making space. and taking it up.

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Well, I'd say that was a successful Maxwell Street Days. We had a great Friday and Saturday, made people happy with good deals and cleared some space in the office. Then on Sunday we had our studio garage sale (pictured above) and as a result will be donating about $500 to local youth arts organizations. We had a couple family groups come by with kids who spent a lot of time pouring over our garage sale goods - one adorable pair of sisters who kept exclaiming: "this will be perfect! This is just what we need!" - and someone towards the end on Sunday who was so happy to score some library catalog cards to help decorate her apartment. I've calculated that this is my 15th or 16th Maxwell Street days, which is a lot of hours in the hot sun and/or toting boxes in and out. It was definitely made more bearable by the work of our part-timers, and the weather was in our favor as well.

Now one part of me is totally exhausted and ready for a break, and another part of me is anxious to organize and deal with the space that has opened up. Besides Maxwell Street Days, our summer sales have continued apace, which means I have a few empty drawers and shelves. Good thing, too, because Christmas orders will start to arrive and, at the moment, I have places to put things. But it would be good to do that in a manner which is less haphazard than it has been. I will be heading to Point Beach for my annual getaway at the end of August, but until then, it is high tourist season downtown. I feel like I'm just barely keeping on top of stocking t-shirts, but at least we have plenty of vendors to choose from. This week, the Wi/Mn hugging and Midwest is Best shirts arrived.

As far as other arrivals go, Sachi is super excited about these notecards which came all the way from Australia. She's been wanting to order them for a while. I only made her wait because there were so many cards coming in from our trip to the Stationery Show, but now I feel like a mean sister because I made her delay so long. Ah well, at least now she has plenty.

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We also received these sweet sewn fabric headbands and also fun comic book pint glasses.

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Also, cool art supply wrapping paper

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and fun party utensils.

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In other Christmas news, I think I've figured out a plan for the window and I also went through the list of vendors for the draft Christmas budget so now we have a plan for orders for the next few months. Meanwhile, Sachi got her cheese curd onesie design printed and it has met with great success. She's still working on some new Gocco card designs, as well as designs for other shirts/prints/totes. The competitive sibling in me feels the need to respond. I do have some graphic design ideas rumbling around in my head, as well as the oft-mentioned need to get back to Photoshop. Perhaps soon. I do have several upcoming workshops at the libraries to prepare for as well.

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And otherwise, summer has been flying by - many hours spent watching the girl practice her jumps into the pool, strolling with my parents...  I was feeling critical of myself for not accomplishing as much as I did 5 years ago but realize that my workday is substantially busier with customers than it was. Still, I do need to finish up some projects and restock the shop for the holidays. Also, get to work on that baby quilt and Christmas gifts, whatever those are going to be. I'm close to catching up on my Blurb books so I am feeling a little less overwhelmed about that project. In all, the slightly panicked and totally overwhelmed feeling that I had in late spring has abated somewhat, just in time for Christmas!


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if only...

  Shop17 033 (the above picture is of one of two installations of "take what you need" at the library. "love" and "luck" are consistently the first to be taken; "the high road"  and "the long way home" tend to be last. I noticed "the cake" was last on one page... and I am still puzzled as to why anyone wouldn't want to take the cake).

I saw a card once that said: "If only you really COULD work your a** off."  That's kind of how I feel this week. In some ways, I feel like the store is finally reaching a point where we have staff and system enough that I can ease off on my 6 day work schedule, in other ways, that has just enabled me to create more work elsewhere. We are winding down our time at the Bubbler and frantically adding "just a bit more" and also making lists of all that has to be done to move out. The new artists are moving in on Monday and while there will be some transition time (which means we don't have to totally clear our installations out), we do need to move out of the room itself... but not before the weekend. So mostly I'm just... waiting. It's that same feeling when you've done pretty much all the studying your brain can hold and all that is left is to take the test but it is not until tomorrow.

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I've had two days worth of batiking to generate paper which I am ultimately cutting and sewing into a quilt. I'm taking over the wall behind the librarians on the ground floor and phase one of installation revealed that I have a lot more batiking to do.  I've spent the last two nights cutting more paper into 2" squares to make more quilt blocks, also cutting some 4x2 pieces to use for a mini book that I will somehow bind for the next holiday party. I do so love this batik paper.

