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November 2008
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January 2009

that was unexpected

Goodness!  What a busy day today!  Sachi had a quiet Sunday despite the sunshine but was really busy on Monday.  I enjoyed my two-day weekend.  Now I'm at the store by myself for Tuesday and Wednesday, with a pile of projects.  I knew that some people would be in town between the holidays, but I was a little swamped.  Additionally, I had an altered books intro for a mother-daughter pair.  Luckily they were patient when I had to jump up from the table to ring up other customers.  The daughter is going to Greece for a semester and I am so jealous.  I would have loved to have been introduced to altered books before I went to Greece... but no, 10 years later and I'm kicking myself over the ephemera and photo ops that I passed by.  Oh well, incentive to go back someday.

I did manage to finish the photo snippet commission that was due today.  It occurred to me last night that I really shouldn't have let those run out - and sure enough today someone came in asking for them.  I'll have to finish a batch and email the pics to her since she lives out of town.  There's always something.  I'm also hoping to finish my Christmas letter tonight so I can mail that out New Year's Day.  I'm so far behind -- I used to have all those addressed and sealed before Thanksgiving.  But it is better than last year when I didn't write until April of this year.  Still, it will be nice to finish that up and send those up.  I selected an assortment of pictures of me with Lily even though she isn't mine - those are my favorite pics of the year, our little self portraits, when I hold the camera up and take the pic.  So, if all goes according to plan, I can work on stuffing envelopes, heart ornaments and a jigsaw puzzle over New Year's Eve/Day.  The altered books this afternoon reminded me of many of my projects.... come to think of it, that would be a perfect thing to work on New Year's Eve.  I always like to have an art project to work on.. so glad I thought of that.  I didn't quite want to be in production mode working on magnet picture frames; I think I deserve a night of a non-Anthology related art project.

ta da!

DSC03818 Here are some hearts!  I'm having lots of fun sewing random red and pink scraps and ribbons and tulle together.  I'm still trying to figure out a way to make this a craftivity because I think it would be fun.  Right now, Sachi and I have just come up with having one side patchwork and the other side plain white that people could stamp text onto it.  We've got alphabet sponge stamps and it would be fun if people could write their own candy heart messages.  I kind of like the idea of letting people sew as well but I'd have to develop a hand-stitched version.  Hmm.  Something to think about.  It's fun to think ahead to a Valentine window.  It's not a very big holiday, but I think it will be fun to fill the window with all these hearts, maybe make a Valentine tree.

new year resolutions

Well, first of all, I don't really go for New Year's resolutions.  Ultimately they seem all the same (take better care of yourself) and just make me feel guilty that I'm not.  I am entertaining the idea of spending some serious time organizing/rearranging the apartment and tackling the paperwork.  There's just so much paper.  I have to be better about dealing with junk mail right away, oh, and filing the important things.  I'm hopeful that a little time spent catching up on the backlog will help me go forward in a manner that is less cluttered.  It's a challenge that some of the studio has moved to the store and there's lots of back and forth between three addresses; I've made some improvements but there's work to be done, things that got displaced when dressers moved to the store, other things that never had homes.  Still, that's not really that fun.

Usually I spend New Year's eve starting a new project yet I'm kind of at a loss.  Sachi is busily working on a new project and the voice in my head is getting a little whiny, "what are YOU going to work on?!"  I know, it is only two days after Christmas and it is no wonder that my brain is a little tired.  Still, I need a little focus otherwise I'll spend a week on jigsaw puzzles.  And, before you ask, no, that isn't allowed.  Of course, I COULD spend time on the paperwork and whip that into shape BEFORE the new year.  We'll see.

Seems like the end of the old year is a fine time to get out THE LIST and see where things stand and what remains.  There are a few looming deadlines that I must not forget.  And of course, I can restock what sold in the store, but I'd also like to think ahead to some new projects and creations for the store... hmm... something new that retails for under $20.  Any suggestions?  I so enjoyed the sewn journal pages; I really should try to come up with something using those techniques.  And then there are all those other things that I never did get to.  The list was too long so I just had to remove the things that I'm not getting to, like some unfinished art projects from a few years ago.  I like them, I'd love to finish them, but there are things ahead of them on the list so the chances are pretty slim.

