A purpose beyond profit: Make A Book

Cousins Rozi and Wina have donated over $4,000 to the Children Cancer Ward from sales of their hancrafted notebooks

The nimble hands of Rozi Yunos and Wina Hafiza, accompanied by those with similar craftlike inclinations, have raised over $4,000 to Children Cancer Ward of the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital – by stitching together hundreds of exquisite handmade journals and notebooks.

Make A Book initially began with classes – as their name literally implies – in bookbinding from a makeshift studio in Rozi’s home more than 10 years ago, but has evolved into a social enterprise with a renewed verve some four years ago, offering artisinal handcrafted books of a build and quality that would be comfortable in any souveneir shop or collector’s bookshelf.

Colourful books bound using the medieval limp method which uses a lightweight leather-like cover. Make A Book utilizes a number of binding methods, including the secret Belgian, French link, Japanese stab and caterpillar.

Rozi, a graduate from Kent in book arts, returned to Brunei from UK in 2002 and began work in the government, but a few years later sought for something more: an avenue to build and pass on what she had learned at university to the Bruneian art community.

“We didn’t even think of selling (books) back then,” says Rozi, who set up shop for at a pop-up event for local vendors called craftworks kitani last weekend at the Mabohai Shopping Complex. “We just taught people how-to.”

Rozi would rope in her cousin and neighbour at the time, Wina Hafiza, an electrical engineer, to help her with the classes. Wina’s dexterity saw her pick up the skills quickly, and the duo struck up a fruitful parntership teaching hundreds how to construct their first handmade book.

A custom made notebook with a faux leather cover. Make A Book’s sizes are generally in the A6 range, using ivory (almost cream) coloured paper, with prices for off the shelf versions around $30 to $50 – which customs orders are usually more expensive. All books go through a stringent quality control process – with anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of all items made consigned to the clearance pile where it is sold for a heavy discount.

The art scene was fledgling however, and after having her first kid, Rozi would take a break from Make A Book, althought she continued to practice in private.

“Art has always been a way for me to find myself,” says Rozi. “About four years ago, Brunei’s art scene really started showing signs of moving again. The collective was huge in pioneering this. Seeing everything they were doing really had us believing again.”

Rozi argues that learning the basics of handcrafting books is relatively straightforward and low cost – only requiring an awl (a needle -like screwdriver) to puncture holes, thread, paper and a choice of cover (usually grey board). Intricacies such as the caterpillar method (pictured) are more advanced.

Most known for hosting creatively themed art fairs, Rozi and Wina decided to join the collective’s events as vendors to sell, their most fond being one for breast cancer at the Royal Brunei Recreational Club (RBRC).

“At the time we were donating a portion of whatever books we sold to different charities,” said Rozi, who at the time had lost an aunt to cancer. “After the event at RBRC, we knew we wanted to help those who had been suffering cancer. So one day, after connecting with a friend of a friend who was working at RIPAS, we asked if there was any way in which we could help out.”

To the duo’s surpirse, the RIPAS staff brought them around for a tour – stopping by the Children Cancer Ward.

“That’s when I knew who we really needed to help,” said Rozi, as she flips open a small card that’s attached with a golden string (pictured below) to every book whose proceeds are exclusively donated to the children’s ward.

All proceeds from books with the yellow ribbon are donated to the Children Cancer Ward – with Make A Book sponsoring the materials and labour cost.

“It might not be much,” she added. “But we must do our part to help. We don’t lose anything. In fact it gives what we do a deeper meaning.”

Follow @makeabookbrunei on Instagram to learn more or get in touch with Rozi directly at +6738720079 or Wina at +6738764958. Outside events, customers can either place an order or purchase an off the shelf product from Rozi’s house.