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April 2012
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June 2012

sneak peek!

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"I have to buy all my presents at the last minute, she said,

or I get too excited & just give them away."

Brian Andreas, Story People

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Ack! I CANNOT resist! I'm terrible at keeping secrets.  So first of all, I have to emphasize that this map is NOT IN STORE YET.  I'm sorry.  It will be here soon and you will hear me shouting about it, don't you worry.  Every once in a while I write something in the blog and then a customer comes in the next day asking for it.  Not yet.  But soon.  I promise.

As you may know, we carry wrapping paper based on vintage maps here at the shop.  Every week, someone says to me, "do you have a Madison map?"  I have tried, to no avail, to get our exisiting vendor to make a Madison version.  He's just in Minnesota so I don't think he should be such a snob about the Midwest, but requests for Great Lakes, Midwest, Wisconsin, or Madison have been met with, "there's not enough demand."

Well, fine.  I'll just take matters into my own hands.  Luckily, I'm getting the hang of coming up with an idea and then trying to find an artist to give it to, instead of telling myself that I need to do it - which would have been pretty difficult in this case since I have minimal graphic design skills and no idea where to get large sheets of paper printed.  Luckily for all of us, I know a mapmaker!  Honestly, I don't know why this didn't occur to me earlier.

I just got the first proof today.  I'm so excited!  I'm still tweaking the color and design a bit, but someone already asked me if it was for sale - early interest, always a good sign!  I think it will be fun to give someone a gift wrapped in this paper and it will look great on the wall too!

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summer calendar, other peoples'

Phew, summer already?!  I can hardly believe it.  But I'm starting to see notices for summer craft fairs and even for fall planning-ahead, so I thought I'd post some of the many opportunities to vend and shop.  There are so many ways that you can support local artists (and farmers)!  I have to admit that I'm usually at the shop on summer weekends so not only do I miss out on summer garage sales, but I miss out on the shows.  But in most cases, I know some/many of the artists involved and am pretty confident that there will be goodies to be found.

SHOPPING & CREATING OPPORTUNITIES

Dane County Farmer's Market, State Street corner, summer Saturdays.  Madison, WI.

East Side Green Market. summer Saturdays.  Milwaukee, WI.

Tosa Farmer's Market, summer Saturdays.  Wauwatosa, WI.

Constructor Craft Fair, June 9.  Berwyn, IL.

INDIEana Handicraft Exchange, June 9.  Indianapolis, IN.

Thread & Ink, June 23.  Madison, WI.

Vintage Flea and Finds Market, July 8.  Madison, WI.

No-Coast Craft-o-rama, July 22.  St. Anthony, MN.

Eighth Annual Summer Craftacular, July 29.  Madison, WI.

Create Mixed Media Retreat, August 22-26.  Chicago, IL

(Anthology will be at the Vendor Faire, August 24).

Craft-Apple-Ar, August 26.  Poynette, WI.

Renegade Craft Fair, September 8 -9.  Chicago, IL.

 

 

 

ARTIST APPLICATION OPPORTUNITIES

Renegade Craft Fair, September 8 -9.  Chicago, IL. (due June 8)

Handmade for the Holidays, November 17. Oshkosh, WI.

 

 

If you know of other shows and opportunities, please leave me a comment and I will add them to the list!


button sale (!!!)

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I've been trying to work on a letter to the editor for a couple weeks now - mostly trying to corral my thoughts into 200 words or less.  It's a challenge!  In doing so, I've been thinking a lot about what it is that I have to say or do which is unique.  There are plenty of things a person can do in this time leading up to the June 5th election.  People can (and are) making phone calls, sending emails, writing letters to editors, blogging, knocking on doors...  The first letter that I started writing sounds pretty similar to the letters I've been reading.  And anyway, is there *really* anyone left who hasn't made up their mind who will decide based on my letter to the editor?  Well, I am not discounting that possibility so, yes, I will slowly work away at my word count.

In the meantime, one thing occurred to me that I can contribute which is unique.  Not everyone has a button machine!

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So, here's the deal: we're having a sale on buttons. Buy one Barrett or Vote button and get a second button (protest, election, Barrett, recall) of your choosing (equal or lesser value).  We're hoping this will spur a buy one, give one kind of movement, and perhaps give you an opportunity to have a conversation while you give a Barrett button to a friend. 

