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an update, not short

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Wow.  Tuesday seems so long ago.  A reporter came into our store - he was writing a story about businesses with signs in their windows.  He asked me when we put our sign up and I replied, "Tuesday."  Later that day, I realized that it was Friday the 25th and that the Tuesday I was referring to was actually from the week before that.  Tuesday the 15th of February was the day we installed our protest window.  Seems like ages ago.  I have such a whirl of thoughts going around in my head.  I've been composing this post for at least a week, thinking of things I wanted to mention, trying to corral the restless and milling thoughts into some semblance of order.  We'll see how that works.

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I am not without feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration, despair.  I feel exhausted from the level and variety of emotions that I go through in a single day.  I have been listening for days as people come into the store and express their fears about their futures, their frustrations with the lack of democratic process, their need to have their voices heard.  I have been brought to tears on a daily basis.  I have felt such tremendous gratitude from customers and passersby.  We just passed the 2000 mark for buttons sold (it's not a bad problem to have, but the required level of button production has bumped the usual February days up in intensity). I have let any number of tasks and responsibilities slide as I avidly follow and share online article links, compose this blog post and otherwise find expression in ways that are true to myself.  I have lost track of the number of petitions I have signed and the number of groups that have marched past our store on their way up to the Capitol.  I have been able to calmly agree to disagree with some people, agree to not talk about it with others, and only unfriended one person in the process.

But on Friday the 18th of February, certain events coalesced and I find myself returning to an underlying core of calm and faith, which has probably helped my sanity in the ensuing days.  Here they are, numbered just because I think it will be easier to keep track of, not out of any sense of priority or order.

1. I was reminded of my Christmas letter.  I have had several friends who are remaining silent on the matter or who don't want to hear about it (or don't want to get dragged into the heated and insulting discussions that seem to inevitably pop up).  It upsets me because I think that this affects all of us but I also reminded myself that I wrote just recently: "This year seems particularly weighted down by sorrow and anger over our nation’s politics and the economy.  I can understand that some people believe in completely different (and opposite) ways of making the world better for our children.  I can’t shake the feeling that there are powerful people who are utterly uninterested in making the world a better place, or are acting (and manipulating) purely out of self-interest on a grand scale.  It leaves me feeling powerless and a little hopeless.  My coping mechanism might be too close (for your comfort) to holding my hands over my ears and singing, “la la la, I’m not listening,” but sometimes it is all that stands between me and lying despondently on the couch."  And so I counseled myself to have tolerance for all the different ways that different people have of being in this world.

2. That said, I went on in my letter to discuss the ways that one person can make a difference, and I remain committed to the promise that each and every one of us matters and has power.  I take comfort and assurance from the ways that many people have found to speak out.  No doubt that protesting in and of itself is very important, but there is action to be taken, things to be done.  I appreciate the people who are making their way cautiously through this time,  to thoughtfully address their own comittments and take positive steps to create their world.  I appreciate the signs that make me laugh as they parade by, and the ability of people to create power and humor in difficult times.


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3.  I returned to my resolutions collage (the full explanation of the collage is here, written January 14th). The phrases now seem like such a pointed directive to me, from me: "share wealth," "pay attention," "shop small," "take care," "write letters," (though at the time, I meant letters to friends, whereas now I'm trying to find polite words for our Governor), "bubble wrap," "take it personally & not," "be brave," "earn positive reinforcement and instant gratification," (to which I would also add "GIVE positive reinforcement"), "give thanks."

4. I was reminded of some stories & books, and the memory of them is something that I have returned to often.  Is it silly to rely on fiction to interpret reality, perhaps, but I like to think that there are underlying truths that cut across genres.  The first story that popped into my head is from Dr. Seuss.  The North-Going Zax and the South-Going Zax.  Remember that one?  As a child, I remember thinking how silly those Zax were, how stubborn and how their stubbornness would cost them the rest of their journey.

The second book that came to my mind was American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  The basic premise of this book is that our world is filled with gods - the ones that immigrants brought with them on their journeys to the new world, the ones that people "pray" to in the present (technology, money, speed).  All of these gods, in this book, have a physical manifestation.  But people don't pray or sacrifice as they used to and all these gods are losing their power and their life.  It seems that there isn't enough room in the world for all the gods so the rumblings of war begin - between the new gods and the old gods.  Except, in the end, it turns out that the war was not between old and new or good and bad.  No, the war was a con game, a trick engineered by the god of war and the god of chaos.  Gods of war and chaos, they don't care at all who is right or wrong, they don't particularly even want anyone to survive, because they will gain such strength from old and new gods sacrificing themselves in the name of war, that they will be able to live on in their former glory.  This is not to diminish the fight that is going on, but there are certain aspects of our society that aren't really interested in outcomes but are just interested in the fighting and the chaos.  This was emphasized to me on Saturday the 19th.  That day downtown was so lively and yet calm.  We had lots of business at the shop and it felt like Farmer's Market and a tailgate party wrapped up in one.  It felt so Wisconsin to me - mostly happy and cheerful, let's carry our sign up to the Capitol and then go get a beer...  I was so happy that day and then I went home and on the news, all they showed was people yelling at each other.  It wasn't at all my experience of the day and I got so sad and depressed - how can we find any solution if we are just yelling at each other?  But then I remembered that wasn't at all my experience of the day.  And it caused me to seriously question the news (because, after all, they might be closer to the god of chaos who is just interested in something, anything, controversial to report on).  In any event, if this makes sense at all, the memory of American Gods gave me something to return to when it seemed like there is nothing but fighting and chaos.

