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letter to the editor

Perhaps you read it yourself or already heard the hubbub over the Sunday opinion page of the Wisconsin State JournalMonologues of Dissent has had a long conversation with the editor and Grant Petty wrote a response which echoed many of my own thoughts.  After the red haze cleared from my eyes, I reread the opinion.  I can concede that we aren't all going to agree with each other and that it is good to have a conversation about diverse points of view (though I'm still pretty sure I wouldn't subscribe to read such writing).   In the end, I wonder if the Wisconsin State Journal has some opinion about how to proceed when one feels that one's voice and vote isn't being heard.  I, personally, feel as if recalls are one of the few options left to me, but I would certainly love to hear about my other options.

And perhaps I am being overly zealous, but I just want to make absolutely sure that someone doesn't count me in some "silent majority" of which I don't actually belong.  I'm sure that the editor was swamped with letters for and against, but had to send in my 2 cents, or 200 words, such as it is.  I find I have many more complaints than can fit in 200 words but boiled it down to:

     Isn't that sweet?  You still believe in democracy and Wisconsin's ability to cooperate.  I have lived here for over 30 years and I have never before had so many doubts about democracy.  It seems that my voice, my vote, my small business and my customers do not matter to this state government.  How are we supposed to cooperate with someone who indicates no desire to compromise or even have a conversation, and who seems to have bullied an entire party into rolling over and doing his bidding?
     Does democracy mean waiting until the next election cycle for better results or being quiet when the slim majority of voters go contrary to your beliefs?  Does democracy mean allowing a single person to concentrate as much power as they can in the office of Governor?  I believe not.
     I, too, dread the prospect of a prolonged campaign season and would much rather spend money on food pantries than campaign ads.  But as long as I feel that liberty and justice for all is being sacrificed for power and money for a few, I approve whatever means necessary to change the direction of Wisconsin government.  Including rampant recalls.


Stationery Show and other new arrivals

A few people have asked me what I'm doing this weekend and I've been puzzled, until I realized it is already time for the 4th of JULY?!  Ack.  When did that happen?  I think I might still be back in May, mentally.  Just this week it started to feel like summer.  The tourists are definitely starting to arrive from near and far and I've been keeping busy just restocking and unpacking new arrivals.

Some orders from the now long-ago Craft & Hobby Show (California in January) are still trickling in, as are more recent orders from the Stationery Show (New York in May).  And of course, Sachi and I are making things, as are our many local and regional artists.  And we've restocked some of the items that were running low: key necklaces, alphabet charms, rubber stamps, sweet story pictures, paintings from Michigan, neckties from Brooklyn, oneises from Ohio,...

One of our most popular new arrivals are the "many varieties of beer" t-shirts and prints from Brooklyn.  We were excited to see that New Glarus and Capital Brewery made the chart.

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The protest collection has been growing.  As always, there are more buttons, but we've got a new postcard on order (the "now settle down, kitty!" image) and hope to get a few more "union made" posters in shortly.  As well, the new line of Banksy cards seem quite relevant.

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We've been building up the recycled/repurposed selection of products: new mosaic picture frames from Emily in Illinois, repurposed drinking glasses from Weston, vintage storybook coasters, vintage linen skirts from Stoughton, hand-dyed slips from Oshkosh, and t-shirt necklaces from Minneapolis.

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And of course, our collection of locally-made items is ever growing.  Thanks to our artists who restocked, we've got more ceramics from Milwaukee, necklaces from Manitowoc, headbands from Oskosh, stamped bracelets from Oshkosh, collage cards from Stoughton, and onesies from Madison.

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As far as craft supplies go, we have more origami paper, a great assortment of scrapbook paper pads (very popular for card making), new stencil designs and trinkets from Tim Holtz.  We are totally in love with the many patterns of washi tape.  My mind is reeling a bit with all the new paper that has arrived.  Now is a moment where I wish for a lot more square footage so I could display it all properly.  We've got some new handmade papers that people have already bought for window coverings and art projects, and I think our assortment of Florentine papers would make lovely wedding garlands.