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We had a customer from Oregon who was trying to decide upon a button.  She said, "I like this one, but I'm not a hipster and no one in Oregon will know what I'm talking about."  Her friend said, "well, that's perfect.  That's like the ultimate hipster thing!"

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And yes, if there are any Republicans or undecideds who are actually still reading my blog, you will note that we didn't exclude you.  You don't have to buy a Barrett button - there are many general election buttons to choose from.

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The last time we had a sale on buttons was Labor Day weekend, in honor of the workers of the world.  It seems appropriate to kick off this sale on Memorial Day weekend.  In truth, if there is one overarching change that has come to my life over the past year, it is a stronger sense of patriotism, love and committment for my country and my state, or at least the ideals that we promise to uphold (you know, liberty and justice for all?).  My committment to buying locally and from independent businesses traces back to this - as a way to support my fellow Americans as they pursue their American Dreams; my committment to recalling Walker traces back to this - as a way to overturn what I see as a complete denial of those ideals of democracy.

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And so, here we are at Memorial Day weekend.  The sale flyers abound, but what does that really have to do with the holiday itself?  I feel even more keenly aware of all the sacrifices that the men and women of our armed forces have made.  And what were all those sacrifices for if not to uphold the ideals of our nation? 

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Ok, you can have your cynical beliefs about why generals and politicans get us into wars, but I believe the dedication and heart of these sacrifices was not about money or political gain, but some abiding belief in this country, in the idea of freedom to speak, freedom to prosper, freedom to elect people who will stand for, by, and with the people who elected them.  When I stand in line to vote, I feel the weight of this responsibility - elsewhere, people would KILL to have the opportunity that I have; elsewhere, people have DIED to bring this opportunity to others. 


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I DID tell you that I was getting more patriotic, didn't I?

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So, after thanking our military veterans, and the families whose sons and daughters gave their lives, how about we all go out and do OUR duties to protect, and serve, and uphold our pledge that we make - standing united, with liberty and justice for all.  AND VOTE.

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*Sale runs from now (we'll start Memorial Day weekend early like some of you lucky ducks get to) (Friday May 25th) through election day (June 5th).  Buy one $1.50 Barrett/Vote button, get a second of equal or lesser value for FREE!


letter to the editor, long form

Well, honestly, I don't know how my sister does it.  But I guess there's a reason that I'm the blogger - I can never get my words down to the 200 that are required for letters to the editor.  I'm going to try, but in the meantime, here's the long version.  I really feel that the voice of business has been subsumed by the voice of the GOP (who assumes that tax breaks are what all businesses want) and the WMC (who are apparently rich enough that tax breaks actually make a difference).  I read a report a while ago that indicated for our size of business, the kind of tax break we'd get is a few hundred dollars in a year.  I can EASILY make that up on one good Saturday of sales.  Which all the more so gives me reason to support strengthening the buying power of my customers over any proposed tax breaks.  I honestly don't see tax breaks as a viable way of growing our state and I think that if most businesses were asked, they would take more customer spending over tax breaks any day.  Ultimately, you can have all the tax breaks you want, but if you don't have customers, you don't have a business.  Ultimately, you can give out all the tax breaks you want, but you are going to see major costs in terms of the services that we all know and love (schools, police, fire, roads... do I really have to go on?).

Anyway, after days of thinking and failed attempts, the 5:20 a.m. wake-up is hopefully worth it.  Here's the long version:

Dear Editor:
I am constantly hearing people say that government needs to be run like a business.   Leaving aside the question of whether that is actually true, I write to you as a business owner to give the reader a little insight into the way my business is run.  These are the basic things that concern me: 1. What is new? 2. What is unique? 3. How can I get more money?

1. What is new?  Change is good.  Change is challenging, but if I don't change, then my store looks the same today as it did two years ago and the incentive to return is substantially lower.  Blame it on our American consumer culture if you will, but the new and the shiny are valuable.  I am constantly on the lookout for new products and new trends.  If Wisconsin was my business, I would be searching for the new industries and new technologies and new "customers," areas where growth is occurring: oh, say, renewable energy and bicycles and tourism, for example.