Additionally, I started reading Audacity of Hope by Obama.  In his early chapters he talks about compromise and about the ability of the U.S. to move forward only with a broad coalition of a true majority (which by its nature will have to include Republicans and Democrats and Independents).  He also talks about developing empathy and finding ways that we have common ground... Oh please, let us find our common ground.

And there were movies too.  There were the lines from Lord of the Rings about going out to meet the forces of darkness and evil (delivered by Viggo for added delight).  I also watched "Invictus" and marveled at Nelson Mandela.  I distinctly remember being a teenager and thinking, "there is no way apartheid is ever going to end."  And yet, here we are.  Nothing is perfect, of course.  But there is hope.

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5. We changed our window but left our sign up.  It's true, it's not a publicity stunt.  In fact, I have had so many of our regular customers stop in and say thank you for the sign that I am realizing I might have underestimated my initial guess that 50% of our customers will be directly and negatively affected by this bill.  I feel so thankful for the many supportive people who have written me emails or commented on the words I share here or on Facebook.  I still think it is short-sighted to make budget cuts that will negatively affect the amount of sales tax revenue that the state brings in.  Although for now, downtown Madison (restaurants and coffee shops in particular) is certainly doing its part to boost sales tax revenue.

6. The weeks haven't been all smooth sailing.  On that Friday, a neighbor businesswoman came in quite upset about a note that someone was distributing that basically said not to shop at any businesses because no one was unionized. Someone on Facebook scolded me gently for a post and then ended with, "goodbye Anthology."  We also heard that the dreaded Tea Party was coming on Saturday and I momentarily got sidetracked with a number of paranoid thoughts.  And, finally, for about 5 minutes on Friday, a tall business-class man stood either in front of our sign or in front of our door.  It would seem that he was about to walk away, and then, just as another group of people would walk by, he would move in front of our sign.  Two customers had to actually ask him to move out of the way in order to get into the store and several other people just walked on by without trying.  Now, I know that our little alcove is a perfect place for stepping out of the wind and many people stop and talk or smoke without realizing that they block our door.  Perhaps he was just an oblivious person talking on his bluetooth, but after 13 years in retail, I have to say that you do have to trust your instincts.  They have helped me catch a few shoplifters and not listening to that little voice in my head has kept me from catching a few other shoplifters.  Something about his behavior wasn't completely innocent.  And so, with heart racing, I was just gearing myself up to ask him to please step aside and then he went on his way.  Now, that whole thing might have been totally in my head but it sure got the adrenaline going. 

But really, all these events made me think about how much anxiety we bring on ourselves.  How much we imagine and anticipate and judge before anything even happens.  I was projecting my fears for Saturday onto this one man, imaginging that I'd have to call in all my Facebook friends to break the blockade that was forming around our store.  Oh yes, don't be fooled, I can be as drama queen as the next person.  My busines neighbor is imagining that no one will come shopping in her store again.  I was imagining all our Facebook friends leaving me for less political shops.  I'm not saying that bad things don't happen and I definitely think many fears will come true under our state's current leadership.  And this is not a call to passively accept the events around us.  But after these events on Friday, what I was left with was a sense of calm. Not that bad things won't happen, but that we are stronger and better than those bad things. That the goodness of people will prevail.

7. We're still talking.  Not only that, but people who might never have been talking before are having conversations.  Despite the vitriol that I read online and see in the news, no one has come into the store to yell at me for our sign.  Despite the sustained energy and the lack of progres on some fronts, people are being peaceful and mostly civil.  Just yesterday I sold a pin to a man from central Wisconsin who would probably call himself a moderate Republican.  He thinks all life is sacred so he has some issues with abortion but he was there to protest the way that other lives were being treated.  He bought a "keep calm and protest on" pin.  He was chatting with a woman from Illinois who was here visiting her son at the University.  She bought 10 "Bucky doesn't bust unions" pins.  On some fronts, the three of us may well not agree with each other, but on this matter, we could agree.  I mean, really.  Isn't it great?  And I know that someone more cynical is not as charmed as I am about the influx of union people from out of state, but the signs like, "Baltimore is here with you," or the women who came into the shop from Los Angeles - these things truly warm my heart.  I know, I can see some people walking around with scorch marks so I won't pretend it is all peaches and cream.  I'm dismayed at the level of violence and hostility that emerges in some online conversations.  But I am pleased that in other ways, we can have a conversation, we can agree to disagree, but in that conversation we can maybe find a few more things that we agree upon than we thought in the first place.  I know I have friends who disagree with me but we will remain friends because we have many other things in common.  I don't think it will work if we just stop talking to the people we disagree with.

That said, I will confess that I unfriended one person on Facebook.  I tried, honest, I did.  I have been trying so hard to be civil and to try and find common ground but we are just so far apart.  I couldn't do it.  I do respect that other people have other opinions, but this person's opinions are based on a fundamental difference in how we see ourselves as Christians.  She is content that God will provide for her and her family and I find her support of various governmental policies completely at odds with my idea of being Christian and being charged with the task of seeking justice, helping the poor (and also doing unto others as you'd have done to you).  So, that was that.  I probably should have known how it was going to end up when she was so elated that Sarah Palin had been nominated for VP.