Things to do.  December 2008.  in no particular order.

  • finish Molly's Madison snippets
  • blue & purple quilt commission from Nicole
  • baby fairy jacket for Adele Mae
  • hem ruffled aprons
  • Valentine's prep: red fabric & vinyl heart ornaments, garlands, pinwheel flowers
  • handcarved stamp craftivity prep... maybe a tutorial from Susie?
  • Madison wax collage blocks
  • Madison snippets
  • make mica houses
  • snippets for Carlos and Elena
  • take Madison photos
  • wax cake collages
  • French blurb journal: text, pages
  • take pictures of Lily
  • finish Jen's chex mix; Shelly's too
  • origami crane ornaments
  • sew headbands
  • clean/organize studios
  • sew retro fabric wallhangings
  • sew batik table runners
  • finish stone castle altered books
  • solder travel snippet pendants
  • bind batik quilt, sunset/night sky quilt
  • come up with more craftivities
  • butterfly books: paint pages, vellum butterflies?, text?
  • finish copper/bead necklaces
  • edit blurb artist book
  • make fabric eggs
  • make scrap paper packs
  • collage small images for necklaces and buttons
  • Paris & Japan black and white photo snippets
  • magnet picture frames
  • develop other kits for Anthology
  • envelope "scrap" books: collate and bind
  • finish the other two sewn French journals
  • finish sewn fairy journals
  • make more laminated placemats
  • Polaroid (or, rather, Fuji) transfers of angels, travel pics
  • Custer cabin altered book
  • print cards: travel, angels, mica houses
  • new store collage postcard
  • make bird/nest necklace, multi charm necklaces
  • send packages to Nicole, Jen in Minneapolis

All right then, I'd better get to work!

puffy fabric hearts

Ahhh... after a little brainstorming, the fog clears (though, by the way, it hasn't cleared outside - I can't even see the Capitol which is 2 blocks away).  Thanks to cloth paper scissors - I KNEW that would be a good subscription for the store.  Sachi has been busily working on her new little book project for the store and I've been moping around like a kid.  I used to say to my mom, "I'm boooooored."  And then she would give me a long list of things to do, and then after saying no to everything, moping a little more, I would come up with something that would keep me occupied for hours.  Anyway, I was envious of Sachi's new project.  I know there are plenty of things I can make for the store simply to restock what has sold, but isn't it much more fun to start a new project?!

Anyway, cloth paper scissors has cute little puffy heart ornaments in their Sept/Oct issue, which, if I get started now, will be a cute thing to have in the store window for Valentine's day.  And, maybe if I figure it out, could be a cute craftivity as well.  I don't really want to bring in my sewing machine for anyone to use, but I could stitch the base and then people could adorn with buttons and lace.  That could be fun.  Plus, it would be fun and colorful to have a bunch hanging in the window.  Added bonus: you can use scraps of fabric, have raw edges, just collage the pieces together, which fits my current sewing mood.  Fun.  Now I have some distraction for the next two days of my weekend...  even though there are plenty of other things to do.  And I can go home right away to the sewing studio and make hearts without going out to the store because goodness knows I've got enough scraps.  I'll be sure to report back, hopefully Monday, with some progress! 

after holiday sale & foggy morning

Second Black Friday?  That's what the news was saying about the day after Christmas.  Of course, we don't have lots of big electronics leftover that are deeply discounted, but we do have some Christmas items on sale - wrapping paper, cards, some craft kits, some artist creations.  We set up the back table for the sale area and definitely had people coming in to see what was on sale.  The sale merchandise made up a small percentage of the day; other people were just in town as visitors and new to the store, also still doing a little holiday shopping.  We've had a few visitors - family and friends in town for the holidays so that is always fun. 

Some downtown stores were closed for two days around Christmas.  It was always a busy day at LL, not simply for returns, and it never occurred to me to be closed.  Thankfully, our decision to be open paid off, even though it was rather painful at 10:30 in the morning.  After only one day of rest, I wasn't really ready to be open -- so apologies to those people who wandered by at that moment.  The sign says 11 a.m. and on another day it might have been flexible but not yesterday. 

