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May 2008
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July 2008

2 clever girls and their button necklaces

Dsc02170Huh... Sachi and I had been trying to figure out a way to make button necklaces...  We were thinking about maybe providing a chain or ribbon for each end so that the bracelet could be converted into a necklace. These two clever customers purchased two bracelets each and simply linked them together.  The link is really not that obtrusive.  I could do with a little more length for my neck but the idea is pretty cool.  The company that we get the bracelet bases from also has rings so we are getting some of those in on our next order.  Still, I always like the idea of MORE so a necklace that has a whole bunch of buttons is very appealing.

coming true....

"Wish for your deepest desires, she said & when I asked if they'd come true, she said they always do, so you might as well get them out in the open while you're still young enough to correct any serious mistakes." Deepest Desires by Brian Andreas

Dsc02126_1At various times (mostly on vacation in Door County)  I fantasized about having a store in such a vacation destination, where tourists could come on rainy days and work on art projects.  So well do I remember those days when hanging around at the campsite just wasn't going to do the trick, and we'd head into some nearby town to look in department stores whose height of business was decades ago, to poke through museums, maybe find some activity or tour.  And how fun would it have been to be able to work on art projects?! 

And here we are.  Not Door County exactly.  But the summer vacation season is  definitely underway in Madison.  If you catch us on a day that isn't too humid, summer in Madison can be quite idyllic.  Stroll around the Farmer's Market, people watch on State Street, watch the sailboats on the lake and enjoy your beverage of choice at the Memorial Union.  There are even the occasional tourists from abroad -- and I always wonder what journey brings them here to the Midwest. 

Yesterday a Minnesota family visiting their grandmother came downtown and two of the girls sat at our craft table and I helped them make their own little flower fairies.  The wings are made of Angelina's fusible fibers and are so sparkly and fun -- they really complete the look.  The girls seemed to enjoy themselves... and so did I!  We seemed to have an abundance of appreciative customers yesterday so that was a treat as it always is. I filled in many lines of the happy quotations book, though my favorite for the week is still from my altered books tutorial on Friday, when I was told that this (collaging, altered books) is "like crack."

Perhaps Door County will be the location for the second store, though we've had several other suggestions.  I still think it would be fun for each of us to get a month up in Door County running a shop for the summer and sitting on the beach in the evening.  Jen would be happy to open a Milwaukee franchise and yesterday someone said we'd do well with a store like this in Chicago, and someone else suggested opening a franchise in Missoula, Montana.  Hmm...

our first corporate gig

Dsc02177Buttons are coming out of our ears.... I'm behind on button bracelet making; what we sold yesterday wiped out any backstock that I thought I had stockpiled. So I need to make more with words and more with the washi paper. In the meantime, we have our first "corporate" assignment: 600 buttons for two upcoming conferences. We worked with the conference organizer to get the right size of graphic (luckily Sachi caught a spelling error before we started making buttons); Sachi enlisted Tom's help to punch out circles of paper and we've spent much of this weekend making the buttons. It definitely wasn't our initial intent, but I have heard people walking by the store saying, "that's the button store."

Maxwell Street Days. year one

Well, it's really summer when the Maxwell Street Days posters start to come out.  State Street's big sidewalk sale will be here before we know it -- usually a marathon weekend of unbearable heat.  Well, that's OUR end of it; the event runs for 27 hours from Friday July 18th through Sunday July 20th.  For customers, it's a casual stroll down a busy State Street, when vendors have tables out on the sidewalk and try to entice you with various bargains and the smells of brats and grilled chicken waft up from further down the block.  For stores, it's a good opportunity to do some housecleaning, but with extended hours, there was always a lot of scheduling and prep work to do in my previous job.  Anthology operations are rather more scaled back by comparison.

