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June 2013
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August 2013

home to the heat

(well, it WAS hot when I started this blog post. Sheesh....talk about a slacker)

Atlanta 004Phew... made it home! There were some intense thunderstorms right over the Atlanta airport at night and my flight which was originally to depart at 7:00 pm didn't end up leaving until 9:30 pm (include about 30 minutes on the runway). I finally got home around midnight. Eeew.... it is so hot. But I was too tired to do anything except splash some cool water on my arms and get out my tiny fan for the windowsill. Honestly, I know some people call it Hotlanta, but summer in Madison is not really any better (that said it has substantially cooled down now that I've returned to this blog post a week later). Perhaps the duration of the really hot and humid weather is shorter, but even that I doubt. I think Atlanta was about 10 degrees cooler than Madison was and strolling Midtown in the evening was quite pleasant. Of course, the bulk of my days and nights are spent in air conditioning - they even haev it arranged so that you can use walkways to get from one building to the next; no need to go outside at all. Most of my views consisted of tall buildings - I got utterly turned around and I thought I was heading downtown but it turned out that Midtown had just as many tall buildings...

Atlanta 005In all, the trip to Atlanta was quite pleasant. I realize there are right-to-work and cost of living issues underpinning the whole experience, but they definitely work hard to make sure you have an easy business trip.
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As far as the actual buying goes, to be honest, shows such as these aren't exactly our style. I do appreciate the handmade and Made in USA sections but there are many floors and showrooms of stuff to walk by; quite a lot that is lacking any handmade charm whatsoever. Nonetheless, I managed to connect with some new vendors so we are set up for shipments of new products in late summer and into the holidays. I also managed to figure out the theme for our Christmas window which loosely started with an NPR headline: "Unwanted chicks are filling up some city shelters and some activsits are blaming fair-weather hipster farmers." (Ultimately, I believe, the hipster farmers were absolved of some guilt, although one commentor pointed out that any farmer worth his salt would know exactly what to do with unwanted animals: cook 'em.).

I am not much of a chicken person so, no, it isn't going to be a chicken window, but it has an urban garden/wildlife thing going on. Seeing so many vendors in one place is certainly useful to help pull together the holiday window and look at trends that are occurring in the retail world, some of which I then take home and try to chase down in a more handmade way. Text is definitely still a big thing - tons of huge wall pieces with inspiring quotations seemed to dominate many showrooms. I did run into a few Wisconsin companies, which is always funny considering that we both traveled to Georgia to meet. I also found a few new vendors on my outing to Decatur - there's a great handmade store that is chock full of local artisans.

I've taken pictures of some catalogs just to give you a little sneak peek. Most items will arrive in late summer/early fall. Oh, and I also found some new fixtures so by Christmastime, we should have a somewhat rearranged store.... as much as can be done within the confines of our space.

We are starting to pull together our calendar collection.  I ordered wall calendars and planners in Atlanta, but we also have the Nikki McClure calendars on oder, as well as other artful ones. They should be arriving to the store in August. 

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Other orders include new vintage-image notecards and notebooks with inspiring text,  lovely handmade leather and felt journals, A-Mazing stitched notecards/art,

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cute little garden birds, flower earrings, bicycle mugs

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napkin sets, glass lockets, and insulated lunch totes.

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Meanwhile, we are still receiving orders from our New York trip. We made it through Maxwell Street Days and my sister's move to a new house so I'm thinking maybe the upheaval of this year can settle down now.


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I'll admit there are times that I'm tempted to have one of those little carts at the mall and just sell Totoro things. The plastic smell might get to me after a while. But I can't resist a few wallets and coin purses. It's always fun to find a fellow fan, and there are more of us than you might think.

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We're still on the receiving end of July 1st ship date orders. As expected, mostly notecards, including boxed thank-you cards, fun cards that come with a pin, and these charming/snarky cards that are block printed by hand.

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We also received some wrapping paper and stickers, designed by Nathalie Lete with birds and squirrels, flowers and other critters. I am really loving the labels and think they would be cool to use in an altered book or travel journal.


