training with the organization, and Zemliska went to the SCRAP store in Washington, D.C., for additional training.
They also secured a space—the old Montana Rescue Mission Bargain Center at 21 S. 29th St., just across the alley from the Men’s Mission. Zemliska said they are leasing the 12,000-square-foot building from the Mission for a nominal fee and are financing everything else themselves.
“We are boot-strapping it all the way,” she said.
They had originally hoped to open this month, but now it’s looking like a September opening is more likely. There are already seven SCRAP stores around the country, and in addition to the one in Billings a store in Baltimore should be opening soon.
Casey, the national director, said each of the stores is unique, based on community needs and the interests of the owners.
“I know that the Billings site is really going to be a reflection of the community and I look forward to seeing what they develop there,” she said.
She said the Portland store, where she started out as a volunteer, diverts about 140 tons of waste from the landfill every year and has annual sales of $450,000, almost all of it in supplies to artists, teachers and others.
Casey said the national organization provides administrative and financial services help to the satellites, as well as manuals, lesson plans and help with regulatory compliance.
At the Billings store, the partners’ plan is to have a Re-Boutique Store in the front room, featuring items made by artists and craftspeople on the premises or sold on consignment by outside artists. A small, separate part of the store will be used to sell some vintage furniture, furnishings and knick-knacks that artists can use for their projects.
To the left as you enter the building, a long, narrow room will be used to sell art supplies—yarn, fabric, paper, poster boards, silk flowers, baskets, etc.—all of which will be donated. The Mission and the Billings Michaels store have already donated a lot of shelving for that room.
Behind the retail area there will be studio spaces for artists and classrooms for children and adults. The partners hope to work with area schools on art classes or projects, with artists either visiting the schools or children coming to SCRAP for classes.
Eventually, Zemliska said, they would also like to have a woodshop, as well as a tool and equipment library. Artists could use the tools and equipment on site or check them out (hence the “library”).
In the far back of the building, where there is a dock with an overhead garage door, donated materials will be accepted.
You can find out more about the store during the Artwalk tonight (Friday, Aug. 7), when the Better to Gather gallery at 2404 Montana Ave. will host six young artists who created repurposed art works through SCRAP. More than 35 galleries and businesses will be showing art during the event.
SCRAP is also looking for volunteers to help clean and paint the interior of the building, to sort and clean donations, or to help with fundraising. Eventually, Zemliska said, they would also like to bring on an educational director, possibly as a paid position.
Prices for goods and studio space have not been set yet, but the goal at SCRAP stores is to provide affordable services and art supplies.
To volunteer, or for more information, you can call Zemliska at 406-850-1876 or write to her at email@example.com.