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March 2014
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May 2014

not much, mostly snippeting, how about you?

Shop17 005I splurged after a couple hours of taking photographs in the library and printed almost every single photo I took, some 250, all to cut up into little squares for my last installation at the library (which, it turns out, is being followed by a couple other installations since the third floor gallery exhibit for the next two months is comprised of things made in the Bubbler). It has been a while since I've spent time snippeting and I must say that the task remains as enjoyable as ever. I love to find little scenes for the one-inch square, explore textures and patterns and colors. It has been an especially long time since I've had such a large space to cover with snippets - makes me want to make more large pieces. I think it was particularly interesting to try and create as many different snippets as I could, just using the space of the library.

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Ordinarily, I am trying to convey an entire city in 25 squares; this was the exact opposite situation: trying to convey a single building in hundreds of squares. I spent most of Monday afternoon on the second floor of Central library, wishing for double-sided painter's tape and arranging my little squares on a pillar. I could see how it would be totally cool to cover every single pillar thusly, but, yeah, I'm outta time

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spring upswing

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Phew. Finally. My sister is home from her vacation, the outdoor Farmer's Market has begun, the sunshine is out, the grass is green, even the flowers are poking their heads out again. It's been a long winter. People are definitely emerging from hibernation and we've had some lively sunny days - just a hint of the late spring/early summer idyll that Madison becomes. The Farmer's Market started up around the Capitol Square on Saturday, though we were mostly excited about the number of food carts to choose from for our lunch, also amazed by the many crafters at the top of State Street: lots of fine creations and produce to be had on Saturday mornings! But if you can't get downtown on Saturday, don't worry, we have plenty of Wisconsin and Madison prints and gifts for you to choose from. Our basic Wisconsin pint has been a fast-seller and we've gotten a good early reponse from our custom Madison map pint and rocks glasses. I realize I've said this before, but I'm feeling happy with the assortment of regionally-themed items we've put together.

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Although I'm overcompensating for the work that we're doing at the library by not getting much work done at the shop (particularly when my sister was gone and not around to propel my competitive spirit), I did spend time making some more Wisconsin charm necklaces. I really need to sit down and stamp some more latitude/longitude necklaces but haven't been in the mood to wield the heavy hammer. I am working at home on another batch of magnet picture frames. I've more or less wrapped up the wrangling of paper that was going on in my livingroom and have the space cleared to get some creating done.

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In other Wisconsin/souvenir news, we are starting to receive postcards for our postcard show in May. This is our first time hosting this show and I was starting to get nervous that Sachi and I would have to fill the window with our own cards, but we're starting to get some submissions. I have gotten a sneak peek at Alison's submission, which she says have got her thinking about a series, and am super excited to get more of her charming illustrations. I like the idea of this new tradition. Sachi has been making more Gocco prints and will have some of these to help fill the window as well.

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We are, to some extent, awaiting our trip to the Stationery Show in New York in May - to see what we will see in the way of new products and trends.This might be our all-time favorite show: a chance for two paper-loving sisters to walk aisles and aisles of paper goods. We are already receiving many announcements/invitations from vendors who will be there - fun and lovely things arriving in the mail each day!

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But we did receive more tobacco lath wall pieces, cut out letter books, dictionary page prints with inspiring text. And, yes, more t-shirts are on their way. I really thought there would be a lull in late winter so I was cautious about ordering but sales have continued strong, leaving us a little depleted. But I've been told that everyone is printing for us and should be shipping this week. Fingers crossed. And, yes, I did get more Totoro items. I know, I know, they are about as far from a hand- and locally-made item as you can get, but if you could hear peoples' reactions, and the reminiscing of teenagers who look fondly back on the days of watching the movie, you might not be able to resist either.

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Perhaps the most exciting product news to me is that my pestering email to Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. was returned with a phone call and two boxes of prints for me to pick from. No pressure or anything, but stop in soon for the best selection...

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I love the various messages that he prints, but am also totally in awe of his artistry, particularly the ones with so many layers. You really have to spend time looking at them to take it all in.

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Our time at the Bubbler is winding down, so we are frantically working on the last of our installations. I suppose this is pretty indicative of the process itself: two months from thought to product. I'm hoping I can have the wall behind the librarians for an exhibit into the next maker-in-residence's session.

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Ultimately, I am cutting the batik paper into 2" squares and then sewing them together into quilt-like blocks. I'm having fun seeing the pieces come together and also challenging myself to go outside my usual color palate. I'm finding that the batik paper gets more interesting with more contrast of color and am putting together colors I wouldn't ever normally combine (like splashes of orange or red on sheets of mostly blue and green).

