Clever Octopus: A Creative Reuse Haven Turns Two

By Adelina Whitten

When Jen Lopez and Sheri Gibb met in a ceramics class at the University of Utah a few years ago, they discovered a shared interest in found objects and reclaimed materials. Dreaming together of what this common passion could become, the two came up with the idea for Clever Octopus.

“In 2015, we started talking about what this would look like,” Lopez says. Sheri had an idea of having a vehicle that has art supplies and goes places to do programs. Lopez envisioned a place to store, organize and distribute materials. “We put it all together to create this organization, and suddenly, it took off.”

Part art-truck, part creative “re-store,” Clever Octopus is creating a new kind of access to art supplies and classes for people and kids around Salt Lake. While the Octopod ventures to different locations in the Salt Lake Valley, hosting classes at schools and adult care facilities, the Creative Reuse Center attracts people to its doors.

The Center, whose grand opening was in 2017, houses materials donated from businesses and individuals across the Wasatch Front – fine art supplies, craft supplies, game pieces and more. According to Lopez, the shop causes jaws to hit the floor.

“Usually within three minutes they’re texting a friend, ‘Oh my goodness, this is my new favorite store!’” Lopez says. “It is adorable and hilarious and so encouraging and so heartwarming to be able to see that … before they even get past the first part of the front counter, they are beside themselves with enthusiasm.”

Clever Octopus is more than just a Creative Reuse Center. The organization is also concerned with environmental awareness. According to Lopez and Gibb, Clever Octopus helps keep materials out of the landfill by selling them at the center or by using them in workshops. These classes teach community members how to use ordinarily discarded items to make something useful and/or beautiful.

Things are functioning so well for Clever Octopus that there are plans to open bigger facilities in the near future. “We have a very ambitious goal of being in a new building by the end of the year,” says Lopez. The expansion will aid Clever Octopus in taking materials, offering classes, processing and selling items, distributing materials and networking.

To help with their next level of growth plans, Lopez will attend conferences in Portland and Eugene, Oregon in April to talk to a potential donor organization. They also need help from their local community. To get the Clever Octopus team to their 2019 financial goal they are throwing a birthday bash (for their second birthday) on April 20 at The Gateway from 7pm to 11pm. Described by Lopez as “a fundraising party like nothing you’ve ever seen,” OctoPalooza is sure to be a hoot. Guests are encouraged to wear costumes, dance, drink, attend a drag show and have an overall good time.

Buy tickets online here. If you would like to donate to the silent auction or to help Clever Octopus with their big move, visit them online here or email them at Sponsor Transwest Credit Union will match the first $10,000 contributed towards Clever Octopus’ big move.

Visit Clever Octopus on State Street in Murray, open from 10am until 6pm Tuesday through Saturday.

This article was originally published on March 28, 2019.