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8.  We have sold a lot of buttons.  Oh my gosh, things have been crazy around the shop.  It took us almost a week to get things up and running, but now we have lots of buttons to choose from.  This give us a little boost at a time of year that is otherwise slow.  And, of course, the Capitalist in me is in a much better mood, one dollar button at a time.  So many new people have come into the shop and even though it is a small fraction who express interest in anything beyond buttons, it still feels like this has given us an opportunity to grow our business.  And, just as a reminder, our button-making is our main fundraising component - we donate 25% of our button sales to local youth arts organizations so it's not just about my salary.

9.  I love my city.  My unfriended Facebook friend called us "stinkin' liberal."  Thank goodness.  I love my state too, but I hear from people outside of Madison who might agree with the protesters but don't feel comfortable expressing their opinion.  I take it for granted, but our protest window, even though it felt so daring at the time, was really just agreeing with a Madison majority.  I feel safe and cherished and appreciated here and am even more thankful than ever.

10. I love my job.  I feel so grateful that I've been able to create a job that brings me so much happiness and that is my passion.  I don't have a pension plan or a fabulous health insurance, I'm still paying off last year's tax bill, I'm overdue for an eye doctor appointment and the dentist was amazingly nice to me at my last visit even though it had been so long.  Are these the prices that I have to pay for creating a job that I love?  Can the world really not support us all in our quest to find a meaningful job, one that allows us to pursue our passions, live comfortably without worrying about bills from one month to the next, and one that we can have some input in? 

11. We can make a difference.  There are times when I feel rather hopeless - Governor Walker seems totally unwilling to compromise and I have a sick feeling in my stomach that those signs heaped like any other garbage are the foretelling of the peoples' voices that will not be heard, not on this particular battle.  Well, their voices will be heard but not listened to.  It has brought me to tears on a number of occasions. 

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And yet, in other ways, if this brings any more people to the polls the next time around, it has made a difference.  If it causes a few more people to think carefully about where they make their purchases, it has made a difference.  If it causes someone to appreciate a teacher more than they used to, it has made a difference.

The words of S came along just as I was trying to articulate my own feelings.  She writes, "I know the budget is in bad shape and we need to find some money someplace. But I also know that democracies are built on dialogue. If we can't talk together and think together to figure out the solutions to our problems, we've lost everything." Her words, and the words of so many people who have expressed their love and support, their caring, their committment - they all remind me of everything that I hold so dear about this place that we call home - this city, this state, this country, this world. 

artists at work: Nancy Burkholder


Nancy Burkholder is another artist whose work we carry at Anthology.  As a fan of Japanese papers and patterns, we love her scrabble tile necklaces, and have also enjoyed seeing what new creations Nancy brings to us (notably, her yo-yo necklaces).  I particularly appreciate her approach to creating - this, I think, is what is essential for all of us.  Even if you don't have a dedicated space and even if it isn't your full time job, I think it behooves us all to find even 5 minutes a day where we can think about art projects.  We just wish we could have seen a picture of her aunt's sewing armoire.

What inspires you to make what you make?
I’ve always had at least three things going at once. I love sewing, tried knitting, love beading and making jewelry. I got a sewing machine for my 16th birthday and a serger when I turned 21, which I guess are not typical gifts at those ages. If I see something I like and think I might be able to make it, I’ll give it a try. Right now I’m on sock animals.

Making the Scrabble Tile necklaces for Anthology came out of my appreciation for Japanese papers. My husband and I love Japanese paper, and have a giant piece framed in our living room. When I saw origami paper, I thought it was so beautiful and I wanted to do something with it that I could wear every
day. We had extra scrabble tiles left over from a baby shower game, and my second job was born. I really like them because they’re not expensive, can be layered, and can be made in any color.

What’s an average studio session like?
What’s great about making jewelry is that you can do it in small increments. I have another job and two little kids that have to be driven everywhere. I try to squeeze in a little bit of something every day, even if it’s just looking at what I have and thinking about what I could turn it into. So I might do five minutes, or if I’m lucky, I get in a half hour.


Where is your studio? What does it look like?
I don’t have a studio, though I wish I did. I have a desk in our office/guest room, which has most of my supplies. But since I am usually in the kitchen, I have a tiny desk in our pantry, and some space on the shelves for some things I can grab easily. I’ll take whatever space I can get!

What supplies do you have?
I have lots of fabric remnants left over from various sewing projects. I have boxes of beads and buttons. Some are nicely organized so I can find them fast. Some are still in the organizing process. I have my great-aunt’s sewing armoire, which is full of threads, bits of lace, ribbon and some things I’m not quite sure what to do with yet.

Any crafty websites or blogs you particularly enjoy?
I love to cruise around on Etsy to see what people are doing. I also like to check out businesses like Tuvalu and Three Orange Doors, and of course, Anthology, to see what people are making here in Madison. There’s also a quirky little Canadian show called "She’s Crafty" on Ion TV which has some fun projects.

Any other thoughts you'd like to share?

I feel pretty lucky that I get to make something I love and actually earn a little money while doing it. I think crafting keeps my brain going!

Thanks so much, Nancy! 

thoughts on money and transparency

It is that time of year when I am wrapping up last year's books and preparing them for the accountant to prepare for the tax preparer.  Fun stuff.  But this ties in with everything that has been going on at the Capitol and also some thoughts that I have been having since November's elections.