 

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Sachi has been installing more cut-outs and other paper decorations; she most recently installed a wedding card garland up on the third floor, which is the site of some upcoming weddings - and how fun would that be?! I've been enjoying the response to the "take what you need" flyer, and appreciate that at least a few people are willing to take the high road.

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We've been enjoying the fruits of other people's labors: stopping in to the Bubbler often reveals little surprises that have been left there - I am currently marveling over the paper diorama that someone made up.

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I also got a last-minute suggestion from a librarian friend which is too excellent not to follow-through on. I told her no more good ideas after this one. But in the meantime, have gotten distracted from my final two weeks of Bubbler timeline to work on a set of photo snippets of pictures of the library. Is that too self-conscious or something? At least it isn't just photo snippets of installations that we've done. I spent yesterday morning before the library opened taking pictures around the place.

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I realize that everyone is attracted to people in pictures, but I'm really just not a people person. I feel like I am intruding upon other people's lives to take their pictures and am not extroverted enough to approach them, engage in conversation and get permission. SO, while people are very much a component of the library, this will be a collage about the space itself. It has been a while since I've worked on a photo snippet with my own photos and so I had to readjust my thinking. Taking pictures that will stand on their own as a 4x7 is very different from taking pictures that will stand on their own as 1x1. But there is definitely plenty of material to work with. I refrained from rearranging books even though I would have loved to make a color-themed photo snippet collage that had a shelf of books arranged in rainbow order. Anyway, I did get a few artful pictures of the library so that was fun, and printed out a couple hundred which I will be cutting into squares in the next few days. Now I just have to go back to the library and figure out where I will put the installation.

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I have an extrovert friend who says that we introverts exaggerate the direness of our situation and perhaps also use it as an excuse to get our way a wee bit more than is seemly, or to excuse ourselves from too many things. Still, I maintain that my normal state of rest is at home in my pjs working on an art project at my coffee table. Alone. So it is a constant but happy surprise to me when I am rewarded for being outside of my comfort zone. Which pretty much happens all the time at the store. And is, in fact, the very definition of my everyday shopgirl life. I'm pretty sure that shopgirl was not among my suggested careers on my Myers-Briggs test. I have this nagging worry that what I consider suitable interaction is not enough for some people - that I should be more chatty, more cheerful, ask more questions - that I appear aloof or cold, "terse but efficient" was a phrase used by a friend to describe her neighborhood barista - that sounded like me. Then again, I basically deliver the kind of customer service that I like myself, present and polite but not intrusive. So, anyway, all of this is just to say that, as in my friendships, it takes a while sometimes for a relationship to be built. But trust me, I AM paying attention and listening and responding. Like the customer who has been so vocal about liking anything squirrel and has now wriggled her way into my brain when I'm on buying trips and happen to see something squirrel. Or the customer who has shown such appreciation for my batik paper, repeatedly asking if we are going to sell it at the store - so much so that I even though I have reservations about what a person could do with batik paper (seeing as it is now saturated with wax and would be hard to write on/glue down), I gave her all the scraps that I've been generating in this project. Ordinarily, those scraps would be added to the boxes of collage papers that I've been sifting through. However, in that process, I have been aware of just how many papers I have and the lack of necessity to add to them. I was rewarded for my gift with a thank-you of cheese and chocolate (which pretty much can't get any better) and am now feeling quite pleased with myself for my efforts to counteract my general tendency to sit at home in my pjs alone.

But now that things are starting to warm up, at least there are temptations beyond the living room. I so enjoy living in Wisconsin (despite the long winter) - this moment of greening as the grass suddenly seems greener on your side of the fence, as the trees shift from grey and lines of branches to bursts of acid green and deep red, as the first hardy flowers start to appear even if the nights are still getting cold. Makes my eyes happy.

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playing at the Bubbler

       

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I spent a rather leisurely Saturday afternoon at the Bubbler this weekend, pleased at the glue sticks with caps on and relatively cleanliness, working on my own travel journal and chatting with people about travel journals and altered books and photo snippets/bookmarks/60 books/paper houses. I'm starting to get a little more accustomed to what will greet me when I arrive - though I let my guard down - I thought I was just at the library yesterday in the afternoon?! but when I arrived today several garlands had fallen down (or been pulled down) and there was great disarray, including three glue sticks without caps. Now I'm puzzling over whether it was one small tornado or a whole crowd of them....  But for the most part, things are going smoothly. I don't think I've had too many rants about capless glue sticks. Of course, we're just getting accustomed to balancing time at the shop and the Bubbler and in our studios, and our time is winding down. Sachi is gone on spring break this week so I'll be there a little less. She did make sure to add more of her book illustration cut-outs around the library. I refreshed my take-what-you need signs and am toying with a grand finale that features all the leftovers. The trends haven't been quite as noticeable but "the high road" is still among the least popular choices.