This morning, another slow start to the day, not just on my part.  It is foggy and drizzly and a little quiet on the street but we hope people will venture out (and away from the malls) this afternoon.  Tomorrow we have a group coming in to make fairies, and Tuesday I have an altered books tutorial.  It's for someone going away on a trip - a present from her mom.  How much would I have loved to have such a tutorial BEFORE any of my trips?!  Instead I am working backwards to put together some travel journals for trips past.  I really love having my San Francisco and France books to look back on; now to do the same for the other trips.

I finished the panoramic Greece puzzle last night.  The sky was a blue challenge.  Susie's French travel journal is also done so I get to deliver that to her.  I think I want to make it into a blurb book somehow so I am working out the text and page layout.  I don't quite know how it is going to work out and my brain is a little tired at the moment.  I might have to borrow the book back for more photos, but I can't wait any longer to give it to her.  It feels like a bit of a lull, the deck is cleared.... what project to start next?  Well, there is still that list.  A blue & purple quilt commission, knitter's pockets, terrace chair bracelets, otherwise restocking the store, coming up with new craftivities...  But maybe I could rest for a few days.

Anaheim is only four weeks away.  Sachi and I are going to the Craft & Hobby Association trade show.  We are getting really excited for that and to see what new products and projects we can find for the store.  Tom and Lily will be coming along and we'll have a bit of a vacation as well.  Sigh!  I can hardly wait.  We are also on reduced hours for the winter months.  Not a lot of people out in January and February so maybe some of those neglected household chores can get done.  I actually get a two-day weekend this weekend and have an ambitious list of things to do.  I really want to get my Christmas letter written and sent out before the new year.  Wish me luck!  And, of course, I'm thinking about blurb books.  Sachi is busily working on a new project already.  I'm not sure I can match her work ethic this morning.  Hopefully something will kick in; perhaps with a little caffeine assistance?  Or I might just sit here and read Handmade Nation.  That's research, right?

Merry Christmas and other holidays...

DSC03781 Because I guess I'm still in Thanksgiving mode, or mode of giving thanks, which should last more than just a day in November anyway.  Sachi and I are thankful for our first Christmas at Anthology.  We still had many people coming into the store for their first time, and it was fun to introduce our selves and our art & inspirations.  Everyone continues to be so enthusiastic about our local crafts and our creative ideas -- it's a thrill on a daily basis.  Sachi and I have had fun imagining the Christmas day that is playing out in so many households.  Here's Sachi's imaginary dialog: "Oh! I love it!  Where did you find this?!" "I got it at a great new store in downtown Madison called Anthology!  You'd love it."  At least I hope they get the name right.  I had three phone calls in that last week wondering about the phone number or hours of our Hilldale location.  Yeah, that would be anthropologie....  Close, but our store name is a real word.  Sorry, had to say it, even if it isn't in the Christmas spirit.

Is everyone enjoying a nice holiday?  I know for some it is a crazy whirl of relatives and food and crabby/hyper children but I am enjoying a simply lovely day.  (Not to rub it in - if it makes you feel any better, I just get one day off).  We closed the store at 3 yesterday after a fairly good day of last-minute shopping; Mom picked us up and then we went to their house to play with Lily and hang out for a bit.  Christmas Eve 5 pm service at church is always peaceful and comfortable in its tradition, also fun to see who comes home, though I was preoccupied this year with chasing Lily around.  Then home to my parents' to open stocking presents and, yes, the blurb book.  Of course it was a big hit.  I'm sure Sachi's in-laws will be happy with their copy too!  Then Christmas dinner feast (standing rib roast, mashed potatoes, feta green beans, Yorkshire pudding -- thanks Mom, and yule log dessert - thanks Dad).  And then opening the rest of the presents.  Ooooh!  I just love Christmas, I absolutely do!  It was quite a frenzy - of course I LOVE to get presents, but I often get caught up in everyone opening theirs.... Did I say thank you properly?  I was up until late at night working on the puzzle that my brother-in-law gave me.  I watched Lord of the Rings and worked on the Greek village.  It's a panoramic picture with lots of pretty blues and sun-warmed houses with blue doors... someday we'll have to go back.  Sachi and I had a lovely week on the island of Mykonos one year.  For someone who loves blue and white, it was a dream come true.  Of course I didn't take enough pictures.  Where was I?  I think we were all worried about our budgets, and then worrying at the last minute that there wasn't enough, but it was a perfectly lovely night... though my mom set a record for number of presents with mystery recipients.  I don't know whey they don't get labeled but it is always tradition to open a present and then have to swap it with Sachi.  I slept in this morning and then worked on the puzzle and watched Return of the King.  Christmas morning with Viggo is the way to go!  All that is left is the sky... lots of blue pieces and just a few clouds.  So fun.  And now over at my parents again for computer stuff, French journal writing, and maybe, just maybe, writing my Christmas letter.  We'll see.  I usually send out a two-page letter with photo; last year I was 4 months late but compensated with a collage.  Even though a collage has great appeal, I think I might go with a single photograph (is it ok to send a pic of me and Lily even if she isn't mine?  I sure hope so because those are my favorite of the year) and hope to mail these before the end of this year for a change.  I used to be so on top of things (letters written and addressed BEFORE Thanksgiving).  Sigh.