I think we need more transparency about money.  We have this fear that people will judge us, that people will take money away from us, but what if we all had a conversation about where our money goes, what we want our money to do? I think if we can start to have these conversations, we can start to find ways to mindfully use our money in ways that we see fit and we can start to find ways that we have common ground.

On Friday, a neighbor businesswoman brought me a little flyer that was being distributed around the square which basically said that most businesses aren't unionized so you should stop shopping.  Obviously, this is upsetting as a small business (though for me it was totally offset by the support that we have been getting this week).  Other movements are more targeted, boycotting the businesses that support Walker.  Though, to be honest, when I looked at the list of big campaign donors, I hardly even recognized any names, let alone places that I spent money.  It is as easy to get overwhelmed with the prospect of figuring out who to boycott as it is to get overwhelmed with the prospect of being one little person trying to make a difference in a world of big bucks and big guns.  Does my $25 even make a difference to a billionaire?

And yet, $25 makes a big difference to me and our business.  In fact, on some days, $25 has the power to completely turn a day around.  As consumers, we do have power, make no mistake about that.  And after a slow start to our week, I have been so grateful to our customers who are stopping in to say "thank you for YOUR support," to the random strangers passing by who poke their heads in the door and say, "I love your sign."   

On Thursday, while sales were not particularly strong (especially compared to the volume of people who were downtown), I was feeling a lot of love and support.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the words that people have been sharing with me. The civil disagreements on Facebook, the majority who are thankful and gracious.  It makes me teary every time I think about it.  Anyway, on that day, I had this thought: "What if the little people just take care of the little people?"  I mean, what if we, each in our own little ways, finds ways to help the teachers (volunteer in a classroom, anyone?), the protestors (buy a pizza, anyone?), the hungry, the elderly, and, oh yes, the small businesses.  What if we all just helped each other and made our little worlds better? 

I know, the idea isn't perfect, and I certainly feel that there is a role for big government in our lives.  But I return to the phrase which you might find trite, but I am finding more and more true.  Buy Local.  You might think you have no power compared to the billionaires, you might think that one vote or one dollar cannot have an effect, but, boy oh boy, it sure can! 

No, we aren't unionized, no, most of us don't have pension plans, yes, we are "business," but we are also workers - working pretty long hours at that. More of our money will stay here in your community, more of our charitable donations will affect your community, etc., etc.  Also, I think that making personal and meaningful connections with people is the only hope that we have of building a consensus and moving forward.  It is too simple to say, "I don't like you because you are a Republican," or "I'm not shopping there because they like teachers and unions."  But if you KNOW the people you are buying things from, even if you disagree on some points, you will know that you agree on many other points.  You both love your children, you both hated peanut butter as children, you both are struggling to pay the bills or to sleep through the night or to shepherd your parents through their old ages, whatever.  I really do think that united we stand and I think that only by having open conversations about our wishes and dreams and hopes and goals can we truly make progress in this world that we are muddling through.

And finally, in the interest of said transparency, I really think that if you believe in a cause strongly enough to send money, then you should be willing to stand behind the cause with your name.  We are a small business so our donations are small at the moment but our policy is this: Anthology is committed to supporting youth arts programs in Madison.  Just as we had access to art programs when we were young and when our family didn't have a lot of income, we want to promote access to art programs for the youth of today.  2010 donations were to: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art Cart progam, the Lussier Community Education Center, and the Claire Aubrey Roberts Scholarship Fund at the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center.  We use our button-making as the primary charity revenue source.  So when you buy an Obama button or some of our newer political buttons, or a penguin button or make your own, part of your money goes to local youth arts programs.

The second "arm" of our charitable giving connects back to the strong Komai love of food.  We know firsthand that a good meal can instantly lift one's mood and feel very grateful for the plentitude of food in our lives.  In 2010, we donated food and money to the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southwestern Wisconsin.  We also donated money to the Goodman Foundation, in memory of Robert Goodman, trusting in the ongoing works that are the legacy of those two amazing brothers.  And there you have the sum of Anthology donations.  We do not not donate to political candidates or action groups.

And since it is tax time and I need to start thinking about these things myself, I will even go so far as to extend the transparency to my personal giving.  I have had friends who say that it really isn't anyone's business what you do on your own time and, sure, that is true.  But I believe strongly in the causes that I donated to so I don't need anonymity.  I feel a little sheepish about the list - I sure do wish it was longer, but it's not nothing.

Let's see....  I brought clothes and items to Goodwill.  I donated books to the public library.  I purchased cans of food for the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin and donated money to the Lussier Community Education Center's food pantry.  I donated money to Haiti Allies. I donated money to my congregation, the Community of Hope - United Church of Christ which funds our own infrastructure but also programs including Harvest of Hope, which helps area farmers, and Madison Area Urban Ministry, which works on matters of social justice for people coming from prison, as well as advocate in areas of poverty, racism, education, healthcare reform, affordable housing, fair housing and ending homelessness.

Finally, I have tremendously mixed feelings about political donations.  I did donate to Obama's campaign in 2008 and I have a feeling of desperation that we should donate money to Democratic campaigns to offset the millions that are being spent on Republican campaigns.  BUT the amount of money that is being spent on campaigns and advertising is THOROUGHLY revolting to me.  When I look at the millions of dollars that were reported by the Walker campaign, all that I can think about is how many cans of food that would provide for the food pantry.  So, for now, I am taking a little break from campaign finance contributions.  It is unrealistic, I know, to think that money doesn't have an effect, but do we really want to live in a place where whoever has the most money wins the game?  Regardless of anything else?!  I think everyone should get one vote and one dollar and the idea that some people get more attention/response because they donate more money is pretty appalling to me  (and don't tell me that a politician isn't going to favor a group that donates millions of dollars - how can you not be affected by that?).  Perhaps someone somewhere is rubbing their hands in glee, but for now they will just have to argue over my vote, not my dollar.



