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November 2011
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surprise!

Well, I can't resist...  I know I said that was the last post of the year, but I've been working on a project today and just had to share. 

I was inspired by Pinterest and by Jenna of Capitol Kids, who came to the shop to buy some little trinkets to put into a surprise ball.  We sold these at the shop that I used to work at but it never really occurred to me to make one of my own.  I loved the way Jenna took time to gather lovely little goodies - it is an interesting challenge!

And then I went to the party store to get balloons for our New Year's Eve party (which is just me and the four year-old; I am overcompensating for her lack of other party guests and my desire to not talk to anyone by spending way too much at the grocery store on treats and going overboard with decorations).  While I was waiting for the balloons to be inflated, I walked around looking at cheap trinkets... and there were the crepe paper rolls just sitting there by the register.  At first I was going to get some to decorate the room, but then I remembered the surprise ball idea.

Now, first of all, I didn't totally practice what I preach, because I did succumb to a few cheap plastic trinkets made in China.  If I had planned better, I would have saved the cool rings I got from Capitol Kids' wild & wacky stocking present wall and rolled them into the surprise ball instead of putting them in the girl's stocking.  Ah well.  Necessity is the mother of invention...?  I got some stickers and candy and a few plastic trinkets at the party store, but then went home and hunted around my place.  I would also recommend finding more flat things for the outer layers - my surprise ball is a little on the lumpy side because there are some dimensional things that didn't get buried under enough layers of crepe paper.  On the whole, though, what a fun project!  I'm sure I could refine the wrapping project, but the crepe paper goes pretty smoothly into a ball.  I think I have to start gathering pieces to have this as a craft table activity!

Contents:

Cars stickers, assorted sequin shapes, a silver shell, a crystal snowflake from Mom's jewelry box leftovers, a ballerina charm, a plastic ballerina, a mini tiara, a mini rubber duckie, those rubber band bracelets, M&Ms (one at a time), a sea shell, pennies, a quarter, a mardi gras necklace, a princess necklace, a pearl bead, some polished rocks, chocolate coins.

 

Surprise

Thanks to Pinterest, I found links to many other blogs on the topic, which might give you further inspiration: Kind Over Matter, Shiso Mama, Hula Seventy(and again), Craftzine, Not Martha, On Hand Modern.  It's a fun kids' gift/activity, but also would be fun to send to a crafter such as described at Go Make Something.

 

P.S.  What a fun night we had!  The adorable girl really loved her surprise ball.  Four times during the unwrapping, she got up to give me a hug and say thank you.  Here's a picture of the contents: the necklaces came from the party store, as did the chocolate coins and rubber band bracelets, but pretty much everything else was from my stash (helps to be a crafter).  At this age, it is fun (and easy) that a princess necklace is as valuable as part of a silk flower.  I probably could have used pieces from my craft supplies only, but couldn't resist the princess necklace.

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new & old; looking back, and forth

I feel a little at a loss as far as where to begin or end.  Sachi and I are still feeling rather worn out from the holidays, while the unseasonable weather has kept this week busier than usual.  Then there are the visits with out-of-town guests and the general catching-up of the holiday season.  We were ready to start hibernating, but that is more of a late January activity.  There is still inventory and year-end tax prep to get through.  Sigh. 

Well, at least I can look around the store for easy inspiration - wow, my desire to facilitate creativity even works on me!  This will be my last post of 2011 and it seemed appropriate to draw from the words that I see around me everyday, from our notecards and prints, from some of my favorite artists who have been inspiring me (for years even before we opened).

 

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Amidst all the bustle of the holidays, I can't help coming back to the idea of how much has changed in a single year.  Although much of this time of year involves looking forward, making plans/resolutions/intentions for the new year, there is also, for me, an element of looking back on the year that has passed.  Part of this comes from the Blurb books that I work on (the year in pictures & projects, and the annual installation of the adorable girl photos) and my Christmas letter but this year in particular, I find myself marveling over all that has changed.  A year ago, there was nothing vague about my sense of dread related to Wisconsin politics, but, seriously, I had NO idea what was to come, nor what my involvement would be.  I certainly never would have guessed that we'd be closing in on 21,000 buttons made & sold since February.  It's bizarre to think of all that happened in less than 365 days.  And for all the planning that anyone does, there's so much we don't know about what the new year will bring.

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I'm still kind of wrestling with my new year resolutions.  To be honest, I don't usually make a formal list and just have some vague ideas.  Last year I had my collage, which should carry over pretty well into another year.  It was rather comprehensive and perhaps a little over-reaching in terms of what a person could do in a year.  But I made progress.  The last line "don't forget your sword and your ticket," was a line from the adorable girl, but I kind of feel like it ended up being a sword-wielding kind of year.