2.  What is unique?  How do I differentiate my store from everyone else?  Rarely is the point to offer the lower prices, because someone else can always offer lower prices.  Rather, my goal is to find things that aren't offered anywhere else, to bring together a collection of products that reflects the uniqueness of my taste.  If Wisconsin was my business, I would not be competing with Texas or Florida to create the lowest priced jobs, I would be building up and building upon what is unique about this state, emphasizing what we have that cannot be found anywhere else: oh, say, hard-working and dedicated people, fabulous schools (my whole life I've been hearing people say they moved from other states because the schools were horrible there, and we want to be more like other states?), amazing natural resources.  I would NOT be spreading a load of crap on farm fields or doing anything else that might jeopardize the quality of our water.

3. How can I get more money?  There is a small part of my brain that is thinking about how I can save money.  However, there are only so many things that I can cut before the quality of my store starts to suffer.  Mostly I am thinking about how to increase revenue: what product should go where so that I maximize sales in every square foot, how to reach a variety of customers, what will sell well and when I should reorder.  For me, this means finding products in a range of prices so that I can appeal to a range of customers (big sales are nice, but our business also depends on every single person who comes in and buys a greeting card).  It means capitalizing on the new and the unique; it rarely means selling things at below-cost.  It means supporting women since they are the bulk of our customers and make a lot of important decisions, not the least of which is what present to send their mother-in-law.  It means wishing I had staff, artists to create product, and customers with more money in their wallets WAY MORE than it means wishing I had a tax break.

If Wisconsin was my business, I would be much more concerned with increasing revenue.  I understand that the theory of tax breaks is that the effects will trickle down in job creation and eventually income tax and sales tax revenue, but a more direct approach would be to make sure that workers and customers had enough disposable income, that they kept earning and shopping, and thus generate tax revenue (Even in this regard, tax breaks seem like the least effective way to go about this.  Anyone remember your Bush tax break check?  Didn't last long, did it?  Wouldn't it be more effective if your hourly wages increased at a faster pace than your cost of living?).  I think the focus on cost-cutting is a sign of desperation and also not a model for a successful business.  If Wisconsin was my business, I would be concerned with the welfare of ALL of my customers, and not just the ones who dropped a few thousand dollars on a campaign donation.  If Wisconsin was my business, I would be a heck of a lot more supportive of women; since the WDOR does not accept brownies or quilts as payment, I would be more concerned about their potential salaries.  IF Wisconsin was my business.

I initially thought I'd leave aside the question of whether a state should be run like a business, but you know what?  Wisconsin is OUR business.  It is all of ours.  It is up to everyone who lives and works in this state, not just a few people, to make sure this business runs smoothly.  Scott Walker is a poor business manager and an even worse Governor.  Our state deserves better.


reunion (!) buttons

Well, this might be the classic case of 'if you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail,' but we do tend to think in terms of what buttons we can create.  Upset with the Governor, what button will we make?  Excited about Barrett, what button will we make?  So perhaps it was only natural that when talk came around to reunion nametags, Sachi thought of buttons.

To be fair, a customer came in a while ago and gave us the idea.  She was attending a family reunion and made buttons for all the attendees.  Her idea was really quite clever -- I think there were 6 founding siblings and all of their children got a button with their parent on it.  If money were no object, how fun would that be at a reunion to attach a button to all the cousins and grandchildren, too - so you could easily see which side of the family they came from.

I also made buttons last year for my birthday party - I think that would be a fun party favor, especially the older one gets - like having an 80 year birthday party where everyone gets childhood photos?

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Anyway, Sachi's 20th reunion is coming up soon (and yes, that makes her the age you think it makes her, and no, I'm not the younger sibling) and she offered to make buttons using pictures from the yearbook.  To be honest, I'm not entirely sure I would want my high school self on a button, but it's still a pretty fun project.  For some reason, I have a feeling that there will be some button-trading going on by the end of the night.

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awww... don't they all just look so young?!

 


for the grads

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This weekend kicks off graduation season - UW graduation is followed in a month or so by the area high school graduations.  This year I happen to have an invitation to a college graduation party and am expecting one for a high school graduation party, so I'm especially spending time thinking back on those moments in my own life.  Also, in the case of the high school graduation, feeling slightly panicky about the quick passage of time (that high school grad remains 4 years-old in my mind... which means that the current 4 year-old Lily will be graduating from high school any minute now.  Well, more than a decade from now, but I bet it will go fast).