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Speaking of wishing for more space, our collection of prints has been growing as well.  Displaying all the options has been a bit of a challenge, but we couldn't say no to the great details of Jill Bliss prints or the great charts of rap names and culinary tools.
   
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I'm working (slowly) on building up local and regional-themed prints/cards.  The Madison neighborhood map just arrived, and the I {heart} Madison print has been a popular gift.  And of course there are plenty of Madison postcards for the visitors.  I'm quite pleased with the cut-out paper lake pieces that a Minnesota artist has made for us.  We commissioned one of Monona & Mendota, and her Great Lakes series has been popular as well.  The Madison lakes have already sold out and are on order.

 
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We are excited to go into our fourth summer downtown, to greet returning visitors, show off our new arrivals, and perhaps enjoy a few leisurely evenings at the terrace.

 


happily ever after?

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I think I might have my new favorite craft party: altered Golden books.  Now, I know some collectors and librarians out there who will be horrified that I am tearing pages out of books, but I found a stash of Golden books at St. Vinnie's.  Not quite a dime a dozen but close enough.

I took this project to the Madison Children's Museum in the springtime and taught a few people the project, but this was the first larger group - a birthday party for 7 girls around the age of 10.  What a fun project!

I've had a chance to work on my own pages a bit but would love more time to pick out words and phrases and do some more collaging.

 

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What's nice about this project is that you get a little taste for the process of making altered books, but in a manageable way (as opposed to, say, altering a dictionary, which is requiring a lot of time).  So far it seems that the Golden books have a 12 page formula, which turns into 6 new pages, which are then collaged with images from the removed pages and our stash of paper scraps.  I could see this working as a nice collaborative project too - each person cuts text and images from their leftover pages and then shares them with the rest of the group. 

I took a workshop once at Valley Ridge Art Studio in which we all cut out lines of poetry to make a new poem, and then passed it to our neighbor.  It's a cool collaborative idea, though I think I would warn people that they were giving up their text.  It would be fun if everyone's book had contributions from everyone else at the table though.  You can find some amusing sentences in those Golden books, especially when taken out of context.

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On Sunday, we had 7 10-year-olds come in for a birthday party, which was the first group of more than 2 people that I'd led the altered Golden books workshop for.  After the basics of ripping out the pages and inserting new ones, everyone settled in to cut out images and text to collage back into their pages.  It was an enjoyable afternoon of hunting for words ("I'm looking for 'family'") and images ("has anyone seen the chipmunks with the life preservers?"). 

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Although many of our other projects are certainly creative, this one felt like it reached a new level in terms of what was put down on the page and in terms of how everyone at the table worked together.  Perhaps that's just my bias towards cutting up book pages and finding new sentences.  I think my favorite page is one that featured a title: "a visit to the children's zoo," the image of Sleeping Beauty collapsed on the ground after pricking her finger on the needle, and the caption, "she's allergic." 

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just a few paper projects

Just in case you think all my time and energy and attention is going to politics.... here are a few of the recent projects.  I still have to take updated pictures of my altered dictionary of collections and my altered thesaurus of gratitudes - those are my evening fun projects that have been occupying much of my time. 

Meanwhile, at the shop:

Sunday2 001yes, I'm so pleased with my map dresser that I have to post pictures again.  Now I just need to train myself not to walk around to open the drawers. I missed a spot and there are some spots still to finish on the cash register counter so I hope to have a moment to crack open the jar of Mod Podge again.

My other fun paper project involves party invitations for my upcoming 40th.  A friend and I both share August birthdays and we're planning a dancing party to celebrate.  Naturally, with zillions of stationery catalogs at my disposal, I spent a long time trying to decide what style the invites would be.  I've decided on a stitched garland to decorate the simple printed invite.  The paper is on order from Chicago so I should be able to do the sewing next week.  I already spent one evening cutting those little triangles.

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And finally, this afternoon we've got an altered Golden books craft birthday party coming in.  The table is all set up and I'm ready to show the next generation how to tear pages out of books.

