Walking into ScrapAntics is like entering an Aladdin’s cave of wonderful things.
The scrap store, a social enterprise based on the ground floor of Meadow Mill in West Henderson’s Wynd in Dundee, is run by Sandy Greene, who explains how it came about: “I’m concerned about the environment and am aware we cannot live sustainably if we don’t work as a community and look after each other,” she says.
“For the last 25 years I have worked in schools running interactive environmental arts and crafts workshops, both in and out of doors. When austerity came to town, my friend and colleague Siobhan Morison and I realised schools lacked funding for resources so we set up ScrapAntics in 2016 to help resolve two problems – industrial waste and access to cheap resources,” she continues.
Working with local and national businesses to reduce industrial waste and promote sustainable business practices, ScrapAntics has successfully diverted more than 55 tonnes of industrial waste from landfill in the past five years.
“We have often been shocked by the scale of excess materials from industry – the level of waste is mind-blowing,” says Sandy.
“We spent a lot of time talking to local retailers and industry and discovered businesses were happy to donate their excess materials, which they struggled to store, which we then sell as affordable arts resources.
“We also receive donations from individuals and households from the local community. This means we have a vast quantity and range of items. Word of mouth has spread our name far and wide.
“So our scrap store, where we sell all our recycled resources, is a bit like a charity shop for beautiful things. You never know what you’re going to find – we have paper, fabric, wool, perspex, metals, tools and all manner of other fabulous items.”
But ScrapAntics is much more than a scrap store, as Sandy, a former nursery nurse, explains: “We’re also specialists in play and outdoor learning and are currently leading play-based learning and Loose Parts Play across the city.
“We run play workshops in and around the city, with family sessions in a local park the first Saturday and Sunday of each month – anyone can come and join us to just play – safely – and relax in your home bubble outdoors,” she smiles.
With ScrapAntics now occupying three industrial buildings in the Meadow Mill area, one of these includes ArtAntics artist studios and community space.
“Any members can, for a small donation, hire the space to run film nights, art workshops, birthday parties and so on – well, at least they will be as soon as we’re able to again,” says Sandy.
“Further back, our 14 artists work away in their own studios. All three of our buildings have just had a fabulous makeover and been painted by local artists Louise Kirby, Rona Jack and Zoe Gibson.”
Sandy and the team found working remotely during lockdown tough but are proud to have found ways to carry on their good work.
“We are a social company – literally – and not being able to physically bring people together meant we had to adapt to this new way of working,” she says.
“Like most of the rest of the world, everything was done online. Luckily our strong local networks meant we were in a good position to change the focus of our energies, recruit staff and continue to deliver work even during lockdown.
“One of the programmes during lockdown was our wellbeing project – a 12-week programme of creative activities where we delivered more than 500 creative resource packs to households across Dundee that might benefit from a bit of mental health support during lockdown,” says Sandy.
The packs contained step-by-step instructions and all required materials, and ranged from soap carving, making kites and comics, to weaving and rag-rugging, and plaster carving.
“Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with some wonderful work produced by people from all across Dundee,” she smiles.
Together with Play Scotland, Sandy and the team applied for funding through the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund to deliver their Playful Schools programme.
“We wanted to document the impact of the Loose Parts Play sessions on children’s mental health and wellbeing, so we designed a research programme to help us understand whether the play sessions were supporting children.
“Over the summer we delivered over 1,160 play opportunities for 216 children across Dundee. From the research, we were able to demonstrate that outdoor play helped children’s mental health and wellbeing, even during the lockdown,” she reveals.
“The research was completed by our researcher, Dr Victoria Jupp Kina, and our findings published as both a research report and a toolkit. Both are available to download free at playscotland.org”
ScrapAntics also work with freelance artists to provide a range of creative workshops and resources.
“We support members of our community to develop their own creative projects, providing space, expertise and emotional support,” Sandy explains.
“One example of the way we work is another of a current projects – the Festival of Light. This project was developed by one of our part time staff members, Rhiannon Moore, to create a city-wide community gallery based on the theme of ‘light’.
“Funded by Dundee City Council and sponsored by the Dundee-based Siobhan Trust and Halley Stevensons, the project will provide 350 artist-designed creative packs to enable people across the city to create their own high-quality window displays.
“Although the dark evenings inevitably now seem even longer for many of us, we hope that lighting up our windows may help us to stay connected through the darkness.”
As a social enterprise, putting people before profit, ScrapAntics is also on a mission to address excess waste.
“The latest – and most ambitious – of our many projects is in collaboration with Halley Stevensons and completely carbon neutral. We will support people needing employment to work from home making products from Halley Stevensons’ perfectly usable excess fabric that can then be sold in our shop and – hopefully – in V&A Dundee.”
Sandy believes that recycling is what, as individuals, we can all do to maintain healthy and happy lives.
“Without the earth and each other we are nothing,” she says.
“ScrapAntics is not just about art, it’s about being creative. We passionately believe that creativity is more to do with the process than the finished piece.
“We also believe that everyone is creative – whether we know it or not. Having easily affordable materials means that everyone has the chance to experiment and play without feeling too precious – there is nothing that blocks the creative process more than worrying about ‘wasting’ stuff,” she continues.
“We believe that creativity helps us to be flexible in our thinking – which in turn allows us to be more inventive and find new ways of looking at the world around us.
“Being creative is proven to support our mental health, reduce stress and improve self-esteem. We believe that as a society we need this now more than ever.”
Passionate about ScrapAntics, Sandy and the team – many of them volunteers – enjoy every aspect of what they do.
“I love the people, I love the connections, the diversity of our projects,” Sandy enthuses. “I love the fact that when we work with another business or community, it benefits us all. I enjoy seeing the potential of real change – as long as it is about recycling, arts, education, and community.
“There are always challenges in any business and one of ours is that it’s difficult letting people know what we have as the items in the scrapstore are so diverse and change constantly. So we try to photograph as much as possible to post on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). We always say to visit often because of the continuing change of resources.
“If we don’t have something, let us know as you’d be surprised about just what can be sourced through our connections!”
ScrapAntics, Unit 2, Meadow Mill, West Henderson’s Wynd, Dundee DD1 5BY is open Tuesdays 10-2pm, Wednesdays 12-4pm and Thursdays 12-6pm and the first Saturday of every month 10-1pm. Tel: 07799 895966.