By Mirae Lee

If you’ve been staying up with our Instagram, you probably have already seen sneaks of muffin and boat drawings, and pink screens and murky paint. Counting down to LooseLeaf Vol.4 Launch Party (only 3 days!), we thought it’s time to stop teasing with indecipherable close-up shots but reveal what these muffins are all about!

Started from casual throwing around of food puns out of literary texts, these puns eventually became the theme for Project 40’s first tote bag project in conjunction with LooseLeaf Magazine’s first themed issue. With the help of Jasmine (in all honesty, she deserves all the credits for the puns), Abby and I boiled down to three food puns inspired by book titles of few of our favourite Asian.Canadian writers: Kim Thúy‘s debut novel Ru (2009); Madeleine Thien‘s Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016); and Rohinton Mistry‘s Such A Long Journey (1991).

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Ru naturally became its homonym Roux – a fat mixture used to thicken sauces and soups. But however easy it was to think of that pun, when Abby and I began ideating design options, we realized a thickener isn’t the easiest “food” to render.

Drawing from the wavy patterns of the book cover, we created waves into our bowl of “roux” where three boats rest, each boat representing An Tinh Nguyen’s journey from her home in Saigon to the crowded Malaysian refugee camp and eventually to a new life in Quebec.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing had a couple of options. Do Not Say We Have Natto? Like natto beans? Do people like natto beans? (side note: I don’t.) How do we draw beans and not make them look like polka dots? How about Do Not Say We Have Muffin? Everyone likes muffins, right?

Once again, starting from imagery on the book covers, we ideated the design using two concrete imagery: a sparrow and a muffin. For those of you who have yet to read the book, Sparrow is the name of a composer who taught Marie (Li-ling)’s father piano during the Cultural Revolution, and a very important figure in the trajectory of the book. We also adopted one of the patterns featured on one of the covers to decorate around the bird-muffin.

Such A Long Journey which became Such A Linguine may have been the most difficult one to brainstorm a design for. During the process, we blamed linguine and the difficulty of rendering it without making it look like a random two lines. None of the book covers helped at giving any possibilities. All we could work from was the theme of “a long journey” – Gustard Noble’s journey through familial trouble, political turmoil and personal struggles which spreads the entirety of the book, as well as the idea of finding haven within the turbulence.

We can’t say enough thank-you’s to Vicky for taking on our last-minute request for screen printing (she is incredible). And for dealing with our constant awe-ing and excitement at seeing our designs come to life on the tote bags. We possibly might have been very embarrassing.

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After weeks of brainstorming and drawing out designs, staring at our Mac screens to fix them up with our basic Photoshop skills, screen printing and ironing each and every tote bags – we can finally say we can’t wait to release the totes to the world this Saturday (October 14th)! All three of the tote bags will be on sale at the Launch Party with limited quantity! Hope to see you at the launch, and don’t forget to get yours before they run out ☺️