Anyway, I wish all of you a very warm and wonderful Christmas, filled with laughter, and of course, crafts!  Happy Holidays!

take a deep breath...

Ahhh...  the fog of Christmas preparations gradually clears.  On Friday morning I finished my last batch of magnet picture frames and officially entered into the "it's too late to do anything" phase.  For the record, that was approximately Sept through Dec 19 worth of prep.  I know January and February are going to be slow at the store, and it is hard to know so far in advance what people will like, but hopefully I can get a little more restocking done.  There are still things that sold out in our first 6 months that I didn't have time to make.

The week has been pretty busy with customers; sales have been steady and good by our standards.  I'm trying not to compare to LL numbers; there's just no way a new business could.  Given all the factors (snow, economy, new business, to name a few), I really feel like we are having a good first Christmas.  Anyway, good enough that I was really wiped out at night -- all that customer service is exhausting for the introvert that I am!

French 001French 002 French 003 French 004
It suddenly occurred to me that maybe I could actually do some of those non-store things that I had to give up earlier in the year.  So, hello, Susie's French travel journal, hello Christmas letters, hello blurb book (ok, that was one I didn't really say goodbye to, but still... hello MORE blurb books!).  Susie's birthday is in early January and I thought it would have to be a late present but I worked on it the last couple nights, and have just to collage the cover and sew the pages in.  Well, not "just"... but the tasks can actually be accomplished in the next two weeks.  Hooray!  And I think I want to take pictures of all the pages and see if I can't come up with some sort of blurb book.  Here are some pages - are they too chaotic?  I love seeing the layers behind the layers.  I think it will be interesting as a blurb book too.  I'll mix pics of these pages with pics of France, and type the text in.  I might have to make some new pages without text on them...It won't be as cool as the original, but I can also make it in larger editions.  The question is, would someone use it to write in?  So should I leave some blank journal spaces, or just fill it up and present it more as a picture/guide book?  Hmm. Then there are all those other blurb books that I was thinking of.  Did you think you weren't going to have to hear about that anymore?

It is bitterly cold today and also tomorrow so we'll see how the days go.  Pamela is coming in so it will be nice to have company and not have to figure out when to lock the door to run to the bathroom.  That can cause a little anxiety on Sundays.  If it isn't busy, I have plenty of projects.  I got out the bigger French photo snippets that I had started.  I'd love to finish cutting the last few squares and get all those tiny pieces stuck down.

Yesterday we set a new sales record (still small by any standards but our own) so that was nice.  I woke up in the morning thinking, "we're going to break our record."  And then thought, "oh darn, Laura, now you've jinxed us!"  So it was nice that my first thought was the one that came true.  And someone has already called to see our hours for today so that is promising.