Oh dear, I didn't mean to be away so long.  I have been so wrapped up in all the goings-on up at the Capitol.  It is pretty much unavoidable seeing as we are only two blocks away.  But I promised to tell you about my latest art project! 

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I have just started an altered book, using a dictionary.  It is in the very early stages yet so my work is focusing on ripping out pages, gluing pages together, painting background pages, inserting scrapbook paper for some pages, creating collaged pages.  I'm using sparking watercolors to paint some of the pages so I am having lots of fun with that.

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Ultimately, this is going to be a book of collections.  "Collections I have known" is the working title.  We'll see if it lasts.  For years, I have been keeping a journal of collections - it started when I was working at Little Luxuries (which seemed to be a place that elicited a lot of comments about peoples' collections), but it extends well before that since I am a collector by nature.  I've heard it said that the world can be divided up into two groups of people - those who collect and those who do not.  Personally, I think everyone collects.  People who say they aren't collectors usually have some numbers of objects that I consider way more than necessary, and isn't that what they think of my collections? 

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I'm imagining that this book will be an alphabetical listing of various collections.  I started working on the list one night while watching a movie.  It's funny how some letters are so much easier for me than others.  "C" always gets a long list.  "I" "J" and "K" as well as "V" "W" "X" "Y" "Z" are all on the skimpy side.  I still have to find my journal with the ongoing list of collections.  There were many more to add to the list.

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I'm also thinking of having photographs of collections.  Some of them might not even be real collections, though I already have my eye on some peoples' collections.  There are photographs on Etsy, lovely assortments of things, which I have put into treasuries like this one or this one or this one.  That's kind of what I have in mind for photographs, i.e. groupings of stuff.

And then I'd also like to have stories that go with the collections.  I'm imagining little short stories about the items or the person who collected them, kind of along the lines of Story People stories.  These I will write myself and will be mostly fictional.

Which got me sidetracked down the lane of calligraphy.  Have you ever done any?  I did, years ago in high school art class.  It has been ages.  But for some reason I was thinking a lot about handwriting.  Well, it's not an accident, it all has to do with running into Tracie Lyn Huskamp and then being introduced to Lisa Engelbrecht and getting to flip through her new book.  Is it a little freaky how serendipitous things can be sometimes? So, anyway, the writing step is a long way away but I gave myself a Valentine's day present of a new pen nib.  It's really a brilliant present, if I do say so myself, because it only cost $1.75 but there was lots of time that went into the selection and there is this great potential of a new project that comes with it.  I've decided that I want a more scripty look than formal italic writing so I'm just practicing a fluid writing form.  It's hard!  Not to mention those little splatters of ink when the nib gets stuck.  Obviously there is more practicing to be done.

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this just in

Oh goody!  We've started to get some boxes from our trip to California - new books arrived last week, including a clever book about mixed media dollhouse dioramas.

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I am personally most excited about these awesome encaustic kits.  It is not cheap stuff, I am learning, but ooooh, I can't wait to try my hand at working with encaustics.  I've done a lot of collaging with melted beeswax and I really love the look of it so I am interested to delve deeper into that realm.

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We also received these great bicycle tees from Jes, who provides our wonderful silkscreened ties.  We are building up a collection for a bicycle window later in the spring and these will be a great addition.

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And today we got several boxes filled with fabulous notebooks and other paper products.  These come to us from a company in Canada.  They are 100% recycled, made in Canada AND select notebooks are marked with their "buy one, give one" sticker which means that when you purchase one notebook, the donate a workbook to a child in need. So far they have donated 75,000 notebooks to countries all over the world including, Haiti, Kenya, Tanzania, Niger, Poland, Zimbabwe among others. Personally, a new notebook remains a big thrill for me and I love the thought of sharing love of paper and reading and writing around the world.  The notebooks come in a variety of shapes and sizes with fun new patterns.
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Oh, and we got wrapping paper from this company too.  How cute are these little animals?

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we object

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I promise that there is a cheerful post coming soon about the latest project that I am working on (it is exciting) as well as a post about the new arrivals to the store, but this is the not-so-cheerful political post.  Read or not as you see fit.


Goodness, what an emotional day.  I woke up super early because I wanted to get to the polls and then get to work so I could transfer money from one account to another so that my IRS automatic withdrawal wouldn't bounce.  I miss the days when you could actually float a check for more than 10 seconds.  I'm feeling rather overwrought in general - still wishing I was on vacation, feeling stressed out about money issues - everything seems very precarious, and it doesn't really feel like my government is going to be too helpful about the whole thing.  This, in itself, is very distressing for this lifelong Democrat, who believes in the power of the government to help create a better world and promote liberty and justice for all.

But going to the polls at 7 a.m. is certainly a keen reminder of this system that we live in - how fortunate that I get my little say in matters that so often feel way beyond my ability to change.  I love the poster that greeted me when I walked in.  It felt like the sum of all things that are good about this nation - at least the lofty goal of so many different people existing more or less united.