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I am having a lot of fun playing around with sumi ink and writing with a coke can pen that I made. I'm trying to figure out what exactly it is that I like - something about the flow of ink and the width of the nib that is different from the usual calligraphy nibs that I use. Or maybe it is just that I treat the writing more casually since I am using a free tool to make the marks, instead of a formal calligraphy nib. In any event, I feel like I still need to work on my writing, but enjoyed playing around on Sunday to create pieces to incorporate into a travel journal (which, by the way, I have been working on for a few years but finished up on Saturday, to my great satisfaction. It's always fun to start new projects, but there's something to be said for actually finishing...). I first heard about a coke can pen in a workshop at Whispering Woodlands with Pamela Paulsrud. You can find directions here. Using a brush is all very romantic and all, but I tend to get little wisps and odd lines that I do not care for. Probably I could spend time studying calligraphy more formally and actually learn the rules that I am not following, but for now I'm having fun playing. I'm particularly pleased with how "travels" turned out and need to study more to figure out what went so well.

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I also spent a little time arranging photo snippets. I'm putting little installations around the library. This might seem like a little thing but I happened upon one really excellent snippet - sometimes the scale or focus is off, sometimes I'm unable to get a whole square the way I want it and the net effect is really about the cumulative effect of incomplete snippets, but the one of boats was great composition and color. I just added it in with the rest though, even though it is an example of one that could stand on its own, I think.

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 Meanwhile at the shop we are starting to gear up for summer and tourists. We've been gradually expanding our Wisconsin/Madison collection: cutting boards, postcards, t-shirts but I need to do a more thorough review of what has sold and needs restocking.

We do have a great collection of Mother's Day cards and just received more of the sweet letter/notepads with quotations along the bottom edge of each page in three themes: for my beautiful child, for the one I love, and for a dear friend.

 

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And in other news, we are trying to patiently await the coming of spring. We had a little burst of warmth but there was a dusting of snow on the ground this morning. It is making many of us a wee bit crabby. But I did get out for a walk along the lakeshore with our Dad, tromping old ground from our childhood days of visiting him on campus, and was rewarded for taking a break out of my ordinary day with the sight of a bald eagle perched on the bare branches. Still, I'm ready for the obscuring green of new leaves.

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Also, my first PhotoShop class came to an end with 3 hours of work on a piece which still needs more work but shows promise. My biggest challenge right now is settling in on an image long enough to make progress. But at least I am learning and practicing lots of techniques in the process. I have a break this week and then the next class starts up. I'm starting to look at everything in terms of layers though - I feel the need to take a lot more pictures which can serve as background/texture.


pints & paper

   

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Sometimes we need to take our own advice.... We just received this print from a Green Bay artist; meanwhile Sachi is tossing and turning because she's frustrated with the City's newly revised alcohol policy and her role with the local business group (lots of responsibility and requests of her time yet ultimately feeling there's no power or effect). We see our fair share of problems related to alcohol use so it doesn't necessarily seem like we need more establishments selling alcohol downtown, or anywhere in Madison for that matter. Not that we are Prohibitionists, but have you seen the stats on the amount of binge drinking in this state? or the cost to all of us in terms of lost productivity, property damage, etc.? Also, as a business that doesn't sell alcohol we are left somewhat with the feeling of chopped liver, as if the the City or the downtown business organization doesn't think highly of retail or the future of retail, oh, just our life's calling, no biggie. So, it is tempting to wallow in pity or frustration. I'm trying to console her with the people who come to Madison specifically because of our store - that is something we still have control over: making this place an awesome place to come to. And I do think there are many people who still only come to downtown Madison so I think that retail will persist. There is still no place else in the city that I would rather be. But if there's too much vomit to clean up after weekends, I might be writing a letter to City hall to see if they can modifiy their policy and at least include an extra clean-up tax on all these new drinking establishments.

Meanwhile, is it hypocritical to celebrate our new arrivals this week? new pint and rock glasses? Sachi found this great company and worked with them to create a custom Madison map glass

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which we add to our collection of Midwestern glassware (I expanded from Wisconsin and Great Lakes to a few other Midwestern states - I think it would be a fun wedding present to give a couple each a glass representing their state).

