now it's really looking a lot like Christmas

Though I promise that we still only have holiday music at about 50%. I'm mindful of the fact that not everyone loves this time of year as much as I do, let alone feels cheerful hearing yet another round of "Santa Baby." I had an enjoyable day off before Thanksgiving exploring some of my favorite shops in town. Though it goes against the principles of the season for me to do to much shopping for myself, I've got my eye on some gorgeous alpaca throws at Pieces Unimagined (where I could also spend a lot of money on fixtures if I ever had more square footage) and a sweet ceramic cloud factory at Hazel. Meanwhile at Anthology, I wasn't entirely ready to let go of the post-election window but amazingly my Donald Trump dinosaur print fits right in with the natural history museum theme that I had planned for the holiday window. 

 

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oh, and yes, we are still making buttons. Someone told me our button table made them sad, but we still have customers coming in to reenact the moment Hillary was shopping in our store and there are many "Nasty Women Vote" buttons that are going to show up in stockings this year, I'm guessing.

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I had an unexpectedly long shift yesterday but that gave me time to do a little rearranging around the shop. There's still plenty to choose from, trust me, but a few holes are opening up. We have a few last-minute shipments arriving but on the whole, selection is best the sooner you come in. We've spent the year picking out and designing goods for you and hope we can help you find just the right present. Sachi is particularly good at brainstorming ideas.

Our Wisconsin ornaments have been especially popular and we are so grateful that Amie in Lone Rock has been able to keep us so well stocked.

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I've gotten distracted with art projects not related to the shop like printing my holiday letter envelopes and making editions of my 2x2 book for our book arts group trade. Not to mention the looming deadline of getting craft projects done with a 9 year-old. I'm not sure how I ended up with so much hand-sewing. Oh, yes, that's right, I'm the person who introduced her to Pinterest. Stupid move.

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Meanwhile, Sachi has started work on a new design for the shop. We always laugh over Portlandia's "Put a Bird on It" except for us it is "Put a Wisconsin" on it.

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As the year comes to a close, we reflect on the challenges but also our immense gratitude for all of our customers, and for all the ways that our work at Anthology enables us to connect to our community and to fulfill our American Dream. I regularly have to consult my little book of compliments, but it makes relentless love a lot easier when I keep my eye on the prize that we've created and won.

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relentless love is required

You'll have to excuse me because now a part of me is always trying to think in short phrases that will fit on a button. There are a few that have been rolling around in my head for a while - "resolved not resigned" came to mind a few weeks ago, but some new ones came to mind last night. But I'm running with relentless love.

Here's my little story from election night: as you know, we have been making lots of buttons here at the shop. The process basically requires that an original image be created (by us or the amazing Emily) and then brought to the copy shop to be reproduced. Now, we have shifted almost all of our copy work over to small local businesses except for this last piece which is usually just a page at a time. So, since October 19th, the copy shop guys have been printing pages of buttons for us. 3000 buttons, 20 to a page. Let's see, there was "I voted for her, take that asshole," "nasty woman voter," "votes coming out of my whatever," "I'm not with stupid," "I vote for tacos." I don't think there's anything wrong with that even if you do take exception to my "he started it" and think that I should have let the nasty woman comment pass. I feel that Hillary was merely stating a fact and was being called nasty for it and thus I feel that perhaps the word nasty will be thrown around a lot just because there are still a lot of nasty facts out there. I will note that Michelle's "when they go low, we go high" button has also been a best seller. Anyway, I have had nothing but civil interactions with the copy shop guys, just the usual retail transaction you'd expect. Then, on election night around 7 pm, I had to run over to get one last sign for the window. Just before I arrived at the counter, another sales associate was also approaching. The one behind the counter says to the approaching one: "Trump is ahead," and the approaching guy says, "good." Then I arrived at the counter, he gave me my copy and I said thanks and turned around and left. Now, wasn't that rather passive-aggressive to mention Trump just as I was approaching? I thought so. Should I have said something? I've always felt, as in the case of our store and our windows, that I have already used my actions to make my point. Perhaps I'm relying too much on being an introvert and wanting to avoid a confrontation and perhaps I should learn to think faster. I never think of anything to say until later. Should I do better about that? Though, really, they'd probably say I started it. And perhaps the Donald Trump as a toy dinosaur put them over the edge. Who knows.