And speaking of the people, there is major rally action going on at the State Capitol today and tomorrow. This is the view from our block - the steps are filled with people and there has been a steady stream all day long - people going up to protest and let their voices be heard.  Oh please, please, let their voices be heard.  Let my naivete live just a little bit longer and let me pretend that politics can be by and for the people, and not just the ones who donated the most money to whoever happens to be in office.  Pretty please?

I have lived in Wisconsin almost my whole life and am usually a proud Wisconsinite, but the maneuverings of our current governor are leaving me alternating between tears and rage.  I won't go into the long and sordid details but his current budget proposal, set to pass the Legislature with barely a week of discussion, involves a number of infringments on the rights of workers and any other number of setbacks for the state which so proudly states its motto as "forward."  This is what brings people out today.  I feel like there are people around the state who are thinking, "This doesn't affect me," and it kind of makes me feel like screaming.  I know people who work for the state, I know children who are taught by the state, I know students who learn from the state, and I could go on, but I think it means we are all about one degree of separation away from being affected by this.

I mean, I know that we are in a budget crisis here.  I'm not saying that unions are perfect or that people shouldn't be paying a little towards their health care and retirement, but I think the American way involves conversation and compromise, not riding roughshod. I also think that the American way involves prosperity and wealth for all of us, not just the top 1%.  Furthermore, I am totally saddened by the hateful words that are being spoken about state employees and teachers and union members.  I worked for a while at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and I have never worked with people who are more dedicated and underappreciated and hardworking and not highly paid.  There's a letter to the editor I remember from last year, from Floyd A. Hummel, and I think he said it well:  "Getting working people engaged in a circular firing squad over some other working people who might have it a bit better is a standard right-wing tactic. The objective is a race to the bottom for all workers, and a downward shift in risk combined with an upward "trickle" of money to the already wealthy."

This is wrong on a moral level, but if you think I am just being starry-eyed and unrealistically Democratic or Christian, I will also tell you that my brother-in-law's accusations of our Capitalist nature is totally true.  This IS about money and I don't really see Anthology's profits rising until there is a strong middle class with plenty of discretionary income.  That also affects the amount of money that Anthology will pay the state in any number of taxes that we pay so it affects the state's income too.

So there you go.  I feel all those agonies of paying for my health insurance and utilities and mortgage (groceries too, though not as much thanks to the parental subsidy).  I'm a little jealous that other people have pension plans.  I'm really hoping I get a call back from Target so I can add a third income.  And I know I am not alone in my struggles.  But frankly, I don't see any way that Governor Walker's actions are going to do anything but prolong the recession that some people claim we are recovering from.  I have yet to see much evidence of recovery, and as long as people are struggling to pay the bills, I can't see our business growing, which affects the amount of money we pay to our many local artists, as well as the amount of money we pay in state sales taxes, income taxes and unemployment taxes, which just makes the budget crisis worse.  Seems like a lose-lose situation that the Governor is creating.

And what good is having a store window if you can't use it to say what you mean?  The Valentine window is due to come out today and Sachi came up with a brilliant idea for a new window but last night it occurred to me that I really wanted to make a protest window.  I feel so strongly that this issue affects of all of us.  I don't know how anyone can imagine that reduced incomes for people who work for the state or the University wouldn't have far-reaching and negative consequences.

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Sachi painted her sign last night and took it up to the Capitol for a while, but it is now installed in our window.  Did I hear that all of this is being decided as early as tomorrow?  Is that even possible?  Well, maybe some legislator will take a walk down State Street and listen to our message. Nope, I think they are too busy listening to the line of people waiting outside and inside the Capitol.

So last night I lay in bed, thinking about my plan.  Worrying a little bit that I would antagonize a Republican customer - but no one will smash our window, right?  But then this morning I decided that I had to go ahead and do it.  I've had lots of people stop and say thanks for the support and that means so very much.  Seriously, I'm feeling so emotional about this that even that gets me choked up.

It was no easy feat to pick protest messages from our assortment of mostly creative prints and cards, but I did find "Don't make me go all Joan Crawford on your ass," "Today is the day," "I am fairly certain that give a cape and a tiara I could change the world," (though I'm not sure the Firemen for Labor would agree with me on that one).  Nikki McClure's "Voice" is always a good one - there is one left in stock with more on their way, as well as more of the "small acts transform the world" print which I love so much.  I included "we are all made of stars," because it speaks to me of the preciousness of all of us.

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I found some great magnets too.  And the great card from 8MM ideas, with the reminder of our state motto.  Does Governor Walker need this card maybe? 
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And then I hung up one of our new bicycle t-shirts with this sign: Forward, Wisconsin! (but let’s make sure there’s room for everyone on this ride)

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and our U.S. map wrapping paper with this sign:    We believe in these UNITED States of America. With Liberty and Justice for all.

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Putting this window together is a little nervewracking on several fronts. I don't really consider myself a political activist and I'm not sure if there's anyone who isn't already convinced whose mind would be changed by my actions.

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And it is typical for our windows to feature a sampling of our products and it might not be so easy from this window to see what we are about.  So I typed up this sign to put in the window:


What is this place, anyway?

Anthology is a craft and paper shop dedicated to creativity.


