MADE BY LEA
The Sweetest: Tiny Books With Mr. Kerr’s Class
It 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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.