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December 2010
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February 2011

on your marks, get set....

Oh, can anyone be more ready to go?  Well, the suitcase is packed but not zipped yet and there is some last-minute prep, but still... I had two days off in a row over New Year's weekend, but before that, the last time I had more than one day off in a row was....  August?  No wonder I am feeling so crabby.  But now there's just about 24 hours left before we board the plane and everything is looking so much better.

I will have limited computer access for the next week so you might not hear from me for a while, but you can be sure that I am searching all over southern California for wonderful things to bring back home.   I'm starting to remember last year how nice it was to visit other people's stores and get inspiration for product and merchandising.  I've got recommendations for some very interesting stores and I am looking forward to checking them out, Zinnia especially. 

And that's on top of the inspiration from the Craft & Hobby show itself. Just looking back at last year's pictures, I am reminded of the new and exciting products that we found and I can't help but wonder what is in store this year.  I am very intrigued by some sort of encaustic kit that we've seen advertised.  Working with encaustics is something I've always wanted to try.

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And then there's the rejuvenation of being away from Wisconsin in winter, hanging out at the beach and going through the day without any of the usual to-dos that fill up the list at home.  Sigh.  Yes, I'm sure I'll feel much better when I get back.


ceramic love

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Oh my goodness, am I ever so happy!  I have been eyeing this colorful and whimsical ceramic work for years now.  Beth Eaton is a Milwaukee artist who I've seen for several years at Art Vs. Craft.  I think I bought a piece for my sister the very first time I saw her work.  And now, yipee!, we get to carry her work here at our shop.  Beth even made the trip up on a snowy day to hand-deliver the work.  Thank you!

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I really like the color and the combinations of different stamped images on her work, as well as the texture tha comes from the stamping process.  We are especially happy because this adds a lot to our gift options. Beth's recent works have gone with the camping/outdoors theme... I know several people who will appreciate these little deer.  I hadn't seen the row of crows before - my Dad really likes crows so he should like that.

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AND, Beth purchased some new rubber stamps from us so we might see some familiar images in works to come.  I hardly expect every vendor and consignee to make a purchase from us, but it sure is nice when that happens.

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the flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la


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All right, it isn't anywhere near spring here in Wisconsin.  But that makes it even nicer to have flowers that bloom.  We had two groups come in this weekend to make tissue paper flowers. There's a wide assortment of tissue paper to choose from, though flowers made with patterned tissue are quite fun and are making me want to build up that part of the collection.

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The project is very simple, but satisfying.  I like making bouquets for May Day (remember that?  leaving baskets of flowers at someone's door?  does anyone do that anymore?).  One of the flower-makers is planning to make a lot more for wedding table decorations.

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Aren't they nice and cheery?

catching up on new arrivals

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Ok, I think I'm getting caught up.  I am resolved at the end of this year not to fall into the trap of saying, "I'll do that in January."  For ten years I have said that during the busy holiday season, and yet, when January comes around, I am swamped with cleaning up and recovering from said holidays and there's no chance of getting to the projects that I thought I would.

But the physical inventory of the store is finally done, most of the tax forms have been filed, even the desk is a little bit cleared.  We are leaving in a week for southern California, for a buying trip and vacation and I am so ready to get away.

And as I look around the store, I see that a lot of things have arrived already.  There will certainly be new arrivals after we return from California, but I've been quite remiss in keeping up to date.

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So, here you go, a summary of everything that has arrived to the store since Christmas.  Many of our local artists have brought in new goodies, including bicycle and recycled sweater skirts, recycled sweater armwarmers, "made locally" Wisconsin onesies, embellished sweaters, stamped onesies, stamped rings and bracelets, owl buttons and prints,

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We especially appreciate the re/up-cycled aspect to many of their creations: old sweaters repurposed, t-shirts made into skirts, screenprinted napkins, notebooks made from UNO cards and notebooks from food wrappers.

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We are especially excited that we've been able to add to our collection of local photographs.  We love Ann's polaroidized Madison pics, and are enjoying winter Terrace and evocative pier photographs that Ralph just delivered.  We are still hoping to persuade our dad to take some iconic but not cliche postcard pics to further add to the collection.  In all, the red wall is looking nice and full.

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I've kind of been in a lull of feeling tired and not knowing where to start, also distracted by a collage of intentions/resolutions that has little to do with the shop (though it would be a nice craft table project).  Meanwhile, Sachi has been busy - making lovely button picture frames, bird/nest earrings, stitched Wisconsin dishtowels, necktie onesies, and more Wisconsin heart ornaments (just featured in Madison Magazine).