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Anyway, yes, I will be switching copy shops. Yes, I am irritated with those guys. But I also feel sorry for them because a) I've worked corporate retail before and it is not a good feeling to be such a small cog in such a big operation, not to mention that uncharming warehouse space and b) what kind of life do you have where you want change in the system so you put your hopes behind someone who has done nothing but profit from the system and step on people like you to get what he wants, who promises to blow up the system which is one of the few things that is actually designed to help your life? when your hopes are placed in anger and fueled by hatred? I feel that there's going to be a disappointing outcome and not just for those of us who wanted a better outcome. But anyway, relentless love means I don't yell at the copy shop guys. Relentless love does mean that I make as many mindful choices as I can about the direction I want for this world. For me, most of that is moving as much of my money to small local businesses as I can, because I believe that small local businesses are better employers, do more for their community, and oh yeah, also don't make enough money to spend too much of it on lobbyists or donations to causes I disagree with. Relentless love does mean I keep making buttons. Perhaps a few will call someone an asshole, but the majority will be about the direction and the life that I want, not one consumed by hatred or anger or sorrow but one where I have pursued my passion and my creativity and where I help other people pursue theirs because that, I believe, is the only way for the world to be. Otherwise, I just don't see the point.

Oh yeah, and relentless love means I am giving serious considering to bringing back friendship pins. Remember those? I read an article about how people in Britain are wearing safety pins as a symbol of refuge, of safety. So that someone can be walking down the street and know they have an ally. But how fun would it be to be walking down the street and someone gives you a FRIENDSHIP PIN? Think about it. Also, I think we should see if the Southerners don't mind if we borrow "bless your heart" for a while. I feel like maybe that is a good response for a variety of situations. Like if you are walking down the street and someone yells out the n-word to someone walking near you - should you yell back "bless your heart!" or maybe just say to that person walking near you "bless their heart." Or to the guy with the Trump shirt who swaggered into the store yesterday? I would have liked to be able to pull off a "bless your heart" with just the right tone of voice. I'll have to practice that.

So here's what I'm thinking, in no particular order:

a. Action. Komai women are women of action. We don't do so well when we don't have a plan and I for sure have a lot of trouble with uncertainty. Drives my brother-in-law crazy that I can't be spontaneous, but there it is. Mostly because when I am uncertain, my mind is constantly running through the various options, what steps I will have to take, and the various outcomes. It takes a lot of energy and is irritating because I know that most of it is wasted since most of those outcomes won't even happen. So, fine, now I know what the outcome of the election is. I can start to make the plan for the next steps. I installed the window yesterday, I have buttons to make. Safety pins to dig up. One last photocopy job for the copy shop guys just to make sure they know that I am undefeated. 

(p.s. Two people recommended "ghost them" and "don't give them any more of your money." After complaining that no one takes the high road from my "take what you need" signs, I decided to take the high road. Not only not send them the dinosaur print, not even send them a relentless love button. Practicing what you preach is always so hard. I sent my copies to the new copy shop. I do not need the last word in the "battle" with two copy shop guys. They can have that "win." When I picked up my copies, the new copy shop guy complimented me on my dinosaur print so that's high road for the win.)

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b. Connection. (you can skip if you read this on Facebook, but it is still part of my thoughts).  I REALLY did not want three Scott Walker wins to be good training for anything at all but I have learned a few things since 2011. Yes, horrible things are going to happen. In fact, there are going to be horrible things that you didn't even think about! So that really sucks. And even if thousands of you come out and protest, most likely, it will fall on deaf ears. EXCEPT for the ears of the people who are standing with you. And there are a lot of people standing with you. You have to be standing and you have to speaking to realize that people are standing and speaking with you, but they are there. Trust me. And all of this? It requires love, and it requires work, a lot of hard work. There are big forces in the world that feed on hate and fear and sorrow. They have always been with us. As an introvert, I would like to stay at home in my pajamas and just put Viggo's speech at the Black Gate on repeat. But that's exactly where those big forces do their work, when you are alone and disconnected and scared. As a store owner, as a citizen, as a Christian, I have been called out from my cozy nest. At times, it has been uncomfortable but I PROMISE that the reward was worth it. The connection, the love, the passion? it overwhelms the feeling that you can ease your pain if you just yell more or hate more or buy more or drink more. It shows you that the world is chock full of people who are following their passion, who are committed to what they love, who are working full out on their vision for this world and are doing so out of a grand sense of connection and love.

So, yes, the Scott Walkers of the world are going to continue to do bad things. I don't want to scare you, but they are going to do bad things you didn't even realize they could do. But your response cannot be to flee or to hide because those forces will just find you wherever you are. The only way to fight them is to join the fight wherever you are called: to shed light and love however you can, to call out injustice, to invite other people to find what they love, to challenge yourself in the ways you are complicit in a system that feeds on hate and sorrow and division. And when you join the fight, you will find that even though there are bad things you never even imagined, there is more power and love and connection than you could have ever imagined to fight this battle with you. And if you need numbers: I have been yelled at two times since 2011 and overheard disgusted mutters many times over that but we have sold 44,617 buttons and made at least triple that in connections to our community and customers. So the numbers are on the side of love.