On principal, I don't plan to discount anyone's creations and we're also too new to have lots of old merchandise that we need to clear out.  For our first year, we are going to use this as an opportunity to introduce the button machine to more people.  We'll set up a table on the sidewalk and move the button-making station outside.  We're brainstorming ways to make it simpler -- pre-cut the paper, have a limited selection.  I'm starting to think maybe we could just make cool alphabet pages and then everyone could make a button with a letter, or make several buttons to spell out words.  Sachi and I still have to brainstorm and decide.  27 hours of button making is a lot. I love lots of choice but I am feeling more and more that there is such a thing as too much.  I myself fall victim to that unending back-and-forth, having to check all the options, changing my mind again and again, wondering if I made the right decision, but I'm still amazed at how long it can take to pick out a piece of paper for a $1 button.  Hopefully we can streamline things a bit for Maxwell. 

As for the future of Maxwell at Anthology?  Here's my idea, which I hope we can pull off. I would like to have a studio garage sale.  I'd solicit art supplies from artists I know -- all those things you thought you'd use but decided against or the things you have way too much of even for several lifetimes.  Especially in these days of altered books and found object assemblage it is easy to collect a huge quantity of supplies -- things that might be useful one of these days.  Of course, I think that is the nature of being an artist, that one sees possibility everywhere you look.  But still.   If you reach the point of not being able to find anything, or feeling so overwhelmed that you aren't creating anything or aren't even spending time on the things that you really like to do... then perhaps it is time to do a little weeding? (and if you need help, you can always call on me for studio cleaning).

What I'd really like to do is to have all the money from the art supply sales go to local children's art programs.  It would be a challenge to sell the supplies on consignment so it really would be simplest if we ring all of it up under the same barcode. Sachi and I have fond memories of the Art Cart and UW Extension art classes so we'd like to support those programs that supported our early art endeavors and encouraged us to be creative.  We plan to donate some of our profit quarterly but it also seems like that might be a fun thing for a Maxwell studio garage sale.  So, set aside any supplies you'd like to donate and stay tuned for next year....

Saturday morning

I woke early with a racing mind... nothing so unusual with that.  It has been a full week though so my head feels a little groggy.  Maybe all the ideas are just walking around in there instead of running?  No, they are still running, the rest of me just isn't catching up. 

Sachi is at the Craftacular this morning, checking things out.  I'm eager to hear her report. We've had the postcards and have been doing our best to promote it so I hope everyone has a great show.  It seems like a nice day out so hopefully people will be coming out, and not just to their gardens and the lakes.  This week I taught two altered books/collage lessons.  It's about two hours worth of talking.  Both people were so responsive and interested, it was very satisfying.  Much better than teaching Geography 101 to bored freshman.  Still, that, along with all these projects, a new studio cleaning job and lawn-mowing, a trip to the UW SWAP shop, yoga, has made for a very full week.

Friday was a little crazy because while I had my lesson, Sachi was helping someone with buttons and other projects, and there were the usual customers.  Lily now gets an afternoon outing with Chrissy so at least she was happy (and she even fell asleep, which doesn't usually happen in the afternoons at the store).

I think I have made progress on all the projects I was intending to work on.  So that's good at least.  Haven't exactly finished anything, but I think this morning I can get some framing done and finish some Captiol snippets.  We have a big button-making assignment from a local business: 600 buttons to be made this week for two conferences.  And then there are those button bracelets.  I thought I had plenty of washi paper bracelets, but someone bought 5 yesterday so back to work I go.  Also, Sachi and I are starting to think ahead to stocking the store for Christmas AND for the winter Craftacular.  I  thought about participating in this one but we didn't really have staffing matters worked out. The holiday show is enough advanced notice so we can find someone to help out and send Sachi to the show.  I think it would be a good way to introduce ourselves to more potential customers.  But that means I really have to get to work on making things.

looking for a job

This is more or less the email that I sent out to many people on my email list, but I thought it might be worthwhile to put it here as well.  It has been a wonderful few months of setting up our new store, selling my own creations, playing with my adorable niece every single day...  I knew from the beginning that it was just going to take time to start this new business and that most small business owners don't get much of a salary.  In no way do I regret the path that I am on and in many ways, it has been very successful already.  I am even selling many more of my own creations than I initially expected.  Still, it's time to find some supplemental income.  I don't really consider it a setback or a step down, since it is hard for me to settle on just "what I want to do for the rest of my life," and I don't mind having a variety of jobs.  The time that I have available though doesn't exactly work for a "real" job; I want it all, and I don't want to leave my sister stranded -- so basically I am available from 7 am - 11 am and from 7 pm to 11 pm.