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Finally, Emily, formerly of Madison, now of Illinois, sent us some of her crocheted baskets made from repurposed and thrifted fabrics. Every morning I wake up and feel so happy with the rug that she made me - we don't quite have space to sell rugs in our shop but we're happy to have her fun little containers back (not incidentally because we find them useful to display items in).

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Maxwell Sneak Peek

We're going with a slightly different format for Maxwell Street Days this year so I thought I'd share a little bit more in depth and give you a peek at some of the great deals we'll have.

On Friday and Saturday, July 19th and 20th, from 9 am to 6 pm*, we'll have assorted merchandise marked down 50% off the original retail prices. As always, our consignment artist goods are not marked down. We'll have tables outside on Friday and Saturday; if the weather is a little iffy, we will have a sale table inside as well. We particularly have a nice assortment of craft supplies and how-to books.

*Please note that although Maxwell Street Days starts for the entire street at 8 am, Anthology will be open at 9 am.

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On Sunday, July 21st, 10 am - 5 pm, we will have our customary Studio Garage Sale, featuring an assortment of craft supplies cleaned up from our studios, as well as those of others. We just got several bags of fabric scraps this week; we also have a lot of books, some World Books donated from a school library as well as the covers and pages of books we used for button-making and other craft projects. And we have more library catalog cards. Buy a bag for $5 and fill it up. 100% of the money will be donated to local youth arts organizations including the Art Cart, Monroe Street Fine Arts Center and other community centers.

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Last year, bottlecaps were the hot seller. Lucky for you, someone at Ian's saves them all for us and periodically drops off bagsful. There aren't as many now that they aren't selling beer, but there's still an assortment for your crafting needs.

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July 1 ship dates

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I know, I know, I need to start talking about how tranquil everything is. I think my focus on the upheaval in life is just making it worse. The summer tourist season has started in earnest so that just means every day is just a little busier than, say, a day in February. On a good note, every day is busier than a day in February and we have managed to recover some of the ground we lost during the long cold spring. Our new part-timer is settling in and up to speed on the various tasks around the store so that transition went smoothly enough. We also hired an intern for the summer through Common Wealth Development's job training program.  To be totally honest, I am horrible at delegating. You know that saying "give a man a fish, you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you'll feed him for life"? I used to always say to Pamela, "oh, here, just take the fish." So, having to communicate what is in my head, to parse a job into distinct tasks that I can train someone to do, and to check on them to make sure they are doing them correctly, is not my strength. Common Wealth Development has been super supportive but it has been an added challenge to be in intense training mode. Meanwhile, I am cat-stting on the East side of town and having to adjust my routine (and allergy medicine - allergies this time around have been really horrible), and Sachi is between houses. I have learned a lot about the complicated details of buying and selling a home (which seem more complicated since 2008 which just makes me feel like the banks are punishing us for bad  behavior on other peoples' part) but if all goes according to plan, I will be helping her haul boxes in a few short weeks and THEN things will "settle down." Ha ha.

Being July, and we are coming up upon my second least-favorite day in my shopgirl life. The first is inventory in January and the second is Maxwell Street Days. The reality is that both events tend to go pretty smoothly, but that is only, I believe, because of all the thinking and worrying and work that goes into them in advance.  We are planning a sale on Friday and Saturday of Maxwell Street Days which will involve select items from the shop marked down 50%. This is the first time we've done such a sale so there will be plenty of deals. We are going through the drawers and other hiding places around the shop, clearing out inventory. It always feels good to clean up, but for the moment, the office is rather jumbled. Oh, and there was a fire next door at the Orpheum which had me thinking for about an hour what I would have to do to get the store back up and running if all the inventory was lost due to smoke/fire/water damage. That was a stressful 60 minutes and it actually took me most of the evening to recuperate from that. I think a lot of adreneline built up in that amount of time. The firefighters had to walk through our office and hallway (the aforementioned crowded with boxes spaces) so I expect they will come back to check in on us but if they could wait until after Maxwell Street Days, that would be lovely. Oh, and the A/C was dripping in the back hallway so the other piles of boxes for our studio garage sale (held on Sunday of Maxwell Street Days) had to be shifted out of the way. I am also going to Atlanta on a buying trip in a few weeks. The timing of this trip is really not great but this is the big gift show that I went to last year, at which I figured out the plan for our Christmas window and picked up some new vendors for the fall/holidays. Buying is definitely one of my strengths and a perk of this job but it is nonetheless an intense task.

