Boxboard box stamped with multi-coloured stamps.

Olivia, seeing Lisa and I immersed in box creation this winter, decided that she needed to participate in the effort, so we invited her into the fold, and I helped her design and conceive a box of her own design.

April 2, 2024 is marked by the United Nations as World Autism Awareness Day, and April every year is marked around the world as a month to educate people about autism. As a proud autistic trans woman, Olivia wanted to use her box to draw attention to this.

We worked on the design concept together: I drew a circle on a piece of paper, and asked Olivia “if this is what my brain looks like, what does your brain look like.” Olivia drew a more jagged, textured shape, which then got carved, in several variations, into rubber blocks to turn into stamps:

The sheet Olivia and I used to workshop the idea.One of the rubber stamps we made from Olivia's drawing.

We then rolled out a bunch of ink colours—eventually mixing new colours too—and used the stamps on one of our boxes, creating a prototype that we were both quite proud of:

Olivia holding the prototype box in her hand, standing outside on the sidewalk on a bright spring day, wearing a pink windbreaker, with a smile on her face.

The next Sunday we assembled a family group in the print shop for a work bee, and used the stamps to make impressions on the box with different ink colours and stamp placements. 

Olivia and Lisa sitting at a wooden table, with Lisa applying ink to a sheet of glass and Olivia looking on.

We used the same stamps to make the note card that’s inside the box, and then overprinted words, using metal type on the letterpress:

A white notecard, with "How I see your brain" printed at the top, over a simple grey circle, and "How I see my brain" at the bottom, printed over a collection of multi-colour jagged shapes.

The work bee was a lot of fun for everyone, and I think Olivia enjoyed the experience of seeing her conception come to life by many hands.

I finished up the boxes on the letterpress, printing “THIS BOX IS FOR GOOD” on the top, a credit line on the bottom (“Printed by Chandlers and Rukavinas in Charlottetown in 2024”), and our “call to action” on a card that we glued under the top flap:

Finished boxes, ready for filling, mouthes open.

It’s important to Olivia to celebrate and give thanks for the people who have supported her along the way, so for this edition of 20 boxes she wanted to send a box to supportive people and organizations from childhood to youth to adulthood. We came up with a note for the insides to explain this idea to the unwitting recipients:

Screen shot of the letter included in each box.
Last week Olivia headed out with one of her roommates and her support worker to finish places ranging from the Holland College daycare to the President’s Office at the University of Prince Edward Island. She met old friends, former teachers, and surprised others. 

It was, by all reports, a delightful day.

Submitted by Peter Rukavina on