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August 2009

what's new?

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Aside from the fact that summer is going so quickly?  The adorable girl got adorable clogs and every day there are new words and sentences.  It's amazing to see her learn and grow.

My birthmonth is August and I have only a few more days to gear up for those celebrations.  What will they be?  Who knows?!  I am going to see "500 Days of Summer" and am looking forward to that outing.  And I think I've managed to grab a couple days away from the store - a quick trip to Door County and a quick trip to Point Beach (hopefully stopping at everyone else's cool shops along the way: Dainty Daisies, Persimmon Girl, here I come!).

Every once in a while I consult The List and then I run away screaming or hyperventilating.  I cannot believe how much I have made that has sold since March of 2008!  It is absolutely incredible. Stressful, but incredible.  I made a "short" list that looks something like this:  headbands, aprons, artist pockets, knitters' pockets, fabric rolls, anklets, fabric pennants, glass square pendants, scrabble tile necklaces, large magnets, terrace chair button frames, button bracelets, origami ornaments, Vintaj bracelets and necklaces, Madison necklaces, Madison photo cubes, hankie flower pins, large photo necklaces, ceramic word necklaces, Paris necklaces.  Yeah, that's the short list.  Thankfully I've started calling on some helper elves: Alison to do some sewing for me, and Pamela's son to do some button making for both of us.  That helped a lot.

Anthology has been experiencing fabulous growth - ever since we entered into our second year, each month has been a very big increase over the same month from the year before.  Along with keeping busy with summer tourists and other visitors, it has been very rewarding and affirming.  We've got the sparkling watercolors out right now for people to paint postcards, but we have also been really busy with various craft parties - some birthday parties but also people bringing in out-of-town visitors.  The calendar has been very full - decoupage mirrors, comb-bound journals, altered books intro, stamped charms, chipboard journals, button picture frames and bracelets.  In addition, we are co-hosting the Holiday Craftacular so we've been getting lots of applications from area crafters.  If you are interested in applying, the links are over off to the left.  And if you'll be in town the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we hope you will stop by and get a jump on your holiday shopping.  In years' past I have done much of my shopping at the local craft fairs and it is always a fun experience.

Wednesday 001I have also been keeping very busy with various art projects.  As if I needed more.  The art journal swap is moving along smoothly.  Right now I am working on the pages for the France journal.  I never know what journal is going to arrive next so that has been kind of fun.  This is my page from the shadows and transformations journal - the base coat is twinkling watercolors... I do love those sparkles and am so glad that the company is not closing!

I also finished an altered book of Alice in Wonderland for the Wisconsin Book Festival in October.  I'm very pleased with it and now thinking about a fairy tale series.  Well, I need stories that are long enough that they have chapter headings because I used the chapter headings to guide the collage images and the text that I wrote.  Any thoughts? Wizard of Oz, maybe?Wednesday 003Wednesday 004Wednesday 002


birthday fun

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Last Saturday we hosted a birthday party.  The store is usually quiet on Saturday afternoon but it was considerably more lively with a group of girls decorating mirrors.  This is one of my favorite pictures to take - I know, it would be better against a blank walls but we don't have any such thing.  Oh, and the mom was a cupcake superstar.  She MADE these!  There's a mini cupcake for the head of the dog and a regular-size cupcake for the body.  Aren't they great?
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Japanese cuteness

There's just no end to it.  We do get to claim it as part of our heritage though, since Dad came over from Japan to go to grad school.  He threw himself wholeheartedly into American culture though so please don't ask if I know Japanese.  I don't. 

Anyway, I don't know if it is because we are half Japanese, but we do love all things kawaii (Japanese for "cute").  We've got a great collection right now since several of our vendors had new products and items in stock.  Here's just a little taste.  Sorry I don't know how to make those cool mosaic things in blogs because I always love those grids of pictures.  Anyway, here are some of our new paper products and new foods from Re-Ment.  The little kitties inside hamburgers are cute, though a little puzzling.

