Eric Selwyn, six, and Kimberly Davidson, five, crouched side by side on the floor, conjuring with plywood boards. Fingers coated with Elmer's glue, Eric was affixing blocks of wood and swatches of suede and strips of sailmaker's nylon, but he kept glancing at Kimberly's creation, each look longer than the last.
Finally he stopped what he was doing. "What," he asked Kimberly, "gave you the idea for the candy canes?"
"Oh," she replied, her tone just as earnest, "I saw these candy canes, and I thought it would be neat to make a candy-cane house."
At RecycleWorks, a non-profit store in Falls Church that sells castoff supplies, the kids were joining in on a "Make and Take" workshop, turning bits of junk into art -- or even musical instruments, as kids will be invited to do this weekend, in a session capped by an impromptu recital. In a space that was once a tool shop, now festooned with everything from paint cans to piano crates, half a dozen kids hunkered down to business.
"There's leather here, scrubbers, yarn, buttons, flowers and candy," announced Marian Bishop, a free-lance cartoonist who's been running the Saturday workshops since RecycleWorks opened in October. She held up a string of candy canes, from a grocery store gone broke. "The candy's for gluing, not for eating," she said.
Around nail heads sprouting randomly from her board, Melina Wright, eight, wrapped lengths of fabric, gluing on a cotton ball, several buttons and a few dried flowers. "I really like flowers," she allowed. "I'm just putting things everywhere. I don't know what I'm doing."
Eric Selwyn hammered away at four oblong blocks, the result resembling L'Enfant Plaza as it might appear from the air. "This is fun," he said, surveying his morning's work.
It wasn't for everyone, though. At late arrival, shepherded by his mother, observed the scene with horror: "I don't care. I don't care. I don't care. I don't care," the boy replied to his mother's whispers, tossing his football for emphasis. "I don't want to do this." She escorted him out of the room.
Karen Selwyn, associate director of RecycleWorks as well as Eric's mother, said the store's premise is: "An awful lot of scrap materials can have a second life."
So the store solicits donations of odd supplies from retailers and others, and sells the items at bargain prices -- actually a handling fee for RecycleWorks' "scrounger service."
The other day, as the kids created, the shop was selling: fabrics at $2 a pound, rip- stop nylon (from a sailmaker in Annapolis) at $4 a pound -- "Great for making kites," Selwyn said -- vegetable crates at $1.50 apiece, buttons from New York's garment district at 30 cents an ounce, remnants of carpet at 60 cents a pound, beeswax candles at $4.50 a pound -- "Catholic churches generate a tremendous amount of this stuff" -- brand-name pantyhose at $1.50 a pair -- "They'll fit if you're short" -- and, whimsically, leavings from one of Nancy Reagan's newly covered sofas. These last, from a Victorian piece for the Roosevelt Room, were donated by Nelson Beck interior designers, and RecycleWorks sells them, in commemorative cases, at 25 cents a swatch.
"We'd never stock a used regrigerator," Selwyn said. "What we have here, for the most part, are not fabricated products, but raw materials that can be used for something else."
In the "Make and Take" workshop, Kimberly Davidson had taken raw materials and made an objet d'art -- which, after a moment's consideration, she dubbed "a candy cane houseboat."
"Look," she said, pointing, "I wrote a 'K.' It's for my name. Now everyone will know it's mine.
MAKE AND TAKE
A workshop for kids five to seven will be held at 10:30 this Saturday morning, and onefor kids eight to 12 will be held at 12:30, at RecycleWorks, 132 North Washington Street in Falls Church. There's a $5 fee for materials. Call 703/241-0444 for details