Whether it’s a tube of glitter, a fabric bag, or a box of colored pencils that haven’t been touched since high school art class, most people have some items they don’t use.
Enter Indigo Hippo, Over-the-Rhine’s art shop. The non-profit organization collects donations of art objects and sells them so that they are accessible to all types of artists. There are supplies for almost every art discipline. However, a fixed price is rare.
The items are priced at about half to a quarter of what they would retail for, said Emily Farrison, the store’s executive director. But all items are marked in the “pay what you can” range.
“You as the customer have to be part of deciding what you can afford and what you’d be willing to pay on that sliding scale,” Farrison said. “It’s all in the hope that everyone can get the creative materials they need.”
After customers have finished selecting their items—whether it’s a pencil from the abundance on offer in the store’s sunny front window or a ball of yarn from the rainbow-sorted shelf or even wood and screws from the stack against the wall—they’re asked how many would be willing to pay. Most items in the store are set in four price ranges: five cents on the dollar, $1 to $3, $3 to $6, and $6 to $9.
Julia Lipowski, the store manager, has many conversations with customers about the value they want to place on the items.
“You get to know people a little better as you navigate what they want to pay, or you also learn what they’re working on,” Lipowski said.
From unused to used
Since 2016, Indigo Hippo has diverted about 141,000 pounds of waste from landfills, according to the drive sign found on the store’s wall.
Inventory is always changing and donations come in from all over. Farrison said the store sometimes gets a lifetime collection, including vintage items that might be hard to find elsewhere. Other times, they get a surplus of one item from a factory or a student who moves, comes and leaves all their supplies. (The store is open for donations on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and people hoping to drop off items can schedule an appointment at indigohippo.org.)
“Our goal is to get the materials into the hands of people who can use them by keeping them out of the waste stream,” Farrison said.
And people use them. Customers come looking for things for all kinds of projects. Cosplay costume makers, sketch artists, embroiderers, hobbyists. Others choose to order their items online where a curated selection of products is listed.
While the store has many regulars who come for specific things—like the woman who brings her own stools to sit on and look at all the rubber stamps the store has in stock—there are many people who come just to hang out. inspire.
When Cincinnati resident Andy Kite first walked into the store, he hadn’t done anything creative in a while and was excited to find a small flower pot to work with.
Others come from miles around to visit the store.
Customers Amy Spudik and Lisa Kurman came from Indianapolis. Spudic works at a community center and makes craft kits for children, and Cooreman is a drawing teacher and artist. In Spudic’s basket were labels for the food pantry she runs and old film cans that she was very excited about because they could be used for Alka-Seltzer rockets. Cooreman was collecting wire and Poly-Fil pillow stuffing material for a camp he was teaching.
They had both discovered a basket of old discs, small and shiny, cut at an angle on each side, and were deciding what they could be used for.
Indigo Hippo, 1334 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-918-4917, indigohippo.org.