Take What You Need

HI know, I know, I've been gone so long. I haven't quite been reduced to 140 characters yet, but I guess we've been spending more time over on Instagram. I had a vague idea that the second half of the year would be slightly less work than the first half of the year. My new vague idea is that next year is going to be about working smarter rather than working harder. We'll see how that goes. I did get to take a couple art workshops this year so that has been a nice treat. Of all people, I feel like I shouldn't have to sign up for an art class in order to block off the time to create. But there's a big difference between two hours at night and two full days in a row over a weekend.

I have lost count of the number of new cards that Sachi came out with this year. She has been VERY busy. Sibling rivalry propels me to try and keep up. Then I look at the photos and it looks suspiciously like Sachi is making products for the store while I am dilly dallying around with collage. Sachi has five new holiday cards that are available singly and boxed, not to mention an assortment of every day and other occasion cards.



I have this vague idea that someday there will be Madison-related collages that turn into... something... cards? prints? But for now, not so much. After one card in a group tarot show, I ended up making a collage book of tarot - not the whole deck... yet....



I did make some new postcards inspired by our trip to Portland. Portland! What a wonderful trip that was. We were inspired by brick & mortar retail and have both been creating Madison/Midwest images that spun off from the PDX/Pacific Northwest items that we saw while away.



Oh, and Sachi made this amazing diorama of the store. So incredible! This is our holiday postcard and if you'd like a copy for yourself, please feel free to email us at Anthology@tds.net with your mailing address.

Last but definitely not least, because who doesn't need a project in the busiest time of the year: our take what you need flyer. I made this hand-lettered flyer for our library residency a few years ago. I had it posted in the library and enjoyed conversations with people about what they took. I was particularly interested to see what was left. Love was usually one of the first to go, the high road one of the last. Occasionally we post these outside our door on State Street and I was thinking - in the midst of Thanksgiving and stress about what the President and Congress could possibly do next to undermine the ideals of this nation - that it would be a fine thing to post them for the rest of the year.... which led to a customer calling me to ask if she could purchase them.... which eventually led to me thinking that sharing this widely, and freely, is probably the best thing for this time of year.... which then made me wonder if we could post these in all 50 states. Perhaps by the end of the year is ambitious, but I am willing to set high goals and adjust them later if needed.


So, we'd love it if you'd play along. Here's the link for the file. We'd love it if you would download, print and post... and then snap a picture and tag us on Facebook or Instagram @Anthology218. #takewhatyouneed.

Hope you get everything you need this holiday season!


so much Portland love

Sachi and I just got back from a long weekend in Portland. So much fun! Well, we were "working" (as my niece says, with air quotes): in addition to attending the Portland Renegade Craft Fair, we went to lots of paper/indie craft/gift stores. There were so many in Portland! I am feeling much more optimistic about the future of brick and mortar retail. Obviously we are biased, but we think that there is a lot of value in small and independent stores, in local business, and in being able to put one's hands on the merchandise you are interested in buying. We enjoyed seeing the many Portland artists at work, and finding their work at many local and indie shops. There is something going on with illustration out there which we haven't seen as much of here in the Midwest. Can't quite put our finger on it, but there were several people doing goache and watercolor to pleasing effect. Sachi was constantly sketching out new designs so she should be busy for the rest of the year. We are always a little jealous traveling to larger cities which have a much wider pool of artists making custom souvenir goods... but that just means more for Sachi and I to make. You can review our travels on Instagram. 



Some of our favorite shops were:




Crafty Wonderland

Little Otsu

Tender Loving Empire (between them and the MSP airport, we are feeling optimistic about the future of airport retail in particular).


We were also totally charmed by an art exhibit at The Tiny Llama with work by Becky Margraf. That was a surprise find and all the more charming for it.

And, yes, we ate at Voodoo Donuts.

summer in full swing, and Sachi still creating like mad


It has been a busy few months here at Anthology. As the weather warms up, summer tourist season starts in earnest. There's a different feeling to downtown now that most of the students are gone for the summer, but they are replaced by vacationers from all over the world. I hope we are being good representatives of liberal sentiment in the U.S. - certainly the buttons have remained popular tourist purchases, as well as symbols for people to wear when they travel abroad. At least a half-dozen customers have come in to buy buttons so their politics are clear when they travel. I've given up on trying to keep up with reacting to the current administration, but Sachi just put together a new set of buttons which will debut this week.