1. provide a space for local and independent artists (including ourselves) to sell their creations

2. carry items that inspire us to create

3. offer a space for people to come and create

4. sell kits & supplies for people to take home and do their own creating

We believe in the fundamental goodness and creativity and uniqueness of every single person. We believe in everyone’s rights to follow their passions and create a life for themselves that is fulfilling, and to live that life with the benefits that are due to all people: freedoms of speech and assembly, freedom of religion and freedom from oppression, access to affordable health care and a good education, and a comfortable retirement after years of dedicated service. We respectfully disagree with Governor Walker’s plans and hope that the state of Wisconsin can find ways to meaningfully engage with all of its residents to find a way to work together and keep moving forward.

Anthology is owned by Laura and Sachi Komai, two sisters who grew up in the Madison Metropolitan School District with many excellent teachers, visiting the Art Cart at Madison parks, taking summer art classes from UW-Extension, visiting our parents’ workplaces at the UW-Hospital and the Steenbock Library (on the UW campus right by Babcock Ice Cream Hall), and living in a modest 2-bedroom house that a two-income University family could afford.  We have enjoyed residing in Wisconsin for over thirty years, traveling throughout this state to enjoy camping in the North woods, canoeing on the Wisconsin river, playing at beaches along Lakes Michigan and Superior, shopping in small unique stores from Oshkosh and Princeton to Mineral Point and Dodgeville to River Falls and Ashland.  We love Wisconsin and think it is a wonderful place to live and work and raise families and grow old.  And we want to keep it that way.

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what Sachi's been up to

I don't know if any hand stitching will ever be a part of my life again.  I used to do counted cross stitch but when I sit down to stitch, I'm mostly thinking about how I could quickly zip something together on the machine.  I'm entranced by the idea of reverse applique so maybe that will tempt me enough.  The Alabama Stitch books has some really cool skirts.  Sachi meanwhile seems to really be enjoying hand-stitching (she must be, or she wouldn't have come up with that Wisconsin ornamnet in the first place).  She's taking a little break from stitching around Door County and making some little Valentine goodies.  Aren't these sweet little hearts?  Wouldn't they make a great accent on a skirt?

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Meanwhile, you too can learn some embroidery stitches this Saturday from noon to three at our drop-in workshop.  Sachi has pillowcases so you can embroider your own sweet dreams.  I'm hoping she makes me a Viggo pillowcase....

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artists at work: Picture Day

I'm trying to remember the first time that I saw the works of Picture Day.  I think it was at the fabulous, now gone, vintage shop, Epoch Vintage.  And I'll admit that while I was otherwise very sad to see Epoch close, I was selfishly hopeful that we would get to carry Rebecca's fabulous creations.  Her fun button pins and accessories always caught my eye, with their clever yearbook-picture labels.  And I still sigh over the light blue sweater with birds and striped flowers, and the navy blue typewriter sweaters, neither of which were my size.  Her sweaters always bring people in off the street and rarely stay long in the store (also, they are one-of-a-kind so if you ever see one you love, you should get it without delay!).

Happily, Rebecca was willing to share her creative process with us.

5410529435_256fd5f19eWhat inspires you to make what you do?

I love vintage imagery. I subscribe to vintage fashion and ephemera blogs, and have amassed a folders full of inspiration. I look for motifs, color combinations, and textures.

What's an average studio day/session like?

The amount of time I spend on projects each day varies quite a bit because I am busy with other work too. I will often design several sweaters at once, then complete the sewing over the next few days or weeks. Though I do both, I find hand sewing to be a stress-relieving activity, while machine sewing is often stress-filled. 


Where is your studio? What does it look like?

My studio resides in my two-bedroom apartment. I sometimes find it challenging to create in my small space because I don't have a room devoted entirely to my work, just corners. A big part of my design process involves laying out materials to find the right color and style combinations. I never feel like I have enough space to do this! I dream of having my own studio room one day.


What supplies are in your studio? What's your favorite storage/organization gadget or tip?

I use floor to ceiling shelving with the heaviest fabric bins on the bottom and smaller materials above. I love the look of highly organized craft spaces with color-wheel folded fabrics, but it's just not practical for my design process. Instead I organize by size, fabric type, and color. Being able to toss unused materials back into bins at the end of a design session makes clean-up easy.

Do you have some favorite crafty websites/blogs that you'd recommend?

I can't say enough about the benefits of using blog aggregators like Google Reader or Bloglovin' to become an efficient blog reader. Vintage-themed Tumblrs can be a great source for design inspiration. Blog aggregators facilitate easy browsing and provide recommendations for related sources.

Some favorite blogs are: Kitten Feathers, The Year 2050, My Vintage Vogue, A Beautiful Mess, Something's Hiding in Here, Poppytalk, Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing.


Thanks, Rebecca!

a p.s. from CHA

I can't believe I forgot to mention this little tidbit.  While we were waiting in the lunch line at CHA, the woman ahead of us turned around to compliment me on my Orangy Porangy skirt.  She then said, "your whole outfit could be a picture," and as she gestured from head to toe, she read my name tag (which had "Anthology" and "Madison, Wisconsin" on it.  And said, "Anthology, oh I know you guys!"  Now, for the longest time, if someone said this to us, Sachi and I would jump to say, "oh, you must be thinking of Anthropologie" but for some reason this time I thought she meant us... and she did. She apologized for being a groupie, which I can't say is something that I require an apology for.  She introduced herself and her mother-in-law... Um, Tracie Lyn & Marilyn Huskamp?  The duo whose journal workshop was one of many temptations at Valley Ridge a few years ago?!  Author and artist and teacher... and she knew US?!  It is always a thrill at CHA to brush so close to the celebrities in the crafting world, but to have one of them know us was a thrill on its own.  Tracie was so warm and friendly and she invited us to catch up with her during lunchtime.  Her table was full but after we ate, some seats opened up so we went over and introduced ourselves.  She was at CHA with several other artist-author friends, who were promoting their books at the Quarry book booth... which just happened to be one of the stops on our list.  So, we also got to meet Lisa Engelbreight, author of Modern Markmaking (a book I am perusing right this moment, trying to get ideas for text for a new altered book project) and Jeannine Stein, author of Re-Bound, a book we are once again sold out of and teacher of the file folder folio structure that Sachi learned last year.  So there was our little brush with fame while in California.

