While taking frequent trips to Gearhart's Little Beach, Melissa DeMartini's family always picked up litter.
"It was part of our tradition," she says.
Many years later, their excursions would lead DeMartini and her husband, Ed Biden, to create the Craft Factory (7832 SW Capitol Highway, 503-577-4310, craftfactorypdx.com), a Multnomah Village studio where children and adults turn discarded objects such as bottle caps and Mardi Gras beads into robots, butterflies, birdhouses and more.
The idea first clicked at home, in Southwest Portland. After collecting debris at the beach, DeMartini and her two children, Finn and Lola, started gluing what they found to boxes and other items. For her son's sixth birthday, DeMartini expanded the craft circle, inviting her son's friends to make art by gluing upcycled objects onto pieces of wood cut to look like robots.
"The kids were completely fascinated," she says.
In August 2013, DeMartini opened the Craft Factory so more people could partake. For $14, each crafter gets a wooden base hand-carved by DeMartini's stepfather in various shapes, including horses, cats, dogs and, yes, robots.
Crafters can then spend as long as they'd like decorating their bases, using hot glue to make various objects stick. "It's absolutely not just for kids," says DeMartini, who adds that she's also hosted at least one bachelorette party.
Supporters, including a flight attendant and an employee at Oregon Health & Science University, donate doodads like miniature salt and pepper shakers and clean plastic waste. (The Craft Factory won't take anything glass.) Only some embellishments, such as pompoms or pipe cleaners, are purchased new.
Since she opened five years ago, DeMartini has heard from customers who want her to expand. But DeMartini has so far resisted, given that her kids are 12 and 8.
"I'm a mom first," said DeMartini. "This is my second passion."
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