Hope you are all staying warm! (and if there wasn't a danger of getting cold, I don't want to hear about it).

snowy day and Sachi's butterfly box

MADE IT!  Well, really, it wasn't that harrowing to get to work today.  I was carrying two bags of heavy groceries through deep snow so that was a challenge, and the bus was about 15 minutes late.... but, well, you gotta love the bus!  I don't know if I'd want to be out driving.  The roads were pretty quiet, but also pretty snowy.  Hopefully it will clear up this afternoon so we can get back to the business of Christmas shopping & selling.  But in the meantime... yes, you guessed it!  There are magnet picture frames to be made!  Luckily I was thinking ahead and borrowed Dad's drill so I have this morning to drill, set eyelets, tie ribbon and make magnets... though someone was already trying to get in the door.  Hardy souls.  We have been having a good week of sales.  It's been pretty busy.. well, steady, but with some sizable sales so that is good.  Of course, we just don't have a last year to compare it to, but we are happy for all the people who have come out to Anthology to do their holiday shopping.  We're definitely exceeding our average daily sales this week, which leaves me pretty tired out at the end of the day.  It's a good tired, but it is not lending itself to much more than lying on the couch watching TV (I got My Name is Earl from Netflix).  I did go to yoga yesterday so that was good.  I had missed on Monday and various parts always start aching if I don't get to yoga.  We've been really busy making button bracelets and picture frames; everyone is really supportive and encouraging and enthusiastic about our local and artistic products.

Sachi worked last night and happily provided this project for you to see.  I've been horrible about photos lately so I do apologize.  Anyway, here's a butterfly gift box she was commissioned to make.  Someone is giving their hubby a travel voucher and wanted nice presentation.  The butterflies are all punched with the Martha Stewart punch out of various map papers. Butterfly They are flying around on top of a little green gift box.  Aren't they sweet?

do you think the universe is trying to send me a message?

I confess that when I finished the Frank Lloyd Wright pencils jigsaw puzzle, I hauled out another puzzle.  This is one of those photo mosaics of a map of the world, which is going to take much longer than the pencil puzzle did.  Ever seen those?  Some clever guy developed a program where each pixel of the image is actually a tiny photograph.  They are really quite difficult.  You might not remember, but after the jigsaw puzzle, I was intending to make magnet picture frames, not work on another puzzle.  And then today we sold 8 magnet picture frames - at which rate the current stock will not last to xmas.  And there's not much time left for anything... and we'll need magnet picture frames anyway in the new year so perhaps I had better just clear off the table and set up for magnet picture frames.  All right.  I was kind of regretting that choice of puzzle anyway.

there's something to be said for low expectations

That way it is easy to surpass them and be happily surprised.  Of course, I can never help but build things up in mind, anticipate, set high expectations, but today I really expected a slow day considering the crummy weather.  Happily, it was very busy.  Since I figured everyone would be staying home, I started a project, Pamela brought her knitting...  In the afternoon, we had a group of three women come in and make button bracelets and frames, and one additional person came in to make some bracelets and a frame.  Plus quite a rush a few times during the day.  Retail is so strange sometimes.  It seems as if only everyone would be evenly spaced out, then no one would have to wait in line - but no, both here and everywhere else (Target?  how about those bored cashiers waiting in front of their lanes when 15 minutes later they are calling for extra helpers?).  Pamela stayed a little later and I stayed open an extra hour until it really slowed down (just as the rain started really coming down) a little after 5.  Yesterday we didn't see much traffic from Overture performances, today we did.  For the most part, it really feels as if people going to Overture just go straight from their cars to the building - I see them over in the MMOCA gift shop, so many and yet so far away.  But today was a nice exception, funny considering my low expectations for the day.  The project will just have to wait.  I was just telling Pamela yesterday that I was pretty much caught up and done with my list... of course, a few hours later, I started remembering other items on the list.  I cleaned up the living room in order to work on a jigsaw puzzle but I might have to set up for magnet picture frames one last time.  Other than that and the photo cubes, I really am pretty much done... which is good given how much time I'm spending on my blurb book.  Jen helped me with some editing of photos and now I just have to spend some time working on the text, but I think I may well be able to have it early in the new year.  Hooray... for me, but not for you because I'm sure there will be the next blurb book to move on to and continue to bore you with details of.  But for now, it is home to the flannel pjs and the jigsaw puzzle, maybe a movie, and then early to bed.  I am pretty exhausted from today!