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March 2011
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May 2011

artists at work: made by amy

Whether it's notecards or notebooks, a look at Amy's work will often cause a spark of nostalgia.  Her Uno card notepads are some of my favorites for just that reason -- all those nights spent playing Uno as a kid...



What inspires you to make what you do?

For me, everything starts with the vintage imagery I find and love. And depending what it is I will decide what to do with it. Some things I see right away and know they will be good for a focal point of a collage and painting piece. Other things I see as perfect for background. Occasion specific clippings (like Christmas ads) are immediately pulled out for greeting cards. I like the idea of using this old print and making it into something useful and fun.

What's an average studio day/session like?

Because I do housecleaning about 35 hours a week, I mainly craft in the evenings... shorter chunks of time than I would like. I decide what I'm going to work on during that time and go at it. Typically I do many of one thing at a time. I mean, I don't sit down and make a card or minibook start to finish. I will cut a ream of paper down into minibook paper one night. Then another day I'll punch covers, divide the paper among them and finish them. Some days I'll just go though magazines pulling pages out and sorting them. Some days I'll collage and paint.


Where is your studio?  What does it look like?

I have a studio space in our downtown Madison apartment. It is a great space for my needs. It is long and narrow and I have set up three workstations. One is for crafting of cards, journals, etc. The second is my art area which includes my easel for painting and my art table which I use for mostly for doing collage. The third station is for various personal projects, like scrap-booking and sewing. Between these stations are bookshelves with old games, magazines, and other vintage ephemera that I incorporate directly into my work and stacks of thin drawers where I file magazine clippings.

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

As I go through old magazines I pull pages out and sort them into categories. I file magazine clippings that I will most likely use in artwork based on subject – Cleaning, Beauty, Kitchen, Travel, etc each get their own thin drawer. I can pull these drawers all the way out to sift thru the stacks of imagery and text. I make a separate stack of pages that I know I will use for cards; I then cut these down and file them into a big file folder by occasion – Wedding, Birthday, Christmas, etc.

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

I must admit I do not do much online other than email, facebook and etsy. I'm much better at making stuff than I am at taking photos of my work, downloading them and posting my creations on Etsy. But I do love the way it connects people. It is has been a great way to get in touch with other creative people and of course browse and buy as well!


Any other thoughts you'd like to share?

I'm so grateful to be in a city where handmade is appreciated. A big thank you to Anthology and Madison for inspiring creativity!


Thank you, Amy!

more protest buttons, and the work/fight goes on

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No, it's not over.  It has been a cold and dreary past couple of weeks here in Madison.  Downtown, people stop in the store and wonder where all the protesters have gone (though I can't tell if it is a genuine dismay or just an ambulance-chaser kind of disappointment).  There is some inclination to feel defensive, to believe Walker when he says that the lack of continuing protests means that the issue has "gone away."  To give in to the tiredness and disappointment in a world that hasn't suddenly, magically, gotten better.  To tiptoe carefully around people who might be tired of all my anger and frustration.  To get overwhelmed by all the work there is to be done (politically as well as in everyday and work lives). To miss the flash of excitement and the adreneline of standing amongst thousands.  To take a break because, quite honestly, I am SO exhausted and these months of supposed rest before the busy summer tourist season have been anything but restful.

And yet, this is what it is all about, isn't it?  The daily effort through tiredness and rain, through the promise of spring that sits just beyond reach, through fleeting glimpses of sunshine, through little changes in the way one thinks or buys or gets from point A to point B. 

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My objections to Walker's actions have not diminished at all.  My anger and sorrow at hypocrisy and injustice has not diminished. I think Scott Walker is creating a Wisconsin where power and wealth continue to concentrate in the very few, where those who don't have wealth and power are marginalized and ignored, where "small government" means a micromanaging governor and where business is allowed to run unchecked with only short-term profit as a motive.  I believe that government and church have important roles to play in modifying and tempering the individual and business, in calling for justice and morality and greater good.  And I believe that we cannot be "open for business" and neglect our workers, our lakes, our children.

So, no, the work is not done.  I won't be quiet.

Oh, and there are buttons to be made.  Who would have imagined that buttons would be such a consolation?  When I hear reports about the President's low approval ratings, I have only to turn to our Obama button sales to be reminded that he has paid a few months of our rent and that some people clearly still love him (ok, maybe the infatuation is fading, but I'd still much rather have him for a President than McCain.  Or Trump).  When I change channels to avoid a news conference, I come in to find that Sachi has come up with more clever buttons.  And when I feel tired or overwhelmed, there is always the simple action of pressing buttons to fall back on - there is certainly something therapeutic in doing things with one's hands.

