Totes and Quotes: a craft to go with any book club

This year, our library system participated in the Big Read and our county-wide book selection was To Kill a Mockingbird. We end the program this week and with a wide variety of programs ranging from a jazz concert to movie and documentary showings, we’ve had some great participation from our patrons and communities. I hosted three programs at my two branches:

  • A showing of the documentary Hey Boo
  • A book discussion with coffee and card games from the 1930’s
  • A craft program called Totes and Quotes where we decorated tote bags and coffee mugs with quotes from the book.

Today, I’ll share what you need to host a Totes and Quotes program for your adults. It’s a great way to extend on the experience of any book club and it has wide appeal for different ages. You could probably also do this with teens.

First, you may want to search your local dollar and discount stores for plain white mugs and canvas tote bags. I got mine from Wal-Mart and my local Dollar Tree. Locating and pricing them ahead of time will help you come up with a budget and decide how many materials you can provide.

Here’s the material list I used:

  • Plain white ceramic mugs
  • Canvas totes
  • Fabric-friendly paints
  • Variety of brushes including circular stampers and fine brushes for lettering and stencils
  • Mod Podge
  • Stencils of modern flowers, vines, and swirls
  • Printed images of mockingbird outlines that I cut out to make mockingbird stencils (free)
  • Painters tape for those who wanted their stencils taped down
  • Oil-based markers for writing on mugs (more permanent than Sharpies)
  • Hand sanitizer and/or rubbing alcohol
  • Printed sheets of quotes

 

paints

 

I found it was really useful for this program to explain to participants as they were registering that this was process art, like making a painting, and wouldn’t have simple steps to follow for a set outcome. Some of our patrons are used to programs where crafts are made by following an example with provided materials and products are pretty much the same. Those people may have been uncomfortable with this program where they would need to imagine what they wanted and free hand most of the work. My experience with adults and art in library programs has taught me to think ahead about who programs appeal to and how to explain expectations.

I started out by explaining how to use everything on the table. I introduced people to the paint pens, Mod Podge, and which brushes were best to use with the stencils. When it seemed like everyone understood the materials and how to use them, I just sat down at the head of the table where I was sitting with the other 5 participants and started planning aloud with the people around me.

I started by picking my text and the sort of imagery that would go with it. I imagined my lettering and picked where elements would be on my bag. As I began, I encouraged the other participants and helped them plan, too. I gave them feedback and reassured them that no craft or artwork is perfect, but it’s all about the experience of making. My elderly participants struggled most, but shortly after they began, I could see them enjoying themselves more and more, even as they were making mistakes. I helped everyone correct anything they didn’t like by covering it with a stamp of paint or turning things into flowers.

One thing I learned is that your younger participants will know what you mean by putting a quote on a mug or a bag. They’ll understand that the idea is to play with the lettering and use the words to make art. Your more elderly participants may not. They may take it more literally, and I think this is probably a divide in where these different generations find ideas for crafts. Those who surf Pinterest have seen typography and posters a lot. Looking back on it, I wish this had dawned on me beforehand and I wish I would have printed some images of quotes on coffee mugs or posters.

otherbag  mybag

See what I mean?

The oil-based paint pens go on smoothly on ceramic mugs and mistakes are easier to remove there with hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol. You can also apply small stencils to mugs, but words take a smooth hand. Your elderly patrons can always opt to just draw or decorate with stencils on their mugs if they have a hard time with lettering.

If either are going to be washed in a washing machine or dishwasher, advise your participants to add a layer of Mod Podge when their design is dry. It will dry clear and help protect the paint from washing off or peeling.

Your mugs should be baked at home at 350 degrees for 30 mins and allowed to cool slowly in the oven. I typed and printed these instructions, attaching as a tag to each mug with a string.

That’s it! Ta-da!

 

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