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I installed the window on Sunday evening - a little less lead-up time than usual, but there was Mother's Day to contend with.  The overall theme centers around the "Midwest is Best" t-shirt, with an assortment of vintage travel images from around the Midwest, our t-shirts and other prints, mixed in with graduation and going-away cards and sentiments.

I was also at another store recently and overheard a conversation of a customer looking for a graduation present.  It just made me fall back on my usual product brainstorming, and in case anyone else needs suggestions, here's our list:

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1. a card (perhaps with some cash?  I imagine in the high school and college student world, cash is still king).

 

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2. Journals and books.  Specifically, ones to carry with them, or carry them into, the next phase of life.  We like Taschen's 36 hours with its great sampling of places to go and things to do on this continent.  We also have a great collection of blank, or nearly blank, journals, including many repurposed book journals.  We always like to hear people find titles they remember from their childhood.  Today a new batch of journals arrived with really lovely decorated interior pages.  I personally am always stumped by a totally blank white page, so I feel like these would be more fun to start writing in.

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on a related note, in the line of things to carry with them: passport cases & business card holders (repurposed from old maps) and cases for iPads (cleverly repurposed from flannel shirts).

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3. Words of wisdom.  We have several, mostly in print form.  The Holstee Manifesto, I think, is really awesome.  I came into those wisdoms on my own (perhaps that's the way everyone has to do it), but it seems to be that it would be nice if I had those words to think upon.  We also have prints with other inspiring words; the "keep calm" series continues to be popular but we also like the letterpress and linocuts made by indie artists.  We also have great earrings with inspiring words.  The Curly Girl cards also have great messages: "She packed up her potential and all she had learned, grabbed a cute pair of shoes and headed out to change a few things," and the popular, "I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world."

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4. Mementos.  Just a little something to remind the people who are leaving that home (and you) are always here, or a token reminder of good times spent in Madison.  We have an assortment of Madison and Wisconsin prints, necklaces of bamboo or silver in the shape of the state with a cut-out heart by Madison, coasters with Madison maps, the popular Midwest is Best t-shirt (as well as the "WIse, WItty, WIld" Wisconsin and "Easy, Breezy, Beerzy, Cheesy.")  Sachi made a batch of Madison photo snippets and I just discovered a stash of my own snippets in the cupboard (so I knocked that chore off my list this week).

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I've been working on a Blurb book for the high school graduation present, reviewing quotations and wisdoms that I found useful in the years between then and now.  I managed to find a letter that I wrote to the grad about ten years ago, with memories of times we'd spent together, so I'm using that for a springboard, as well as looking on Pinterest for words of inspiration.

I think my current favorite is: "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Howard Thurman


Badger/Weasel Recall Walker print

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Oh, how exciting!  I have to tell you that my control over what other people do is rather limited. Specifically, when I tell an artist that perhaps we could use more of a particular item, I am met with mixed results. To be fair, when I tell myself that I need to make more of a particular item, I am also met with mixed results.

So I am especially pleased that my request was answered so quickly.  Twice this week, customers called up asking for our Badger/Weasel print.  Unfortunately we sold out of this a while ago.  However.... ta da!  More just arrived today!


Holstee Manifesto and other new arrivals

Whew... This month has been off to a busy start.  Generally, May marks the pick-up of the retail busy season: Mother's Day, Graduation, wedding season, tourist season.  The school year is coming to an end (= teacher's gifts), the weather is warming up (= more people walking on State Street).  Not to mention matters electoral ( = a quick trip to the copy shop to make buttons following the results of Tuesday's election.  Yay for Barrett!).

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That said, particularly with March's warm weather, it wasn't exactly a quiet late winter/early spring.  Luckily we have a new part-timer so I'm starting to feel less overwhelmed.

I've been away from my house, cat-sitting and also out at Valley Ridge, so the result is that I've been a little off-routine.  And my house really needs cleaning.  Not to mention the various projects that have been on hold for a few weeks.  Let's just say that snippets of blue skies and cats do not mix (I didn't even bother bringing them over to the house; Why do cats always have to sit in the middle of whatever you are working on?).  And the new project ideas that are buzzing around in my head courtest of Valley Ridge.