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creativity and a cause for hope

Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm still feeling pretty heartsick about the actions of the government here in Wisconsin.  Hopeless too.  It just doesn't feel like politicians are making any sort of concerted effort to improve the lives of the people, which is utterly disheartening.  And yet, a friend said recently, "I realized downtown, the protests are to move the people, not the politicians who are ignoring us."  And I think, yes, that is exactly it.  Because what do we really have control over? very little except our own actions and decisions.  I can't even get my little sister to do what I want her to, how can I expect a total stranger to pay attention?  Ok, that might be oversimplifying it, but still, this is the hope that I continue to come back to.  We do have the power to change the world, and we have the power to do so in the changes we make ourselves.  The choices we make about how to shop, how to BE in the world, how to talk to people, how to listen, how to care, how to pay attention - all this and more is completely within our power.  Wow.  There is so much that we can do!

There is one other major aspect of the events this year that has given me major cause for hope, even elation, certainly inspiration.  And that is the role of art in protest.  The very first week of protests, I made some comment on our Facebook page about how I was feeling sorry for the arts (and for crafts).  I was feeling bad because it felt like everyone's lives were being boiled down to what their employer could wring out of them; that the time and money for the hobbies and pleasures would be sacrificed to the gas bill, the grocery bill, the mortgage; that people would have less time for their own creating and less discretionary funds to support the creative endeavors of other people (including my own).  I was scolded by someone who said that no one needs money to be creative, that people all over the world create with much less than what we have (and, implied to me anyway, that creativity shouldn't be connected to my own retail world).

I still have some measure of concern for how creativity will be affected.  Creativity of course will not disappear, but the opportunities to express oneself, the chances to learn about new techniques, the time and money to create, all these seem under attack.

Nonetheless, what an amazing outpouring of creativity I have seen in the past months!  I'm personally more of a "pretty" art person and have rarely gotten involved in making things that have a statement beyond, "hey, don't these colors look nice together?"  Still, I have been impressed by the many ways that artists have found to express themselves - in song, in print, in words, in signs.  Even though these times feel very stressful and upsetting, they also feel tremendously creative.

One case in point: Milwaukee artists Nicolas Lampert and Colin Matthes, whose images you might be familiar with by now.  We have some of their designs in buttons and in prints, but I also saw them out there at the protests, screenprinting on the spot.  How cool was that?!

 

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Another case in point: "Badger guy," Carl Whiting. Perhaps you saw this sign while you were at the Capitol?  We've had a number of people come in and ask us if we had it in button form.  So you might imagine that we were pretty excited when we realized that the artist is the husband of a customer.  In fact, the whole family came in and worked on a craft project very early on in the life of our store.Settle Down Kitty_0001
(this has also brought home another aspect of the protests: the realization of how connected we are to each other: in the ways that the actions of the Governor on state workers turns out to be directly affecting MY customers, but also in that "what a small world" kind of way: Carl is married to the delightful Margaret who is one of our regular customers, and together they are parents of a good friend of a child I used to babysit for who remains ever 2 years-old in my mind, even if he is now in high school).

We've received permission from Carl to print postcards and buttons so we can continue to expand upon our collection.  Additionally, he directed us to his website: Art for the Common Good, which has more of his work and his thoughts & experiences of the events at the Capitol.  We really appreciate the words that Carl has to share and hope you'll take a moment to check out his other works.

We especially appreciate the sense of humor that has prevailed through most of these frustrating times.  As Carl says, "These political times are bleak indeed, and the more we can convey our perspectives in a way which brings a little levity or hopefulness, the less room there is for despair and apathy.  Beyond expressing my own convictions, each new sign has been an experiment in breaking the barrier of anonymity and encouraging human connections.  At a time when politicians, corporatiosn, and the mainstream media act in ways which divide us from one another, real human connection has become a rare and valuable resource."

This is really only the tip of the iceberg as far as wonderful photographs, humorous signs, witty songs and other creations that have been sparked as a result of the political situation here in Wisconsin.  We are pleased to see the role that art and creativity continues to play. 


great lakes

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Trust a Minnesotan (with their 10,000 lakes) to come up with these clever pieces.  I'm really infatuated with papercuts but I was especially pleased to come across this artist's work since it has a regional theme.  I'm really trying to build up the collection here at the shop.  In addition to the simple Great Lakes silhouette, we have the depth chart versions of Great Lakes, Lake Superior, Door County, Apostle Islands and Madison. I like the abstract yet familiar shapes and the way they play with positive and negative space, as well as the shades of blue, of course.