Now that we have decided to stay in the space we are in, I've been thinking a bit more about some new fixtures and some rearranging, some shelving in the office. It is fun to think about, but also feels like one of those games where you have one space free and you have to move all the numbers around to get them in some kind of order. I'm quite sure that if I pick the right piece, the tasks can be accomplished with a minimum of duplicated effort. I just have to choose the piece. I have been talking with a couple carpenters about some light work for the window so I am excited about having something new in time for the holidays.  While installing a window one early Sunday morning and thinking about these projects, not paying attention to where I put my foot, I stepped  down on the edge of a vintage suitcase instead of the floor. I am generally a "could have been worse" kind of thinker and this could have definitely been a lot worse. There was one second where I was lying on the floor thinking 1) I'm glad we didn't exempt ourselves as owners from worker's comp and 2) am I going to have to drag myself to the door and wait for someone walking by to notice and help me out? After that second, I realized that I could get up and wasn't nearly as injured as I could have been. A suitable volume of Facebook friends expressed concern quickly enough that made me feel like I had company and that help was at hand (even though I was briefly tempted to drive home to Mommy and an ice pack). The cute vintage latch on the suitcase totally gouged into my ankle though - there was a small amount of blood and a big dent and it was quite sore for a while. Not sprained, but not great, either. That was a Sunday, early morning, alone in the store.  Thank goodness I wasn't on a ladder. I stayed off my feet that day and most of the next day (read a great book in my parents' backyard: Will Allen's Good Food Revolution -- VERY inspiring. It made me feel really good about things in general, our state and his work in specific). It has pretty much taken two weeks for my ankle to heal - I can finally rotate it without any twinges and the cut has healed over. The biggest problem after the first couple days is that the strap of my usual work sandals hit right across the spot and to help it heal I thought it would be best to not rub against it constantly. As a result, I have been wearing flip flops and other open-back shoes which are really not appropriate for standing in all day long. By the end of the day, all I want to do is put my feet up instead of walk around the charming East side picking from among the many delicious eateries. Yes, it HAS been a bit of a pity party.

Finally, I seem to have misplaced my camera. Ugh. I had it last in the office and I don't really feel like it is lost - I can totally see myself moving something and looking up to see it. I can imagine myself having it in hand and setting it down somewhere in the shop when I got distracted by another task. But I'm usually so careful about such things. And so far all the moving that I have done has not revealed it. It's been a week and you really think it would have shown up right now, so now I am trying to move on from the stage of denial into the stage of being sulky. I am generally good about getting pictures off of there so there was only about a month of shots, but there was video of Lily as a baby that I haven't known what to do with. I'm kind of bummed to think of that being lost forever - at the same time, since I've got thousands of pictures for every year of her life, she will still have plenty of documentation. The video wasn't particuarly great as that was never my strong suit. Still. The thought of being without a camera was causing me some stress but I have made plans to borrow one for my trip to Atlanta and Sachi brought in hers so I can continue to share pictures with you (though, I have to say, from the few pictures that I've taken for this post, that camera and I still have to get to know each other - I'm not so happy with the pics). Meanwhile, August is my birthmonth so I am going to get through the chaos of July, clear out the office for Maxwell, do some of the rearranging/reorganizing and maybe see if the camera will still appear before I start shopping and making requests for birthday gift certificates to the Camera Company. A few of my friends have fancy big cameras and that is tempting but I really need a small camera that I will carry around with me everywhere I go - like the one that is lost right now which I am missing... oh, camera, come back! was I mistreating you? didn't you know how much I appreciated you?!