Meanwhile, at the shop, the new arrivals continue to come in.  I've been enjoying the response to the Mother's Day print that I made. Mom 009I'm pretty excited to have the Holstee Manifesto in letterpress poster form.  I've been inspired lately to see all the ways that young people are taking on the world.  There's a lot of creativity and motivation, and energy... and I feel a great sense of optimism for people making mindful choices of how they are going to make their way in the world.

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I could have used these words five years ago, but I did have them in other forms - inspiring quotations that I've collected over the years, the words of Brian Andreas.. .  Which brings me to the latest idea that just occurred to me last night.  I learned a few days ago that I'll be invited to a high school graduation party and have since been racking my brain for a present.  I know, cash is king, right?  Except I am a stuff person, and I also have a few treasures from my graduation....  Is it too much to want to give someone a treasure?  Well, that might be setting the bar rather high but at least I can wrap up a little token and, yes, put some cash in there too.  So I'm thinking about a personalized Blurb book, a combination of quotations and text, inspirations, memories, photographs and space for journaling.  I used to babysit this young woman and her brother - and they remain perpetually 2- and 4- years-old in my mind.  Sigh. So I will distract myself from the slight sadness of time going quickly with a project that has to be finished in two weeks if I'm going to get it printed in time for the party.  Nothing like a new project AND a deadline.

Meanwhile, at the shop, the unpacking continues.  The Midwest is Best shirt remains a popular present, and we also have "easy breezy beerzy cheesy" for those who need a reminder.  We also have restocked the i {heart} Madison prints, and the bamboo necklaces in the shape of Wisconsin are on their way  (If you really want to keep up to date on new arrivals, it might be best to connect with us on Facebook - I tend to post pictures there more regularly, though eventually they find their way to a blog post here).

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Besides the new Barrett buttons, we now have the CD from the Solidarity Sing-a-long.

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 And the rubber stamp drawers have been restocked with new images and text.

 

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And I know this seems like a rather trivial thing, but we got a new card spinner.  All of our other card spinners have been hand-me-downs so I was balking at spending money, even though it is a very small price which easily pays for itself in increased visibility and sales of cards. Anyway, it's nice to be able to display our collection a little more.


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We also received more lovely enamels from Duluth.  I love these pieces so much.  I always go overbudget - and this only represents about 10% of what she sends us to pick from.  Still, I'm looking forward to making some new earrings and necklaces. 

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Confectionique, C'est Manifique!

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Confectionique's visit to our shop was just a teaser... so I had to go out myself and check them out.  This is the weekend of their monthly market: sneak peek on Thursday night, then Friday May 11 from 11 am - 2 pm; Saturday May 12 from 10 am - 4 pm and Sunday May 13 from noon to 4 pm.  Those two crafting sisters are so clever!

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They have so many treasures packed into that little airport space.  Now I know how some people feel when they come to our shop and comment that they have to go around the shop three times before they see everything.  Luckily, Jessica and Stasia don't mind if you linger for a while to take it all in.  You can even have a glass of wine while you are shopping.

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I love all the little details and treasures hidden in little nooks and crannies.

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Their little workshop space is quite tempting and they have a fun collection of ephemera for your own crafty projects.  Seriously, what's not to love about a bowlful of ballerinas?

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I'm also quite charmed by their stamps, but I think I'm holding out for an "ooh la la." I did finally manage to make up my mind... but I can't show you since it is a present for my sister. 


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YAY! for Barrett

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Sachi told me last week she felt a little bit like the t-shirt companies that print shirts for the Super Bowl.  Just awaiting the outcome of voting to know what buttons we should make.  That said, she made the "Hipsters for Barrett" several weeks ago - when she saw that image she just couldn't resist.  Apparently it was a big hit at campaign headquarters.

Well, to tell the truth, we recycled and expanded upon some buttons from earlier ("Tom Barrett would never lock us out of the Capitol").  Sachi has other long ones that just have to be typed in black & white -- too many words to cram over a catalog picture.  Yesterday she ran back to the office and came out with: "A vote for Scott Walker is a vote for poop in your drinking water."  With that latest DNR story, it really isn't an exaggeration.

I ran to the copy shop last night and Sachi is now madly cutting and making buttons.  We're pleased that Wisconsin had so many choices about how to address the wrongs that Scott Walker has perpetrated.  And we're excited to go forward!


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