A week ago, the two Komai sisters + our Mom, went up to Toronto for a few days. It was our first time there, ostensibly to attend a trade show and buy some things for the shop, but also to visit the charming Olivia and see a new city. It was a fast trip: two days at the trade show + one day to cover an impressive list of indie craft and paper shops. Clearly we will have to go back.
The show itself went well though we found some people weren't quite set up for shipping to the U.S. and were a little self-conscious at the end by all the people who said "America! What are you doing up here?!"
We found some goodies (like the blue and white dishes above) and didn't get too carried away with Canadiana, I don't think. Some of it was hard to resist. The art of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest has always really appealed to me, and we found a great company which works with artists from First Nations to produce and distribute their work. I know, I can't go all Pacific Northwest, but we ordered these great pocket tokens with images of eagles, salmon, bear, frogs and more on one side and accompanying words like "peace" "power" "solidarity" on the reverse. Though I feel like a little more crabbiness of my mood of late (canNOT wait for this election to be over!) might be creeping into the store (just a few more expletives that I have in my daily vocabulary), I also feel like these tokens embody things that we could all use a little more of. Most of our orders are on a fast track so they should be arriving to the store in the next month or so. Sachi even managed to buy cards on site at a store we visited where the artist was working behind the counter and was open to a wholesale purchase. Our customs declaration form was something like: "stickers, washi tape, stationery, books." I'm pretty sure the customs agent would put those all together in one category. oh, yeah, here's a picture of our personal shopping haul from the trip:
I think for both of us, the most striking thing about Toronto was the sheer volume of local and indie shops. Now, part of this might be because we wouldn't recognize a Canadian chain store if it hit us on the head. Another component is that we had an advance team do all the scouting for us, and Olivia knows exactly what kind of stores we like. But my common complaint when I travel to other cities is that I can't find the local and indie shops. I would like New York's version of Anthology, Atlanta's take on Paper Source, you get the idea. In Atlanta's defense, I have actually found some great stores there but on the whole, going to big cities seems like a real scrounge to find indie shops. Even the Haight-Ashbury's of the world are starting to get a creeping in of American Apparels or whatnots. SO, anyway, the point is: kudos to Toronto! We have a sneaking suspicion there is something written into city planning up there which helps the process. We ran out of time to see everything but some of our favorites were: Kid Icarus, Hanji, The Paper Place, Likely General, Scout, Juxtapose, Good Egg, Page and Panel, Just You, and Type Books. I'm sure I'm forgetting some. And I KNOW we didn't get to them all. Can you tell me that many indie stores in New York City? In L.A.? in Chicago? I mean, please do! I know that a few exist in each city, but I think Toronto's numbers are going to be hard to beat. It would be nice if our city planners could be so accommodating of indie business. In addition to shopping for our personal enjoyment, adding to our washi tape stash and presents, Sachi basically had her little notebook out all the time, getting inspiration from the many great artists that we saw (mostly, sketching out ways to create Madison and Wisconsin versions of Toronto and Canada prints). The sisterly competition eventually kicked in and I got started on a new print as well as our custom Madison washi tape project. That is taking me forever. I know.
As always, it is nice to see what other shopgirls and boys are up to, to get a sense for product mix and product placement. Though many people have asked us for patches, we've been a little slow on the uptake, but after seeing the awesome assortment of patches and enamel pins in Toronto shops, we decided we had to add to our collection. The first shipment already arrived but there are more on the way.
As far as other store arrivals, we are still in the middle of the National Stationery show order roll-out. There was a little flurry of 8/1 shipments, as there will be for 9/1 and 10/1. Some arrivals from the last few weeks include: coloring books, adulting stickers, cute Japanese rubber stamps, screen printed cards.
(just as a reminder, though I will post some photos here, the fastest and best update on arrivals to the shop can be found on our Instagram account, if you don't mind also getting pictures of the general life of a shopgirl).
We are gearing up a bit more for election season. Sachi had a brilliant idea for a post-election window which I'm not sure I can quite pull off, but we are slowly gathering goods for an October-November window. It's going to be good. I have been a bit of a slacker when it comes to button-making but did a major restock today, as well as adding more Hillary buttons. I don't really want a lot of buttons that even have Trump's name on them, but I couldn't resist the one about tiny hands. Sachi says a few people have come in looking for Trump buttons but we can't quite tell if they are just trying to get a reaction from us. As usual, the shopgirl fallback: smile and nod, is the way to go. Once I thought someone was joking about Scott Walker buttons. That didn't go over so well.
It is also move-in season around here as the students switch to new apartments and new students start arriving to town. For us, that means wrapping paper season, as it is a quick and easy (and pretty) way to add decor to a dorm or apartment room. Sachi ordered some new sheets in New York which I hadn't even seen. I particularly like the swimmers, but the florals from Rifle Paper and others are nice as well. It's easy to pick up some frames at the thrift store (or off the curb) and fill them with an assortment of papers for a nice wall collage.
I am making progress on my set of 15 crowns. Doing some hand lettering with Sharpie paint pen on mirrors and trouble-shooting the gluing of the paper crowns to the glass mirrors. I'm getting closer. The deadline is early December so I think I'm more or less on track. We are working on a few prints to send out for screen printing locally so I'm looking forward to those (including Sachi's glue guns not handguns sign which she, naturally, redid with fancy hand lettering). And other than that, believe it or not, it is time to think about Christmas. I'm just finalizing the budget for the holiday season and then we will get to work on stocking the store for the holidays. I have an idea for a holiday window which hasn't been supplanted so I guess we are going with that. We'll see how it all comes together. I'm still feeling like I need a few more products to pull it together but it usually all works out.