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On Thursday, I helped install part of the Gallery Night exhibit up on the third floor gallery space of the Central library. It's a collection of things made in the Bubbler - by makers-in-residence and by patrons and is a fun peek into the effects of that space. I've been told the Bubbler was just going to be another meeting space and I am SO happy that they opened it up for other uses. That exhibit will be up for the next two months.  In a related note, I enjoyed spending time up on the third floor - it's kind of a low-traffic area and it has a nice view of the rooftops.

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In related Bubbler news, the new issue of Madison Originals Magazine that just came out has an article about Bubbler Makers-in-Residence and includes a nice section about our work at the library, though it was poetry not pottery that we made.

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In addition to our Bubbler work, tonight is Gallery Night, and the culmination of our quest for postcards for the shop. We received submissions from a baker's dozen of artists and are enjoying the variey of creations and interpretations of a Madison/Wisconsin/regional postcard. From worrying that I wouldn't have enough postcards to fill the window and would have to spend last night making more, I went to having so many postcards that I didn't know how I would fit them all in. Also, Sachi wanted to wash the inside windows, so I spent Thursday emptying and lifting all our cubbies out of the way and then putting it all back together, trying to find room for what I displaced, and create space to display postcards. I kind of missed our old clothesline system which would have made hanging postcards easy, but managed to find a way to prop up and otherwise display the postcards... oh, and also create a space for Mother's Day cards. We really wanted to have a special exhibit for Gallery Night, but it is also coming right at the moment when our window is needed to convey our Mother's day (and shortly, graduation) gift and card options. So many things for a tiny space to do! I think I managed to cram it all in.

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Even though it has been a lot of work to create this postcard show, I am also feeling really happy about the results so that helps ease the tiredness that I am feeling. Also, we ate breakfast for lunch - pancakes and a breakfast sandwich at Short Stack Eatery, so I am feeling full & happy. A nap wouldn't be amiss, but there is still Gallery Night ahead of us. then busy Saturday. then moving out the Bubbler. Really, which is it? No rest for the weary? or no rest for the wicked?

We ended April on a very strong note, well above April 2013 sales so the year continues its strong pace... which also helps account for the feeling of tiredness. At least Sachi and I were able to take some Wednesdays off during the wintertime. Despite the cold of this spring (and the need for me to still wear Smartwool socks), the street is definitely getting more lively. I guess we're all ready to come out of hibernation.

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This will be our 6th Mother's Day and I think we finally have enough Mother's Day cards. Our first year in business, I ended up delving into my card collection and our assortment of thank you cards to find enough for customers. The second year, I ran to the copy shop and made up some collage ones. And every year since has been a close call. We went all out this year and I'm very happy with our assortment for all sorts of Mothers.

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 We also have our craft table set up for decorating your own card for Mom.  $2.50 gets you a blank card and envelope, and free run of the table: paper scraps, glitter, twinkling watercolors, decorative edge scissors and more.

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Last but not least, in addition to the window and postcard display work and the Bubbler work, we had some shipments to receive. I was super excited to receive this Madison print and card from a Milwaukee artist - we really like being able to find the intersection between artist styles that we like and souvenir goods that our customers are asking for. We think this one will be a hit!

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We also received more t-shirts, though I'm still waiting on the next batch of Wi/Mn hugging t-shirts. We had a big box of them a week ago, and most of them went to happy customers last Saturday. We did get our Midwest is Best, squeaky cheese curds, and I'm with Bucky so at least we have more to choose from than we did three weeks ago.

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And finally a delivery from the charming Alison, whose prints we love, and who gave in to our pleading and made a postcard for our show, and also printed it larger. We just love all the details!

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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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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.


in other news

Maybe. or maybe not. I started to worry today, as I took my second trip over to the library (where I forgot my ruler), that I was talking too much about The Bubbler and not enough about other goings-on at the shop. We are a little preoccupied, it is true. I generally think of this time of year as quiet but I might be fooling myself.  

...so, what ARE we up to? It is... um... mid-March. I am way behind on all my paperwork, though we did go talk to the tax preparer this week so that part is at least taken care of. He scolded us (lightly) for having such big refunds, but I have to confess that I'm still slightly terrified of repeating our first year in business when I was crying on the phone to the IRS. Ah, the joys of small business owernship.