c. Change. Have I ever told you about my death throes theory? I'm sure that I have. Here's the theory: there was a time in America's history when things were a particular way, great for some people, not so great for many other people. That time? it is in the past. It is dying or already dead. Like all times in the past, and we can't go back to it even though it looks nicer than it really was. I mean, do you really want to go back to a time when Spam was the greatest thing we had to offer? It's the old closing the barn door after the horse has fled or "that ain't no etch-a-sketch, this is one doodle can't be un-did" (that line from Juno keeps popping into my head). All that we have is moving forward, that's the only choice. So, imagine that time so far in the past and imagine that was the best time of your life, imagine that you feel that your entire life from then on has been on a steady downward slide, that there is nothing that is any better about now than what you had in the past, that all that was in the past is dead and that who you thought you were, where you thought your power and strength came from, is dying if not already dead. Sucks, right? And imagine that no one is providing you with the tools to adapt to the change, or the tools are being provided but they don't think they look like the way you thought tools should look. So, the death throes theory is that a particular way of life is dying. It is taking a while to die and the death throes are much more violent than I'd like them to be, there are people on the sidelines being struck out at but they are not really the true target. We just have to do the best we can to protect ourselves and to carry each other through these changing times. But death will come. We are not going back. We cannot go back.

d. Work. So much work to be done. It's exhausting. I know. But the more that I have learned, the more that I have seen that our American ideal of welcoming the poor, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to be free? We have a ways to go before we live up to that. Through all the ages, this country has received its immigrants with less graciousness than I would like, it has profited from the work of people without truly compensating them, it has manipulated people and it has marginalized people that don't look or act according to certain narrow expectations. The American ideal did not just fall on November 8th, it has always been rather tenuously maintained. And there are many people who have never really benefited from our "liberty and justice for all." They probably woke up on November 8th and thought, yep, just like I've been trying to tell you. I was already feeling so strongly that there is a lot of work ahead of us. Yes, it would have been easier with Hillary in the White House, yes, Donald Trump is probably going to create more work, but the work didn't suddenly appear this campaign season. In fact, if anything, what this campaign season has done (and the Obama years) has shed light on the work that needs to be done. Some of it, I'll be honest, I thought was already done. I am starting to awaken to the experience of African Americans in this country. It makes me sad and mad that we purport to hold people to certain standards of democracy and equality around the world when we are failing so miserably at it here. Over the course of this campaign, I have heard the stories that women share about casual and malicious invasions of their personhood, so many stories, stories that also make me sad and mad at this ongoing failure. But that doesn't change my feelings about the value of government and the value of pooling our resources to collectively create a better future, about our strength in our love and our ability to be good in the world, about the value of striving for our ideals. We just have to constantly push ourselves to broaden our circle. It starts with listening and connecting, crossing over lines and reaching for what brings us together instead of focusing on what divides us. And it gets going with work. It is big work about where you spend your time and your money, about being the world you want your children to inherit; it is little work about being ready to be an ally and an interrupter. When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about incidences of hate crimes that I hear on the rise. But you know, we have choices when we sit on a bus or when we are standing at a gas station or when we see someone vulnerable. I haven't quite figured out what my response is going to be. I am seriously considering adopting "bless your heart" as something to yell out. Or maybe just carrying around that box of questions for awkward single people to ask on first dates and be ready to start a conversation. Do you ignore people who are being hateful? Do you try to respond to them? Or do you just offer your presence and friendship for someone who is the target of hatred? How do you interrupt and diffuse a situation? When you've been in a situation where someone was bullying you, what would have been helpful? Someone yelling back at the bully? or someone just sitting by your side drawing your attention away from the bully? someone sitting down between you and the bully? I think we need to be more ready.

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e. Math. I just crunched the numbers for consolation. Pro: 59 million out of 318 million voted for Trump. That is NOT a majority of citizens over the age of 18. You can stop feeling sad or mad or bad about 50% of the people you see each day and knock that down to one in four, one in six if you want to include children. Con: Why is it so f*ing difficult to get people to vote? I know, the answer actually relates back to the previous paragraph. To the ideal of democracy vs. how this nation actually functions. Do you know I learned about women registering to vote for the very first time in their life? They were in their 30s and 40s! What does that say about our system that they have gone so long into their life without voting being demanded of them? And let's not even talk about all the ways the GOP has tried to obstruct the votes of African Americans or about people waiting HOURS in line to vote. In all my life of voting, I have never had to wait more than 30 minutes. Why is that not true for everyone? The reality is that a lot of people are trained to expect that their vote is meaningless, are discouraged in so many ways to even cast their vote and then it's a downward spiral between the system not working and no one demanding, via their vote, that change be made.