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We also have a nice assortment of Valentine goodies - craft supplies, cards, paper & gifts, including stone hearts from Haiti.

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and we've already restocked some of the items that ran low over the holidays, including the bird magnets, bicycle neckties and ink pads for rubber stamping.

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And there's still some room to spare!  It's always a little exciting after months of cramming the drawers, to have just a little room to breathe.  I'm sure that will change quickly enough. 



more Valentine goodness

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Well, we are definitely ready to change from thoughts of cold and icy blue... and Valentine's Day arrives just in time.  We have a wonderful assortment of Valentine cards and nothing makes me happier to think of our role in eliciting that feeling of a card in the mail or a shoebox full of notes.  Remember those days? 

Sachi cleared out the window yesterday and installed the Valentine window made of red, black & white.  It's a bit of a change from the usual pastels that I think of, but bold colors seem to catch more attention from passerby.  Since it is still dark at night, we thought we'd leave up the lights in the window.  Sachi found red ones though and to make them a little more Valentiney, I attached tissue paper cut outs. They kind of look like flowers but they are supposed to be hearts.  They looked super cute as pink tissue on white Christmas lights, but then I remembered Sachi's bold color scheme.  I quite like the graphic look of this old tissue paper that we inherited from the previous tennants.

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Meanwhile the window is full of assorted Valentine items. The stone hearts from Haiti are still my favorites, though Sachi's anatomical heart embroidery is a close second.  Sachi was able to sew a sweet felt heart garland from all the hearts that she cut out for Wisconsin felt ornaments.

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Just in the nick of time, we received a new delivery of bicycle skirts and Wisconsin onesies.  The red is a perfect addition to the window. 
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button button... craftivities for the rest of January

Starting January 29th and extending through February 5th, Sachi and I will be out of town on a buying trip/vacation.  Mom and Pamela are tending the shop.  There are some reduced hours and we won't have craftivities.  But until then, we're filling the table with fabric scraps for a variety of cloth button crafts.

The pile of scrap fabric is really growing since I've been making skirts for myself.  I have to admit that I find clothes-making rather annoying.  Of course there is the great end payout of a skirt that has exactly the fabrics you want in it, but it takes a lot of time and work on my part, and it also seems to generate a lot of scraps.  Lately I've been making some a-line skirts and there are all sorts of random triangle pieces.  I managed to salvage some to turn into other skirt panels, but there's a limit to how many skirts I need in the same colorway.  And before you think it, no, they aren't going to be for sale at the store.  For the amount of time and fabric, I'd have to sell them for more than I would pay for them, plus for that price, the edges really should be serged.  Perhaps we can have the conversation again when I have a serger.

But Sachi has come up with this lovely fabric button necklace, which is the craft table activity for this coming Saturday from noon to 3.  She can also show you how to make yo-yos if you'd like.... Obviously we are in a using-up-scrap-fabric mood.  Yo-yos and cloth buttons are great embellishments to make and add to sweaters, skirts, bags and more.  It should be a busy day, since there's a craft party coming in afterwards.

  Thurs 006 Sachi has used scraps of her daughter's old dresses, as well as assorted other fabric scraps, so it is a nice way to commemorate certain pieces of fabric.

We'll have the cloth button supplies out so you can make a necklace or bracelet, or you can make mini cloth buttons to glue onto thumbtacks or brads.

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birthday crown


Unfortunately I don't really have the before pictures - it didn't occur to me to take pics along the way.  A long time ago, I started making a big batch of paper crowns.  I often work that way - get all carried away with a project and start a dozen of something, only to get tired because I'm working on a dozen. 

These paper crowns started out just after Sachi took a class from Susan Lenart Kazmer at Valley Ridge Art Studio.  In the workshop, they worked a lot with resin, including resin on paper, and I really like the translucent and strengthening aspects that were added.  I came up with these paper crowns which are a collage of book papers, wrapping papers and magazine papers.  It occurred to that such a crown could also be personalized by using pictures - well, print outs onto regular typing paper.  I made one such crown for Kathy with pictures of the women in her family.