There are earlier posts about protest pins are here and here, but some of the new buttons include:

the chicken series:

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 the food series:

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the popular recycle button:
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the bicycle series:

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and the new motorcycle series just in time for "Thunda around the Rotunda" this Saturday:
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And perhaps the form of protesting and working has changed, but it is certainly still there.  There have been fewer people walking around the Capitol Square but button sales haven't really slowed that much.  We hit 11,000 buttons sold earlier this week (that's since mid Feb - almost as many in 10 weeks as we've sold in the three years since we opened).  I remember someone commenting that coming down to the Captiol was all well and good, but that doesn't really change things.  (Naturally some national writer complained that Wisconsin needs another huge protest so that politicians know we haven't given up.  Classic proof that you can't please everyone).  I'm impressed with the many people who have worked to collect recall signatures and the new connections that have been made between people working to a common cause, by the people making positive changes in how they shop, whether they vote (record turn-outs this spring!), etc.  Plus, spring must really be just around the corner.  Any day now.

more giving

I know, I've been very silent on the matter of the disasters in Japan.  I feel rather overwhelmed with sorrow whenever I think about it so I've fallen back on my usual coping method which is to just keep running around dealing with trivial matters.  I have been happy to find out about Charity Navigator, which provides great detail on various charities and allows you to compare and make educated decisions about how to donate money.  Stars, pie charts and bar graphs are highly appealing to me.

I think anyone would be affected by the prospect of such devastation, but we do have a more personal connection to Japan.  Our dad came from Japan when he was in his mid-twenties, to attend graduate school.  He rarely returned to his homeland and threw himself rather wholeheartedly into American culture.  Most of his family is in the Tokyo area so is out of harm's way as far as the natural part of the disasters.  He did attend school in Sendai, which is in the affected region, but that was so long ago and he has lost touch with everyone.  Nonetheless, our thoughts have been with the people as they struggle with lost lives and livelihoods, as well as the ongoing threat of nuclear disaster. 

Besides our own charitable giving, we are pleased to be working in partnership with the Japan Tsunami Relief group of students at the UW-Madison, who are raising money for relief via the Badger chapter of the American Red Cross, which then works with the Japanese Red Cross.  They brought us several pairs of origami crane earrings which are for sale here at the shop for $8.  100% of the sales go to the Japan Tsunami Relief organization.

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There is much of Japan that inspires us - an amazing quality of aesthetics and attention to detail, the care and reverence for Craft (efforts to preserve its cultural heritage via the living national tresaures, for example), the colors, the shapes, the forms.  Our thoughts are with the nation as it works to recover and rebuild.

crafty Easter treats

Strange, Easter is late, I know, and yet somehow it has crept up on me again.  The cold weather is not helping matters.  I drove through the arboretum over the weekend because I want to make sure that I don't miss the magnolias.  Last year I got there a little bit late, though I managed to catch the cherry blossoms and the lilacs.  This year I am hoping to catch it all, and maybe even figure out a cherry-blossom-viewing picnic or something.  Doesn't that sound nice?  Especially on such a dreary day as today?

Well, the good news is that there is plenty of spring goodness to be found.  Capitol Kids is gearing up for their Annual Easter Hat Parade and you can stop in this week Thursday and beyond to make your own hats.  They always end up with such creative and colorful hats.


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Here at Anthology we have plenty of goodies to spruce up Easter baskets, cards (and even hats).

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The buttons have been crunched a bit so there's space at the crafting table if you'd like to stop in and decorate your own paper cone to fill with Easter treats, or leave at someone's door for May Day.  Do they still do that? I remember having so much fun doing that when I was a kid.

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Sachi made hers with pages from an old bird book but we also have various floral scraps to choose from, as well as sparkling watercolors.  I was hoping to make one myself but I've gotten distracted with bubble-wrap printing in the altered book that I'm working on. Typical.

My mom set up our Easter egg tree with help from the adorable girl.  It's so fun to see the next generation carry on our childhood traditions.  We have several years worth of hollowed out eggs that hang as ornaments on a budding branch in the living room.  I still have to get to James J Chocolates for my favorite Easter mallo cremes.  What about you?  What are your Easter traditions?  Any projects you are working on in particular now that spring is just around the corner?

altered book works

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Well, I'm making progress.  At the beginning of the year, I started an altered book using a dictionary.  The process is slow and time-consuming, with lots of pauses while I wait for paint to dry.  But I'm getting there.  I thinned out the book and removed lots of extra pages, inserted some new pages with interesting patterns on cardstock, and just finished up painting the remaining pages with sparkling watercolors.  I love the look of the various colors as they mush together.  Plus the sparkle factor.