f. Gratitude. Oh. My. Goodness. Did you see all those people working their heart out on this campaign? I am in awe. Did you wake up feeling sad and then read all the posts on Facebook about people who were sad, but also mad and ready to stand up? Not just absorbed in what this means for them but thinking about the wider world. Perhaps feeling totally depressed or angry or sad, needing some time to grieve but also looking up and feeling committed. I am really so in love with everyone right now.

g. You know the song going through my head right now? "Everlasting Love." The Carl Carlton version if we must be honest. Except instead of "everlasting," "relentless." That's what I have to come back to. Because the other option? The other option is to be so overwhelmed with fear or sorrow or anger that you've forgotten what you love, what gets you out of bed in the morning, what propels you forward. The other option is to let your anger consume you so that you stop seeing what connects you to other people and you only see how you are divided. You stop seeing that you have choices to make. And then you become everything you are feeling sad or mad or bad about.

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collaging with Kelly Kilmer

Election night. Eek. Are you freaking out? The rest of the family is working the polls so I was left today to tend shop and commiserate with anyone who comes in and try to put on a cheerful face. But that's probably better than staying at home fretting. I certainly will be spending a lot of time getting consolation from Pantsuit Nation. Except the one drawback is that now I feel even more pressure now that I've read so many stories of all the different people around this country who are voting for Hillary and whose well-being depends on the outcome. We're not just talking sanity and ability to hold one's head up in the world, I mean whether or not they get to stay a family, whether or not their child gets health care. As I was saying, eek.

But probably enough has been said on the matter. I mean, I could have said more but I had this entire post written at 2 pm and when I went to hit save, the internet hung up on me and I lost it all. So, rewriting now in the evening, trying not to obsess about the early results coming in. Because what I really wanted to talk about was what motivates me as a citizen of this country and as a child of a creating God. At its core, really, is my belief that we are all children of a creating God, that we are all created in God's image and that we are precious and beloved and valued. That we all have amazing things to contribute to the world and that the world is better for all of us being in it, following our hearts and creating. And even if there is no external divine being, there is still the uniqueness that is each of us, and the constant creation and change from the moment we take a breath (and create carbon dioxide) to the moments we pick up whatever it is that we choose to do and make with our hands. For some, that is creating a home, for others that is gardens, meals, financial success for their clients, avenues for their students to grow and learn. Not to mention the knitting, crochet, the origami, paper collage, painting... I am thankful for all the creative endeavors!

Most recently, I am thankful for the opportunity that I finally gave myself to take a workshop, well, workshops (three days, four workshops) from Kelly Kilmer. Her workshops have long been on my bucket list mostly for the combination of image and text and paint that feels like it is right up my alley. I notice a lot of people painting nowadays and, frankly, I am really good at painting backgrounds but that is about it. What I've really wanted to do is create some collages with my own photographs and to work more on integrating collage images onto a page. Boy, did I get to work on that! I don't think I've had three solid days for such work in a long time - it was inspiring but also a little exhausting. I'll have to build up my stamina.

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So the first thing I should say about a Kelly Kilmer workshop is that she is not kidding when she says she doesn't pack light. Holy cow. I spent several weeks before the workshop, fretting over what to pack in my suitcase, dealing with insecurity over lack of an art journal, and so on and so forth. In the end, Kelly reassured me enough though I think next time I will just try to bring some collage image and leave the rest at home. Airport security took my deckle-edge ruler! Sad! At least they let me keep my bone folder. But, seriously, Kelly had zillions of stencils, markers, washi tape, collage images, stamps, you name it. I felt very spoiled. I didn't even need to bring an art journal to work in as we ended up making three! yes, three! books to work in.

 

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Here are a few progressions of pages from early stages to more or less done. I realize that many people might have stopped earlier and that there is something to be said for white space, but I am pretty much incapable of leaving it. I really wanted to focus on everything that Kelly was teaching us but I'm also looking forward to melding this with some of the other techniques I have learned over the years from other instructors. I'm particularly thinking of random marks making with sumi ink. Something to explore. Also, I was trying not to think too much and just focus on being present and in the process, but I am hoping eventually that some Madison related collages will come out of this. With that in mind, I tried to put a Madison photo in every single collage. But sometimes it didn't make it through to the end. I decided to let that part go and not be so focused on creating product for the store, which is certainly so much of my focus otherwise.

 

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I really liked this guy and the collage as it started to shape up. Sometimes we had a journal prompt to think about from the very beginning of the page but in this case, Kelly gave us the journal prompt towards the end. It was something like "what are you sorry about?"  Well, this guy didn't really look like he was sorry about anything so my text was pretty unapologetic. 

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Here's the start of another collage. I found it really interesting to play back and forth with focal and background images. I think my collages are so typically either flat (no difference between focal and background) or background with a single foreground. In this case, we ended up putting some focal images down early - what with paint and more collage and stencil, sometimes new focal points emerged or focal points ended up more integrated with backdrops.