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For myself, the main thing that is preoccupying my mind is how I will be the change I wish to see in the world.  It is overwhelming to think of the scale of politics and economics, corporations and media... overwhelming and discouraging.  I'm not quite sure how I will go forward in that realm, though I do know that I am continuing my local buying and hopefully directing less money to the corporate and political realm.  Most recently, I've been caught up in the Madison Prep debate - thinking about the achievment gap here in Madison, and what a person, such as myself, can do about it.  I have this keen sense that we as a nation and state are failing our children. That parents who have the time and money and energy are taking their children out of the public school system and that we, as taxpayers, are abandoning our responsibilities to the public school system.  I'm not really sure what role is appropriate for me, just that I'm not ready to cede the education of our children to private industry.

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And I am hoping this coming year that I can refine the work/life balance, which is hard when one's work IS one's life in the way that it is for me, this being my dream job that I choose to create for myself.  Still, the introvert that I am needs a little more quiet time.

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As for the shop.  Well, who knows what is in store?  Every year at Christmastime, it is fun to look around at the products that arrived to the store, the new directions that we've gone in - It's always a bit of a surprise as I don't know what customers will be asking for, what artists will be creating, or what we will be inspired to pursue.  But that's the kind of change that is fun and intriguing. 

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In the new year, we are looking forward to a buying trip to San Francisco. Our uncle lives in the area so we will visit with him.  The last time I saw him was a year before we opened Anthology; I was wrestling with some job dissatisfaction and I clearly remember one lunch where, after patiently listening to my complaints, my uncle said, "I think it's time.  You need to open your store."  So he gets credit for the first kick in the pants that got us going on this path.  Dec 055

We have never been to this particular show, so we are curious to see what we will find (hoping that the Asian influence might be strong there on the West Coast since we'd love to find more Japanese goods for the shop).  We are also looking forward to a bit of a getaway; we tack on a few vacation days to the trip and are already making our list of places to go to in San Francisco.  I have always loved Flax, and am looking forward to seeing their paper collection.

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Sachi has already started planning for the Valentine's window and is busily sewing some text for embroidery hoops (think romantic lyrics).  As usual, we seem to compliment each other; when one is tired, the other tends to step up to the plate.  I did muster up enough energy to change the Christmas Alice window to our New Year wishes - a collection of words that loosely represent our wishes for the New Year.

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We are so thankful to all our customers, friends, family, artists, everyone who has been with us on our journey this past year.  Whatever your resolutions/intentions are, if you are the sort of person to make them, we hope that your new year holds wonder and inspiration and creativity. Thank you!!

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Wishing you Joy

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Happy Holidays to you and yours!  We have had such a wonderful year and are so thankful to all of our customers and artists and friends and family.  We are grateful that we can be a part of your celebrating and creating and inspiring. 

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As you might imagine, I had several pages that I could have written on the subject, but I find myself somewhat short on time and focus - there are a lot of different things rolling around in my brain.  We've had a busy week and my sister correctly described me as her "frazzled sister."  I should be able to marshall some thoughts by the end of this post, but also had some words from other people (and from products in the shop) that seemed appropriate to share.

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From Isthmus' editor/publisher: "Regardless of circumstances, we all have it within ourselves to be generous and to hold the well-being of others to be as important as our own.  And we can all activate that generosity on some scale, the size being irrelevant to the spirit.  If ever there were a time of year to engender that spirit, this is it."

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"It is a time for family, friends and goodwill toward all.  It is a time to put aside politics and confrontation.  It is a time to contemplate the communality of humanity.  It is a religious holiday, commemorating the birth of a man who preached love and generosity.  In receiving, we should be mindful of those who give and seek to be among them."

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And from poet Susan Cooper:


The Shortest Day


So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
... And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.

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And from Rev. Emily C. Heath, On Keeping Christ in Christmas.  "I believe the greatest attack on Christmas has come from within. It has come from those of us who claim our greatest hope comes from the fact that God became a person of goodness, kindness, justice, and love. And who then act nothing like that person did. 

And so here is my suggestion to Christians about how to keep Christ in Christmas: this season, worry less about the holiday policies of non-religious institutions, and worry more about whether we are actually listening to, and then doing, what Christ told us to do. In short, keep Christ in Christmas by acting like Christians."