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For the art journal project that I am working on, someone has the topic of "urban flora and fauna" and I think I'm going to focus on street fashions of Tokyo. There's an awesome set of books - have you seen them? - Fruits and Fresh Fruits?  I cannot believe some of the creative outfits, and seeing a kimono worn so casually on a smoking teenager is, quite frankly, really amusing.  It's such a dichotomy between the structure and rigidity of tradition.. and the rebellion of youth.  Even the whole cuteness aspect (Hello Kitty et al) is such a contrast to the ancient customs and Buddhist shrines.  It's so fascinating to me.


now tweeting at a computer near you

Yeah, yeah, that's right, I succumbed.  And I don't know if this is retribution for doing so, but the paragraph explaining it all has just disappeared.  Where was I?  Anthology can now be found on Twitter. "Anthology" was already taken so look for "Anthology218"  - that's our street address.  I am going to try and stick closely to the mission of the store, which is to increase creativity in the world.  Complaining about street musicians doesn't fulfill that mission so while sometimes I can't help but delve into the darker and whinier aspect of things here in this blog, I will try to keep the tweets on the light and creative side of things.  The plan is: new arrivals, new projects and craftivities at the store, new Laura arts and crafts at home and in the studio, new inspirations... you know, stuff like that.  SO, if you are tired of the minutiae of everyday shopgirl life and the long-windedness that occurs when I sit down at a keyboard that isn't counting my words, feel free to check out Anthology218.


Craftacular! Craftacular!

Yippee!  The date is set.  Anthology is really excited this year to co-host the Holiday Craftacular.  We are working with Naomi of Glitter Workshop, original Craftacular founder.  For all you artists, you haven't missed out - application materials will soon be available.  For all you shoppers, mark your calendars!

The Fifth Annual Holiday Craftacular will be help Saturday November 28th at the Masonic Center on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Madison, Wisconsin.

Here's the link to the Craftacular website.
Thanks Jerome for setting it up!

Maxwell Street recap

Thanks to everyone who came out for Maxwell Street Days!  In all, we made 540 buttons!  100% of those sales will be donated to local youth arts programs: the Art Cart, the Lussier Community Center, and the Claire Aubrey Roberts scholarshop fund at the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center.  It was fun to hear people walk by and say "The Art Cart!  Oh, I loved that when I was a kid!"  We did too, which is why we selected that as one of our recipients.

I still maintain that three days of Maxwell is one day too many.  Friday started out cool with some threat of rain, which didn't materialize until later in the day. The threatening clouds moved in and out all day and I really should have worn another layer.  Can't believe I am saying that in JULY!  All in all, the day went smoothly though I decided that I didn't eat enough protein.  Saturday the weather was a little better and a lot more people came out.  Plus I had a long-sleeve t-shirt, a BBQ pork sandwich and a whole can of Diet Coke.  Sachi and I were both still exhausted at the end of the day. 

We had the table out on the street both Friday and Saturday.  On Friday I had a chance to make some flat back buttons for bracelets, but on Saturday there was no such time.  Feels like the table was completely surrounded by people all the time.  There were still a lot of people for whom the store and the button-maker were a new idea so that was a nice introduction.  We had record-breaking sales on Saturday and I think Sachi and I were both hoarse that evening after explaining the store and the button-maker as much as we had to.  Thank goodness for Pamela and Mom who came and helped out, and for Dad who provided the fresh-baked bearclaws.  Sunday was a quieter day, though still well above an average Sunday.  Pamela and I stayed indoors - having that extra table outside really stretches us thin, personnel-wise - and Sachi stayed home with a crabby Lily.

Now we settle in for the rest of the summer.  We've got a couple craft parties booked already and the usual list of things to restock.  I'm making an emergency run down to IKEA tomorrow because we are running low on mirrors to decorate.  After the pile that was sitting in my parents' basement for years, this is a refreshing change.  Our strong summer season has continued; June again was a strong increase over June of last year and it is rewarding to see the signs of continued growth.


art journal swap

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All right, I'm a little crazy, I know.  On top of all the things there are to do, I have started an art journal swap.  A total of 23 artists each started their own journal and are now circulating it amongst each other.  Since the project started to come together, my living room has been transformed into collage central.  It's a long overdue task and I am actually making progress so that is good.  I've been sorting through my boxes of images, even recycling some, tearing up magazines and catalogs...  It basically boils down to 4 boxes sorted by color: rich & dark, bright, pastel, cool.  Plus a box of images I pulled that I think will be useful for the art journals.

DSC07177My book is an old desk calendar that I purchased a long time ago with just such an idea in mind.  It was originally titled "chill out" and is filled with pictures of nice beach chairs and other lovely scenes.  I altered the title a bit; now it says relax/beach/travel/breathe/stay at home.  PW jokes that it is all the things I want/need but don't have the time for.  Here's the cover.  