Meanwhile, as far as arrivals at the shop, we had a little lull but now we've entered into the July 1 ship date zone from our New York orders. I've received a few shipment notifications via email so I have confirmation of arrivals; other things just show up on our doorstep. That initial moment of unpacking is always a fun one - you never quite know what each day will hold.

The arrivals for the week included three boxes from Japan filled with mini paper clips, note pads, notebooks, writing paper, envelopes and more. When I first started opening the box, I was totally transported back in time to our childhood days. In those days, we did not have a lot of money and also Japanese food was really hard to come by. (Sometimes when it seems like the world is so slow to change, I think about some little things - 35 years ago, there was nowhere in Madison to buy Japanese food, now there are zillions of options. It's really amazing how many more choices we have!). I think there was eventually one Japanese grocery store in town but we drove down to Chicago once a year to stock up at Star Market. Additionally, our dad's uncle in Japan would occasionally send us boxes of goodies. The boxes were always so mysterious, filled with different scents, mysterious writing, tins and wooden boxes tied with twine or patterned with traditional Japanese patterns. Opening the box with the Japanese customs slip to find all sorts of little squares nested tightly felt so much like the same experience. Odd sometimes how you repeat those little moments in your life.

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We also received some card orders. I know, I know, we're running out of room. If my little construction projects come to fruition, that will be resolved to some extent. There are several more card vendors on their way from our New York buying. I would love a few more spinners but in the meantime, they will just be squeezed into the assortment as space allows. We particularly love the graphics of this card company - most of the cards seem like they would be great as little pieces of art. I think my favorite is "Congrats on your Mister, Mr."

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That pretty much covers it for the first week of July. Unfortunately for me to say, "I'll work on that when things settle down" is an early start to the refrain that runs through my head throughout the holiday season. It does not bode well that I'm already thinking it, because I know for sure that January and February of 2014 cannot withstand all the pressure I'm putting on them to get things done.

Downtown Delights: part 3

Still going.... I have made it a few blocks away from Anthology but I still have a list of stops to make.

Wisconsin Historical Society gift shop. I have to admit that it has been ages since I've been in even though I walk by the windows and see lots of goodies. First of all, they have one of those penny smashing machines so you can get a souvenir of your visit to downtown Madison. I saw a great charm bracelet once made up of tons of these pennies... which made me wish I'd been collecting them all my life.

Downtown 023But they also have lots of Wisconsin souvenirs: magnets, postcards, t-shirts, cutting boards, glasses, as well as books about Wisconsin history.

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SERVV. The newest branch of the Fair Trade store is open just a few doors down from us in the old WinterSilks space, which used to be half of the old Art Mart space. From what we can see when we press our noses up against the window, there will be tons of cute dresses, also jewelry and accessories.

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Madison Modern Market. All things Pop and Modern get a second life - the day after Pop Deluxe closed, we were already missing it (opening our mouths to refer people to Pop Deluxe and then realizing it wasn't there). Happily, that was short-lived as Madison Modern Market quickly opened. They seem to carry many of the same vendors; it will be interesting to see how things shape up as the new owners put their stamp on the categories.

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Capitol Kids. Pretty much anything you need for a kid, and they've got it. Great clothing (that often makes me wish it came in my size), adorable little shoes that make me realize how much Lily has already grown, toys, books. They even have cheesehead hats for babies which I did not realize was a possibility.


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On the other side of the square we start to stray into the territory of my past life - when I worked at the Department of Natural Resources. King Street has really changed from the old days and the two retail gems are:

The Kitchen Gallery, which is chock full of all sorts of goodies I would be tempted with if I spent more time in the kitchen. I do love their French linens (something about jacquard is so appealing to me). I've heard rumors that they have the cast iron Wisconsin skillet but I did not see it on my last visit.

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and Context. I have to admit that I don't feel stylish enough to shop at Context but I always enjoy walking by their windows even though a little part of me is quite sure they are some of my competition for cool fixtures from the UW SWAP shop. We really appreciate their dedication to American craftmanship in men's fashions.

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