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Oh dear, I hardly know where to begin!  After being away for a week and soaking up lots of sunshine and inspiration, my mind is kind of a befuddled whirl.  But I know you just want to hear about crafty inspiration, so, let's see.  Sachi and I arrived on Sunday morning to the downtown Los Angeles convention center, where the Craft and Hobby Association was holding its biannual meeting/exhibit/show.  The event includes workshops on building your business, social networking and crafting, as well as showcasing products from about 500 exhibitors.  There are always zillions of make n' takes that one could spend time on, but we were really focused on checking out all the vendors, stocking up on ideas and inspiration and products for the shop.


We walked the entire show on our first day, with a break for lunch, placed a few orders, and then returned the next day to walk the whole thing again, make final decisions and place orders. The show is for all sorts of crafts, so we get to see embroidery floss, yarn, canvas, sketchpads, scrapbook papers, Mod Podge, you name it.  There are fine craft supplies and more basic items - things you might find at Anthology, and things you might find at Michael's craft stores.


As usual, there was lots of inspiration to be found.  I'm not sure if it is because this is our third year - things that looked new for two years can't sustain the third year, or if the economy had an effect, or what, exactly.  It didn't seem like there were as many fabulously merchandised spaces as I remember from the past.  That said, some of our favorites included lots of clever ways to use paper: as garlands, wreaths and other decorations.


This might be one of my all-time favorite wreaths.  It uses little puffballs of yarn and also cupcake papers (!!) and strips of book pages to fill the various paper cones that compose the wreath.  Seriously, this (plus Anthropologie's clever cupcake wall art installations) makes me want to go out and buy all the many cute cupcake papers like these that are available nowadays and use them for paper projects.

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Overall, it's pretty amazing to see everything that people are doing with paper.  There was very little 2-D work, lots of dimensional additions to pages and "scrapbooks" that went completely off the page: either as framed wall pieces, shadow boxes, or embellishments on accessories, aprons or tote bags. 


It reminds me of what my former boss used to say of accessories: a handbag starts out with a simple new shape.  Then the next step is to embellish the simple shape, and then embellish it more, and then more.  Eventually you reach a point where you've embellished it all that you can, and we react by going back to a new, pared-down and simplified shape, and the cycle starts all over again.  It feels a little as if scrapbooking is reaching this point.  Just about everything that can be added to a piece of paper is now available.  It appeals greatly to me - flowers and sparkles and texture and glitter but it is hard to see what more can be done.  That didn't stop us from buying flowers and sparkles and textures, of course.  There are some great stickers and flowers and cabachons on their way.


There sure are some amazing things being done to paper, and it felt a lot more creative.  There was less of the cookie-cutter template work going on and a little more creativity flowing underneath it all.  Say what you like about scrapbooking, but I consider it a gateway drug - getting people who don't consider themselves crafty to start to consider composition and color.  And I think their desire to move beyond the page is reflected in these more elaborate works of paper craft bordering on art.  Certainly there were lots of possibilities for things that I'd consider more altered books and less scrapbooks, if that makes sense.  We found some really lovely wrapping/art papers, including handmade textures in sheer whites and gorgeous Florentine patterns.

There was also a strong underlying element of textile being combined with paper.  Besides, the needlepoint and yarn-hooking and knitting and needle-felting, there were spools of thread for decoration (is this wreath so great?  It uses old spools wrapped with various pieces of scrapbook paper) and also patterns on papers and notions.  Additionally, there was a lot of sewn paper, people using sewing machines to stitch paper together for garlands and onto scrapbook pages.  I love sewn paper so that was fun to see.  Sorry you have to tip your head, the computer was not cooperating (but that was a bunch of tickets sewn together into garlands for decoration.  That was the 7 Gypsies booth - they always have such clever displays!).



Other inspirations for things to do with paper: party decorations for straws and cupcakes,


sweet simple garland made by stapling little scraps of paper and many other garland ideas
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accordion folding them to make medallions - petite for first place ribbons or oversize for party decorations.  I could see filling the window with a whole bunch of these made from our various wrapping paper sheets.

a paper bird cage holding a paper bird


shadow boxes filled with fun vintage ephemera   (we'll be getting blank shadow boxes that you can paint or decoupage and then fill with your own goodies). 
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and other fun random groupings of paper and ephemera like this one, which got us to dreaming about plans for new window installations.


Combined with all the inspiration we found visitng L.A.-area shops and the orders that we placed, Sachi filled several pages on her little notebook with ideas and plans for the shop.  Should be fun to see how it all rolls out over the next several months (the ship dates are staggered between now and mid-April - first to arrive are encaustic kits - I got the email notification from USPS today).