The Scrappy Elephant: where recycling is creative

By Page H. Gifford

As an artist, art teacher, and mother, Sarah Sweet spent the past few years looking for ways she could do more to help the environment and create a better future for her children and students.  The idea for the Scrappy Elephant came to her while visiting Nashville.

“While reading an article about a place called Turnip Green, I visited and knew I had found it. I also knew I had to bring creative reuse to Central Virginia.  I began visiting all the creative reuse centers I could drive to and calling all the ones I couldn’t.” Reuse businesses might describe many antique and thrift shops but also Goodwill and Habitat stores, which attract many do it yourself enthusiasts.  Sweet defines The Scrappy Elephant as a creative reuse center, selling second-hand craft and art supplies.

“The mission is to inspire creativity and foster environmental awareness by promoting sustainability and reuse through art, education, and community,” said Sweet.  “The main goals are to reduce waste going into the landfill and to make art and craft materials affordable for the community.  I know that making art and crafting are scientifically proven ways to reduce stress and relieve anxiety. But art materials are not cheap, so one of the goals of the Scrappy Elephant is to get materials out to the community at low costs.”

Artists and crafters are always on the prowl for discarded supplies that former artists and crafters no longer want. The Scrappy Elephant is a place to donate unwanted art and craft supplies and other materials, shop for reusable art and craft supplies and unique products made from reclaimed materials. This is a less expensive option for those interested in trying out art or crafts.

Sweet says she also has a studio that can be rented out for private crafting.

“Once COVID is over, I do hope to have classes and workshops in the studio, but for now, it is a place filled with materials for any project your imagination can think of,” she said.

Her eye-catching logo of an elephant with his trunk in the air, holding a paintbrush, and the unique name stemmed from her short-time living in Ghana, West Africa.

“A friend and I traveled north to see elephants in the wild. Since seeing them, I fell in love with elephants and knew I had to have an elephant in the name,” she said. “Also, elephant families are led by females, and this is a female-founded and run business.  Elephants are creative communicators, kind, loyal, self-aware, and some of the most intelligent animals that exist. They can also paint.  The elephant embodies all the values The Scrappy Elephant holds dear- we are a place where creativity and kindness abound and where the makers who come here are aware of their impact on the future of this planet.”

Palmyra appears to be a magnet for artists. While featuring some of her work in the Golden Fish space at Village Station this summer, she says it allowed her to see if this concept would work in Fluvanna.

“In October, the old Post Office on Main Street became available and I opened up the second week of October in the Historic Village of Palmyra.”

She said that her most popular item this summer was fabric because people were making masks. She adds that sketchbooks and pads, canvases, and brushes are a big seller. Jewelry designers also come looking for supplies.

She is always looking for donations and a list of all the items she accepts is on her website at

“I’ve gotten a lot of requests for cricut machines and cricut materials as well as for clay tools lately. Fine art items fly off the shelves, so if you have any paint, brushes, old canvases crowding up your home studio that you don’t want, please bring them to the Scrappy Elephant.”

She also needs volunteers to help with sorting, organizing, and putting items on the shelves.

“I would also love volunteers who would be willing to make and leave example crafts in the studio.  I am considering putting together creative reuse craft kits as well and would love help putting those together.  If you have time and love organizing or creating, please come see me.”

Being a small business is a precarious thing during the pandemic but for Sweet, it may be a saving grace from boredom for so many who now have the time to pursue interests in arts and crafts.

“Since I started this business during COVID, if that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.” She adds for those shopping she has multiple safety precautions in place to keep the air flowing and clean, including open windows, fans, air filters, and light sanitizers.  Like all Virginia businesses she requires masks and praises her customers for wearing them. She has a limited number of customers in the store to maintain social distancing and says that has only caused people to have to wait a few times. Customers take it in their stride and visit Totes McGoats Body Soaps next door.

“I would truly like to be a creative reuse center for the community,” she said. For teachers, Sweet has a lot of great classroom supplies and she will be taking supplies and doing a socially distant ornament-making event with a local non-profit that has a learning center in Charlottesville.  “I would love to get more involved in the community in similar ways and I am always on the lookout for more opportunities like that.”

The Scrappy Elephant is located on Main Street in Palmyra Village. For more information and store hours, visit

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