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I'm going to insert some other pages so I've been collaging some random papers down, as well as a little gesso to white-out the text.  This is a difficult step in the process - it's pretty humdrum and it is hard to see how things are going to shape up.  It is easy to lose steam.

But today I started in with some bubblewrap printing - painting on bubblewrap and then stamping it down on the pages.  It is helping to add another layer of texture and interest.  And also helping to unify the pages a little more.  Some pages are more successful than others - it's clear that I will need to spend a little more time with the gesso and whatever else. 

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But at least there is progress.  I'm really just trying to create background pages that have some interest and some variation, at the same time that they are somewhat cohesive.  The bubblewrap texture should help tie everything together. 

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After all the backgrounds are taken care of, the book will be ready for the real work of content.  I'm planning some short stories about collections/collectors, and photographs of collections to accompany the handwritten text.  At least that's the plan for the moment.


new protest buttons

Ah, I have a little taste of what the writers of SNL must feel like when there is plenty of political fodder for their jokes....

Sachi has been busy coming up with new buttons.  The 14,000 series has been very popular.  One customer walked out with about four on her jacket ... they are pretty entertaining in a cluster.

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And she came in this morning with a whole new list of possibilities:

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As for myself, we had an order from a Badger now living in Oregon.  He ordered several buttons for a convention, most of which were selected from our existing options, but also ordered "Oregon stands with Wisconsin" which made me a little teary.  It reminded me of the first week of the protests, the first time I walked through the Capitol.  It was feeling like "just a hippie Madison" thing, but then in the rotunda, I was greeted with a huge sign that said, "Maryland is here with you," and another that said, "Michigan is here with you."  Again with the tears.  In any event, it goes along with my "United we stand" button, and I had to expand the collection.  I know this is asking for trouble on a busy day - someone is bound to ask for a state that I haven't printed out yet - but we have had many out of town visitors and I thought it would be nice to spread the solidarity.

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thinking of spring

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April showers bring May flowers...  Right now that's just a mantra I'm repeating, standing at the bus in the drizzling rain without my umbrella.  That's what I get for teasing the Pacific Northewesterners for their rainy weather reports.  Certainly there are magnolias blooming somewhere, but this picture comes from last year (minus 2 weeks). Are we really just 2 weeks away from all this?  It seems hard to believe. 

The promise of May flowers seems rather far off, but inside the shop, there is plenty of blooming going on.  We've received more shipments from our buying trip to California so we have:

new books!  Ah, so many new ideas to explore....

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new kawaii notepads, recycled paper notebooks, and various spring die-cuts, stickers and papers.
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And a great big basket full of paper and crochet flowers for embellishing.  One thing that really stood out at the Craft & Hobby show was the way that people are working a lot more dimension into their work.  Pages are more for hanging on the wall in a frame, and less for slipping into a plastic sleeve - with tags, pebbles, flowers, etc, being added on top of the paper. 
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Since button sales have steadied enough (and we've built up enough backstock) that I don't have to be making buttons at all hours of the day.  There's still a pile of paperwork to catch up on but I'm making progress with the office clutter and restocking and reordering.  Today we have a customer coming in to work on some decoupage projects; tomorrow a pair are coming in to make cards.  There has to be some sharing: the craft table is half button table. 

For the rest of April, after Saturday's craft party, we'll have some space on the table for our Easter papercraft: decorated paper cones, which will also be nice for little May Day baskets.  We've got a great collection of paper scraps, both vintage-inspired and contemporary.  Sachi made this sweet cone with pages from an old bird book.

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We also have some Easter basket goodies, including felted goodies from Lisa, decorations from Alisson, paper scraps from Germany.


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and an assortment of stickers and rubber stamps and blank notecards for your card-making needs.

