The Sweetest: Sugar Packet Books in Mr. Kerr's Class

MADE BY LEA

The Sweetest: Tiny Books With Mr. Kerr’s Class

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PacketsFinished

“Sugar books” made with high school students in Mr. Kerr’s DIY Publishing class.

VisitorBadgeIt was a sweet treat to spend a morning making sugar packet books with my dear friend Chris Kerr‘s high school class in Oakland, CA. Mr. Kerr teaches “DIY Publishing” at the Oakland School for the Arts and invited me to do a “show & tell” session with his delightful students. He encourages them to think creatively about how to “make public” their work and he suspected I might be able to expand his students’ notions of all the ways they can “publish” their original content. As an introduction, I held up my hand-stitched uniform from our World’s Smallest Post Service, passed out tags from our clothes tag exchange and showed them the yarn kits we created to go with our Knit the Sky scarf patterns. After “show & tell,” I led the students through a crafty writing project that I designed especially for them.

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Thirty bookmaking kits, ready for class to begin.

Each student received his or her own ready-to-go sugar packet bookmaking kit. The paper was chopped, the holes were punched, the thread was pre-cut, and the sugar packets were all collated in advance. Thank you to the Oakland chapter of Bread for the Journey for the generous grant that covered the material costs for this experimental writing adventure.

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All the necessary pieces and tools: paper, waxed linen thread, sugar packets, an alligator clip, a sewing needle (safely positioned into a little piece of sponge), and a sweet cotton sack to hold it all.

First we emptied all the sugar packets and punched holes along their edges. Then we inserted interior book pages and threaded our needles. So, how to teach all 27 students the special bookbinding stitch? I knew I couldn’t just hold up a two inch tall sample at the front of the class without providing binoculars for everyone. Solution: make a giant model! We binded our tiny books in unison, one stitch at a time. When the bell rang for break, one young man looked up briefly and said “Why would anyone want to take a break when they could keep making these?”

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Mr. Kerr’s students were attentive, careful, articulate and grateful–a guest teacher’s dream.

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A complete set of four, waiting to venture out into the world.

These little “sugar books” are certainly adorable, perhaps even squeal-able. But there is more. They aren’t designed to merely look nice on a bookshelf. In fact, they’re meant to be released out into the world, hopefully in the service of making us all a little bit sweeter and a touch more thoughtful. To that end, Mr. Kerr’s students will be writing short pieces inside each sugar book on the theme of “sweetness” and then surreptitiously placing them around town in cafés and restaurants for the rest of us to stumble upon and enjoy. Each student might write about the sweetest thing that someone has ever done for him or her. Or he or she might simply offer sweet words of encouragement to the stranger that happens to grab a sugar book instead of the expected sugar packet.

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If you live in Oakland, and especially if you frequent coffee shops downtown near the Oakland School for the Arts, I suggest you reach for your next sugar packet with an attentive eye. If you’re lucky, you just might grab the heartfelt handwork and carefully chosen words of one of Mr. Kerr’s students.

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Thank you for hosting me, Mr. Kerr’s class! I can’t wait to see and hear how it all turns out! And remember, if you want to make more sugar books at home, but can’t track down fancy waxed linen thread, just use dental floss!

For everyone else, stay tuned as we plan to publish a more detailed “sugar books” DIY post in the weeks ahead.

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Lea Redmond is always looking for the poem hiding inside things: a salt shaker, a clothes tag, a hand gesture, a cloud. She is infinitely intrigued by the way experiences can slip from the ordinary to the extraordinary and she endeavors to design things that hold this possibility. Leafcutter Designs, her creative studio in Berkeley, CA, makes the world more playful and peaceful one little experience at a time.

20 Comments

  1. Eve

    January 21, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    I like this so much I could cry!
    I already have needle, thread and scissors in my purse…I guess I know what my family and I will be doing while we wait for service at restaurants (for the rest of our lives!).

  2. Lea Redmond

    December 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks for the sweet notes and good ideas, everyone!

    If you are Michelle Salazar, Alex, or thefireinyourflies, you win a set of tiny sugar books! Please email your mailing address to Lea: lea@leafcutterdesigns.com. We’re excited to send ’em to you!

