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November 2010
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January 2011

resolutions

Truth be told, I've never been much on resolutions.  I tend to have good intentions (paving the path to who knows where) which are not confined to a specific time of year.  There's the ongoing one about about less cheese and more exercise.  One friend has set the bar for New Year's resolutions - "wear more jewelry," "get new socks."  It's tempting just to copy her resolutions.  Most of the time I am in that busy phase between recovering from Christmas and preparing for taxes, buying trips, and the new retail year.  Most of the time I'm just busy going along my little merry way, too busy to stop and think about resolutions.  I suppose that is the point of the whole thing, to stop and think, to step mindfully into the new year.

One moment that I do pause is when I am writing my annual Christmas letter.  It's a big project that usually starts in November and ends up with a double-sided, single-spaced missive which gets sent out to a mailing list of about 100 people and is promply followed by regrets about what I said, which is followed by reassurances from recipients.  It's an annual ritual.  In writing my letter this year, I came across several aspects of the past year that I certainly hope will continue into the next.  Does that preclude them from being resolutions?  I hope not. 

I have also read a few blog posts this week about people who were stuck in winter blahs or feeling overwhelmed from the holidays. They were realizing that some of their feelings were coming from their lack of time to create which gets back to a fundamental component of my life.  So fundamental that I don't really consider it a resolution.  It is not something that I resolve to do, it is something that just is.  I very strongly believe that the more people make things with their hands, the more they will realize & appreciate the work that other people do with their hands, and the more amazement they will find in the uniqueness of our created world.  For me, creating is essential to sanity and happiness.

So I guess there are some resolutions already on tap:

1. Create.  To borrow from the ad campaign, just do it.  Jump in, make something, anything.  Don't worry about how it looks or what other people think of it.  Enjoy the action of hands or feet or voice and revel in  ability and uniqueness.

2. Facilitate.  Help other people see and value and use their own creativity.

3. Savor.  Time is going so quickly.  Especially when it comes to  children.  I know, there are aggravating and tired moments, but it is all so very fleeting.

4. Dare.  Risk.  It's scary and uncomfortable and hard work, but there ARE wonderful rewards awaiting.

5. Pause. Allow some quiet time. 

6. Buy local.  I am both tired of hearing this message and more committed to it than ever.  Does that make sense?  But I would like to support the people like me who are working their butts off for something they passionately believe in, and perhaps not contribute as much to a world that simply brings more wealth to the richest few.

7. Hope.  Mostly in the power of the individual to make the world a better, prettier, happier place.

Oh, and these are the pictures I sent out with my Christmas letter.  I make the photo collages through Walgreens.  Since I can never decide about the pictures or the color combo, I make several different collages and then randomly send out one with each letter (or not so randomly since it does take some time to decide who gets what collage).  The images themselves speak to me about resolutions for the new year - prettiness and creativity, color, stillness, joy and laughter.

 

And then there are some resolutions from the shop:

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What are your resolutions? 

 

 

 


Preparing. a sermonette and thoughts for the start of the New Year

As we approach the end of 2010 and the start of a new year, I find myself thinking more about a reflection that I delivered recently in church.  For background info, I belong to the United Church of Christ, which is on the liberal end of the scale - so much so that I, an unordained woman, can stand up in front of the congregation and share my thoughts in lieu of a sermon for that morning.  Anyway, this is the reflection that I shared during a recent Sunday service.  To my mind, this is not just about church and Sunday morning, but also about going ahead into a new year in a way that is mindful and yet open to possibilities.

PREPARING

Preparing.  I like that word; it feels active.  It brings to mind calendars and planning.  Checked-off lists.  Packed suitcases.  Boy Scouts.

But the more that I thought about this word, the more that I realized how many different ways there are of preparing.

The  Komai family is big on preparing.  We like to think ahead through the possible scenarios, make lists, fill in calendars, know what is on the menu.  We have a lot of things we like to do, a lot of things to get done.   On the whole, we believe that if you are not preparing for something, it will not happen.  

And God is right there is the doing, in the calendars, the lists, the ways that love is shared in rides to work and dinner parties, coordinating and communicating and connecting.  

To do all the things on the list to do, how are YOU preparing?