I consider myself a capable and smart person; I am organized; I learn quickly.  I don't mean to be picky, but most people probably can't pay me enough to tempt me to do certain chores (the things that I barely get done in my own home).  Still, here are things that I can do:
1. organization: recently I've been working in two artists' studios to help them organize and create a better working space.  I find this very satisfying and would be happy to help in other studio/office/home spaces.
2. babysitting. I'll bring my own children's books too!  I do better on the whole with children if I can start with them when they are age 5 or younger.  2 year-olds are about my favorite, but I am biased because of the two Jamie's that I took care of in the past.
3. catsitting. sorry, no dogsitting.
4. other things too... I'm good with creating databases and setting up mailing lists and making labels, also other various office work. I'm creative
and a good teacher.  If anyone has a store that they need merchandised, I am happy to arrange products artfully.  Oh, and if anyone has a store they want computerized, I can help you set that up if you go with the system that we have.  I'm efficient, flexible, responsible...and if you doubt me, you can ask my mom. You probably don't want me working in your garden though.  I'm really not so good with plants.

I am happy to provide references or more details.  And if you have other job options, please feel free to contact me. I have already received some interesting proposals for cataloging work (antique glassware and children's books) -- which I am really looking forward to working on, and which my mom - who thought I should be a librarian - will be thrilled to hear about.  If you don't have a job for me, that is just fine, but I thought that I would put this here just in case there's someone out there who really needs some help organizing their studio or something like that.  Thanks for your attention.

p.s. Just because I went through the effort of updating it, in those few panicked weeks between deciding to leave my old job and deciding to open Anthology, I'll include my resume here as well.

Laura T. Komai
Nine years in small business retail with responsibility for store operations, buying, personnel management, merchandising, and providing superior customer service.  Highly organized, detail-oriented and efficient. Creative problem-solving skills, artistic, strong analytical abilities.

Store Manager, Little Luxuries, Madison, WI, 2001 to present.
Responsible for day-to-day store operations management, strategic sales planning, staff development, and buying.  Designed, implemented, and delegated set-up of window and store displays. Delivered prompt and friendly customer service.

-Entrusted to manage all aspects of daily operations while owner lived out of state for a year.
-Hired and trained new staff members.
-Provided ongoing training and supervision for staff development in areas of: customer service, merchandising, inventories and computer operations.
-Revised and regularly updated employee operations manual.

Sales Analysis and Buying
-Compiled and analyzed sales records for quarterly budgeting.
-Monitored sales and stock levels and placed reorders based on sales analysis and projections.
-Planned merchandise placement to maximize sales.
-Attended trade shows in New York to find and order new products.
-Managed hair accessories department.
-Coordinated physical inventory system to assess sales and track slippage.

Computer Skills
-Supervised conversion to computerized cash register and inventory system: Mastered custom retail software operations. Developed written procedures for computer operations. Managed database of over 10,000 items.  Trained all personnel on computer operations.
-Worked with PC and Macintosh word processing and spreadsheets.

Assistant Manager, Little Luxuries, Madison, WI, 1998 – 2001.
Teaching Assistant, Department of Geography, UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 1995-1997.
Program Assistant, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI, 1994-1995.

MS, Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, 1998.
BA, Geology, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, 1993.


2027... That's the number of lifetime page views for this blog!  I'm excited! I'm also highly caffeinated at the moment so this will probably go on for a while.  Even though I know better, I had a Coke at 9 pm tonight.  I'll be up for a LONG while, and even when I try to go to bed, my mind will be racing.  But this is a good opportunity to get in one post today, and also work on those MAGNET PICTURE FRAMES.  I got the ingredients at the hardware store and have a pile of papers ready to go so I can work late into tonight.

Back to 2027.  I know, in the grand scheme of things, it isn't that huge a number.  And I know I have to subtract my own viewing and take into account multiple viewings by individual people, but still.  I'm really happy.  I'm addicted to looking at the stats section of this blog -- so I can see there has been a little spike starting Monday in advance of our TV appearance (Sachi and I both sent out emails to friends and family and I can tell from responses that people are checking out our blog as well).  And the blog was listed on the TV spot too so new people are probably visiting.  My mom will be so proud when she comes home.