  3. Kathy G.

    December 6, 2013 at 8:42 am

    What a great idea to “sweeten” someone’s day. Positive comments and kind jestures are what’s needed in our lives! Thanks for sharing. I would use Truvia packets for my books and one thing I would write: “You are Naturally Sweet!” ; “Smile at a stranger and say “Good Morning!” ; Make YOUR day! Do something nice for someone else”. It is endless..I plan on making one for my daughter for her Christmas Stocking to cheer her up. She’s 27, living at home with Chronic Lyme Complex Disease (going on 13 yrs). She’s the ultimate optimist…..So much to be thankful for. Grateful for this idea!

  4. Jennifer

    December 6, 2013 at 4:42 am

    I would write how sweet it is for an artist to share her time/materials with a group of students, encouraging them to spread sweetness in their community. The world is a better place because of fantastically sweet experiences like this.

  5. Grace

    December 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    I’d write little poems about how my cousins (or nephews) have made my life sweeter!

  6. Elise

    December 5, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I’d make notes of the happenings of the day when I made the book and ask the “finder” to say one nice thing to a stranger.

  7. Anu

    December 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I would give it to someone I loved and say – you make life sweet because…and list the reasons. For my mom, I would say: because you make me a delicious smoothie when I come home from a long day at work, you listen when I need to tell you things that make me sad, you are supportive even when you don’t understand my choices …etc. I would draw little pics with each thing 🙂

  8. Valentina Nardi

    December 5, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Oh my god, they’re so sweet (every way you read it)! I think i’d write some cute things for my boyfriendon them or maybe some parts of my favourite songs and always bring them with me.

  9. Jamie

    December 5, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Lovely! I would love to write one of Shakespeare’s poems in there and give it to a loved one! Maybe Sonnet 130 to my husband 🙂

  10. Michelle Salazar

    December 5, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I love these and I am big at leaving messages in places with sticky notes and why you ask is that. I have been struggling with cancer and the after effects of Chemo and Radiation and I would often stick a note on the Dr Office mirrors that told me and those after me that you could get through this! You are stronger then you think you get the idea. I hope that my little notes help other along the way. To find a note in a sugar container would be amazing and I am sure that I will be doing this soon because I can! Life is sweet live each day to it’s fullest! Good Morning may your day be blessed with sweet memories. .. oh it it endless! Thank you for this moment in my day!

  11. Glenn

    December 5, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Super cool idea! We already write notes on the sugar packets, but these are so much better.

    Are these available as a kit or as completed items?

  12. thefireinyourflies

    December 5, 2013 at 10:53 am

    nicely done! a cute, well executed craft and charming approach to “shopdropping”. my own sugar packet books would include one of my favorite quotes: “the sweet, is never as sweet, without the sour.” and maybe a haiku about syrup 🙂

  13. Alex

    December 5, 2013 at 10:29 am

    I love this idea! I think it would be most fun for people to write in a sweet thing they did for someone else recently, and either put the book back in the same container or take it to a new shop. That way, each person who discovers the book can see all of the inspiring and lovely acts of kindness performed by each reader 🙂

  14. Pam Marsh

    December 5, 2013 at 10:27 am

    In my Sweetness books, I would talk about my love for my pets and lots of animals. I think it would be fun to write about food you could make with the packet of sugar or drinks enhanced by the Sweet & Low. This would definitely be a fun project!!!

  15. des!

    December 5, 2013 at 10:26 am

    If we’re being really honest about what we’d say with these books, I might hand one to my girlfriend with words all about how sweet our life together is—just before I handed her a ring, if you know what I mean.

  16. susan kennedy

    December 5, 2013 at 10:22 am

    When I leave some at my local coffee shop I will write…As you sweeten your coffee or tea..sweeten someone’s life today

  17. susan kennedy

    December 5, 2013 at 10:20 am

    love these sweet little books..I’m making some for the grandchildren’s stockings..and I’m sure they will want to make some more!

  18. Kim

    December 5, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I love this idea. In one book, I’d copy down all my favorite fortune cookie fortunes. In another, I’d put favorite quotes about coffee and tea.

  19. Laura

    November 23, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Amazing idea! they turned out so well, I’d love to find one in a cafe… maybe I’d better start using sugar in my tea!

  20. Tina Cassler

    November 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    What a wonderful idea! Love this book art idea made from everyday materials. It’s a perfect activity to get kids thinking about what a book really is and its purpose.

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