I spent last night at home watching TV and sorting through photographs to bring more to our photo snippet station at the Bubbler. As I sat there, I realized it felt like a really long time since I had done that. My routine is somewhat disrupted. Thankfully, Dad comes home from the nursing home this weekend so we can bring him dinner without the extra mileage. I have one last pile in my living room to deal with - I was very close last night to just putting it back in a box. I'm getting bored with this project. But it will be so nice when it is done - stick it out, Laura. I did move a few things home from the library because I was just getting overwhelmed with the ought-tos and no-way-you'll-get-tos so I'm feeling better. I really think I'm going to focus on batiking paper - I'm having so much fun. I started working with the paper to make some collages - that's eventually where I'm headed but I need to batik enough paper so I have enough to work with. But my prototype is working pretty well. I just love the colors!

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But I do want to do some hand-lettering. I have a continuation of my "take what you need" sign in mind, plus a circus lettered poster.  Someone interviewed me for an article about The Bubbler and asked what I hoped to learn during our residency. I honestly didn't know - and I think that is partly the feature of the library: you go there with one thing in mind and get distracted by all the inspiration that is there and the books you didn't know about and walk out with an armload of books. But, so far, one of the things I have learned is that the library is not the quiet contemplative space of stereotype. Those librarians are constantly answering questions! Mostly things like "where's the bathroom" and "what floor am I on?" I suppose all of us deal with things in our work life that weren't at all what the degree we earned prepared us for. Anyway, I have this thought rolling around in my head about a hand-lettered sign, like a circus sign, but for the library. I have to work on it some more.

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And as I was cleaning up the space yesterday, I came across zillions of punched photos  that people apparently didn't want for collaging. I couldn't just throw those away! So I started a photo snippet installation which is going to be on one big wall - I've never done one that big. We'll see how straight I manage to keep all the lines.

oh, shoot, I'm back to talking about the library again. I feel like I've been a little absent at the shop, what with my weekend away and all. We've received a few shipments and I am finding some empty spaces, somewhat carried over from the holidays.... but it is still not really the time of year when sales are so strong that you need to go on an all out buying spree. And, of course, in the paper goods realm, we are on hold a little bit seeing as we'll be going to New York in May.

We did receive some lovely bamboo cutting boards this week (in the shape of Wisconsin, of course), and some Wisconsin ceramics by a local artist. And I'm doing a little bit of rearranging and restocking - it's all rather low pressure since I don't have lots of shipment to try and cram in.

Besides the library, I've been picking out my tickets for the Wisconsin Film Festival, bringing food to Dad, taking a PhotoShop class at MATC. Sachi is preparing to work the polls in April, walking her daughter to the bus stop, cutting out zillions of book illustrations, making new buttons.

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I unpacked from one travel journal workshop, but not completely, as we'll have another at The Bubbler in April, and gathered supplies for an altered Golden Book workshop with kids from the Goodman Community Center at The Bubbler on Monday. And tomorrow (Saturday), I'll be teaching batik paper from 2 - 4 at The Bubbler. I'll demonstrate the process and everyone will get to make one piece of paper to take home with them. I'm trying to figure out the logistics of the space - without knowing how many people will want to actually make paper vs. just check out the process, and given the mix of hot wax and dye that stains skin and clothes. I think if I have those hazards in the corner, I can guard them and all will go smoothly. Because the parents who hate their children to get messy will keep their children far away, right?

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Wish me luck!