This week has been a little crazy.  My parents are out of town in Quebec so there is a little bit of house-sitting to do.   I'm facing up to the realities of being a small business owner and trying to find some other jobs to supplement the consignment income from Anthology.  That might just require a separate post so I'll deal with that later.  I was off as usual on Monday -- studio cleaning (with disastrous news of lost art supplies) and watching Lily in the afternoon.  I thought she'd nap but we just played.  I stayed up to watch the intro for our TV spot and then eagerly watched the next morning.  Tuesday I worked by myself, though Sachi came in to give me a little Lily and lunch break.  A few people came in and mentioned the TV appearance, and we had lots of email from friends complimenting us.  It was a bit of a relief -- you never quite know how those things are going to turn out.  But the reporter was very charming and good at her job and I think it went well.  Lily was adorable too.. though you can hear her screech a bit in the background at one point.  Today, Wednesday, I had the day off to go meet Jen in Princeton.  It was really nice to get out of town, even though I did run errands before and after so it wasn't a complete vacation day (I had to get to the hardware store and craft store -- no more delaying that).  Poor Princeton!  They are up to their.... sidewalks! in water.  Some of the roads are closed, there were lots of flooded fields on the drive up (though you can see that much of the water was much higher), and there are sad sights of street signs and deck chairs sitting in the middle of the water.  There was a funny sight on the side of a building on the drive up: S'More museum.  I should have stopped and taken a picture.  What kind of things were in there?!  Princeton itself was charming as always.  Happily, amidst the sandbags and flooding basements and backyards, all of my favorite stores were open.  This includes: daiseye, Twister (oh my! when did they add all those amazing looking desserts?!), and georgie's.  Lovely, lovely things, and I got Sachi's birthday present too.  I used to be so good about getting presents well in advance but I'm falling behind.  Her birthday is in the middle of July already.  But now I have a start at least.  Though after the day she had today (trouble with electricity, all by herself with a non-napping Lily, bugs in the window...) she deserves some sort of consolation prize.  Anyway, Princeton had its usual inspiring stores and lovely merchandising, not to mention some possible display ideas from the antique store.  Sachi is going on Sunday so she can check things out.  I'm thinking a little antique ladder would be a nice addition to the store.  I'm trying to find some ways to hang some more necklaces securely and accessibly -- if those two things are not mutually exclusive.  We've had some problems with shoplifting so one must always, unfortunately, keep that in mind.

What else?  Oh, the rest of the week.  Now I can make more magnet frames, and finish the Madison snippets I started on Tuesday.  Tomorrow is yoga, Friday is studio cleaning, picking up mom's sewing machine (and moving the old one to the store -- hooray! hooray!), work, then maybe the Found Footage Festival.  Saturday is the Craftacular... Well, I'm not going to it because I'll be at Anthology.  But Sachi is going to check it out and hopefully find some new consignment artists for the store.  I'm excited to see what she finds.  We'll have the fabric mirrors and little flower fairies set up for craft table projects, and also a little demo of a fairy house structure that I've been working on.  Then Sunday, the poetry service at church which I am in charge of, then work.... or should I say play since it will mostly likely involve making button bracelets? 

3 months and counting

Wow -- It has been 7 months since we made the decision to begin this adventure!  (Okay, we've been thinking about it for long before that, but I'm still counting the day before Thanksgiving as the beginning).  Such a small amount of time for all that has happened.  The store has been open for three months now (we're halfway to our first goal -- which is proving wrong the woman who stood outside our papered-over window and said to her friends, "I give it 6 months" -- okay, so she didn't know we were inside, but still).  The response still continues to delight me -- I get to write in my little book of quotes every day when someone gives us a compliment... and not everyone gets that in their job!  There are so many ways that this is such a satisfying moment in my life; it's hard to know where to begin.  One big thing is being able to share my creations with so many people.  To hear people say, "I should do that with my pictures," when they look at the photo snippets, or watch them pour over my altered books... all of this has been very gratifying.