 

My brother-in-law, on the other hand, is big on spontaneity.  He hates to commit to an activity, in case something else comes along and he likes to have blocks of time that are unscheduled so he can be flexible.  He isn’t sure what each day will hold.  

And God is right there in the uncertainty, in the stillness of a moment, in the light of the setting sun, in the chance encounter, the spur-of-the-moment.  

For those things that you didn’t know you were preparing for, how are YOU preparing?

 

In April of 2007, my yoga teacher said to me: “It is spring.  Make sure that the seeds you are planting today are the fruit you want to bear.”  I nearly cried right there in class.  What I had been preparing for, no longer seemed likely or even possible.  

And God is right there in the loss and the tears, the anxiety and the fears, and the comfort and confidence that prevails.  

For the times when you think you are preparing for one thing but you are really preparing for another, how are YOU preparing

 

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2007, I woke up early at 6 am.  It was one of those moments that you don’t believe until they happen to you, when the light bulb goes on and everything is brightly lit in an instant.  The questions are gone, the answer is clear.  We should open a store!  In some ways, I had been preparing for this for years.  In other ways, there was a lot more preparing to be done.  

And God is surely right there, in that moment of total clarity, even in the moments to come when the heart and the mind begin debating about practicalities and petty details.  

For the jump that means lots of hard work or not a lot of money or a risk you never thought you were brave enough for, but which makes your heart sing, how are YOU preparing?

 

I read a book recently called The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.  It’s a work of fiction, in which Jesus has a twin brother named Christ.  Jesus is strong in body and convictions; he preaches to anyone who will listen that the Kingdom of heaven is near, so near in fact, that your day of judgment could be tomorrow.  Really.  Leave your home, your family, your work.  Go out into the world and feed the hungry, tend to the sick, help the poor.  Never mind the structure, the calendar, the schedule, the chores, the bills.  You have only this day to be concerned with.

And God is certainly right there, in the ministry, in listening to your calling, in the immediacy of following the ways of good and love at work in the world.  In living each day as if it is your last.

For the moment that is only now, no other, how are YOU preparing?

 

In this same book, the other brother, Christ, is less sure.  He comes to believe that the Kingdom of Heaven will never come on earth.  The best we can do is an approximation which must last and reach as many people as it possibly can.  To do so, there must be structure, there must be planning, there must be power and money.  There must be meetings.  

And, yes, God is there, in the meetings, in the planning and the structure, in the ways that people of different backgrounds and beliefs can come together for a common purpose.  In the long-range planning to bring good and love to work in the world.  

For a vision that lasts across time and space, across all the ages, how are YOU preparing?

 

Everyone in their own way is preparing.  Sometimes we know not what for.  Sometimes we don’t realize that we are preparing.  Sometimes we are preparing for the wrong time or the wrong purpose, but God IS with us in our preparing.  We have both only this moment and time across eons and oceans.  God is with us.  We are prepared.


Christmas & New Year wishes

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What an amazing year we had in 2010!  We are so grateful to our customers, our consignment artists, the people who inspire us, the people who were inspired by us...  Oh, so very many people!  As we looked around, the store is a veritable treasure trove of our thoughts and wishes for you this holiday season and into the new year.  And after the thousands of words that I've typed this year, perhaps it is best just to let the pictures do the talking.  Cranes for peace, more joy and on it goes.

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and, ever and again, thanks, thanks and evermore thanks. Dec23 016


wrapping it up & winding down

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Honestly?  My mind is a little blank right now.  I'm so tired!  Sachi reminded me yesterday that we've basically had 10 Saturdays in a row.  Those are not the Saturdays of sleeping in, watching cartoons, reading the paper, having brunch, running errands, these are the biggest sales day of the week (and in one case, of all time), 10 in a row.  So, all right, no wonder I've barely stayed up 'til 10 pm each night.   

Amongst my retail friends, there is a definite sense of winding down, also that slight edge of hysteria and tiredness that comes from working so intensely.  We are ready for it to be over.  Except that in my world, "over" means one day off and then back to work and planning for inventory, cleaning up the store, year-end tax preparations, and business travel.  OK, that last one isn't so bad.  But I have fallen into the trap for years now of imagining that everything will ease once December 26th rolls around, and being caught off guard when it doesn't.  I'm ready this year.  I think.  Still, one of these Orpheum brunches might be helpful.