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Meanwhile, I spent a little time at the Bubbler this morning ironing wax off my batik pages. I'm loving the process and product so much... even though I have no idea what I will do with it all. I batiked some maps of the Midwest and Wisconsin and plan to sew them into pages for our upcoming postcard show.

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And speaking of sewing, I also quickly sewed up little packets for a friend's birthday. Now I feel like I want to give flat things to everyone so I can sew/wrap their gifts this way. I do love sewing on paper.

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We also worked on mark making and playing with sumi ink last night. Thoughts about another set of hand-bound books are rolling around in my head - with collage and batik and painted pages, but in a broader color palate than the last set. Maybe even a rainbow. Hmm.... We'll see what comes of it. The Bubbler was nice and lively - it was a very fun night, but of course I was so wrapped up in making that I forgot to take a picture until the end. But there was a group of high schoolers on one side of the room making silk-screened t-shirts from stencils they cut themselves

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and the Bonefolders' Guild on the other side with mark-making and playing with sumi ink. I had some success with my variation on suminagashi but mostly that made me want to learn the proper techniques. On the whole, our pop can pen nibs worked out well so that was satisfying. All of this is just background work as far as I'm concerned - but I think they make lovely backgrounds.

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Saturday at the Bubbler

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In between Wisconsin Film Festival viewings, I spent Saturday afternoon at The Bubbler for a session of Handmade at the Library. It's always a thrill to stand in a room of people making, and particularly when they started with seeds that you contributed. Perhaps one of my favorite things is seeing the different directions that different people take - all starting from basically the same materials (our leftover pieces of book pages and photographs).

Between the Library as Incubator Project, librarians from various branches, Jessica Pigza, library patrons, and myself, the room was filled with creativity and conversation and inspiration. Jessica Pigza added on to her Minnesota book tour and came to Madison to hang out for a few days. Her book is pretty cool and inspiring and we had fun using it as a jumping-off point. The book, BiblioCraft, includes projects and inspirations from the library and we used the little paper house templates to create a charming collection...

Lbrary 005Other people spun off from there, drawing their own houses and building (a pretty amazing Hogwarts) and it occurred to me that the structure could be used with photographs as well. You could make a whole little stand-up village from cutting out photographs... even paper dolls of people you know... 

Participants also worked at our various stations (why is it always so fun to see other peoples' paper stash? It was fun to hear people exclaim over book pages and scraps of wrapping paper that I've stopped seeing I'm so accustomed to them). The houses traced from cardboard templates remain a challenge, but the result and the potential is pretty cool. I particularly liked the little house with a little collage inside.

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As for myself, I'm starting to feel the pressure of our time at the Bubbler winding down - still so much to do! I did spend some quiet time there this morning sorting through more photographs. This coming week, I'll be hosting the Bonefolders' Guild there on Wednesday so I am gathering supplies for mark-making: sumi ink, walnut ink, brushes, Coke cans to make into pen nibs, sequin waste, bubble wrap... I can sense more painted pages in the works, which I am thinking roughly of binding into a happy book (which I feel with magazine and catalog clippings of things I like and am inspired by). I made some batik pages and think I will mix them in with the painted pages, similar to my book of 40something for my 40somethings except with a wider color range. I might end up with a set - ooh! maybe a rainbow! that just occurred to me. If I would just stop talking about the pile of magazines in my living room and sit down and work on them, I could finish up all that sorting and then I would be able to move onto something else. I still have a lot of batiking in mind so I'm probably going to focus on that for the remainder of our Bubbler time - it's such a luxury to have all the space to work in. I might have one more batiking workshop that first weekend in May - I just have to check the rest of the schedule. I batiked some Wisconsin and Great Lakes map paper last week and just have to iron off the wax and see if I can wrangle some of those into postcards for our upcoming exhibit. And then I had better start thinking about cleaning up and moving back out. Sigh. It HAS been lovely to have that space.


lettering musings

My brain is going in all sorts of directions: taking this PhotoShop class has me thinking about various lettering combined with my photographs. I'm having trouble translating what I'm thinking about onto the computer screen though. Getting lots of practice with various tools and such, but my handmade preferences betray me. Ultimately, I've always needed to just work with my hands and see how the thoughts in my head will translate. It's somewhat distracting to have to go through the filter of the computer, and of learning the software. All of which is to say that I didn't get very far on my postcard plans last night during class. 

