I hosted the card-making session on 2/10/16 at Brooklyn Blend Cafe! I’d rate it a 7 out of 10. As a community resident, I got a lot out of the event. I interacted with more than twenty people, for whom I’d never otherwise have a reason to converse. Below is my initial list of insights and critiques.
Advertising via a poster in the window and on one side of the sandwich board, facing south (not facing north toward people walking back from the Myrtle-Willoughby stop)
The cafe co-owners confirmed that they’d post images and captions I had prepared on Instagram and Twitter, but they never did. I’m not sure why and I didn’t want to press them on it since I was grateful to have the space.
The co-owner Keishon said I could do whatever I wanted when I arrived. I set up the card-making at two tall tables next to the window looking out to the street so that passersby could see me.
6 year old who was hanging outside with his guardian. I walked out and invited him in. His mom/guardian looked relieved. While she smoked a cigarette, he made a couple cards with me. He was very eager and wide-eyed, and loved having free reign over so much choice. I helped him personalize a card for his mom, meanwhile his mom/guardian was trying to get him to leave and was telling me about how she was in a car accident yesterday and why her arm was in a sling.
8th grade cousins Donald and Artesia, from Trinidad, were giddy with excitement with all the card potential. They each made three or four cards and hardly left any white space at all. They delighted in the fact that I was willing to do lettering and cutting for them. They would point to a sample card I had on the juice bar and then request what version of it I was to do for them. I asked each of them how many siblings they had and they both responded with “a lot.” The girl Artesia said she only had one sibling living in New York with her. They were about to embark on seven days off from school for mid-winter recess.
Three high schoolers who were taking a break from a dance rehearsal for an upcoming Black History performance at the church next door. The two boys (friends, not brothers) explained to me that all four of their parents were deaf. I explained that I knew a bit of sign language and they were impressed. They taught me how to sign “you’re welcome.” I asked their permission to take a photo and they readily accepted. One of the boys then had his girlfiend, who was with them and for whom he was making his Valentine, find and friend me on Instagram so he could give me credit when he posts a photo of his card. They invited me to their show and wrote down the details on a piece of paper.
Twice a group of cops walked in. The first time, there were two men and two women. I was able to entice one of the women to make a card. She had me do most of the writing and cutting, while she sipped on her smoothie. The card was for her daughter Marley, “as in Bob Marley” she said, which launched me into describing my moment on the subway that day hearing a mother call her children Hendrix and Guthrie Arrow. There was another mom cop but she didn’t want to make a card.
I’d say maybe four times someone was walking toward the bathroom and I asked if they wanted to make a card and they said no thanks.
The only white person to engage with me was a man in his early thirties. He came in somewhat dazed and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was working on my masters thesis about how design can foster interaction with neighbors you otherwise wouldn’t have. He still seemed dazed. He looked at a menu and then said goodbye to me as he left. He’s the only person I used the word “masters thesis” with.
Lisenia, the cashier, came over to the table four times to ponder her card. She made a card using pages from the Pride and Prejudice calendar. We bonded over our love of Jane Austen and she explained that she was an English and World Lit major at Marymount Manhattan and that she lives in Coney Island.
“Magic Mike,” who has a lovely Caribbean accent of sorts, made me a beet mango smoothie that he called a Valentine’s Special. He was delighted that I gave him choice of any of the sample cards. He spent a while writing a long card to someone.
I met Ralph behind the counter.
Cafe regular Mary greeted me when she came in, saying she remembered me from a few days before and that she thought the card event was on Sunday.
My good friend Camila came at the very end to make a card.
I felt welcome and comfortable at the cafe, but didn’t know what the food etiquette was. When I asked Mike for a smoothie, he made me a special one and then as I handed him my credit card, he said, no no. At the very end of the evening, Lisania said Keishon wanted to know if I’d like food and I think I was ready to go home so my answer was “no thanks, I’m not hungry. Mike’s smoothie was just right.”
Keishon ended the evening apologizing for not being fully present during the session because he had a meeting down the street. He thanked me for approaching them and explained that things have been hectic since they opened three weeks ago. He said “nex time we do something, it’ll be even better.”
No one came to the cafe for card-making specifically. They just happened to be in the cafe.
Doing a common activity gave me social permission to talk with these people and ask them questions.
Having sample cards to point to for examples made it much easier for people to visualize what design they could do
When I got playful or teasing with people, younger kids and adults alike, they responded positively.
A few people asked questions such as
Do you work here?
What are you doing here?
What’s your reason for hosting this?
Most people seemed satisfied with my answer that I wanted to interact with people and that crafting is something that I enjoy
One kid asked me “you go to art school or something?”
The only person I used the term “masters thesis” with was the one white man around my age that I interacted with
Consider a different activity, maybe one that’s more approachable, relevant, desired or fun?
Improve the pre-event advertising. To make an event lasting or desired, I think buildup and awareness is important.
Be more upfront with Keishon and Ali about social media advertising and such
Have a friend take official photographs for better quality recording
Maybe advertise more in advance
- If I want to reach more people in the neighborhood in their 20s and 30s, I might have to make it a different type of event.