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And of course, it isn't at all bad.  The tiredness comes because lots of people are out shopping.  Though there was a slow start to the shopping season, we have caught up and even surpassed 2009 annual sales so that eases the pressure.  There is also some easing of pressure as the store gets a little less crowded - items are selling, a few drawers and shelves are clearing out... There is room to breathe.  Not too deeply, but we're making progress.  It is satisfying to see a physical result of all this hard work.

There is always more work that could be done, but, on the whole, I think that Sachi and I are happy with the preparations that we made for this holiday season.  It feels like we had a great assortment of products to share with shoppers; we're really growing into our identity as a store.  It's amazing to think how much we've filled in since we first opened. 

I counted almost 60 new vendors and artists that we've added between this Christmas and last.  I never knew that Shrinky Dinks were so popular and missed and unknown all at the same time.  Not only have our new prints been popular gift items, but I'm just happy to have the words in the shop. 

I feel ambivalent about the "keep calm and carry on" message that is so popular nowadays.  Somehow it is not active enough for me.  The history that I heard was that the posters were to be displayed all over England after the Nazis invaded.  Somehow keeping calm and just going about one's business seems too... calm... for such a threat.  And I feel like I'm being told to just stay calm and never mind the various woes of the world.  I mean, I appreciate that you are supposed to carry on and not get stuck wallowing or doing nothing, but it still bugs me a little.  All that said, I do like our "keep calm" series which somehow feel more active to me.  Am I just splitting hairs?  Probably.

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We had a customer purchasing some gifts and something for herself and mention that apparently "self-gifting" is up this year.  For myself, I've got a few items in my IOU at the shop, including a few new prints for my house.  I'm simplifying a bit and changing over one wall from high school locker clutter to Art (well, my version anyway).  I just have to decide what colors go best with the rest of the walls, but I think one of these will have to be mine.  It feels like a good thought for the closing of one year and the start of another.

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The rest of the family presents are purchased and wrapped up.  Just this year, Lily can recognize her name so we spent some time putting packages under the tree and laughing as she'd exclaim, "L-I-L-Y!  That spells Lily!"  She is pretty excited.

We still have a lot of last-minute shoppers and browsers.  Which is a slightly foreign concept to me since I shop for presents all year long and buy them when I see them (not that I wasn't out purchasing gifts this week).  But I'm trying to be helpful and sympathetic.  Sachi is doing a better job.  It is hard sometimes when it seems like so many people ask my opinion and then don't like the answer that I give.  I'm pretty sure that tomorrow (Christmas eve), I will still have people who seem to have no desperation and are "just looking."  I admire their calmness in the face of the last minute.

For the most part though, I can tell we have a lot of people who are in town for the holidays and for the company (not the shopping), as we all prepare to gather together and celebrate.  It's pretty fun to think about all the people who will be opening Anthology presents on Christmas day.

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do you Moo?

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I finally had a chance to delve more deeply into Moo, the miracle of modern printing technology.  Seriously, how great is this world?  I love the feel of the paper for their business cards and mini cards and would love to start a collection/trade of mini cards with all my artsy acquaintances.  I especially love the fact that you don't have to pick a single image to print 100 copies of - they will print 100 unique images in one batch of mini cards.  And they have stickers!

I'm kind of overwhelmed with possibilities right now but had to give you a taste of my first order.  These are just assorted photographs from here and there and I'm creating little stationery sets for the shop.  The business cards and mini cards work nicely for gift tags, lunch notes, calling cards, etc.  The stickers are pictured above.  So fun!


last minute gift making

Stocking
Ah, it never fails... Just when I think I'm all done with everything and can safely sit on the couch and watch holiday movies, an idea for a new project pops into my head.  The adorable girl doesn't have her own stocking yet.  In the last few months, she is really paying attention to letters and she can spell out her name so I think she will notice that her stocking has Sachi's name on it.  It's still a work in progress but I wanted to cut the sweater so I could still keep the pocket.  Sachi has been making frosted animal cookie ornaments and she is contributing a few to the effort.  I have fabric at home with various candies printed on it so I am going to applique those on as well, plus some sequins and other things.  I wonder if one could sew with Baker's twine.  Wouldn't that be cute around the edge?