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good things & gratitudes

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Good things come in threes.  Well, maybe it should be multiples of three since the list surely goes beyond three.  Nonetheless, Anthology is pleased this June 2011 to celebrate (a little belatedly, but, hey, we were busy):

1. Three years in business.

2. One paid-off small business loan.

3. Three more years, plus an option for an extension, on our lease.

We are so grateful to everyone who has been with us on this adventure, and to many years ahead! 


mmmmm...... maps

Well that took a while to follow through on.  Ever since Martha Stewart had a section about decorating with maps (does anyone else remember that article?  I can't seem to find it online - it had all sorts of things covered with maps), such a project has been on mind.  Probably even earlier than that since I love maps (which is fitting for a Geography major, even if cutting up maps is not fitting for a Geography major).

I had to do a little rearranging at the shop and it occurred to me that one of our dressers would be better functioning if the drawers faced inwards.  Those drawers hold button supplies and when we first opened, people could rifle through the drawers to find paper to cut out.  We have since simplified the process and just have the tins of pre-cut circles. SO, no one needs to go through the drawers.  Inevitably someone does, which irks me on some primitive territorial animal level.  Of course, it is a lot easier to change MY behavior or thoughts than to change others'.  And this way, when we need to get more button supplies, we won't have to shift little children out of the way.

However, that leaves the back side of a hand-me-down dresser facing out into the store.  I figured I'd do some decoupage like the cash register counter but then decided for a change to go with map pieces.  Initially I was going to cut out just oceans but that wasn't really working so I just went with a collage of maps.  I was going to do 2" squares but bumped it up to 4" when Sachi said I would drive myself crazy.  Still, 2" would be pretty cool.  I quite like the finished look.  Now where can I do this in my house?

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speaking up

Two days ago, someone made a request to a group that I am a member of.  We are a group of small businesses who have come together because we are frustrated with the single-minded message, spearheaded by the WMC, of the role and demands of business in Wisconsin.  We feel that the voice of small business is not being heard and we are slowly building our group of business people who disagree with the path that Governor Walker has set Wisconsin on.  We're a relatively new and small group; all of us our busy running our businesses and we certainly haven't developed a unified message in detail.  So, we're a group, but we're also individual businesses and people.

Anyway, the request that came through this group was for someone from the business community to speak at Wednesday night's rally.  That request came on Tuesday.

Now, this may come as a surprise to those who've gotten to know me through this blog, but even though I have plenty of typed words to say on the subject, and have certainly not held back, I am a very introverted person and public speaking comes hard to me.  If you stop by the store and want any sort of conversation, Sachi might be a better bet. I can't think quickly on my feet and public speaking with slightly more than 24 hours advanced notice is definitely not my thing.

So, even though I joined this group because I wanted my small business voice to be heard, at the first sign of actually have to speak, I panicked.  I thought, who am I to speak for the whole group?  There are many different personalities in the group, will my "Wisconsin Nice" satisfy Brad's "Inner Wyoming"? What do I, as a small business even have to say? And isn't my small business, to borrow from a fellow member, too "rinky dink" to matter? 

This also plays into some larger questions I've been struggling with this week.  Let's just say that my optimistic outlook is having to work hard to stay afloat.  Tuesday was a fabulous day downtown - it was sunny and perfect; I walked around the Capitol and felt so cheered by all the people and by the mood. And we had a great day of sales (sorry, but I'm a shopgirl, and a great day of sales always makes me happier).  But after walking around the Capitol, I also had a sinking feeling (only born out by subsequent legislative action and judicial inaction) - what are we doing?  are we having any effect at all?  is anyone listening?  what good does it do to hold my sign up to be read by people holding their own signs and nodding in agreement to me?  And finally, as another friend said, after hearing about the inspiring circle of people holding hands and singing around the Capitol, "Can we just overcome already?" 