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Another picture from early in the process compared to the end. Oh my goodness, I love using stencils.

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Here's a mostly finished page: my parents and my sister on the left, me on the right: 

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and another mostly finished, with my mom's adopted parents on the right: 

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and one more from the beginning:

 

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These are the pages that are still works in progress. On the right-hand side, a two-page spread that started with a journal prompt about serenity. That might be what I go home and work on for the rest of the night.  

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And the journal we created on the third day with various painting techniques, and stencils of course.  

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 and a two-page spread from the painted journal. Not quite sure where this collage is going. It still needs work.

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So, there you go: three wonderful days with an awesome teacher in an inspiring studio in California. I have plans to finish the pages in the three books that we created, plus an idea about a deck of cards with collaged images... Not to mention the Madison/Wisconsin projects I hope to work on. I should really schedule some time for myself. 

So, deep breath. Long night ahead of us. I hope after all of this is said and done we can still focus on the gifts that each one of us can bring to the world and our gratitude for what others bring to us and what their creative energy does in our world.


making buttons. again.

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Weird. I feel like I've been here before. Except this time the anxiety is about the entire nation and not just my state. It didn't end so well last time (Walker's re-election) (or the two times before that). Fourth time is a charm? And yes, I know. I've been absent from here for a while. I didn't even say anything to you after I got back from California! Eek. That trip was amazing. I am super inspired about art projects and techniques. I will fill you in shortly. Also, on recent arrivals. But let me just tell you, that nasty woman comment that Trump made during the last debate? It REALLY hit a sore spot. With a lot of people. And so, what I have been up to since October 19th? Making buttons.

I am quite tickled at the number of women, of all ages, who walk into the store looking as if they are on a mission. I'm pretty sure they are responding to Sachi's "Nasty Women buttons" sandwich board but haven't quite figured out a graceful way to say "you must be looking for nasty woman buttons."

It's like the days of the protest all over again, people surrounding the button table laughing over buttons, commiserating over family members and coworkers, not to mention Donald Trump himself. And now, just two days to go. I'm alternating between freaking out, trying to be calm so that I can be comforting to other people, reminding myself of all the work that has to be done anyway, while trying not to think too much about all the work that will have to be done should the White House become invaded by Republicans. Because, I tell you, it happened to the Governor's mansion here in Wisconsin and it ain't pretty (and even though Donald Trump is such a horrible little person with a little mind and a little heart, I have to say that the current crop of Republicans hasn't impressed me much either. ahem, Paul Ryan). 

 

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But anyway, it's hard to look up and think about other things. I'm mostly preoccupied with trying to figure out what window to install on November 9th and how many photocopies to make for new buttons. We will have sold close to 3000 in less than a month by the time Tuesday rolls around. I am grateful for Emily in Texas who provided us with a new infusion of button-making energy and has been tremendously creative and a source of great entertainment for our button table. Her many buttons have been quite a hit. I can't tell what the copy shop guys thought about the "Pussy Grabs Back" button. "Nasty Women Vote" is a simple and popular option as well. Emily even inspired us to do a little hand-lettering ourselves. Sachi made a great Russ button and I have a few other variations on the nasty woman theme. We are thinking also about new hand-lettered buttons for future series. Maybe some Wisco buttons?

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We had quite a buzz of excitement on Friday when Joe Biden was next door at the Orpheum. No, he didn't come to the shop. But it seems like everyone who went to hear him speak came and got their Nasty Woman buttons afterwards. We were swamped! But it was a lively crowd with amazing energy and a good way to kick off the last weekend of getting out the vote in all the different ways that people are working.  And also, someone invited me into the Pantsuit Nation group on Facebook and it is so wonderful! Inspiring, liable to make you tear up, a wonderful reminder of all that we are working towards and all the people working with us in this nation. It came along at a perfect moment and is making these last few days bearable.

Sachi and Mom are both working the polls on election day, and Mom has also been busy volunteering at the library helping the early voters. I'm in awe of the stories of people waiting in line for hours to cast their vote. Though also frustrated - doesn't it seem like we are a resourceful nation who could arrange things so that it only took every person no more than 30 minutes to vote? Why is that so hard? I feel incredibly fortunate that the City of Madison has dedicated itself to the voting process and expanded early voting this year. It took me about 10 minutes door-to-door, slightly less than my usual average of 20 minutes. Though I usually like to get my number on the day of, I was getting really stressed out about being hit by a car or something on election day and being unable to cast my ballot. Amidst all the other stress, it was nice to have already cast my vote. Anyway, apologies for not staying in touch. I will be back with pictures of my collages and trip to California, pictures of new arrivals to the store and shortly after that, the holiday window debut. Because, yes, it is time to think about Christmas.