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"I've always found the Beatitudes a good place to start. When Jesus called his followers up to a hill and preached to them, he told them who the "blessed" were; the ones whom God has looked with favor upon and will grant joy. The ones Christ calls blessed are often the same ones we as a culture are the quickest to condemn or criticize. We blame them for their own situation, and we refuse to help them. We somehow forget that when God became incarnate and preached a sermon about who was most blessed by God, these are the ones who were named: the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the peacemakers, the merciful, the mourners, the pure in heart, the gentle. If Christmas is about the incarnation of God, and this is what God incarnate saw fit to tell us, then this is the ultimate Christmas message."

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And what are my thoughts as we come upon Christmas day?  Of course the season is busy with customers and shopping, the not so sacred part of the season.  I'm rather tired, but it is balanced out by mercenary thrill.  It is satisfying to have worked so hard all year long and have our efforts rewarded. I am so thankful for all the people who are making an effort to buy local this year; I feel that is one of our greatest individual powers to change the world. 

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But is it not just the money.  In all honestly, I'm one of those annoying people who is usually finished with her present-shopping early, who likes listening to Christmas music and reading form letters, who is generally pretty happy right about now.  This is a season that I have always approached with joy, and I am aware of my fortune in doing so.  Those that I love are still with me and I am not required to spend time with or buy presents for those who I don't particularly care for.  Our mom instilled in us early on the giving aspect of the season, which has always added the greatest sense of anticipation for me (I mean, can you just imagine how excited I am for my adorable niece to open the Cinderella dress that I sewed for her?!).

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But I am also a (granted, liberal) Christian, so the season has its share of tradition and ritual, which I find satisfying, in idea if not in practice (we'll see if I can muster up the energy to be pleasant to people in church on Christmas Eve).  Now, I'll admit that my Christianity is rather loosely based - I often don't attend fully to the details, for me it's mostly something about being loving & kind & generous & doing so to others (and the least of these) as you'd have done to you. 

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This year in particular though I've been thinking about that baby Jesus more than I usually do.  Actually, I've been thinking about that idea that "Jesus saves."  Now, my interpretation of my liberal Christian background doesn't particularly include this idea, and I really don't mean to be frivolous, but all I can think is, "then what?"  I mean, you are saved/forgiven, you get into heaven, but what does it mean for this moment?  For me I think it means that you are freed from the weight of your sin, but then obligated to do something with that freedom, not to be consumed by your guilt/debt/sin, but to go out into the world and act upon the kindness & generosity that was given to you, and to act in the world with similar kindness & generosity.

And, I know, not everyone believes in Jesus, but I'm really talking about something broader - something that is love not hate, acceptance not judgment, you get the idea.  I've been thinking about certain people in my life, but I think it relates to many of the people who are somehow not so thrilled with the season.  People who are weighted down with their fear, their guilt, their pain.  To the people who approach this season with dread or hatred because not everyone observes the season the way they want them to, because they have to spend more money on people they don't like, or because they are missing someone they loved dearly who is not with them and have to pretend to be cheerful when they feel anything but.  It relates to the ways that we all are inactive, delaying/avoiding/procrastinating, because of fear, because of the way we judge ourselves lacking, and the ways we think other people judge us. It relates to the ways that we judge other people and keep them from fulfilling their potential.  It seems like so much energy is spent on the fear and judging that we never get around to the actual doing or making or speaking, the actual living.

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But what if everything is forgiven?  What if there is no judging?  What if we are saved from our fear?  What if our actions, grounded in good & love & truth, are Right and we don't have to waste any more energy worrying about being judged?  What would you do if you were not weighted down with anxiety or fear or preoccupied with judging/being judged?  I know, it is easier said than done.  But my holiday wish is that we might all take a lesson from a little baby - to act, not out of fear or hatred or judgment, but to listen for the truth & love that everyone speaks, and act accordingly.  To be as generous in our giving as we are in what we have received (from our God, from our family, from our Universe, from our government, from our world).

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"One time on Hollywood Boulevard I saw a young girl with a baby. It was a crisp winter morning & her hair shone dark purple in the sun. She was panhandling outside the Holiday Inn & the door clerk came out & told her to be on her way & I wondered if anyone would recognize the Christ child if they happened to meet. I remember thinking it's not like there are any published pictures & purple seemed like a good color for a Madonna so I gave her a dollar just in case." Brian Andreas Story People


Pinterest, wreaths, and how lucky am I?

Well, you can tell the busy holiday season is in full swing.  Seems like there isn't much to say.  We are grateful for everyone who is making the effort to buy local and handmade and thankful for a strong holiday season (we're ahead from last year which makes the four years of growth).  I had some last minute restocking to do, but on the whole, we're just settling in for the season of selling... and the season of giving! 

