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June 2011

The Sneetches and the Squeaky Wheel

Apparently this week marked the 100th day since Governor Walker dropped his emergency budget repair bill on the state.  100 days.  It hardly seems like it could be so much time, and yet so little time. I've felt this week that I should offer some sort of retrospective and yet I don't really know where to begin.  I'm still on the rollercoaster of emotion - sorrow, inspiration, frustration, hope, anger....  Things have changed in terms of my own behavior, and maybe there are some small tremors of change on a larger scale.  Only time will tell.

I'm reading a book right now, Small Acts of Resistance, which shares a number of stories from around the world of ways that people have acted against oppression.  I think I was hoping for a little more detail, and maybe some tips.  On the one hand, this is serving as a good reminder of the ways that many other people around the world have fought back against much greater forces.  Walking around the Capitol with a sign, changing where I buy groceries and liquid soap from, all these are small actions with little repercussion to me, compared to people who risk getting shot at in order to vote.  On the other hand, the stories show very small ways that people have acted, and yet, in mass, these very small acts do change the world.  So I guess it encourages me to continue my small acts.

Still, sometimes I am so tired!  Granted, I bring some of the work on myself.  I could just remain quiet and then I wouldn't have to be here at the computer writing a blog post or crafting the words for the shop's sign.  I could just remain quiet, and then I wouldn't have to listen to people criticize my business as they walk by.  I could just remain quiet.  But I don't really think quiet is an option for me at the moment.  I feel like people often portray their quiet as neutrality, but it is interpreted as complicity or acceptance.  Whether or not that is intended, that is how it is received.  And that is not acceptable to me.  I'm still trying to figure out a one-sentece reply to out-of-towners who ask what's going on.  It's hard to know where to begin, or, more precisely, hard to know where to stop and not cross the line into yelling at a customer or crying in front of a total stranger.

And I continue with my signs and my blog posts, even though I know that I have customers who disagree with me, and I know that from a business standpoint, it is probably bad manners to imply that your customer might be wrong. Of course, at the moment, my signs and my blog posts are still bringing more people into the store than keeping people away.  I feel fortunate to live in Madison and a generally receptive environment so that the "risk" I am taking is relatively small and my words are mostly well-received.  Still, every day, I do hear someone walk by the store and say something to the effect of, "state workers are sexy?! keep calm and protest on?! I'm not going in there!" Is it a missed sale, perhaps, but what makes me more sad is that it is a missed opportunity.  It is easier, of course, but is this world really going to work if we all just stick within our perceived categories and never test if we can work across whatever lines exist, maybe even find something else in common?  I say that as much for myself as anyone else, because when I am tired, it certainly does feel easier to just surround oneself with people who agree with you. 

Take yesterday for example - a busy Saturday without our part-timer, the week had gone slowly and quickly at once, I was ready for a break.  I do realize that most conversation I hear in the store isn't really meant for me, but the fact remains that I do hear it.  A woman was walking around the store and said to her friend, "I should protest THIS place."  Her friend told her to just not read the buttons. The woman later said, "And I heard that they were calling up businesses and asking if they were Republican and if they were, they were boycotting them!"  Now, I can't speak for everyone, and I'm pretty sure everyone has had their moments of bad behavior but that hissed rumor-spreading really irked me. Condeming our store and threatening to boycott us, and then objecting to other people using boycotting as a tool to express themselves?!  At least Sachi said she overheard the woman granting that everyone was entitled to their opinion.  Still, I found myself lingering a bit too long over my upset feelings.  But then I started thinking of all the pleasant interactions I had over the course of the day, the people laughing at the button table, the man who told me he was cheering us on from Chicago, the people who were inspired AND made purchases...  And I realized that once again I was giving a lot of time and energy to the squeaky wheel.  Why do we do that to ourselves?

On the one hand, it is easy to succumb to the squeaky wheel time/energy-drain.  The other option is just to avoid the squeaky wheels all together.  And so, I'll admit, that sometimes when someone walks through the door wearing a protest button, I am like a star-bellied Sneetch seeing another star-bellied Sneetch.  A part of me relaxes immediately.  Phew, they aren't going to ask me what's going on in the state, or make me feel defensive about being a Democrat.  And is that what Walker has really done to me?  Made me jump so readily to separate people into those with stars and those without?  Oh, ugh.

In case you are wondering about the customer, I didn't say anything to her about politics.  I asked my usual question, "are you finding everything all right," in my usually polite voice.  I didn't get into an argument or dissolve into tears.  Maybe, in the end, the both of us can just focus on, "everyone's entitled to their opinion," and leave it at that.


newsletter: late spring 2011

Greetings from Anthology!

We hope you have fun plans for the summer.