Speaking of Sachi, today's picture, I think, best captures this first half of the year. Sachi has been on fire! She made this little diorama of the store, including miniature wrapping paper display and mini Laura and Sachi (and mailman John, not pictured). How amazing is that?! I have lost count of the cards she made: 2 Madison summer postcards, a Prince card, a cheese curd card, a bike Madison t-shirt, a trike Madison t-shirt. I'm sure I'm forgetting some things. Oh, lots of Christmas cards. Things usually get busier in late fall and we had at least two years of thinking we should make cards but not getting to it. Sachi is being proactive and has a bunch lined up for the printer.

As for me, I have a few designs rolling around in my head and I have made a few cards. I am working on two big photo snippet prints which are taking forever but are getting close. I have mostly been collaging (playing) with the books started in Kelly Kilmer workshops. There are several piles of collage materials on the living room floor at home. We are heading to Portland at the end of the month to Renegade Craft Fair, and to the many indie and local shops in the city. We aren't only going to see the wall of washi tape at Collage, but that's obviously a big draw.

As for the store, Wisco goods continue to be strong. Tourist season is always a good time for selling tea towels as those are easy and portable gifts. Just this week we received three big boxes from across the Pacific, filled with bookmarks, postcards, washi tape and stickers. Sigh... stickers. I love them so. We have started receiving goods from our May trip to New York so there are new cards, stationery sets, journals, and more. I still see a few spaces where I can do some crunching and rearranging, but it's all pretty full. I sometimes think back on the early days of the store - we used to fit all our card backstock in three little boxes in our white metal medicine cabinet. That would hardly do the trick nowadays. But there is so much temptation to be found!

getting ready for Kelly Kilmer

Oooh... I am so excited! Kelly Kilmer is coming to Madison to teach a workshop at Anthology! I wished for this so badly when I was in California last year and now it is happening! She's going to be teaching a Book of Intentions so I've been thinking about what my intentions are. For years, "store by 40" was my mantra and then it happened, before the deadline even, and now I've been kind of at a loss. Nothing quite so clean has come along. A part of me wishes for more space but the last time I wished for that, we ended up with an artist residency at the downtown public library and that was a bit too much space. "Be careful what you wish for" is always on my mind.  So, anyway, the last few weeks, I have been preoccupied thinking about intentions, but also sorting through all my collage ephemera. I quickly made up Blurb book v. 4 so there is no lack of collage imagery to choose from. That's never really been the problem. I have created a pile of images to bring to the workshop but think I need to go through them one more time to narrow the pile. It would be ideal not to spend too much time during the workshop sifting through pages. Though I have been thinking of my intentions going forward, I was also going over some childhood photos for another project so I started to think about the way my past forms my future. Which led me to the decision to use old pictures of the women of my family tree for my focal points. Kelly has an interesting approach, different from my own, which really divides things into focal points and background (whereas I just divide things into color). Her approach has really helped add a little more depth to my collages so that's been nice. The assignment for workshop prep was to find 10-15 focal images. Ha. Yeah, some winnowing is definitely in order. I ended up digging up some old pictures of the women in our family- this one is my mom and her adopted mom. How fancy is Grandma?! 



Ok, that was terrible - we have had all the anticipation leading up to the National Stationery Show, all the hard work/fun of the trip to NYC, and a couple weeks of trying to clean up after our trip and I am only just now getting to a blog post. I apologize. Good intentions are not helping me that much. Perhaps you were following us on Instagram? That's really the best place for keeping up to date on new arrivals, especially since I finally got a smart(ish) phone. Up until this point, all the Komais have been using flip phones which makes texting and posting pictures a challenge. But we fixed that.

ANYWAY, what to say about New York?


IMG_20170606_101154 (2)

It's always a whirlwind of walking up and down the aisles and trying to make decisions and plans (what to do for the holiday window? what should Sachi make next?), combined with the usual whirlwind that is New York with all there is to see and do, and eat. I came home feeling like I needed a vacation to recuperate. But jumped right back in because shipments started arriving right away! There are staggered ship dates between now and October but some of the arrivals are already brightening up the place. The trend of neon bright colors is still going strong so we couldn't resist. Of course we found washi tape. Wrapping paper, including fun patterns of ice cream, hot dots, strawberries and watermelons. More patches and pins. Some new sheets of wrapping paper. And generally just more paper goodness that we are incapable of saying no to.  We've already been busy unpacking new arrivals and trying to find space for everything. I really need to spend some time cleaning the office. I've been saying that since January.

Kelly in Wisconsin!

Eek! you guys! I am SO excited! After long wishing to take a workshop from Kelly Kilmer, I worked out all the logistics last fall and went to San Francisco to take workshops from her. They were, in short, everything I was hoping they would be and I had such a wonderful time. There was, however, a tiny part of me throwing a toddler temper tantrum because my dear friend and collage buddy was in Milwaukee and could not be with me. I started scheming then about what it would take to fly her to San Fran, arrange child care, get her time off work, all so that we could take a workshop together. But then Kelly started talking about driving to New York.... and, hey! Madison is on the way. Sort of. Well, we are close to Chicago where she wanted to go so I just begged.... and, lo and behold, she's coming to Madison. I cannot be more thrilled. As soon as I have more details I will share them everywhere.