Here are the other themes so far: Egypt, France, Spain, owls, the Muse,Book of H(ours), shadows/silhouettes, Healing, flowers/faces/fish, stars, Guinea Pig Adventures/Past Lives of a Reincarnated Cavy, transformation/shadows, consumption, words or text, water towers, the ocean, urban flora and fauna, love notes, East Indian design, The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland...  and oh yeah, that last one, has sent me down the proverbial rabbit hole.  I'm also working on an altered book of Alice in Wonderland for the Wisconsin Book Festival in October.  The guild I am a member of will have books on exhibit for the occasion.

My mind is reeling with ideas and plans.  Just what I needed.  But seriously, it is lots of fun.  It has been nice to have some sort of play...

And here are the pages that I have done so far.  In addition to using magazine and catalog images, I've been working with melted beeswax which is one of my favorites.  My dad says collage is funny because he can't tell one artist's work from another, but I think you can probably pick out mine compared to some at least.  I like 'em packed with stuff.  So far I've done my own sign-in pages, as well as pages for: flowers/faces/fish, love notes, the ocean, water towers, Egypt, owls, consumption.  Seven down, 16 to go...

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catching up

I know, I know, it has been a while.  Well, not that long ago but I see by that handy calendar in the margin that I'm not posting nearly as often as I used to.  Sigh.  Things just get busy.  July is a super busy month as far as the store is concerned.  First of all, we've been having an awesome season.  Since April when we started being able to compare sales to last year, we are showing phenomenal growth.  It's great.  It has been tremendously rewarding.  We're getting lots of summer tourists and people coming back to town who haven't been in since a year ago -- they are happy that we are still here and complimentary (if overwhelmed) about how much the store has filled in.  I feel very lucky.  Tired, but lucky.  After the 4th of July came the Art Fairs, and now Maxwell Street Days this coming weekend.

It does mean that there are even more things to do.  And the more that I make, the  more that I sell... or is it the other way around?  It's all a blur.  There are several items that are sold out or low in stock.  I haven't even been able to look at the list.  Luckily sales taxes are not due until the end of the following month, but I have a day's worth of office work that needs to get done, which keeps getting pushed aside in favor of making buttons and unpacking boxes.  It's turning out that Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are pretty much busy with customers; I can squeeze in the odd moment to make something but there isn't really a solid block of time for concentrating on tasks.  That means Tuesday is office day, maybe Wednesday, if it isn't studio day.  Of course, this Tuesday we have three separate craft parties scheduled so there won't be a lot of office work. 

I'm finally realizing that in addition to the challenges of being an introvert in retail, there are challenges of being a control freak in retail.  Normally my days are well-planned out in advance; I'm big on calendars.  But it's tricky in retail, you never really know who is coming in and when, let alone how many or what they will want.  Just something else for me to be aware of.

This week was somewhat challenging.  I've been battling a summer cold - super low energy early in the week, and now this lingering cough and sinus pain.  Additionally, I got a little cut on my right hand thumb.  It's healing, but slowly, and in the meantime there are little twinges when I hit it the wrong way (which happens often.  I use my thumb a lot!).  It feels like a vacation would be nice but seems like there is neither time nor money.  And as much as I am not thinking about The List, I know it is there.  Since I was sick I had to play catch up on Wednesday and didn't get much studio work done.  All of this adds up to a crabby Laura this week.  Apparently it showed too.. and for that I apologize.  Thursday and Friday were the worst, to the point that my brother-in-law commented on it.  Friday the store was crowded and things were busy, but sales were just so so - and it is enough to make anyone grumpy when you are working hard but not making much money.  Thank goodness for Pamela who is coming in to work on Saturdays and some Wednesdays.

DSC07662 Some of the grumpiness promised to dissipate for the weekend, thanks in part to Pamela's presence.  Thanks also to lots of appreciative customers coming in as a result of the Art Fairs On and Off the Square.  No thanks to this culprit, Mr. Orange-jumpsuit-piccolo-player, who competed with the sax player ALL DAY Saturday and Sunday to drive me completely out of my mind.  It is very hard to think with that noise going on constantly for hours at a time.  It seemed especially bad this weekend, as if the sax player and the piccolo player were engaged in an argument or turf war, each trying to outdo each other.  I have yet to find music in the store that can mute the effect of the sax so the result is that our store music really just ends up being random street "music."  And if you think I am being overly critical and crabby about the matter, please try listening for a solid 5 hours instead of just walking by in 5 minutes before you cast judgment.  Seriously.