Going back to our email newsletters to add them to this blog, it is interesting to see already what has changed.  We started out with the idea of a regular Wed and Sat craft session but it has worked just fine to set up the craft table and let people drop in at any time.  Even when someone isn't working, it is nice to have projects and supplies strewn on the table.  We have recently added a second craft table so there are usually two projects, or a project and a demonstration.  Although people ask about a regular class schedule, we are still working out details of staffing, given that there are only two of us and we would like to go home sometime...  So far what has worked well is for people to give us at least a week's notice and make an appointment to work on a specific project.  That gives us time to gather supplies and set up for pretty much any of the craft projects.  This week I have an altered books/collage tutorial with someone.  I really love introducing people to altered books so I'd like to figure out another way to demonstrate them.  For the rest of June, we'll have the decoupage fabric mirrors and the mini flower fairies at the craft table; In July we'll have twinkling watercolors for painting postcards (with all the swatches on display in the window) and garlands.

We've had a bridal shower making accordion flag books, a birthday party making decoupage mirrors, two groups of college students making decoupage fabric mirrors, a group making little flower fairies, and another birthday party making comb-bound mini journals.  As well, people have just taken a seat for various craft projects.  We try to change the drop-in activity every two weeks or so, and prices range from $1 to $20 for the drop-in workshops.  Projects have so far included: card-making, mini fairy envelopes, paper cones, tissue paper flowers, comb-bound mini journals, and decoupage mirrors.  The button machine has been a big hit.  So big, in fact, that we removed it from the rotating craft table project and created a separate space for it.  At any time, people can stop in and make buttons using paper from our drawer, or with their own papers.

And, above all, we are really enjoying ourselves!

monthly newsletter. March 2008

Our first newsletter!

Thank you so much for coming to see our new shop and helping to make our first 
weeks in business a success! Below are some upcoming events at Anthology. Every
Wednesday from 12-2 and every Saturday from 2-4 you can have a seat at our craft
table and create something. You can also reserve the table for a group of

This Wednesday, March 26
12 noon - 2 pm
Decorate Paper Cones for $5
Perfect for birthdays, weddings, and May Day!
You can fill them with candies, confetti or flowers.

Saturday, March 29
2 - 4 pm
Tissue paper flowers: roses, peonies, carnations

Grand Opening Weekend (WI Film Festival Weekend):

Friday, April 4
1 - 3 pm
Altered Book Demonstrations
Laura will show you how to transform a book by painting pages and adding new
structures within them.

Saturday, April 5
1 pm
Needle Felting Demonstration
Lisa Schofield of Lulu’s Stabby Critters will show her technique. Schofield
makes the adorable donuts, candies, chicks, hedgehogs and monkeys that we carry.

All weekend long:
Make-a-button-for-a-buck ($1). Use our machine to make a button using your own
words and images

Saturday, April 12
2 - 4 pm
Match Books

Saturday, April 19
2 - 4 pm
Origami Crane Ornament

Saturday,April 26
2 - 4 pm
Embroidered Patch

218 State Street
Madison, WI    53703

Create -- Inspire -- Celebrate

monthly newsletter. April 2008.

Anthology newsletter. April 2008.

for the rest of April:

We are celebrating the start of the outdoor farmer’s market with a window
featuring tote bags made in Stoughton by Artsy Momma Stefanie Lin as well as
needle felted veggies (with faces!) by Lisa Schofield. Stop in and stamp a sheet
of wrapping paper using fruits & vegetables ($1/sheet).

May is Mom's month
featuring mosaic frames and flower pots Made in Madison as well as sweet story
pictures --great gifts for MOM!

Anthology is participating in Gallery Night (Friday, May 2, 5-9pm) by featuring
the city and food photos of Mike Bass.

May 1-10:
drop in and make her a card.... $1

May 11-16:
make a button for a buck ($1)

May 17th:
plaster cake demo 2 pm

May 19-31:
comb-bound mini-notebook w/stamped pages...$5

Ask about our custom photo jewelry: send us a digital print and we can create a
lovely pendant or bracelet charm. A perfect way for your mom to treasure her
children and grandchildren.

looking ahead: June is FAIRY month!

218 State Street
Madison, WI    53703

Create -- Inspire -- Celebrate