So far this year, I've been working a lot in one of the books that I started in her workshop in October. I still had some blank pages so I've been trying to fill those in. I find it helps me to have a bit of a theme/story in mind and because I enjoyed being a part of the tarot card exhibit, I decided to make one of my books a tarot book. I had some images picked out already so I went through the various cards and tried to find ones that spoke to me and to the pages I had started. My pages are: the moon, the empress, the star, the three of wands, the chariot, the world, the wheel of fortune, death, the hermit, the high priestess, the magician. I don't know what that whole collection means. I am not really practicing what Kelly preaches as I should have a much smaller pile of collage papers so I've been spending a lot of time just shuffling through those. But that's part of the process for me. Now that I know she's coming to Madison, I will have to start sorting in earnest and set aside my pile for her workshop. I have a little bit more painting to do and then will move onto the final step which is adding text. Much of these early steps are a little more mass production oriented, just playing with color, trying to get something down on the pages. For the text, I need to quiet my mind a bit more and figuring out what to write. Good luck with that.


I have been feeling this last year that I have been working so hard. It's not bad. But I liken it to being a parent - being so wrapped up in infanthood (diaper-changing) that it is hard to see beyond that and then suddenly, the children are 10 and, yay! you don't have to change their diapers anymore, but it turns out that even though what was all-consuming 9 years ago has gone away, there are new and other aspects that still require parenting and work. So, too, as Anthology has grown. There are some aspects that don't quite seem as hard-scrabble anymore - in general, people know who and what we are; we have part-timers so it isn't just Sachi and me covering all the evening shifts...  but now there are things like supervising part-timers (not one of my strong points), and the ongoing work of who and what we are, not to mention what is ahead for the next 10 years.  "Good things come to those who hustle," runs through my head a lot. So, anyway, it feels like a lot of hustle, but also some of that 10 years of hustle coming to fruition. Hosting a Kelly Kilmer workshop, being accepted to exhibit at the Central Library, these are big things that have happened in the last couple months but there has been a lot of hustle leading up to them. But, yay for being rewarded!

Now I have to go and make some Blurb magazines so we have collage material for our workshop!

that sister of mine

Goodness but Sachi has been on a roll this year! She keeps telling me she's finished, and then she shows up with three new watercolors. Right now she is working on finishing touches for some more new cards. But on Wednesday she told me in the morning that she wanted to make a sample card for our Mother's Day card-making table.... and by Wednesday afternoon she had this:


Mind you, the card was blank in the morning. Her drawing skills astound me.Of course, I had to send it off to the printers to make into cards. There's no such thing as too many Mother's Day cards. It seems like every year we both buy more cards and have the same last-minute scramble to fill in the spinner with floral thank-yous and other pseudo Mother's Day cards. I feel like we are in better shape this year. But there's still time. This year has been a strange combination of time going slowly and quickly - hard to believe there are just two weekends left, and extra condensed this year because graduation and Mother's Day are the same weekend. It's going to be a challenge to fit everything into the window. Huh, now that I think of it, I should have made that into a big print.



buttons. of course


Well, if there's one thing Donald Trump is good for, it is button sales. Our dad still says we should write a thank-you note to Scott Walker for all our buttons. I refuse to do so. and likewise for Donald. I have many qualms about the current political climate, particularly as it relates to the well-being of our customers and general economic inequality in this country, but for the short term, we are enjoying the little burst of energy that comes from needing to make buttons to respond to the situation. The March for Science last weekend brought a flurry of science button making. I have enjoyed seeing the various marches all over the country, mostly from Instagram hashtags like #marchforscience #womensmarch. More importantly, I am glad to see people using social media post-march to encourage the next steps: calling representatives, voting, running for office, etc. I know there are some who would dismiss protest and march as a waste of time and even though I can see ways that the Wisconsin protests of 2011 did not have the desired effect, I see rising involvement and engagement that gives me hope. So, yes, we're still making buttons.

book page flowers at the library


I did a little more Gelli printing on book pages this week in preparation for next week's book page flower workshop at Lakeview library. Gelli printing always seems like something that takes a bit to get into - the first several pages are kind of duds, but you can always print more on top of them, plus they are just going to be cut up. I think that contrasting colors actually work better, as long as you don't brayer them to mud. But maybe flower petals should not be so contrasting. The flower structure and construction is pretty simple but I love the look of the flowers that come from various book pages. I do like the look of painted paper so thought I'd make more of that. Since it has been a rainy week, that has given me time to do more printing. Plus, I need to refresh the flowers in our door stop.  A perfect spring activity.