I hope that everyone is remembering to take deep breaths, hug some little ones close to you, maybe work on some art projects - do whatever you have to do to make it through these last days of the worst election season I've ever known. Let's all work for good things on Tuesday, and liberty and justice for all ever after.

 

Vote

 

 


heading West

oooh.... I'm SO excited! I'm heading off to the San Francisco area to take workshops
from Kelly Kilmer
, an artist I have long admired. More specifically, an artist I have admired and who works in a similar medium/style such that what I will learn from her will be ... not just useful, but, that too. I'm trying to calm down about it all - I've never taken an art workshop so far away, one that requires me to pack my workshop supplies and clothes for a week into a carryon suitcase. It has also been a while since I've treated myself to three solid days of art making. Not that I can really complain since I have time for that every day, but there's something about the solid block of time that has got me constructing lists of projects to work on. I have an idea about making some collage pieces including Madison imagery that would eventually turn into prints or cards for the shop. I have an idea about using some of Dad's old pictures (now bound in a spiral bound  book) as collage background. I had an idea about continuing work in a book that I started in another workshop. So many ulterior motives. I had an idea about bringing a gelli plate along so I could print during the workshop. I had an idea about having to go to the art supply store and see what else I might like to have with me.

But I've calmed down now. With only two days to departure, that's a good thing. We are making two books in the workshop so I've decided not to bring along any other books to work in and I am giving myself permission to just learn and play and not necessarily generate something on the spot for the shop. Those things have a way of coming out.... eventually. Today is for all those last-minute errands and schedule-checking. I'm bringing a travel journal along - and, yes, I did not go out an buy a new one, I'm using one that Sachi gave me for Christmas last year, plus washi tape and some modified pages, and have been plotting out my itinerary. And in the theme of not actually calming down, it occurred to me at the last minute that although I am not packing all of my washi tape with me, I could take little pieces of washi tape in my travel journal and use them if I need to.

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In addition to the workshop, Mom is coming with me for part of the trip and we'll be visiting her brother, plus I get two days by myself in San Francisco, plus a day of dragging them to the inspiration stores in Berkeley (Castle in the Air) and Oakland (FLAX). I know I've mentioned this before, but that particular leg of a trip, with my uncle, was when he lowered the boom and declared that it was really time for me to open a store of my own. It has been a while since I haven't traveled with Sachi, who is the travel agent extraordinaire, so there's some extra level of preparation required. Oh, and at the last minute, I remembered Fluevog shoes which I've never even tried on (so maybe they don't fit my wide foot) but which several friends have been recommending. Because, let's face it, thinking about shoes is so much more pleasant than thinking about the presidential race.

Which, well, I won't say anything here, you pretty much know where I stand on the matter. We have been making more buttons and I'm very excited to be partnering with a formerly-of-Wisconsin-now-in-Texas artist on some new designs. She's been drawing and painting and I've been busy in PhotoShop making them into files to print and make into buttons. 

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I did install the pre-election window and haven't had too many men yell at me for it. And, no, I am not making generalizations about that because in the history of the store, the only people who have actually yelled at me for my political views have been men. Two older men yesterday asked very sincerely if I had Trump buttons. They were both really puzzled, one even asking me why (which, really?) but I have now prepared my simple, "we don't agree with his values" reply. Because there's nothing that a long conversation can actually resolve, particularly given that we are in a "customer is always right" power imbalance. After I replied, the man turned to his middle-aged daughter and said "they don't have Trump buttons?" The daughter said, "don't start with me, Dad. I mean it." Has this election season been particularly trying or what? I find myself holding my breath when people are near the button table - looking for cues as to which way this is going to go. Is there laughter? silence? 

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As far as the rest of the shop goes, lots of great product has been arriving. We've both been busy working on new print, card and t-shirt images and are awaiting another delivery from our Willy Street printers. We've still been getting goods from the Stationery Show so there's plenty in the way of new cards.

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Also some particularly lovely new wrapping paper, which required a total revamp of the sheets. We still dream about having floor to ceiling rungs for wrapping paper so that each sheet gets its own rung. Someday....

 

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The desk signs continue to be big hits, and we expect the unicorn and rainbow washi tape to be as well.

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And we are happy to keep adding to our collection of Wisco goodness. And over the moon that includes Kennedy Prints.

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oh, and I've been working on Halloween costumes. Food-themed this year, and I had lots of fun making my popcorn crown. To the point where I am seriously tempted to make a vote crown and stand in the medians near the Madison Public libraries in my spare time and send people in to vote early. Sachi is still working on the logistics of her mac and cheese pizza slice. I think this afternoon we'll be gluing the candy dots on the tunic for Lily's costume. The Downtown Family Halloween is on Wednesday this year and it is always a fun and lively afternoon of candy distribution.