Laura & I just returned from a buying trip to New York City and we can’t wait to share with you all the calendars, cards, decorative papers and prints that we ordered.


These are just a few of our new favorite things that should arrive in the coming months:

Stencils of birds, birch trees, skeleton keys & Polaroid cameras 

Letterpress coaster sets featuring “Things that are Round”

A roadside sign match game

London- and Paris-themed photo stickers, journals and Polaroid postcards

Letterpress flag garlands

Cards featuring hedgehogs, toadstools, sea creatures and daschunds

Patterned cloth gift wrap

Origami kits so you can fold a thousand paper cranes, a sushi set or Hello Kitty bento

Cards with Mexican wrestlers and Spanish phrases

Prints of birds made by cutting up colorful magazine pages

Cards with bicycles, boom boxes, lawn chairs and record players

Cards featuring the work of British street artist Banksy (printed in DePere, WI!)

Intricate prints of butterflies, chickens, sea creatures, flowers and vegetables

Canadian cards, prints, and decorative paper with toile patterns that are actually silhouettes of flora and fauna

Fair Trade crocheted critters (owls, penguins, octopi)

Decorative sheets with maps, sushi and candy jars

Flowery "Ride a Bike" prints from St. Paul

Clever cards with elephants, tin can phones and srichacha sauce


Our protest pins continue to be a big hit--we’ve sold over 12,000 and sent donation checks to the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center, Lussier Center, and Goodman Center. It’s heartwarming to see a crowd gather around our Craft Table to read the buttons aloud, have a laugh and share stories.


Stop in and say hello during any of the downtown summer events: the Farmer’s Market, Cars on State, Ride the Drive, Concerts on the Square, Art Fair on the Square, Maxwell Street Days and Taste of Madison.




Laura and Sachi Komai

some thoughts on creativity

I think one of my greatest frustrations about owning Anthology and standing behind the cash register is hearing people, almost every single week, say, "oh, I'm not creative."  Of course I take it personally because their tone of voice dismisses the entire store and everything that I'm working towards, but there are deeper issues at stake.  It makes me think of my mom, who was told by a teacher at a young age, "you can't draw," and only started expressing herself creatively in recent years, and all the other people who were told by someone with a limited idea of what it means to be creative, that they weren't talented enough or artistic enough, that they weren't qualified in some way. Who are we to judge? 

Personally, I think that everyone, to borrow the words of Rice Freeman Zachary, has the capacity to be creative - I don't know if there's a day that goes by that we aren't bringing new things into being.  And for me, creating is so fundamental to my everyday happiness that thinking of my life without creativity, or anyone's life, for that matter, just makes me sad.

I can grant you that some people have more time or more patience or more skills, but I really doubt that they are more creative than anyone else.  Seriously.  We certainly do have things that we are innantely good at, but a large part of creativity is just practice, learning through trial and error, working with your hands over and over until you find the way that works for you.  Today I read Freeman Zachary's blog post which touches on this topic, which also reminded me of a story that my sister used to tell from grad school:

There was once a class of pottery students and the teacher divided them up into two groups.  The first group was told that their final grade would be based on the perfection of a single pot that they threw at the end of the year.  The second group was told that their final grade would be based on the number of pots they made by the end of the year.  And so the first group went to the library and studied how to throw a pot, checked out books and interviewed artists, tried to come up with a plan for that one perfect pot they would throw at the end of the year.  And the second group went to the studio.  They spent day and night there, throwing as many pots as they possibly could.  They didn't care about perfection, they were focused on the process and on quantity.  And, yes, in the end, who created perfection in their pottery? Not those who had been studying and planning and thinking, but those who had been trying, erring, honing their skills.  The moral of the story?  Get to work! I can almost guarantee that the first thing you try to make will look nothing like what you have in your head, but over time, the things in your head and the things in your hands will come closer together (to be honest, sometimes your hands know better than your head, but you'll have to find that out as you work).

I find that many people get stuck at the point of planning and thinking - and I do it too.  But when people wonder at how much I get done, the reality is that there's simply less thinking and more doing.

Our goal in opening Anthology is to try and bring creativity into other people's everyday lives - in little ways like with interesting greeting cards that inspire you to decorate a room a little differently or take a picture from a different angle, or pretty wrapping paper that inspires you to change the lining in your dresser or desktop, and otherwise sharing the images and products that inspire us to retreat to our studios.  We hope that you won't dismiss your own creative spirit - however it is expressed, whether in your selection of accessories, garden plants, spices, fabrics, paper, musical notes or whatever else calls to you.


Update: 5 days later:  A friend on Facebook just posted a link to this blog post which makes a lot of great points about creativity: How to Steal Like An Artist

New York sneak peek

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Well, the fog is gradually clearing.  It took us 8 hours to get home yesterday and our four days in New York were packed.  It's always enjoyable to get away, but then there's the catching-up and unpacking that awaits you when you get back. 