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Wisconsin Film Festival, in review

This week was the Wisconsin Film Festival so I spent most of my spare time attending movies.  8 in all, which is rather a lot for me in 5 days.  I've been very thrifty lately and hardly attend any movies in the theater, also I often find myself balking at spending two hours in a dark room without being able to work on art projects.  But the Wisconsin Film Festival is always a special exception to the rules. I'm no film review expert, but I am really pleased with all the films that I went to see this time around so I thought I'd share.  How to discuss a film without revealing what the viewer should see for themselves?  Clearly I will never be a reviewer.  Nowadays, I am hopeful that even more obscure films will be available to you somewhere/how.  There were some overall themes that recurred over the course of the five days: gorgeous scenery causing me to want to travel to even more places, labor/union issues (which presumably were not on the mind of Meg Hamel when she picked these movies so long ago), creativity and art and unity/harmony.  I am so grateful to all the filmmakers for sharing their visions and talents, and for everyone at the Wisconsin Film Festival for pulling this event together!

And now, the films:

How To Start Your Own Country: A series of short looks at micronations... micro micro nations (even a country of one, well, more if you count the dogs).  Though this was a film of eccentrics, it did raise some interesting questions about what it means to be a nation.  Also, some tempting ideas of starting my own nation.  I bet Anthology's passport stamp would be cool!

Boy: A widely acclaimed New Zealand film which made me want to go back to New Zealand.  Moments of laugher and poignancy and sorrow (though the worst that could have happened did not so that was a relief).  The "Thriller" haka is worth it alone.

British Television Adverstising Awards:  No fair!  How come they get all the clever ads?  This was a first for me, though it is a very popular film festival feature.  There were several with a Wallace & Grommit sort of feeling and this adorable assembly line for seasoning potatoes that including blowing spiced kisses at them.  Since this was my first time, I don't have anything to compare them to except my own television-watching.  There were light-hearted and clever and funny ads, but also very serious public service messages.

Potche: Attended this one with my dad, who is a Francophile.  Starring Catherine Deneuve. Interestingly, the story includes labor union issues so it felt very pertinent to the goings-on in Madison.

Mine Vaganti: Traditional Italian family-life collides with matters of pasta, a closeted gay son, and complex relationships and obligations.  Again, lovely scenery, great acting, amusing scenes (notably, when the gay friends from Rome stop in for a visit).

And my top three:

Troll Hunter: I know, I know.  Everyone is suprised that I went to see this one.  It was shot as if by amateur filmmakers, out following a secret government agent who hunts trolls.  And yes, you get to see trolls in the film.  Set in Norway with totally gorgeous scenery, it plays like a documentary, except for the minor detail of the trolls.  At times suspenseful, at times hilarious...

Bill Cunningham New York:  Another 'must see.'  This documentary follows Bill Cunnigham, photographer for the New York Times.  It was fun to see scenes of New York and remember that we'll be there in May (Sachi and I have a buying trip and it's just the two of us - fun! fun!).  It's always great to see someone pursue something with such dedication (in this case, the clothes that people wear) but also, this is an amazing man.  Very principled, very inspiring.  Truthfully, I got a little teary wishing that there were more people like him.

Louder Than a Bomb: About the Chicagoland high school poetry slam competitions.  If you have never seen slam poetry, I highly recommend it.  I'm not really a poetry person but a few years ago the national poetry slam competition was here in Madison.  Many of the poets made buttons at our shop and I heard enough about the competition that I was intrigued and I went to the finals.  Wow - talk about blowing my mind!  First, they write their own poems, and then they have amazing performances of them.  So the minute I read about "Louder than a Bomb," I knew I had to go, even though it meant leaving my sister and Mom stranded during the busiest hour of Saturday.  In our daily lives it is so easy to say that art is a luxury (how many times do I pass up purchasing a ticket to a play or a dance?) and yet I am reminded of how important it is.  In the arts, I feel that we might have our best chance of speaking to each other across geographical barriers, across distances of age and political views and language.  I can appreciate the work that someone does with their hands, or feet, or voice, even if there are other aspects of their lives that I will never understand or know.  This was definitely brought home in this movie - if you can imagine, high school kids come from ALL over the Chicagoland area: private schools, public schools, charter schools, south side, north side, Jewish, Christian, African-American.  Even though there are many aspects of each others' lives that they will never understand, they have poetry in common and they can come to appreciate each others' talents for the craft of writing and performing.  I remember as a geology student in college, attending a summer program for women in geology, sitting at a table with other young women and talking about geology - being among people who spoke the same language as you, struggled over similar situations...  Despite all our differences, it was such a thrill to be able to be understood on that level. And I imagine the same for these high school poets.  Of course, it is especially moving to see low-income youth, who might otherwise feel they have no voice, no prospects, to be up on stage expressing themselves so creativitely and powerfully.  Yep, this one made me cry also.

