How can we better include voices, perspectives, and practitioners that are not regularly recognized or celebrated? What is possible when we prioritize care and love in spaces where this is not traditionally explored? And what happens when we make cotton candy in an academic library?
NC State University‘s Making Space Event Series, based in the University Libraries, began in 2015 as a series of programs focused on highlighting the work of women in STEM. Since then, Making Space has worked to confront bias and systemic barriers to inclusion in the STEM fields. This is accomplished by inviting engineers, artists, leaders, creators, thinkers, and doers from all identities and abilities to share their experiences and perspectives as underrepresented groups in science and technology.
Recently Making Space hosted Jackie Morin from WonderPuff to discuss all things cotton candy, entrepreneurship, and the power of love.
Owned and co-founded by Jackie Morin and her husband, Rem, WonderPuff LLC is a cotton candy store that prioritizes love and magic. With a storefront in RTP’s Boxyard, WonderPuff just celebrated their fifth birthday — and over the last five years WonderPuff has shared vegan, organic cotton candy, but also importantly advocated for social justice and betterment.
During the Making Space event, Jackie discussed and shared her experiences that led her to learning how to make cotton candy and to then creating and establishing WonderPuff with the purchase of their very first cotton candy machine. Simultaneously, Jackie discussed her experiences as a woman of color in the United States and how this has shaped her journey — even beyond cotton candy.
Importantly, she discussed how, with WonderPuff, they have been able to create a space of love and magic. And they continually try to share that love and magic with the community through the craft of cotton candy.
Because of this focus on love and magic, Jackie led a workshop on Self Love after her talk in the same space. During this time, attendees participated a breath meditation, created Self Love Jars, and learned how to make cotton candy. Jackie guided the meditation and encouraged folks to write self-love mantras to fill the jars with.
With events such as those hosted by Making Space at NC State University Libraries, students, faculty, staff, and the broad public are able to learn from a variety of individuals that demonstrate a vast breadth of knowledge and experience — supplementing the learning and instruction occurring in classrooms, laboratories, studios, and in library study sessions. This is all the more reinforced through the workshops that enable students and university community members to engage directly in hands-on learning.
This specific event was organized and hosted with the intention to amplify Jackie’s voice, story, and business. But this event also, quite beautifully, elicited many other important moments, such as discussions of pregnancy loss and homelessness, the creation of a safe space guided by meditation and breath work, the prioritization of love, and the smell of sugar that literally wafted throughout the library and encouraged students to follow the scent and stop by.
The events that we may usually think of in academic spaces do not smell — let alone smell delicious and sweet and sugary. More importantly, they often do not encourage attendees to actively practice and engage in self-care and love.
Libraries have long served as community spaces, yet academic libraries are perhaps far more exclusive to the academic institution/s that they support. But through initiatives like Making Space and hosting events such as this, with businesses like WonderPuff and people like Jackie Morin, we can see a deconstruction of that traditional academic exclusivity, a necessary reconfiguration of what counts as “academic,” and a worthy practice of care, love, and magic.