The weather this week in New York was less than cooperative.  At one point, my sister accusingly said to me, "I thought you said that May was the best time to come to New York."  Well, compared to January or August, I still stand by the statement, but this trip was testing it a bit. 

First, it took extra time to arrive because arrivals to La Guardia were delayed due to weather.  And I learned firsthand why - on our descent, I was not paying close attention so it was some surprise when the ground suddenly appeared out of the clouds, not 20 feet below us. 

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We spent the first two days inside at the Javitz center so the weather didn't matter too much.  Our minds were mostly reeling at all the sights at the stationery show.  We both love paper products so this is always a fun trip. There are usually colorgy booth decorations to marvel at, as well as new stationers and an amazing array of letterpress.  This show has a mix of vendors but we especially appreciate all the small presses that are represented - single card artists selling items they printed themselves.  We were feeling a little overwhelmed after our first day but spent Tuesday walking up and down aisles from 9:30 to 5 pm, making up our minds and writing orders.

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Now we just have to wait.  We've staggered orders so we'll be getting product between now and August, but here's a little sneak peek at some of the things we ordered, from among notebooks, wrapping paper, notecards, paper tape, prints, postcards, boxed notes, ornaments, calendars, and stencils that are on our purchase orders.  {And "peek" is indeed to right word to use - many of these pictures are just taken from catalogs so I apologize in advance for the low quality}.


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This one piece of Italian paper (from my personal collection) is one that I hoard and use very judiciously, so I am happy to have found the source and placed an order.  It's great for wings on collages.

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I'm also pleased that we added to our calendar assortment.  Many of them are more artful calendars - to hang on the wall and keep track of dates, but not with space for writing.  We will have some of those such calendars as well, including Nikki McClure's, but the new additions will be nice too.

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I'm trying to decide what exactly I am most excited about.  It's a tough call - paper garlands made from letterpress scraps, stencils of birds and keys, artful calendars for next year, new Italian wrapping paper...

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Um, yeah, I can't narrow it down. One artist had these fabulous silhouettes of flora & fauna, which we purchased in notecard, wrapping paper, and print form.  Oh, and there was a great series of notecards made from linoleum prints, which are my new area of interest (whether it translates to interest in MAKING instead of just interest in viewing remains to be seen).

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Sachi got some Banksy graphics as notecards - they seem especially suitable for Madison nowadays, since I just read about schoolkids being wanded after going through the metal detectors of the State Capitol.  I want my Capitol back!  Sorry, just had to say that.  I took a little break from Wisconsin politics on our trip - too bad I didn't return home to find that things had magically changed overnight.

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Oh, and we got some great printed fabric pieces to be used as wrap - like the traditional Japanese bundles.  And also some new simple photo albums and bicycle prints.

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And in the evenings and the remaining days of our trip, there was time for a little sightseeing between rainshowers.  The windows of New York are always inspiring to me, though I'm sure I don't have the patience to line up all those slides the way the Anthropologie people did.
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And we ate, cupcakes and other goodies, of course. Walked along 5th Avenue, took the subway into Brooklyn, strolled around Soho, got inspired by the textile collection at Purl Soho...

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Stopped in front of The Plaza to see the zodiac animal scuptures of Ai Weiwei, which , combined with an artful deck of cards that I bought at Cog & Pearl, have me thinking about series of collage/artworks...  I love the idea of a set - whether a deck of playing cards or tarot cards, zodiac, alphabet, hatever.  Of course, the reality of twelve or more related pieces usually prevents me from following through.

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And then a long trip home (8 hours from door to door, thanks again to weather delays), and now, perhaps, a few days to catch back up and enjoy the spring in Madison.  The flowering trees are quite lovely at this moment.
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NYC, here we come...

Just a few more days to go...  Next week is the National Stationery Show in New York City!  Aisles and aisles of paper products.. it's about as close to heaven as I can get. 

Back in May of 2008, this was the first trade show that we went to after opening the store.  It was a show that I had been wanting to go to since I first heard about it and one of the very first things I looked into once we opened Anthology.

Back then, Lily was 8 months old and she came along with us:

Dsc01728_2We walked up and down the aisles with her, and then, in the afternoon, took turns playing with her in the lobby.  I still remember the screaming cab ride to the airport -- we had to have the cabbie stop so we could get her tiger blankie out of the trunk.

My, how time has flown!  This time around, the girl is staying home with Daddy and Mimi (her grandma) so it will be just the two Komai sisters out on the town.  I won't have internet access so I'm afraid you'll have to wait for the report from the trade show until we get back.