 

....and I'm making progress.  It did work to sew with Baker's twine even though it was a little tricky.

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I still have to find the fabric with candies on it to sprinkle around on the stocking.  Plus either candy cane printed fabric or candy cane striped ribbon to be sticking out of the pocket.  I LOVE it!





did I mention all the holiday goodness?

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The store is chock full right now and it seems like there are still new things arriving almost every day (which is your cue to stop in even if you have been in recently).  And if you haven't been in since last Christmas, boy are you in for a surprise!  Between this year and last year, we have added 68 new vendors!

I am especially pleased about all the holiday ornaments that we have to choose from.  These sweet little houses would be nice on a mantle or on your tree. They also have a little space in back to insert a light so the light glows through the windows.  They are made from post-consumer cardboard and vintage greeting cards with sweet mini trees and other additions.

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We also have paper origami star ornaments and cranes that look like paper but are really a delicate ceramic - quite elegant.  Other ceramic ornaments include botanical shapes and prints.

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We also have two different types of sewn fabric birds,

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hand-stamped ornaments, donut ornaments, bottlecap ornaments, Jane's paper stars, and a new delivery of felted santas and penguins and snowmen.

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And then there is the popular Wisconsin felt ornament.  There are just a few readymade ones left in stock, but you can stop in the store this Saturday from noon to three and sew your own for $14.  We've pre-cut the felt and Sachi has pieces of a great vintage map; she will guide you through the steps of reverse-appliqueing and stitching the state together.  If you don't have time to stop in on Saturday, we will have kits available as well.


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...and, breathe....

Ahh... I just made the switch from this: "When I met the Grandfather of Time, he said it was no use struggling. Even after all these years he still had too much to do." (Brian Andreas)

to this: "Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life." (also Brian Andreas)

I love it when that moment comes. When you've been working like crazy, getting some things done but also feeling totally overwhelmed with all the other things that aren't done.  And all of a sudden, that's it.  You've run out of time. What's done is done.

The danger in our particular form of retail is that you know there is always the potential to sell a few more of something if only you had made more.  Well, all right, that's true on an individual level, but the big picture is that the store is chock full right now.  So hopefully there is something for someone on your list. I think I can let go of the non-stop making.

The other thing that I just let go of is the particular nature of consignment and of handmade goods, which can't just be dug out of a warehouse box and shipped to the shop.  It is a much more personal relationship and I get bogged down in feelings of, "what if they don't like me because we aren't selling enough?"   So, yes, I can sell more of an artist's work if I stay on top of what is selling out and make sure that it is restocked quickly (i.e. nag them to make more).  But nagging isn't really that fun.  And there are plenty of our artists who I know are swamped with jobs and family and holiday preparations and so on.  This actually doesn't mean that I am going to give up on nagging - if I don't nag, how will they know we want more?  But I am reminding myself that it is not just my responsibility to see that artists get a nice big check from Anthology, but theirs as well.  It helps to share.

Just to be clear, I am not done with everything on my list.  There is still: laundry, dishes, cleaning the bathroom floor, going to the post office, a few last-minute food presents to purchase, etc. etc.  NOT on my list, but perhaps on other people's: baking Christmas cookies, decorating the tree, traveling to Grandma's house, etc. etc. 

But time is running out..  We've been working full out for several weeks to make enamel necklaces, bird nest charms, photo snippets, felt Wisconsin ornaments, button bracelets.  We've been unpacking boxes, adding inventory to the computer and the shelves.  I am thankful that Anthology doesn't rely solely on our Christmas sales but there is no denying that these last 10 days have a profound effect on the annual sales figures.  Which means that the entire year of working, promoting, Facebooking, blogging, buying, unpacking, displaying, comes down to this moment.  And while that thought might induce some panic, it also means that whatever can be done to have a successful holiday season, well, the next 10 days aren't really enough time, and most of it has been done over the course of 300-something days.  SO, I guess we're ready.  I am feeling a little more happy and a little less teary than I have prior to this moment.  Breathing helps too.  I hope that you find your own piece of calm and quiet and readiness this holiday season.