settling in

On to week 2 of our Bubbler residency and I think we're getting a better feeling for how the rest of the time will go. I did have to adjust my thinking a bit - being at the store, I am accustomed to a day of interacting with the public... and in hindsight it was foolish to think the situation would be otherwise just because I am being "artist" not "shopgirl" at the Bubbler. I think I'm just used to going to the library and NOT talking - but the exact opposite is now required. I'm basically repeating the exact same steps that I took when we first opened the shop: ambitiously bringing a bunch of projects in, adjusting expectations about what can be done given that I'll have to stop and talk to someone somewhere in the next 10 minutes to 2 hours (I know you should be able to do art anywhere, but certain things require a focus and concentration that I apparently can only achieve in the shop with lights off and doors locked or in my living room at the coffee table. In theory we have after-hours access to the Bubbler space, but I don't know what door I am supposed to use and I had a little fear of being lost in the backspaces of the library); all these steps culminating in taking half of the projects home... But I've always been a bad packer, bringing much more than I need or have time for.  I did have a stress dream last night about teaching two workshops in different locations at the same time - running back and forth between them, supervising the supplies (surprisingly, no glue sticks appeared capless in the dream). But here's the other deal: I felt like our residency in the Bubbler was supposed to provide people a peek into our studios, so I brought lots of things down to sort of mock-up what my workspace would look like. Except that no one except me gets to touch my workspace in my livingroom, which is not necessarily the same case in the public space of the library, despite my efforts. So, I'm just coming to the realization that I'll have to tone down my workspace there, let it be representative but simplified, and not with anything that will cause a stress dream for me to leave unattendend (just for example, I have some batik paper that I'm planning to use and I came back from the weekend to find my favorite sheet - thankfully uncut, but on the table of scrap paper for book marks. Right, I know, I should have kept it with me. And another piece of batik paper had been punched and cut down to scraps, unfortunately not into the circles that I need for the garlands.

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I AM really enjoying the batik paper project so I think that will be much of my focus in the time we have. I am batiking some map paper and have some vague idea of an abstract aerial view piece of paper collage. But that I really need to work on that uninterrupted. Well, first I have to make enough batik paper to cut up. Another thing I didn't really think about: it is really hard to describe to someone what you are making when you yourself don't quite know what the finished product is going to be. BUT the sewn batik paper circle garlands are so lovely! I'm quite happy with those. I just need to make more and then I'm going to find a ladder and hang them up in the lower entryway. I would fill a whole room with them if I could... and so I really could just spend the rest of my time making batik paper.

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The aftermath of last weekend was a marginal improvement over the first, mostly because I didn't go there hungry (crabby) and unsurprised, and it was closer to half of the glue sticks that were without caps as opposed to 90% like the first weekend. My theory about mess begetting mess may just be proved by the way that what I consider nicely arranged and sorted scrap papers reads as mess to other people. And, of course, it is wonderful to see so many people gluing and cutting and making. I stopped in briefly on Saturday and overheard one mom say: "I could spend all day in here!"  THAT is worth all the little pieces I had to pick up off the floor.

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This coming week I have several events to prepare for: my travel journal workshop tomorrow night, batik paper workshop on Saturday, and two altered Golden book workshops with two different groups from the Goodman Community Center as part of The Bubbler's Make-It-Monday programming for kids. I'm trying to focus on the thing that is closest at hand and not get overwhelmed with the sum of it all. Oh, and we're getting some new computers so every once in a while the computer guy calls me with a computer question that requires me to dig around in the depths of my brain/filing cabinet. Plus, I was housesitting this weekend and Dad is still in the nursing home but hopefully coming home this week so pieces of my life are in a lot of different places. Adds to the discombobulation. I got packed for tomorrow's travel journal workshop but had plans for a little workshop outline or something. We'll see how tonight goes.

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As far as the shop is concerned, we celebrated our 6th birthday rather modestly, but with donuts. It's still fun to revisit pictures from the early days and pat ourselves on the back with how far we've come.

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Our year has been off to a strong start, despite the cold weather, which is always good, though it feels like there hasn't been a lengthy lull that one might transform into a rest. I am way behind on paperwork and other such matters but at least I took care of our taxes. The pace of shipments has started to pick up and we are also focused on late spring and early summer. The newest arrivals have mostly been in the realm of Wisco souvenirs: cut-out necklaces, wood cutting boards and coasters,

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 and the fun Madison map. Because who doesn't need to know where the thong-&-cape-man runway is?

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Oh, and Sachi made a new batch of campaign pins. We had a discussion about whether it was too early (because we are definitely not ready to start seeing commericals on TV), but then she found some great vintage ladies and she was off and running: "Better Living through Burke" "He repealed equal pay? How gauche." "Voter supression is so vulgar" and many more.