Wait, did I say I wasn't grumpy anymore?  I shouldn't have started down the path of street "music."  So, where was I?  Lots of things have arrived to the store, including creations from our many talented artists.  Sunday I restocked the twinkling watercolors which always makes me happy.  They are coming out with new colors so I am excited about that.  I love color.  We've got some more orders to place and new things coming in the next few weeks.  The art boards from Sabrina Ward Harrison were already a hit.  I love instant gratification.  We've started working with Naomi of Glitter Workshop to plan for a Craftacular closer to Christmas.  She is the master of it all but with a new baby on the way, we asked her if we could help out.  It just seems like there is such a strong momentum to the indie craft movement at the moment that it is important for the Craftacular to continue.  So, you can look forward to more details about that in the near future.

And what else?  That adorable girl?  Still adorable!  She is talking so much and amazing me every day with her new words.  Friday morning she came in saying "local artists. local artists.  five dollars."  Should I get her a sandwich board?  I've been enjoying summer days, reliving fond childhood memories like running through the sprinkler.

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Maxwell Street days 2009

Let's see, do you want the long version or the short version?  The short version is that for Maxwell Street Days, Anthology will have our make-a-button-for-a-buck station out on the street.  And, yes, that's right, it still costs $1... just like it does at any other time during the year. 

(For those who don't know, Maxwell Street Days is an annual Madison tradition, borrowed from Maxwell Street in Chicago, where vendors of State Street bring their foods and wares out onto the street for a big sidewalk sale).  Stop in at Anthology's table, pick out a paper, and we'll help you with our button maker so you can have your very own one-inch button.

ALL sales from the make-a-button-for-a-buck station will be donated to local youth arts organizations including the MMOCA's Art Cart, Monroe Street Fine Arts Center Claire Aubrey Roberts Scholarship fund, and the Lussier Community Center.  We feel really fortunate to have grown up in Madison and to have many artful opportunities as children.  Even though our parents didn't have a lot of money, there were summer art projects galore and that has really shaped our creative lives.  We are pleased to be able to give back to the community and to further Anthology's mission of making the world a more creative place.  For more on the our inspiration, check inspiration in film.

Ah yes, that was the short version!  The long version?  Well, I don't want to lecture or be a spoilsport but I feel very strongly on this matter.  It is true that Maxwell Street Days is a time of wonderful bargains, but I think that the world of arts and crafts is pretty much wonderful bargains 24/7.  If artists were lawyers and kept track, in 15 minute increments, of the time spent learning, failing, studying, making, buying, driving, washing, ironing... all the things that go into their creations...  well, quite honestly, I think that prices would be a lot higher.  Probably triple at least, so just think what a bargain you are getting!  But, people say, "I enjoy what I am doing/it's just a hobby/I just need to pay for the supplies." And where would the lawyers be if they said that?  Time, talent, effort, knowledge - in most other arenas, those cost money.  It is one of my great annoyances that the world as a whole doesn't appreciate and isn't required to appreciate what goes into the work of the hands.  This is historically the case (and, not incidentally, the work of the hands is typically women's work which feeds into a whole 'nother argument about pay scales).  As artists, we continue the myth, we devalue our time and our creations, and when we do that collectively, it only furthers the idea that art and craft is frivolity and of less value.  So, what am I saying?  Anthology probably won't put items on sale during Maxwell Street Days.  Ever.  We've considered some sort of studio garage sale (because, during the year, we are inundated with people saying "can you use this?  I've got this box of tiles/books/magazines/fabric that I don't want to throw away but I don't have any use for it.").  The logistics are yet to be worked out.  So I can't say "never" but most of our artists create things as they are demanded so there isn't a huge stockpile sitting in a warehouse; we don't buy things on clearance and then mark them up to mark them down.  I do apologize if this is a disappointment to you but feel strongly that we should just lay the cards out on the table and tell you right now that whatever it was you were eyeing in the store will more likely sell to someone else than it will be marked down to clearance prices.

And what about customer goodwill?  What about doing a favor for all these people who have supported our business?  Without whom we would not exist?  We are grateful to you no doubt about that but selling you our leftovers is not how we choose to express it.  We would prefer to thank you in other ways like sending you home with lots of ideas for new art projects (you don't have to make a purchase to come in and be inspired), or giving you a birthmonth treat, or hoping that you will join us in paying it forward and find some goodwill in knowing that the money you spend at Anthology during Maxwell Street Days will be used to support local children in pursuit of art.

So, come on out for Maxwell Street Days! There are great bargains from many a store. There is good food to be eaten.  There are buttons to be made.