12 days, running a little behind

Ack!  How did that happen?!  Already less than 12 days left before Christmas.  I think last year I focused on a different theme for each of the 12 days before Christmas.  I'll catch up a bit here with some of our favorites in blocks of 12 (in honor of those 12 days that are already passing).

favorites since we opened:

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1. magnet picture frame; 2. button bracelet; 3. square punch; 4. Papaya art board; 5. recycled storybook journal; 6. terrace chair picture frame; 7. sparkling watercolors; 8. storybook picture frame; 9. cloth button hair clip; 10. Collage Discovery Workshop; 11. Madison photo necklaces; 12. bottlecap necklace

 

new favorites:


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1. shrinky dinks; 2. bicycle necktie; 3. recycled sweater armwarmers; 4. "This is How I Roll" t-shirt; 5. enamel earrings; 6. bird & nest necklace; 7. washi tape; 8. key necklaces; 9. Nikki McClure papercut print; 10. bird magnets; 11. hand-dyed yarns and ribbons; 12. alphabet charms

 

Laura's favorites

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1. Story People books; 2. enamel necklaces; 3. story pictures; 4. Martha Stewart glitter sets; 5. octopus t-shirt; 6. silk ribbon necklaces; 7. folder flower hairpins; 8. ceramic origami crane ornament; 9. Sachi's little drawing necklaces; 10. French-illustrated notecards, tote bags, Princesses book; 11. Tokyo Milk travel candles and solid perfumes; 12. lino-cuts and prints with text

 

Sachi's favorites

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1. Octopus and typewriter necklaces; 2. typewriter-text onesies; 3. mini Hello Kitty foods; 4. Vintage travel posters; 5. Mosaic ornaments & coasters; 6. Christmas cupcake wrapping paper; 7. Mini postcard sets - London, Paris, Italy; 8. Credit card and passport holders; 9. Green leaf charm necklaces; 10. Madison photo snippets and Polaroids; 11. Rosie the Riveter rubber stamp; 12. Felt flower pins

 

...and that's really just for starters!

 

 

 


a local Christmas shopping list

I know, I know, buy local, buy local... It's such a common refrain that it feels rather trite but I hope you will appreciate that it hits close to home for us. 

(And if you are tired of the message, you probably already know to skip this blog post.  Also, if you are my mom or my dad or my sister or brother-in-law, please also skip this message as I am about to divulge the sources of your Christmas presents.)

In Madison, I think we are fortunate to be surrounded by so many independent businesses - I really think that helps set the tone for the community as a whole. I can attest that most small business owners are working their butts off for not a lot of money.  Sometimes I feel rather helpless about the economic inequity in this country, but at least I know most of my money is not going to the richest 1% who just keep getting richer.

I know that the convenience of online and big box shopping is tempting and I hardly claim perfection.  But I believe that many of the woes today can be traced back in part to how we as consumers approach the world (online shopping=no sales tax=less state revenue=budget cuts and job losses and bad schools; cheap goods at big boxes=jobs overseas=no unions=bad environmental and social policies=a worse world all around).  So, yes, I do think that the world would be a better place with a little more shopping with a mindFULL instead of a mindLESS approach.  As I said, I'm not claiming perfection, and I know that even local businesses are connected to the world at large (odds are, their cash register has a part made in China, and that's just for starters) just as big chain stores have some local connection.

Since Madison has so many of my favorite local stores, I'm sure that most years I manage to spend some of my money locally but I really made more of an effort this year.  I think I managed about 80% spent at local (and not-so-local but still independent) businesses.  In the interest of full disclosure, here is my list of Christmas present sources:

Anthology (of course), Little Luxuries, InBalance, Brennan's, Metcalfe's Sentry, La Baguette, Century House, Joey's Seafood, Fischberger's (Milwaukee),Dainty Daisies (Oshkosh), Lego, Barnes & Noble (as I said, not perfect), Mitsuwa (Chicago), Frugal Muse, Etsy.com, Spring Green Art Fair, Blurb. com, Pasqual's.

I could go on with my list but I am trying to stay in budget this year. If I were to go on, the list would include Stitcher's Crossing for Sachi, Weary Traveler for my brother-in-law, Orange Tree Imports for Dad, Eldorado Grill for Mom, Playthings & Capitol Kids for the adorable girl, Sees Candy & James J's Chocolates for all of us.

Where did you go locally for Christmas shopping?