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I'm still savoring the aftermath of a creative weekend with Sabrina Ward Harrison and a bunch of super creative and wonderful women. We had a lovely time in the Commonwealth Gallery - painting and sharing and complimenting each other. I have this strong desire to just be alone in a quiet space - but it was so wonderful to spend time with fellow creative people this weekend, to really let myself sink into making art, but also to be present with other people.  I feel like I'm still trying to figure out that balance of quiet and connection. I loved that the last item on the supply list was "permission." But I've been trying to think - what exactly is it that I need to give myself permission for? I really do quite a lot of playing and creating - even though I have been obsessing a lot about how I will transform that creating into production for the store, the reality is that I haven't let those thoughts stop me from just frivolously making, and I freely give myself permission to do that instead of, oh, cleaning the kitchen floor or dusting the shelves.

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In class we each worked with a board book as our base, painting and collaging on top of that. The finished assortment was so colorful. And I always love seeing how people who are basically using the same materials and colors, come up with such wildly divergent finished projects that reflect their individual styles.  Lucky for me, my book was very short - just four two-page spreads, and even then, none of them is quite done. This one is probably the closest to done. I'm not sure that every collage I do needs to feature the girl, but it does add a lot to have a person in there.

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Finally, a little burst of domesticity and an attempt at a creative frosting - which would have been better, I'm sure if I had used the proper stuff, not just what came from a can. But, still, not too bad for St. Patrick's Day for someone who has never marbled frosting before.. and who also, as far as I know, isn't at all Irish.

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off and running

Already 9 days into the new year... Sigh. As is the case every year, I persist in the delusion that things will "quiet down" after Christmas. The deep freeze should have been enough to slow things down and while that works for customers walking on State Street, that does not work for the IRS. Yeah, that's right, I brought up TAXES. There's an avalanche of things that need to get done for all my year-end bookwork. That definitely lands among my least favorite tasks of this job. While it is really tempting for me to spend a lot of time summarizing the sales for the year, looking for trends, thinking about new vendors, the reality is that I must also spend time making sure all my notes are in order for the accountant and tax preparer. And then there's that little matter of inventory. Ugh.

"Is willing to accept that she creates her own reality except for some of the parts where she can't help but wonder what the hell she was thinking." Story People by Brian Andreas

There are a great many people who come into the store and say, "I sure would hate to inventory this place." And they are basically right. It's not that it is a difficult task, just rather tedious and drawn-out. So, just when we make it through the holidays and take a deep breath, maybe rest for a day, we get started on counting. We've been working our way through all the drawers and nooks and crannies in the office (doing a little cleaning and organizing as I go, but also making a list of more that needs to be done). Sunday will be the grand finale, when we call in all the part-timers (Mom is off the hook this year) and spend the day counting on the sales floor. Yes, we will be closed that day: January 12th. As a customer kindly pointed out, at least we get to count pretty things.

In addition to all the year-end stuff, despite any reluctance to think about the next holiday (seems too early, doesn't it?), it IS time for us to get our orders in for Valentine's Day. We learned the unhappy news yesterday that Archiver's is closing so we quickly rushed out to get paper for our upcoming workshops at the libraries (Valentine-themed for Sachi's three in February and travel-themed for mine in March). I know some people who just didn't get into the whole scrapbooking thing, but I think they were missing out. I have bought some great papers for collage and book pages and I will really miss the amazing selection they have. I feel the need to think about what possible projects I might have in the next four years and go back once again (already been there twice since I learned the news). We're putting together paper packs and craft kits for Valentine's Day, and we also ordered some mini notecards and envelopes so the kiddos can craft their own Valentine's for school. They DO still do that, don't they? I have such fond memories of decorating my shoebox in elementary school.... Sachi's also placing orders for some new individual Valentine's and we are preparing the craft table for a card-making extravaganza starting in February.

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Although this is generally the very slow time of year that does not warrant any buying at all, we are replenishing some of our t-shirt stock. Still waiting for the Wi/Mn hugging t-shirt to come back but we did get our Represent shirt, Easy Breezy Beersy and the Wisconsin bicycle. Most other items won't be restocked until later in spring.