 

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Finally, it is not too late to start thinking about holiday shopping and craft fairs! Unfortunately, the Craftacular is taking a break this year but we always enjoy the artists who come together for The Crafty Fair. Mark your calendars!

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planners (no, it is not too early)

I've actually found myself wishing I had my 2017 calendar a few times of late and we've had a full stock of planners for at least a few weeks. To the point that a few are starting to sell out. More significantly, we do have planners that start with the academic year (starting August 2016) so it is really not too late.

We spent a lot of time at the Stationery Show in May looking over planners. There are zillions of planners out there right now - we are particularly happy to see that electronic calendars have not made paper planners obsolete. Many people seem to be using planners more as journals, which seems perfect (as someone who always fails to fill a whole page, the idea of a small square for each day is especially appealing).

So, here's what we have:

1. Academic year calendars, running August 2016 - December 2017:

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fun polka dots and florals in a hefty ring binder format. Not the kind of thing I would carry around with me but would be a really fun guided journal:

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and the ever-gorgeous, Rifle Paper florals:

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2. blank planners and notebooks with options for dated pages:

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3. 2017 planners:

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not very exciting covers, just solid colors, but really great pages for goal-setting and planning:

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 and, yes, I will follow this up shortly with a wall/desk calendar summary.

 


Toront...OH, my goodness how fun is this!

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?!"

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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:

 

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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.

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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).

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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.

 

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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. 

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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.




 

 


and still more apologies

Apparently there's a thing called optimizing for mobile or something like that. The charming Olivia tried to tell me ages ago that I had to fix that. I am such a technophobe. But, really, I shouldn't make other people's lives more difficult. Hopefully I have selected the setting that will do what needs to be done. Not too keen on the grey circle background but... well, it's going to be a work in progress I can tell. At the least, I'm hoping this makes things somewhat more tolerable. Apologies again for taking so long to catch up to the rest of the world. I'm still looking at most things on a full computer screen and usually whine to myself when using the iPad. I don't know if I'll ever enter the smartphone realm.


sorry! sorry! I'm here!

Really, I am. But, goodness, time is going fast. My birthday is at the end of August and in case you don't remember, I celebrate my birth month, which somehow has ended up being +/- 30 days around my birthday. So, time for the celebrations to kick in! Though first I feel like I have should finish up something or other. We'll see what it is.

I don't know about you, but this year seems particularly emotionally exhausting. I remind myself that I have the luxury of stepping away from racial injustice, which, in my opinion, only obligates me to not step away. Trying to remember self-care, including turning the tv off any time "2016 election coverage" is mentioned. I retreat to my natural optimism about the goodness of humankind but it is a stretch some days. But, really, Donald Trump? Isn't Hitler's Germany looking suddenly more prescient? This morning I woke up thinking more people need to read The Sneetches more often. Any number of thoughts are rumbling around in my head, and of course, a lot of uncertainty and fear about the future. So I regularly and forcefully have to change the direction of my thoughts before I let those get the best of me and I become what maddens me so much in others. I'll let you know how that works out. I'm spending a lot of time with Story People, let's just say that.

July has Maxwell Street days, with its grueling 10 hour days but now that is behind us so we can look ahead to...well, let's be honest, Christmas.  I have a bit of an idea in my head for the holiday window but we'll see how that shapes up. We are heading to Toronto at the beginning of August for a buying trip / mother-daughter trip. Mom was very excited when I mentioned we were thinking about Toronto so it seemed rude not to invite her along. The charming Olivia gave us a very thorough map of stores to visit while there and I've got my eye on expanding my washi tape collection. Because you can always use more washi tape, right?

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I have even been good and put my washi tape to use sending out a few packages this summer.

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I am very curious to see what Toronto has in store. We have never been to this show so we don't know what to expect at all but it will be nice to visit a new place. Usually the shows this time of year are where I firm up the plans for the holiday window so that will be useful.  I have a tentative idea in mind but... well, we'll see. I've started gathering a few pieces, but I have been known to change my mind. Always fun to see how the planning actually manifests.

Meanwhile, Sachi has been gearing up for election season with a new batch of Hillary buttons. And I've started thinking about an election season window. Might be time to bring back more desk signs.

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At home, I've been playing around with ink and nib. Just a very narrow nib - not going to try to tackle proper calligraphy, but I like the vagaries of ink as opposed to a uniform pen width. I wrote text for my little 2x2 book for our holiday book party so those are ready to go. I've been trying to use more of the papers that I generated in various workshops lately - this background is from Pamela Paulsrud's mark-making workshop last fall.

