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Do It Yourself Downtown

Do It Yourself Downtown

In a donated space, furnished with contributed fixtures and manned by volunteers, area Do-It-Yourselfers are bringing raw materials, workshops and a hugely supportive hub to creative area residents.

DYI studio, a non-profit dedicated to creative reuse, opened in the Salem Center Mall (on the second floor) on June 8th.   Driven by three women who radiate enthusiasm and the collective work of many, the studio is determined to thrive, grow and expand into all areas of the community.

“We’re hoping to create green collar jobs, as well as divert materials from the solid waste stream,” says Jessica Ramey, one of the core team.

Shelves at DIY studio are stocked with buttons, stickers, tin tubing, fabric, cds, candles, children’s books, keys, notions, picture frames, yarn, wallpaper scraps – and many more objects that inspire and enable creative work.
Carlee Wright, artist and “paperwork girl,” set up the 501(c)(3).  Artists Ramey and Wendy Derting devoted countless hours to painting, organizing and finalizing the fresh, funky energetic space.

“We’re not your normal ‘fine arts’ gallery,” Ramey says.  “We wanted to make it fun and quirky.”  They initiated “Free Art Friday,” a project in which artists leave FREE artwork for strangers to find and keep (no strings attached) on the streets of Salem, and sends photos to the web site.  Actions like this open the studio’s doors directly into the lives of others, adding the unexpected when it is least expected.

The teams says it couldn’t have come so far without significant community support.  When we visited the studio recently, Ramey and Wright gestured around, showing fixtures, shelves and “tables” that were donated from objects that would have been otherwise thrown out.  “Everything in this place is recycled,” Ramey said.  Everything from the Spools and pallets (from PGE) to the paint used on the walls (from Marion County’s ransfer Station,) was recycled.

The studio promotes artists whose work contains a minimum of 75% reused materials.  As Wright surveyed the completed work already on display, she was enthusiastic and delighted.  “For the mall to open their door to us is a huge deal.  To be able to encourage all this is enormous.”  (An online application gives instructions for submissions.)

Dana Vugteveen, mall manager, is a “visionary, a big-picture thinker,” according to Ramey.  “He was deeply interested; he saw the potential and supported it.”  DYI brings a new kind of demographic to Salem Mall; earth friendly, creative and artistic, she says, and Vugteveen “totally welcomed that.”

Classes, workshops and parties fill the website, (www.diystudio.net,) events to help community members concoct upcycled bookmarks, storytelling collages, unique ArtBots and more.  Some events are free; many encourage children and parents to generate something funky, new and exciting together.

The group’s collective prior experience lends strength to the enterprise.  Erica Close, a fabric artist, spent hours with a scissors recently, cutting raw fabric scraps into appealing bundles for their next incarnation.  Wright and Ramey “have years of experience behind us,” according to Ramey.  “We’ve taught classes before.  We’ve lived it.”

The store is currently open noon-6, Monday through Saturday.  The group is searching for its new location already; they have to move from the space before September 30th.
Ramey; “We hope to be a sustainable business that will be around in Salem for a long time.”

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