Recently, PW asked me about birthday crown options and I was inspired.  I have several paper crowns that are sewn but awaiting resin - there was still time to add personalized photos.  Pamela linked me her album on Picassa and I downloaded pictures and printed them out. I cut them out and inserted them at various places on the crown.  It still seemed to need a little unifying, so I put little triangle birthday hats on top of everyone's heads.  Then I brushed a thin coat of resin over the entire crown, on both sides, leaving it to dry overnight.  Personally, I like the way paper gets translucent once you've resined it, but it does make things a little less defined. 

Here's the finished product.  I punched holes on either end and added eyelets and ribbon.  I like an adjustable crown because my head is big and it is irritating when crowns don't fit.  I definitely like the personal touch that is added with all the faces.


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resolved. almost.

from this:

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to this:

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(if you missed the "before" pictures & process, they are here) Almost done....  My difficulty with collaging is that I tend to go one step too far, or make it one step too full.  I still have other things that I think I might add, we'll see what actually happens.  I do know for sure that I want to add more melted crayon wax for color.  I think that helps smooth out the sharp edge of the paper.  I am very happy with the way that it looks as it is though.  I think it has a fair amount of complexity from the layers of wax and paper and acrylic paint and don't quite want to get into adding more imagery.  Text on the other hand.... well, I brainstormed an entire list of words and phrase and haven't come nearly close to using them all.  Some were repetive so I crossed them off the list, but I keep thinking of others.  This entire piece has been a fun exercise - I'm still trying to figure out a way to make this a workshop; I think it would be interesting to guide other people through the process.

A friend used the word "intentions," which I think might be a better description.  I was using the word, "rules" as a leftover from the family rules on etsy that started this whole thing.  But I don't really like that word.  And I've been using the word, "resolutions," simply because it is that time of year, but I've never been much on those.  Oh, I could just keep thinking about nuances of words ad infinitum, which perhaps gets to the root of the problem as far as whether this collage is finished or not.  I had thought I could type out some phrases in non-outline text and just have thinner words (not add any more painted text since I do think there is enough of that).  But I do really like my painted background so I don't want to cover that up completely.  I suppose if I had thought about this more, I could have written some text before I started the waxing.  Once you put the wax down, you restrict your options - not a lot sticks to wax.

The beauty of the whole melted wax approach is that if I change my mind about a phrase or want to make other changes, I just melt off the old piece and change it for something new.

Here it is almost in its entirety, there's about an inch at the bottom that didn't make it into the picture.  30 inches is a very tall collage but it will work well on my front door. Seeing it like this, hmm... perhaps it is done.

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These are some close-ups, showing the acrylic paint below, the melted wax on top, even a little trace of sparkle from the twinkling watercolors I used to fill in the text.  The text was printed out on the computer in various fonts, all in outline format.  I stretched them out to the same width and also made all the letters the same height.  I think that creates a more interesting visual component to the text.  I like the way the melted wax fogs things up a bit, as well as the way it makes the paper more translucent.  I'm so glad that I went with this approach instead of a simple black and white graphic design on the computer.

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Subtext (or is that context?): This is the list of the different phrases that are included right now.  I started with the list of phrases from the family rules poster that I saw on etsy, added in some of the resolutions and themes that emerged from my Christmas letter, as well as some feng shui themes that I've been wanting to emphasize, and all sorts of other random thoughts that have come to me over the last week.

dance in the livingroom: Well, not just in the livingroom.  This means dancing, moving, not sitting on the couch.  Not just exercise, but reminding me of happy ballroom dancing days.  Oh, and also means having a livingroom floor clear enough to dance in.

live your dream: Being true to myself and creating the life that I want.  Even on the days when I'm feeling stressed out about audits and paperwork or tired of being nice to strangers, this is a reminder of the deliberate choices I made to be where I am.

share wealth: Not hoard it or fritter it away.  Being mindful of the wealth in my life and the shortage in other people's lives.  Practicing generosity with money, but also of spirit and time and talent.

laugh often: (this is less of a resolution and more of a statement of what is.  Someone once told me, "I met someone who laughs almost as much as you do.")  Life is pretty silly most of the time.  Find the joy and the humor that's all around.

try new things: Be open to possibilities.

do something creative everyday:  All right, that's from Paper Source.  But I love that as a motto and don't think it is fair for them not to share.

write letters: Keep in touch, remember, connect.

slay dragons: Fight for justice and other good things in the world.  Don't let the powers of terror and darkness win.

eat more veg:  Isn't that something that Jamie Oliver would say?  Not just broccoli, but being more mindful and healthy about what I eat.

