05 October 2013

When S.T. Leng Comes To Visit . . .

Remember back in February and March when I took those two lovely little book making classes? Coptic Stitch and Japanese Stab Binding? They were both fun little 3-hour classes that I took through Monster Gallery. That's how I met my now-friend Soo-Tsu Leng from Bukurama. We hit it off right away.

So at the end of my last school year, I asked him if he would be interested in being our first guest visual artist at Stamford. We are having a craft show--a la Renegade--in November, so I thought having a craft-based guest artist would be a perfect fit. He agreed, and we spent the summer emailing back and forth what possibilities for bookmaking with 3rd graders could potentially look like. Leng landed on two options: Japanese Stab Bound and Accordion. He would be in my classroom for two weeks (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Leng would work directly with 5 of my 7 third grade classes, and I would facilitate the bookmaking workshops with the other two third grade classes.

We met a few times at paper shops sourcing materials and supplies during the month of September. One week before he appeared in my classroom, he came up to the campus and we organized and cut all of the supplies, and each made a prototype of the finished books. I needed to see the process first-hand and make sure little hands would be able to manage. Success!


Leng always arrived about 20 minutes early to class to help with set-up and to mentally prepare. To start off the first week's lessons he showed a brief slideshow, sharing with the students his work: beautifully hand-fashioned books. Then he gave a brief demo of how the parts and pieces of the books come together. (He posted the above how-to graphic on his Facebook later that day, stating "It's so easy, a kid could do it!")

After his demo, he had the students gather around one of our tables to touch and experience his books in person. They were fascinated by all of the different styles, paper weights, colors, and designs. See the mini-books to the right in the above image? For each class, one lucky-well-behaving-student got to take one home for keeps!

With the Japanese Stab Bound books, it was best to go through each step one-by-one. It was a bit tricky, as there was sewing involved and the use of awls. Both items were super sharp, so I had to give a stern talking-to lecture before each class: "if I see any unsavory behavior with these sharp tools, yadda-yadda-yadda . . . " Threading the needles proved a bit cumbersome as well, but the needles were large and the eyes were big enough so that most of my 3rd graders could thread them without assistance. 

Leng taped each piece of thread at the end so that the students wouldn't accidentally pull the thread all the way through. I thought this was a brilliant and helpful step.

Both Leng and I split up the classroom and each took two tables to help the students see through to the end of the book. The pattern was tricky: some of them would instantly catch on, and others would sit there and stare at us blankly. So it worked best for us to keep circling our tables helping students continuously. 

I'm not sure how we did it, but somehow we did! 120 sewn Japanese stab bound books now sit ready for display in November at our school's very first ever C.R.A.F.T. Creating Really Awesome Fun Things! (More on this event, coming soon!) 

Go, go 3rd grade! Woohoo!

ACCORDION Books . . . 

During the second week of having our very special visiting guest artist, the students made Accordion books. The Accordion books were far more easy to put together and almost needed no supplies but paper, card, and glue.

Leng started out with a quick demo, showing them first what the finished piece would look like. Then they all gathered around one of the tables and watched him make a full book from start to finish.

All of the students picked up the process right away and needed almost no help to finish the book. And they were absolutely mesmerized by the finished product, loving how it opened up and how it was finished off like a present. And the paper used for the center accordion part was called money paper and made with bits of real money. I'm almost positive that was their most favorite part: they asked close to a million questions about it!!

As the students finished up their Accordion books, I had them decorate their Japanese Stab Bound books with cut paper. What do you think? 

Nothing to see here folks, except a bunch of beautifully finished books! Bravo, 3rd grade!!

The students LOVED having Leng here . . . They lit up when they walked into the room and found a new person to show them new things. It was so much fun to watch!

One of my students has probably made close to ten books since her first class with Leng. She shows a new one to me almost daily.

Guest artists change lives. They help to bring a new creative perspective into the classroom. They encourage play. They help teachers to see their students in a new light and they teach the students exciting new things! 

I am so thankful for Leng's visit! What a fun break from routine! And look! He even got his very own banner in our school's Washington Plaza. Pretty shnazzy, eh?!

Our next guest artist lined up? A soap maker making beautiful things with my 2nd graders! Oh boy! 

For more information on S.T. Leng, please visit the following links:

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