Komai sister productivity/creativity

Well, I am a long way from catching up to my sister but I made a little dent last night. I have several projects rolling around in my head but fear that my skills are not up to the task so we'll see where that actually takes me. In the meantime, I'm watercolor doodling and mulling over... well, I don't know what it will be. In addition to the limitations of my skills, I am limited somewhat by printing capabilities. My new resolution for this year is to finally figure out how to get custom wrapping paper printed, and also to maybe deal with the Madison washi tape that has been on the back burner. We'll see how far I get. My challenge right now is balancing my desire for unlimited colors with what works for printing technology.

In the meantime, I spent last night on my second-ever screen printing sessions. Lesley Anne Numbers is wrapping up her artist residency at the Bubbler and wow, did she go all out. She hosted many different workshops, coordinated the massive two-deck tarot project and generated so many prints of her own that she had a table of prints she was giving away. I'm blown away by her talent and generosity. Last night was the last screen printing open studio. For a workshop I took earlier, Lesley let us use her screens to print so I went expecting to do that, only to find empty screens and start from scratch instructions. What I thought would be a short sampling of screen printing turned into a three hour affair, starting from trying to figure out what I would make and all the steps in between leading up to printing on paper. Luckily I had done some graphic design work for the shop so I had some material to draw upon, and I didn't get bogged down trying to think of some object to draw which would come up short of my expectations. When all else fails, go with text! I could have spent three hours just trying to make up my mind so I'm happy that things worked out with respect to narrowing the field of ideas. My niece asked me to make her a Princess Bubblegum t-shirt so this is the legwork towards that end. I didn't have a shirt with me so I printed on paper (went a little crazy with printing because I didn't want to waste ink, only to find out that I could scoop the ink back into its container - definitely not something that I try with acrylic paint, but maybe that's just because it is too hard to put paint back into a tube). And I might just end up sending the design to our local screenprinter to make shirts. My biggest challenge as always is to figure out how to simply use line and shape to delineate space, given how much I rely on color to do that job. And no, a multi-screen printing did not even cross my mind - or, rather, it did, but I dismissed it immediately for my lack of skill set in that arena. Just lining up the paper/screen/design precisely seems beyond me. Lesley and I have a long back and forth about screen printing vs. offset printing - my Capitalism and desire for efficiency usually tip the scales to offset printing in my world, not the least reason being that it frees me up to work on the zillion other ideas that I'm thinking about. But I do see the merits of screen printing and certainly love the look of ink sitting on top of paper, not to mention the satisfaction of the process so I am willing to concede those points to Lesley. But, yes, I'll probably make some offset printed postcards of this image.


I don't know if you are familiar with the TV show Adventure Time. A friend's husband casually mentioned it once and I watch it with Lily. There are some parts of it that I wouldn't really consider family-friendly but there are some really sweet moments that have endeared it to me. Not to mention that I identify strongly with Princess Bubblegum as both princess and scientist. Anyway, the quote is from Princess Bubblegum.


Meanwhile, Sachi has sent a series of images off to the various printers (offset and screen printing). One of her latest is her version of the Madison flag. I mean, what more is there to say? Look at all those little drawings! I love the way she put various lake objects in the two blue triangles that are supposed to represent the lakes. This image will also be available as a print... and, yes, I should make a postcard of this one also.


Besides her Madison flag, Sachi has a few other projects in the works. My mom tells the story of how it seemed like Sachi was taken a while to learn to walk but Mom once caught her practicing in the driveway when no one was looking. Like that, I feel like I tend to see the very beginning of a project and then all of a sudden it is completed. It is a mark of her talent, but also her hidden practicing and work - she makes it look easy but I know there is more to it than that.


Oh, and then I think I forgot to mention the other big news: the two Komai sisters' application to exhibit in the third floor of the Central Library was accepted! I have to admit I was having a lot of insecurity over whether our application would be up to snuff of the Art world. I know that my sister has the credentials at least, but I didn't send the best possible images (because I didn't want to take the pieces out of their frames) and I felt that I had to kind of push the round peg of Anthology into the square hole of an art exhibit. So, anyway, that will be something to look for next year, which is perfectly timed as that coincides with our 10th anniversary. The title of the show is Line and Color are Sisters, and will be a Komai sister compare/contrast. I don't know if we've ever had a show with just the two of us and I am looking forward to putting it together. There are definitely ways that I can see that Sachi has had an influence on my work so I think it will be fun to have a side by side comparison.