go to the beach: Stop, take a break, Breathe.  Rest your eyes and bring ease to the days.

take it personally & not: My former boss used to say this to me all the time: "Don't take it personally."  It used to drive me CRAZY!  I would think, "but I AM a person! How can I not take it personally?!"  I think we do a disservice to other people when we get so wrapped up in our own motivations and plans that we ignore the person on the other side.  Plus we can distance ourselves too much if we complete remove the personal aspect.  That said, I'm starting to see the wisdom of my boss' words.  When someone does something that hurts you, it is easy to suspect that it is directed at you personally (and maliciously) but I think that many times, it really isn't personal.  Not to you specifically.  It is personal because that PERSON is focusing on their own issues and goals and business plans and lists of things to do.  But it is not personal because it really has very little to do with the person you are.  Does that make any sense?

be brave: Step outside your comfort zone and take some risks.  There are great rewards in store.

make a million: I'm particularly happy that this one is in wax because once it is surpassed, I can change it to "make millions."  I don't consider it lofty to set goals that you are alreay halfway to, and I don't think that keeping your goals secret makes them more successful.

pay attention: There are surprising and beautiful and interesting and inspiring things all around.

bubble wrap: v. to apply bubble wrap to a delicate item. (Are you one of those people who hates the way nouns are turned into verbs?  If so, I apologize).  This is in reference to a children's sermon I delivered a few months ago.  Mostly it is a reminder about the fragility that exists in the world, mostly in regards to people.  You can't exactly tip toe around everyone's hurts or just leave things up on the shelf, but you can send them out into the world and be mindful of their fragility, give them a metaphorical layer of bubble wrap.  But also acknowledge that to act in the world is to bump into, and even pop, some bubbles.

collect mindfully: Don't get wrapped up in stuff for the sake of stuff.  Choose the things that are meaninful to you and release the rest.  Someone else might love it.  Don't waste time and energy and emotion on things that are not your passion.

glitter the hell out of it: Thanks to K!  This is a recent addition to the list.  It speaks to me not just of my love of all things glittered but also the power of glitter to turn things around.  Whatever "it" is, if there is some aspect that is hellish, glitter might take that out.

shop small:  Yes, I borrowed this from the new AmEx campaign (which I find highly ironic.  If you really want to shop small, pay with cash, not the highest rate credit card you can find).  This truly is a resolution of mine - to be more mindful of where I spend my money and support businesses like my own comprised of a few people working their butts off for way less money per hour than they should/could be earning.

treasure childhood: So so very fleeting!  I ran into another former babysittee a few days ago and am still reeling.  I have lived through about four lifetimes of seeing "my" children grow up from the age of two.  It happens so darn fast, even the annoying moments will be gone and missed soon enough.  Not to mention that sense of wonder and energy, and the new perspective gained from a shorter height and fewer years.

cross oceans:  Well, for one thing, there's an art workshop in Bali that I have my eye on.  But there are many other wonderful places to travel to!

take care: Of other people, of yourself - mind and body, spirit. 

play play play: Mom used to say this about me all the time.  It's still true today.  It also reminds me of Dad who used to think his job was more play and less work and instilled in me the desire to have a similar approach to my own career.

earn positive reinforcement and instant gratification: And give it as much as it is received.  Spend more time rewarding good deeds and less attention on behavior I don't condone.  I am heartily sick of all the attention that is paid to over-the-top behavior and extreme points of view.  I resolve to spend my time and attention on the many ways that good work is being done in the world.

read more books: Spend more time at the library and less time in front of the tv.

say please: I am a firm believer in manners and in doing unto others as you'd have done to you.  I think we could all use a little more consideration.

give thanks: "if the only prayer you say in your entire life is thank you, that will be enough," or something like that - Meister Eckhart

don't forget your sword and your ticket:  All right, I don't know exactly what this means.  Lily always says it when you are on your way out the door.  But the sword goes along with slaying dragons, and the ticket?  Ticket to what, I wonder?

Valentine sneak peek

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Honestly?  I'm not really ready for Valentine's Day.  I'm stil feeling kind of tired from the holidays and from all the year-end wrap up.  The Valentine's things that I've seen in stores are just causing me to balk a bit -- too early!  But every day, a customer comes in asking, and, of course, it isn't too early to get started on making cards, so here we go...  There are more items coming in, but I set up the front table with a little Valentine goodness. 

