Guest blog post by Marjory Zaik

As a kid growing up in Easthampton, I had a mother who encouraged me to turn “this…..into that.”

There’s no more room on the bookshelves, I complained. Her response: Here’s some “Contact” paper and an an open cardboard box from the grocery store. Cover the box with it. Now you can neatly store those paperbacks you buy for a nickel at The Old Book Store in Northampton. Tissue boxes became dollhouses. Any boxes or tins, in general, were staples of repurposing. A miraculously extant wooden covered box illustrates the potential, here displayed with artifacts of the era on a vintage typewriter stand that I currently use as a “bag drop” table in my bedroom.

I struck out at the traditional fine arts of drawing and painting — a minor disappointment. I rallied, learning basic embroidery stitches in order to embellish peasant-style muslin blouses using the iron-on patterns inserted in “Workbasket” magazine. I soon developed my own embroidery designs, including a transliteration of selected lyrics to “Stairway to Heaven” in the rune script featured on the endpapers of The Hobbit.  (It was the early 1970s; what can I say?)

Flash-forward to the winter of 2014: I moved back to Easthampton, after many years in New York City, to live with and care for my father. Collecting and crafting had remained a part of my life. And working as a high school English teacher in a public school system with little funding for the arts had turned me into an ad hoc (and completely intuitive, untrained) art teacher; we were encouraged to infuse arts-related lessons into our classrooms whenever possible. Naively and eagerly, I created models for simple projects, like this one, accomplished with scratchboard and a pin; we were studying the literature and culture of the 1960s.

Serendipitously, visiting the Eastworks complex for another reason, I encountered Knack: The Art of Creative Reuse. I felt I had struck a vein of inspiration, recognizing kindred spirits in the generous, talented, resourceful co-owners of this multi-faceted enterprise. I emailed them to ask if they had a heavy-duty paper cutter among their open studio tools, and booked my first session of studio time to continue work on an ongoing collage series of artist trading cards featuring vintage worldwide stamps from my collection (cardboard mounts and background materials from Knack’s storehouse of stuff).

On Saturday, June 21, 2014, I am renewing, coincidentally, my basic embroidery skills in a Knack-sponsored workshop with local fiber artisan Bonnie Sennott. (

In between, I have continued, started or finished many craft projects using the advice, time and resources available at Knack and including the reuse of materials I have purchased in their store, such as this corkboard (using a glass-less frame and corks purchased at Knack, and assembled during studio time with help from their glue gun).

Knack has afforded me the resources and support to continue and complete projects and to envision new ones. My favorite adage: everything old is new again, and again, and again.

What’s YOUR Knack story?