This has always been my favorite time of year, and as much (or more so) because of the gifts I give.  I'm still working on a Blurb journal though, so I'm afraid that I got the better end of the bargain tonight.  Poor Jen, I just gave her the pieces to finish up her own wreath...

Meanwhile... this is what I unwrapped:

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Even though what I like about Pinterest is that it isn't *all* about shopping (as opposed to Etsy treasuries), most of the things that I pin are things I wouldn't mind having.  Some are ideas, words, places, but I like them all.

SO, wasn't it convenient that something I pinned inspired my dear friend to make something for me?!  I've been really getting into wreaths, thanks to Deandra in Minnesota and Stefanie here in Wisconsin.  I had this idea of having a wreath to hang on my door (though I'm not sure this one will make it on the outside of the door - I want to look at it more than just when I walk in).  But I didn't really get that far on my own wreath making. I have some supplies but I've been spending my night working on a jigsaw puzzle and Blurb books.  That's about all I can handle after days of double- or triple- sales.

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Of course, Jen customized the colors just for me.  I could get used to gift-selection by Pinterest.

 

 


Saturday is for wreaths

That's right, tomorrow... or today, depending on when you are reading this.

We're excited that local artist Stefanie Lin will be joining us from 11 am - 2 pm to share her wonderful yarn-wrapped wreaths.  Watch her work on her own creations, or have a seat at the table and make your own.  Stefanie is bringing supplies so that you can make one on the spot, or take home supplies to work on later.

 

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She's already shared some pictures of her own creations, as well as the basket of goodies she is gathering for people to use.  These would be fun to customize with your own ornaments too.  I have a favorite angel ornament which I think might look really sweet on a wreath.  I just have to figure out where I packed her.

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CAN (shall/might) we disagree without being disagreeable?

Buttoncard 014(our latest postcard, above.  The text on the back: "We're making protest pins and collecting recall signatures.")

I'm in the process of trying to write my annual Christmas letter, which is a particular challenge this year since I am fully aware that some of the recipients are rather conservative Republicans, and since I'm not quite sure how to balance my frustration with state and local politics with the holiday spirit.  And yet, I feel like Christmas is very much pertinent to current events. I'm pretty sure that my conservative Republican friends would share some of my upset at the current state of the state; they are my friends because we share a certain level of caring and shared experiences, because I know they agree with me about things like saying "thank you" and being kind.  In truth, I think we all get caught up in the message of our polarization and get distracted from the many things we have in common - love for our children and families, concern for our future, care for those among us who have less.  As long as we keep dividing and separating, distinguishing from those who have "value," as if others do not, then I think we are failing our American ideals, and our Christian ones too.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I am as guilty as the next person of making generalizations and assumptions but I think that the challenge that Jesus puts to us is to consider working and moving outside those hierarchies, to turn our system of valuation on its head.  I think he would have quite a lot to say about current events, and I have a feeling that some politicians who claim God is on their side shouldn't be so hasty to make that claim, done so, as it is, with the implication that God is against someone else's side.  I realize that my view of Christianity can be rather simplistic, but I really feel that it is grounded in love, generosity, kindness, fairness, pretty much none of the qualities that I have seen in evidence in the governor.

I know, my dad (and others I'm well aware) will argue that church and state ought to be separate, but my sense of my own Christianity is very much in line with my sense of self as a citizen of the United States - the ideals of liberty and justice for all fit very well with a Christ who advocates for the poor, the needy, the oppressed, the Christ who came into the world as a vulnerable child, who says that 'whatsover you do to the least of these, you do unto me.' 

From that background, I feel it is both my American and Christian duty - which is to say, that I feel these things on a very deep level which is not to be dissuaded by commercials and marketing - to recall Scott Walker.  I feel he is motivated by greed and power and untruth, fear and insecurity and hatred -- all of these are the opposite of the direction I want for my home state.  If you are an eligible to vote in the State of Wisconsin, I would urge you to consider your own ideals, and the ways we can work together, with room for all sorts of voices and styles and differences, to uphold our state motto, "Forward!"  If such consideration leads you to feel as I do about the Governor, please feel free to stop in and sign our recall petitions or find any number of other locations to submit your signature.