I love these little sets of ephemera and charms.  One set comes in a sweet little heart-shaped box which would be a nice substitute for chocolates.  Well, maybe not a substitute.

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The CHA show is at the end of January and a little late for things to arrive in time for Valentine's Day, but there is sure to be lots of crafty inspiration.  Maybe some new craft table projects!   In February, we will have an assortment of papers available for Valentine card making, and are making plans for an embellished clothing workshop.  Additionally, Sachi has made up this sweet fabric button necklace, which you can come in and make on Saturday, January 22nd from noon to 3.

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Sachi ordered an assortment of folk crafts with a vaguely Valentine theme.  These pierced tin ornaments are from Haiti.  There is no end to the ways that we can help Haiti, but purchasing handcrafts is one of the most satisfying for me.  As an artist, I think it is always rewarding to be able to find something that appeals to customers, not to depend on charity but have a job that is creative and income-generating. I think it is a nice way to reach across the distances (geographical and economical) that lie between us.

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My favorite item of all is these heart rocks that are carved by Haitian artists.  I'm a geologist by training so I might be biased.  I love the feel of a stone in my hand.  Proceeds from sales of these stones go to the HAND/EYE Fund's Artisan Grants Program, which is working with artisans in Haiti. These artisans embody their country’s rich cultural heritage, employ their neighbors, solve community problems with their entrepreneurial skills, and create opportunities for themselves and others. They are essential to Haiti’s future, and HAND/EYE Fund is dedicated to serving them.  How can you resist?!

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resolutions, continued

ah, there's nothing quite like having a new project.  I've been a little adrift the last few days, recovering from holiday busyness, consumed with end of year (boring) chores, but also trying to figure out what my next project is going to be.  It's all on hold a little bit until we go out to California - there is sure to be lots of inspiration there.  Of course there is restocking to be done, but there's also that pressure to come up with something new (preferrably the new best seller....).

In the meantime, per usual, I've gotten completely distracted with a new project that has little to do with store biz (though, to be fair, it seems like it would be a great craft table project).  It started a while ago when a friend posted a link to some family rules like this, and posed the question, what would your rules be?  I love text and this was very appealing, but of course I couldn't just go with the words provided.  The project has gotten completely carried away - first I was just playing on the computer with different fonts.  I like prints that are modeled after bus/subway/transit rolls, whatever that means (because I've never seen anything like this in real life).  SO I was just going to make something in that style, but then I started thinking about collage artists who incorporate text, like this or Sabrina Ward Harrison or Teesha Moore.

I really like working with long rectangle canvases and remembered that I had several at home so I found one that is 10 inches wide and 30 inches long.  Step one: painting background.  What a fun task!  The piece is going in my living room so I have a vague idea of the color scheme.  Painting background for collage is a very freeing task for me because the bulk of it will be covered.  Not covered completely, but enough that you can give yourself permission to just randomly put down color and not worry too much about it.  At all.  So, here is the first coat of my background:

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Not much to look at, I know, but this gives a little more texture and variety to the base than a plain white canvas.  Plus maybe it will be interesting to look back on this once I've gotten farther along.  Sometimes backgrounds aren't very visible (so you don't have to stress out about their exact composition) but I think they register with the viewer at some level.  And part of this is just about letting go and trusting the process.

The other component that I'm working on is the text.  I started out with some but have since added a bunch more - I think I've got about four pages worth.  I think I'm going to have to narrow down a bit.  But for now, I printed the text in outline form in a variety of fonts (with all letters the same height and all phrase the same width), and am filling them in with sparkling watercolors.  And yes, I know, it's kind of cool just like it is:

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Some version of this could be a greeting card or a print, perhaps?  Ultimately though, the plan is to cut these into strips and apply them with melted beeswax so the white paper is more translucent, and use that as a collage component on the long canvas, along with other text that I've cut out from magazines, paint, magazine pictures, etc.  I'll let you know how it's going when I've emerged from the preoccupation of choosing words and phrases.


And a few hours later....  I've added a few more layers of paint, using techniques learned in a Katie Kendrick workshop at Valley Ridge Art Studio two summers ago.


The lines will run horizontally, and, in theory, will have text resting on top of them.  I will probably do one more wash over the whole thing to unify it a little more, and maybe add some more patches of iridescent fine bronze.  I love that paint.  It's from Golden.  If you water it down and let it puddle, it separates into bronze and green and makes very interesting patterns.  Another trick I learned at a Valley Ridge Workshop.