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We are off to a good start as far as creative endeavors/resolutions. I still have a variety of new projects in mind and some very vague ideas, but I did sign up for PhotoShop so I am looking forward to doing more with my Madison photographs, maybe making some new prints and notecards for the shop. After her screenprinting class in the fall, Sachi is raring to go. She finally hauled out the Gocco printer she's had for ages, and has been printing like mad for the past two nights. This is her first design, I'm sure she has many more to come. I have some ideas myself - the question is whether I can transmit them from my brain to paper. We'll see - I've had limited success with such endeavors in the past. At home I had a flurry of picking-up which resulted in a more cluttered studio but a clean-up living room and entryway... which I have promptly re-cluttered. I'm trying to get a better handle on all the paper I have: magazines and catalogs for collage, also school notes and ephemera from my past. I had a morbid thought that if I suddenly got hit by a car, my place would be pure hell on my mom and sister to clean out so I'm going to try and wrangle some of that paper. Anyway, the result is a lot of piles in my livingroom right now. But I'm making progress. I did come across a box of childhood artwork, including the card for my mom which I distinctly remember thinking was the most beautiful thing I'd ever made. And I came across some drawings of mine from when I was 4 and a half. Not that I was a child prodigy, but when I saw them, I thought, "hey, I could draw!" I think because my sister is so totally amazing at drawing, I always left that realm to her, but that is something that I would like to explore more - in my own, overly simplified way. Which is to say that maybe, just maybe, I will be able to generate something that will end up being a Gocco print. We'll see.

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In the process of cleaning up, I came across my pile of crochet and knitting and almost dove back into that, except I couldn't remember how to cast on. Clearly I need some refresher lessons. And so, instead of getting distracted by something else, I returned to my book of painted pages. After my book arts holiday meeting, I had lots of suggestions and thoughts to mull over. I'm going to end up creating a set of four books and then make a box to house them. The big pile of pages was just getting unwieldy, particularly given my inexpert binding skills. I had a grand idea of trying all sorts of different binding but decided that the cool thing about the spine is the edge of the painted pages and they don't really need any distraction or further embellishment. So I'm going with the simple coptic stitch, using six needles near the center of the spine (there are some smaller pages that are centered in the book so I can't have stitching along the whole length of the spine). The book is a little wiggly, but I have made improvements from the first two books that I bound - always satisfying to see improvement. Now I have to make covers for the other three books so I'm back to drawing with the compass and ruler. I think I will use different color thread for each book and will just adjust the placement of the sewing stations on each book so that there's no imagining that each book will be identical to the next one. I'm just not that good with measuring and precision.

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On a small note, I taught my niece how to make yarn pom poms - I remember making them obsessively when I was in 5th grade. She picked out about four colors of yarn to mix in and I just let it go. I'm learning. Twice now she has started doing something that I would personally NOT do; once I tried to overrule her and ended up with a tantrum on my hands, and the next time I decided to avoid the tantrum (thinking that I would end up saying "I told you so") only to realize that her original plan was much more awesome than mine was going to be.  SO, now I just let her do her thing - which is what art is supposed to be about anyway, I know. When I made pom poms as a kid, I definitely only used one color and was so compulsive about matching that I surely wouldn't have put together the yarns that she did. Yet her pom poms turned out totally awesome. She had to trim some yarns because they were "frisky" but she ended up making several, and even taught her BaPoh (our Dad) how to make them.

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inspiration/work

I've been feeling a little tired and preoccupied lately, not exactly ideal considering we are going into the busiest 3 weeks of the year... though perhaps understandable given that situation. Dad's recovery from surgery is going smoothly enough, but there is a part of my brain preoccupied with whether he's getting enough walks, should I hide the car so he doesn't try to drive it, is it my turn to bring him breakfast, did I put enough things around the house for him to do but not bend/twist/lift, and so on. Add to that the usual pre-holiday preparations - finding room for all the merchandise arriving, making room for the holiday section in the store, trying to make sense of the chaos in the office, writing the draft of my holiday letter, thinking about postcards and gift bags, finalizing my list of presents to give and make...  Not to mention the general pressure of wondering if I over/under bought and whether we will have too much or too little for customers. I am also housesitting in a week so I am trying to come up with my list of projects to work on and things to pack. Then again, I am reminded of one of my new favorite postcards:

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Anyway, all this preoccupation means I've been a little lazy on the making end of things. Though my consignment check in October sent me into a little tizzy, I've had my share of evenings spent working on jigsaw puzzles or mix tapes - neither of which have any effect on my November consignment check.  But this week was rather tiring, given the amount of work that I did to rearrange the store and set up phase I of the holiday window. Then again, I posted various things on our Facebook page - generally to the effect of Jack London's words that I love so much:

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

So as I sat at home feeling tired and deserving of rest, I gave myself a little "snap out of it" speech and went to the sewing room for a few hours over the last few days. Walking in there, I was bombarded with a number of projects that have been started which could use my attention - headbands and garlands, an altered skirt, aprons...  Just a wee bit overwhelming. But I stayed on task, working on a batch of batik scarves that I started a long long time ago. In fact, the strips of batik fabric leftover from quilting had been sewn together for a completely different project - that's how long ago I started: I was doing something else. But I thought it might be lovely to have such colors wrapped around one's neck so I had a little more stitching to do and then I was able to back them with flannel and make them into scarves. I managed to finish a prototype last week and then had 6 more to make, which I finished up last night. Here they all are, laid out on the table...and yes, making me feel like they would have been cool all together as a quilt. Though I made myself a bed quilt last year, I haven't had time for quilting the way I used to. It is starting to feel like a past life. But I sure do love working with batiks. The batik fabric isn't very drapey but the flannel on the back is nice and I made them extra long so you can double them around your neck. I'm quite pleased. Now to figure out the next project. Though I'm starting to think that perhaps it will be a non-store project and I will finally learn to bind a book and will finish up my book of quotations on painted pages. I haven't worked on that for a few weeks - but I sure do love those pages.

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In other vaguely store news, Sachi is working with Lakeview and Monroe Street public libraries to have a gift tag/wrap workshop at each branch in December. Unfortunately, we really do run into space and time limitations during the holidays here at the shop. So, for December, the craft table becomes a product table: right now it is hosting our boxed notecards early bird sale (25% off holiday boxed notes from now through December 1) and then it will become the Christmas table after December 1.  Luckily, there is space at the libraries...  In other library news, I am exploring the possibilities of the resident artist program at the Bubbler which would be super cool and is leading me to dream of all the projects I could work on and share with other people. It reminds me much of the feeling I had before we opened the store - I brought all sorts of projects into the shop because I thought I would get so much work done, only to realize that doesn't really work out along with delivering customer service. Still, the idea of library studio space is very tempting....

Shop31 083Other arrivals this week include "I'm with Bucky" t-shirts, messenger bags with colorful/pretty/fun fabric prints on their front flap, wrapping paper, and letterpress notecards. There are a few items that are not yet running out but which are running low so I have some anxiety about the people who are in the "just looking" phase - worrying that they will come back the week before Christmas and be disappointed. My list so far is : Wisconsin pint glasses, Madison neighborhood print, specific sizes of specific t-shirts, cut-out letter books.  Oh, well, now that I see it written out, it's not so bad. The reality is that we will hopefully have something else that is just as suitable and if they are really really attached to giving a particular thing to a particular person, they would have bought it already, right? Being someone who buys things when I see them and think they would be perfect for someone, it is always a challenge for me to understand the people who see something they like and then wait to purchase it  (I'm not really talking about financial constraints; I am talking about the people who seem to consistently say to me: oh darn, if only I had bought that when I saw it). But perhaps I can't take full responsibility for someone's disappointment. That would alleviate some of the preoccupations of my brain.

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It is also the season for our holiday ads so we've enjoyed seeing those in print. We were particularly happy with the work of local artist Stefanie Lin who is the Crafty Helper who both loaned us her child and her photography skills to provide the photo for the ad featuring the Wi/Mn onesie. It was really wonderful to have an idea for an ad and then be able to delegate some of the work. I need to work on my delegating skills some more - that is always a challenge for me.

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But I also feel the need to sit down and make a list for the next 6 weeks and maybe do some prioritizing. I am terrible at getting distracted with tasks that aren't at all urgent, which only makes the urgent tasks even more urgent and stressful. Yet another thing that needs improvement. But now I'm going to go think about what I would pack to be an artist in residence... never mind that would happen in 2014....  But, really, wouldn't YOU like to see what the two Komai sisters would come up with for such a thing?!