I hope you also enjoyed your festival films.  And if you didn't go, I'd definitely encourage you to be on the look-out next year!

more gratitudes

Whew... it just keeps going!  The roller coaster, that is.  Tired, sad, angry, inspired, happy, heartened, heartsick, awestruck... and that's usually just the range of emotions that I go through in a 15-minute time frame.  But it helps to have gratitude as the track that I ride on.

Things continue to be busy at the shop, though there have been some lulls which have enabled me to catch up a bit on the work that has lapsed.  I'm feeling less overwhelmed and that's a good thing seeing as there is the busier season of graduation/Mother's Day/Farmer's Market Saturdays/summer still ahead of us.  Oh, and a buying trip to NY in May (yipee!).

We are closing in on the 9000 button mark which still boggles my mind.  That's more in 8 weeks than we sell in a year.  We had a write-up in The Cap Times over the weekend: "Elements of Style: Protesters wear their hearts on their sleeves- and lapels."  Someone at the film festival turned to me and said, "I'm wearing your button!"  and I overheard someone else explaining to a stranger where to find us and our buttons.  There have been a few people making snide comments as they walk by the store; I'm sure there are some who won't come in because of our politics (one man leaned his head in the shop and told me I should take down my propaganda otherwise people like him wouldn't come into the store).  I still feel strongly that we all have creative and inspiring things to share with each other, so I hope we all continue to do so and not be scared off by the prospect of political disagreements.  Hopefully at least in person we can be mindful and caring, and maybe just skip those internet forums/comments all together (every time I get sucked into reading them, I shake my head and tell myself to quit spending time and emotion - and that's just reading; I've tried to keep away from commenting).  On the whole though, I feel very grateful for the supportive response we have received. 

So, thanks to everyone who has come to our shop.  Just yesterday, two Boilermakers came in.  The fact that they entered at all is a big deal (ours is the kind of place that many man avoid like the plague), but to hear the one say to the other, "this is where I got my button," was very sweet.  The fact that I hear those exact words from teenage girls entering the store just makes me feel like we aren't so different from each other after all.

I also must say that everyone's generosity is heartening.  On a daily basis, someone comes into the store and tells me they have to buy more buttons because they gave all of theirs away.  I've reminded them they can just tell people where they got their buttons, but the generosity continues.  I especially love the stories of buttons passing between random strangers.  Thank you for sharing!

My dad says I should say thanks to Walker for bringing us the business.  I'm not quite ready to say that.  But the state should be happy about the sales tax bill we will pay this month. 

Someone else who will be happy are the various local youth arts organizations that we donate money to.  Our button sales have always been our "fundraising arm" of the business so it is a great pleasure to be able to send checks this early in the year.  Sachi points out that this is a good way to share some wealth with organizations who might be getting their state funding cut because of the budget.  We will also be sending money to Japanese tsunami/earthquake relief efforts.  The artistry of Japan has been a great source of inspiration for both of us and we feel that it is important to support them in their recovery efforts.  I think that we might have trickle-down (or trickle-around) in the best sense of the words, since protesters buying buttons are supporting local youth arts programs.  And also enabling me to pay my IRS bill in a more timely fashion.  Thank you!

As I was driving this morning, I passed the busy intersection of Whitney Way and Mineral Point Road, where a lone man was sitting with a sign.  I was driving a little fast but I caught the words "very important" and "vote Kloppenberg." I thought, wow, I could NEVER do that!  I gave the guy a little wave but I'm not sure he saw since I was three lanes over.  I still haven't mastered the horn-honk.  As I continued driving I was thinking how wonderful it is that we can all find ways to express ourselves.  Personally, as in introvert and as someone who only thinks of the right words 20 minutes too late, I feel grateful for this blog and Facebook as a forum for me to express myself.  I feel very strongly that there is room for all of us to speak.  There HAS to be - isn't that what this country is based on? Freedom of speech and assembly?  I have been truly inspired over the past weeks to see all the ways that people express themselves.  To see creativity, humor, artistry.  To see t-shirts, screenprints, songs, videos, photographs, and yes, buttons. And the people!  So many people.  I'm not just talking about people as customers.  I am so grateful to the many people who have come to witness and voice, for the lone 3 pm sign-holder walking around the square, for the Chicago labor bell-ringer on the corner who called me a union thug, for the candle-bearers, the song-singers, the prayers, the sign-holders.  I appreciate so much the way that people contribute what they can of their time, their voice.  It makes me feel proud and hopeful and optimistic.  Thank you!