Lisa Hernandez with her daughter, Yoshino Jassu.
10:22am | Lisa Hernandez has the fervor and energy of an activist. She brims with enthusiasm and, to be honest, it is a thrill to hear her speak. For the last few years she's been planting the seeds of a cultural revolution and, not surprisingly, some have taken root. She opened the Long Beach Depot for Creative Reuse back in the Summer of 2008 and, since then, has established relationships with businesses, artists, educators, and the City.
Last year, she submitted an application to the Pepsi Refresh Project and, some months later, discovered that she'd received an Environmental Stewardship grant for what she describes as the 'first ever' Creative Reuse Day celebration in the nation. The event, which takes place this Sunday from 12:00-5:00pm at 320 Elm Avenue, was also given official municipal status via a proclamation by Mayor Bob Foster.
I asked Lisa how she became involved in the re-use movement.
Lisa: I say I was born into it. It all started when I was kid, growing up in the Bay Area. My Dad was all about reusing "stuff" to save money. Back in the 60's, he was working with Cesar Chavez, and made the round "Huelga" signs from cardboard and sticks he picked up from one of the construction companies in San Francisco. He also gathered sticks from the trees that were planted in the city. He had lots of friends who gave him the spray paint that we needed to paint the signs.
Not to be disrespectful of my Dad, but he made us reuse things until we couldn't use them for anything. We used to think he was just being cheap but, now, I am very grateful for his wisdom, and for teaching us about reusing.
Sander: Aside from making signs, what kinds of things did you make for yourself?
Lisa: I remember being fascinated with all of the scrap wood my Dad would collect. I used to make little shelves, weaving looms, and other cool wood "stuff" for my friends and family.
Sander: What was the impetus for starting the Depot in Long Beach?
Lisa: I was between jobs, and wanted to do something that was good for my soul. My daughter is my inspiration, and suggested taking a leap of faith by opening up our own little shop like Mr. Murdle from the story "Mr. Murdle's Large Heart" by Margery Bianco. I sort of had an epiphany: Creative Reuse! In the Bay Area there are two large Creative Reuse centers, Scrap in San Francisco, and The East Bay Depot in Oakland. I read that Long Beach wants to be a "green city," and it just seemed to fit.
I started with talking to one of my very good friends, Mr. Victor Fukuhara, who owns the M. Hara Lawnmower shop, and shared my idea about opening a little (not big) creative reuse shop to carry "all those little things that don't quite make it to the thrift stores but are too good for the trash." He totally got it. He suggested a couple of companies to gather scraps and pieces from, and then I scrounged around on Ebay and other sites for overstocks, misprinted items, and other stuff to add to the initial inventory.
Sander: What kinds of things, specifically, did you find?
Lisa: Cardboard cut outs, synthetic leather scraps, rubber scraps and pieces, metal scraps, misprinted pens and pencils, crayon and candle scraps, misc. size paper, fabric sample books and scraps, jewelry pieces, wood scraps, tile, linoleum and window covering samples, yarn, bottle caps, wine corks, glass bottles, etc. from various sources such as M & G Industries Gasket company on the West Side, McClane company, and other local companies that went out of business.
Sander: How do people put these things to use?
Lisa: I've seen artists and students use the items for various purposes: The cardboard cutouts have been used for tags, the synthetic leather scraps (really popular) are either taken apart for making bracelets or used in costume designs, the fabric sample books have been used for making quilts or blankets and purses, the bottle caps have been also popular for making earring, magnets, and pins. By the way, President Obama has his own bottle cap magnet, with his picture on it.
Sander: Do you conduct workshops?
Lisa: Yes. On Saturdays we have a "Creative Reuse Meetup" from 11:00am-2:00pm for kids ages 8+. My daughter is the Organizer/Instructor, and it is free.
Sander: Tell me about the Pepsi Refresh Project Creative Reuse Day Celebration.
Lisa: My idea was to bring attention to the importance of reducing our waste by creatively reusing what we already have, and by bringing everyone together for a "building unity in our community through creative reuse" block party.
The event is kicking off with The Recycled Drum Circle (a mix of Taiko, Cajon and Bucket drums) and everyone will have the opportunity to join in with whatever "noisemaking" item they have. We will also have an area for making their own instrument out of "stuff," and a creative reuse crafting area to make items from not only Pepsi throwaways, but also any other materials we have on hand. Our "Mainliners," Lyon's Art Supply, Zephyr's, Albertson's, and Secret Passages Bookstore will have creative displays and specials for the folks to check out, and the Community Info groups will have various creative displays as well.
Public parking is available on the street, and in the municipal lot on the North West corner of Elm and Broadway. For more information, call the Depot at (562) 437-9999, or visit TheLongBeachDepot.org