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I've been working my way through the 15 crowns that will be part of an exhibit at Overture in winter. I've done a little doodling with gelli pens and am now adding a coat of matte medium just for added stability. Next up: ink in gold? white? Haven't quite figured out what will show up best. And writing the 15 short stories that will be written on the crowns. I'm also working on the mirrors themselves. Each mirror is going to be labeled "Queen of" and the crown it belongs to will be set atop the mirror. I think I've settled on Sharpie paint pen for that stage. Still have to decide how many different colors I am going to work with. My natural inclination is to use a different color for each mirror and crown but I think a little consistency across crowns will help tie the piece together.

 

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And, yes, I know, time is going too fast and I am party to blame for hurrying it along. But some people are asking so, yes, calendars are starting to arrive to the shop. We have an assortment of planners, from academic to calendar year, as well as wall and desk calendars. I'm glad to say that it is not just me caught off guard by the speedy passage of time - for some reason all of our calendar vendors are a little behind schedule on shipping this year. We should, however, have the full assortment in stock by mid August.

 

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In exciting news on our block, the Orpheum's new (reproduction of the 1920s original) arrived and was installed. It was quite a feat of construction and craftsmanship.

 

 

 

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As far as the store is concerned? It has been a good summer. We worked hard in late winter on some new Wisco items. The coloring book has been a major boon, in part because Sachi- and Laura- designs have now gone from the coloring page onto stickers, t-shirts, postcards and more. Of course, Sachi's been busy working on brand new designs, including her "glue guns not handguns" which will probably end up as a print and stickers.

 

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We received good luck turtles to add to our good luck cats and owls. I couldn't resist them when I saw them in New York. It is always gratifying when one's impulse purchases are met favorably.

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We are awaiting new prints from Kennedy Prints who sent us this set as a teaser... which just led to a discussion about what the Midwest version would be. The "I am as Sconnie as" series has now been added to Mr. Kennedy's to-do list.

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In other exciting news in the realm of begging people to make stuff for our shop, we found the Wisconsin effigy mounds print! We got permission to print the image in exchange for sending a portion of the proceeds to the Effigy Mounds Initiative. So, hooray for the Universe at work via the magic of the internet. Sachi saw the image during the gravel pit protests but we never had any luck connecting with the artist. I saw it months later on someone's car, posted it on our Instagram and a follower gave me the lead on Facebook. So happy! The image comes as sticker, ornament, t-shirt, card, and print. 

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oh, and Sachi's family got kittens. Eek! the cuteness! I am learning all about the challenges of trying to take a picture of moving creatures.

 

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where to begin?

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Oh my gosh, you guys. Seriously. My mind is kind of spinning. First of all, was it last year that I felt like I wasn't doing enough frivolous art projects? yeah. Scratch that. My current preoccupation is a set of 15 paper crowns that are accordion-folded (so a little bit like books) as part of an exhibit at Overture for the book arts group I belong to. After some muddling around on construction, the project is well underway though I still have to figure out how to hang them on the walls, add some more details (paint and glitter most likely) and write the little stories for each crown. Each story is going to be short but as per usual, I am more concerned with content (scraps of paper to collage and text to write) than structure (after all, it's a pretty simple accordion shape). I have also been working on several new cards and other assorted PhotoShop projects for the shop. Though I still have to make new holiday cards, which Sachi has already finished. 

In store news, we had a wonderful time in New York City, of course. That trip is always very inspiring, stimulating, and exhausting. I finally feel like I'm catching up and getting back to normal. Perhaps the biggest thing we noticed at the Stationery Show was a lot of bold graphics, a movement away from pastel washes and handwritten gold text (not that it was completely absent but there was a lot more diversity). Some of our favorites were artists with linocut or other carved images, bright colors and striking graphics. The ship dates are spaced out between now and October but it seems like we've had a new arrival almost every day since we got back. 

 

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Besides notecards, we found some great planners, sheets of wrapping paper,  boxed notes, wall calendars, washi tape and more. We're excited to share all of our finds with you.

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This week, I installed the Father's Day window, which involved a little trip down memory lane. The theme is kind of outdoorsy, so I looked through our old childhood slides to try and find pictures of Dad and the two of us when we were younger. It was a fun exercise and has me thinking about other projects involving Blurb magazines in some form or another. Though we have our baby books, a Blurb magazine of our childhood pictures seems like it would be nice to have. Now I have to decide if I want to tackle the scanning or just send all those out and have someone else do that work.

 

 

 

 

 

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Finally, though UW-Madison's graduation has come and gone, we are just gearing up for high school graduation. We have plenty of graduation cards to choose from, as well as an assortment of gifts for departing seniors (and for visiting tourists). Though by far one of our best-sellers has been the "let me file that" desk sign. Apparently it resonates for a lot of people.

 

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