Great, now this whole thing is causing me to question my self-worth and is putting a major chip in my rose-colored glasses.  Well, gosh darn it!

By now, I'm afraid that I've utterly lost track of the links that I've followed and the people's words that I've read, but somewhere, someone wrote about the Capitol protests.  They said, we are not doing this for THEM (because they are clearly not listening), we are doing this for US.  There is something very powerful about being in the presence of so many people who are united in their commonalities, even as they cover a range of ages and careers and income levels and lifestyles.  It's powerful stuff.  I'm glad that I'm here for it.  Maybe the legistlators are not listening; for sure Governor Walker is not listening.  But we are listening to each other.  And as long as there is listening and learning, as long as there are new connections being forged, the work and the worth does continue.  There is no doubt that there is other work to be done - though I love the idea of hundreds of thousands of people surrounding the Capitol at all times, I also know that there is a lot going on in many other ways.  I find it aggravating and amusing - there was criticism early on of the protests (along the lines of, that's all well and good, but that doesn't change things, when are you going to get to work?) and then criticism now that there aren't enough people downtown (also some implication by the Governor that the issue has gone away?!).  There are a multitude of ways to speak and act, no end to phone calls and speeches and signature-collecting - I've been so encouraged by all the ways that people are inspired by the Capitol protests to work to keep Wisconsin on a forward-moving path.  I would love to wave my magic wand, but there are huge forces of power and wealth that are interested in keeping this state and this country on its current trajectory and of keeping their own wealth and power.  It's going to take a lot of work and time and patience. 

And if I do not use my freedom of speech?  If I fade back into that so-called "silent majority" which gives consent even without intending to?  Um, no, that's not for me.

There's no doubt some fear - fear of speaking to so many, knowing that some people will disagree, fear of losing a friend or losing a customer, fear of an email inbox filled with hateful letters from Tea Partiers, fear of being yelled at by some Communist for relying too much on this faulty system of Capitalism.  But wait, is THAT what I want to guide my life? Fear?  I am reminded of my experience here at the shop - in the tremendous risk and use of energy that every day feels like.  In the ways that people dismiss my efforts or are utterly uninterested or otherwise not helping me to pay rent.  And yet, for every one of those such interactions, there are many more that are uplifting and fulfilling, that affirm this path that I am on.  And if on some days I would rather be at home in my dark cave working on my little art projects, I have to remind myself of all the things that I would miss.  If I didn't take the risk.  If I didn't forge ahead.  If I let fear win.  If I give in to the devaluing of myself and my business because I am not big enough or rich enough.

It is especially fitting that I'm working on my altered book gratitudes journal.  It reminds me, even on tiring and sad and angry days, of the things that I am grateful for.  It reminds me that even though I never manage to please everyone, I can bring good things to this world.

I am also reminded of what I wrote for the sign on our door: We believe in the fundamental goodness & creativity & uniqueness of every single person.  We believe in Liberty and Justice for All.  That everyone has the right & responsibility to follow their passions and create a life that is fulfilling & meaningful and that makes the world a better & happier place. 

And so, too late for the first speech request, but hopefully in time for another, I'm spending this morning refining my notes.  I realize that standing up in front of a crowd is by no means for everyone.  But I want to encourage everyone to be brave.  To follow your own dream and your own truth and speak up for it.  To be fearful but know that rewards come from risk.  To not be intimidated into silence just because some people have more strident voices.  For sure I don't want a world where all that we hear are the strident voices (even though mine has been among those of late).  We have only our own stories to tell but the whole world would be so much better off if we all shared our stories.


the cleverness of knitters

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I have to admit that my knitting skills are very very basic so I just stand in awe of the yarn-bombing movement which involves guerrilla knittas attacking trees and benches and signs and other things with yarn and needles.  Today is International Yarn Bomb Day and I was excited to learn that the protests at the Capitol have become a part of the event.  Here are some pictures from around the Capitol Square:

 

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There was a man sitting at this bench reading a paper.  I asked him if he wouldn't mind moving for a minute so I could take a picture.  He got up and then read the bench and said, "apparently we will be."

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All right, for the sake of a photograph, yes, but as for the rest... Fight on, Wisconsin!