In good lettering news, I took scissors to paper and had much more success. I had an idea for a sign for the library and was inspired by something I saw somewhere.... I'm thinking it was on Pinterest: just cutting letters out (like this and this, but not this). I'm loving the look. I just found magazine pages that had a more or less cohesive pattern/color, cut them into 4" squares, and then hand-cut out the letters. It would be cool to make a wall with one huge quotation or something. Somehow, someway, this is possible to do in PhotoShop I am sure. Maybe that's for next week's class. This week I managed to select a very finely detailed object, cut and paste it, and change its color - which is a big improvement over last week when I was erasing around the edges at the pixel level.

Anyway, here's my sign for the library, part of the series answering questions frequently asked of librarians. Next up: an artsy way to point out where the bathroom is....

 

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not nice, April

brrr... It's cold. Hmph. I put away my down coat briefly, regretted it while waiting at the bus stop, and am now back to it. Lucky for me, the Wisconsin Film Festival starts today so I will be spending more time indoors anyway. That feeling of having much to do didn't abate at all earlier in the year as I expect it to during cold weather (between tax prep and end-of-year inventory, expectations never match reality - you'd think I'd learn) and we are almost 10% up from last year's sales so business and busy-ness is good. And now it is time to get ready for graduation and Mother's Day and summer tourists, and then it will be Christmas. Yeah, I was on the verge of panic a few days ago - I finally just had to sit myself down with the calendar yet also tell myself to just focus on one day at a time.

Today: time at The Bubbler, PhotoShop class, Film Festival. That's enough to think about.

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Meanwhile, can't help thinking ahead for the month - just five more weekends left at The Bubbler, with projects on three of them. The office is full of supplies to bring to the various projects: altered travel journals, altered books... We've been adding more paper installations around the library and getting good feedback from the librarians. Everyone loves Sachi's detailed cut-outs!

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I was amused Sunday to check on my "take what you need" signs and find that "the high road" and "the long way home" were the two that people did not take.

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I finally got to hang my batik circle garlands and am quite pleased with the colors. I'm also working on a series of installations answering questions that librarians frequently have to answer.

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We'll see how far I get. It is satisfying to make some progress on projects - feels like much of the time has been spent sifting through scraps generated by other peoples' making. I remind myself that this fits exactly with our mission of getting people to be more crafty - now if I can just make sure it doesn't detract from my crafty time....  Ah, the lament of the artist/shopgirl. This afternoon I'm hoping to spend time making batik paper for our May postcard exhibit. I have heard from a few other artists so I'm worrying less about whether or not I'll have to fill the whole window myself.

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There was also a little flurry of activity around election day as the Bubbler is the polling place so we had to push our stations aside to make room for voting machines. And also make signs to cover up the Mary Burke label on the room. I still don't quite know what the rules are - how long in advance of an election must there be no mention of a candidate near the polling place? Well, better safe the sorry, so I covered it up. I am adding to it, however, now that election day is past, as that is part of the series on questions frequently asked of librarians.

In addition to watching 7 movies in 5 days, this weekend I'll be over at The Bubbler on Saturday afternoon from 3-5 with the Library as Incubator project and author Jessica Pigza who will be discussing her new book: BiblioCraft. We'll be doing a little project from the book (and I do mean little, as there seems to have been some miscommunication between the book pages and my printer and the template are smaller than they are in the book itself). Still, they will be cute little paper houses to cut out and color.  Additionally, I set up a new paper house station in the Bubbler so people can also trace templates and fold houses from book pages. Like many crafty projects, the process has its tedious moments, and a need to do more practicing and refining, but the potential is sweet. I have seen some lovely lanterns made from clusters of these houses and I'm thinking about some sort of photography project involving houses and maps.

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As far as the shop is concerned, we have some April 1 orders that we are expecting any day. These cute little posts arrived - we expanded from the wooden ones we started carrying last year. We are expecting more notecards (especially Mothers' Day), onesies, Wisconsin prints, more t-shirts...

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And apparently our pleas did not fall on deaf ears: the Wisconsin Bicycle Forward t-shirt has been reprinted in blue (initially we were told the design was going to be out of print and replaced by other designs which, while nice, were not as great as that one).

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Meanwhile, Sachi has been hard at work with Gocco printing. She has one new baby card, and is working on a new Madison card also, though dealing with some troubleshooting that is delaying/frustrating the process.

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 We are also working on an order of  buttons for the Center for Media and Democracy

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I'm starting to get notices about vendors attending the National Stationery Show - in May - which is always tantilizing. We are looking forward to seeing what's new... and I'm looking forward to a few days of vacation while I'm out there, visiting a friend in Western Massachusetts. and no, I have no idea what I'll do while I'm out there, that's for another day.