And while we're on the topic of being a patriotic citizen, can we talk about freedom of speech?  Almost every week, someone stands at our button table and says, "oh, I can't wear that button."  I know that we like to convey this sense of impartiality (but who really is that?) and we certainly don't want our schoolchildren succumbing to propaganda (which is all around them, not just in the button that is worn on the playground), but if someone in another country said, 'I can't wear a button,' I think the United States would be quick to say that they are living under a dictatorship.  To think that even on this rather trivial level, people do not feel free to express their opinions gives me serious doubts about the so-called freedom that we are so proud of.  I find it particularly disturbing that some people are so rabid about exercising their own freedom of speech and yet so totally closed to anyone else's.  I realize that we aren't all going to agree and that there are a lot of people saying things that I don't like to hear.  But, really, CAN we disagree without being disagreeable?  Can we listen to each other?  Have a conversation not a shouting match? I know, we all have our fears about our bosses, our friends, our crazy uncles, but is that really the kind of United States we live in?  The one where people are afraid to use their voice? to speak their truths?   That's disappointing.  Really really disappointing.


36 hours

A little time has gone by, but one of my happy Anthology moments remains the summer that I got a call from a fact-checker for the New York Times.  The call was very casual, and I didn't ask a lot of questions - I was just asked to verify the address and website of our shop and to confirm that we were a charming store.  "Sure,"  right?  (In the end, "charming" was changed to "whimsical," which is one of my favorite words).

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You know sometimes how you don't talk about something in case you jinx it?  I didn't dare hope that we'd actually get such a prestigious shout-out.
But a few weeks later, the article appeared in the New York Times 36 Hours segment. It still quite a thrill that, of all the possible places in Madison, Anthology got a sentence in the article.

Taschen (one of our favorite publishers) has now come up with a collection of the 36 Hours columns, bound in a great cloth book.  Of course, we don't mind seeing our name in print, but we also think the collection of 150 weekends in the USA & Canada makes a great present so we were pleased to have the opportunity to order copies for the shop.

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As I recuperate from travels abroad, and consider possible budgetary constraints, this book seems like a great reminder of all that our continent has to offer.  We already had to place a reorder since many of our customers seem to agree that it's a great Christmas present.  There are so many places to see!


it's beginning to look a lot like....

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Dare I even say the word? As retailers, we've been thinking about Christmas for quite a while now, though I only just added Christmas music into the iPod shuffle. 

It's strange how much time I've spent preparing, and now it seems like it's almost over.  Don't rush things! you might say, but I did already get some sales calls about Valentine cards.  I am making progress on my personal list of gifts to make & buy, feeling proud of myself this year for sticking to the mostly local/handmade resolution. 

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The adorable girl put in a request for a Cinderella dress and I had one late night of sewing.  I was pleased that the dress is made mostly of fabric that I already had in my collection, even did a little repurposing of something started for a completely different project.  I had to put it in a box and wrap it, otherwise I would run the risk of spoiling the surprise.  Bad enough, I know, that she already knows the dress is on its way.  And now that that's checked off the list, I can't help thinking about accessories... shoes? crown? maybe undergarments of some sort since that sparkly fabric can be kind of scratchy on bare arms/legs?

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Meanwhile, at the shop, it is definitely looking like Christmas, even though I went with the Alice and Wonderland theme for the window.  I feel like it is a nice mix of holiday - storybook - whimsy, perfect for the season.  Our silver tinsel tree is covered with a variety of ornaments from whimsical cupcakes to souvenirs of Madison/Wisconsin.  Sachi's felt Wisconsin ornament remains a favorite - she brought in help this year so hopefully she'll keep up.

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This weekend we hosted a craft party for a group of people making holiday gift tags.  I'm personally quite pleased with the cardstock Wisconsin gift tag that I made.  I'm so addicted the die-cut machine at Scrapbook Superstore, it's just a shame that I discovered it so late.

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From December 8 - 14, the table will have an assortment of papers and glitter for people to make decoupage ornaments.

We are particularly looking forward to this coming Saturday, when guest artist Stefanie Lin will be coming to teach her yarn-covered wreaths.  She'll have supplies and ephemera for embellishment, in addition to the goodies we have for sale at the shop.  You can also bring your own holiday ephemera to work into your wreath - I have a few favorite childhood ornaments that I'm thinking would work nicely in a wreath.

6348778265_46d8f47f8a_mStefanie will be in the shop on December 10th from 11 - 2.  She will have supplies if you'd like to work on your own at our table, or take pieces home to work on later.

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From December 15 - 22, we'll have holiday garlands at our craft table.  We'll have paper available for triangle flags, circles or paper chain garlands.  Bring in your old Christmas cards if you'd like to cut them up and incorporate them into garlands.

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We have plenty of rubber stamps and supplies for card-making, holiday paper and baker's twine for creative gift-packaging, and many other items for the crafty person on your holiday list. 

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We have works by over 100 local and independent artists so your purchases at Anthology go to support many creative endeavors.  We really appreciate your business and your general efforts to buy local and handmade this holiday season!  Thank you!