The shop will be open regular hours here in Madison - Mom is helping out and Pamela is working extended hours.  We'll be back later next week!

protest pins updated catalog, of sorts

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Let's see, perhaps I will actually get to catch up this week... ha ha.  Of course, Sachi is already thinking of some new buttons - I found some trashy romance novels at the thrift store and we're trying to come up with captions for those (maybe something like, "he whispered sweet nothings but all she could think about was collective bargaining," except shorter).

In any event, I thought it would be helpful to provide a summary of the protest pins we have available.  I apologize from the beginning for the glare, maybe someday I'll get a fancier set-up for button photography.

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There's a 1" button for $1 and a 1.5" button for $1.50.  We also have some 3" buttons for $3, using photographs of the protests, and 3" buttons for $4.75 based on screenprints from some Milwaukee artists.

Our basic series is black text on white background.  Most of these come in both the 1" and 1.5" size, however those with a lot of text are only in the 1.5" size.

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Possibilities include:

crafty women RECALL shifty men
If the ewoks can do it..Let’s stop Imperial WALKER!
with Liberty & Justice for ALL
BUCKY doesn’t bust unions
Yeah, I bussed in. on MADISON METRO!
Oh no! I wanted WALKER, Texas Ranger
Librarians Recall WALKER like an overdue book
second star to the left and straight on to ROCKFORD
whose house? OUR HOUSE
Walker is a KOCH-head
Cheeseheads Not Koch-heads
unbelievable unprecedented unAmerican
even Batman doesn’t support WALKER
WORKER rights Not Walker WRONGS
clean ENERGY not dirty politics
RUNNERS not Walker
This is what DEMOCRACY looks like
Don’t Walker all over my rights
Never mind the magnificent 7, we have the FABULOUS 14!
Therapists are running out of patience
Wisconsin, FORWARD!
Where are MY THUGS?! (Teachers & Humans United for Government Sanity)
if I wanted a dictatorship, I would have picked a place with shorter winters
"Naked Power Grab" only sounds like fun
Crafty women UNITE!
RUN to Rockford
Cops for Labor
No sleep ‘til ROCKFORD
railroaded by WALKER
can we disagree without being disagreeable?
I {heart} the FAB 14
we {heart} COPS for Labor
crafty women {heart} firefighters for Labor
Yeah, I bussed in. on MADISON METRO!
Walker is a KOCH-head
Teachers are our building blocks. Don’t knock ‘em down!
was there something about a more perfect union?
the U.S. is a union
Maryland stands with Wisconsin (can be customized to another place)
RECALL SCOTT whatshisname
PUBLIC EMPLOYEES: working for a stronger Wisconsin
another SCONNIE against Scottie
Recall Scooter & Cheesehead Barbie
Manure is for farm fields not the Capitol
Oh Deere! WALKER is full of fertilizer!
We need wind power, not hot air
Thank yoUNIONS!
Don't break our he{arts},Scottie
I'm too young for a Walker
at least my grandma's walker works
Worker rights? You're darn right!
This Mama Grizzly supports those who teach her cubs
Real Americans for Real Wages
I just found 14,000 votes in my cat's litter box (also pocket of my skinny jeans/on the porch by the pop/junk mail pile/hamster's habitrail
Never doubt that a large group of thoughtful committed ticked-off Cheeseheads can change the world

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Additionally, we have:

the chicken series:

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 the food series:

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the popular recycle button:
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the bicycle and motorcycle series:

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Sachi's retro ladies & men:  The 1" buttons are 1950s women.  Options include: State workers are sexy, Cute girls love collective bargaining, City workers are sexy, Collective bargaining is sexy, Gorgeous women love union men, I love a union man, Cute gals love union men, County workers are sexy, Smart women for union contracts.

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The 1.5" buttons are 1960s Penneys catalog models, women and men. Options include: State workers are sexy, I love a union gal, City workers are sexy, Walker you messed with the wrong woman, I'm going to give that governor what-for.

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Laura's "Union, Yes!" with photographs of Memorial Union terrace chairs.  Available in both sizes. Please specify chair color: green, orange, yellow or mixed.

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Rosie. In both sizes. Options include: Nurses can do it!, Teachers can do it!, Unions can do it!, Librarians can do it!

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"Keep Calm and Protest On."  Available in both sizes.

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Miss Forward and/or the Capitol.  1" button with "Wisconsin, Forward!" or just "Forward!"
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Laura's mini 1970s people.  1" button.  Options include:  Not cool Walker not cool, Wisconsin Forward, crafty gals unite, we {heart} the fab 14, crafty women recall Walker.

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In the 3" buttons we have used photographs from our walks up to the Capitol as well as some from local photographers.  These are $3.

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We also have 3" buttons based on original silkscreens from two Milwaukee artists.  These are $4.75 each.

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All right, that's the collection.  We have some buttons in our Etsy shop and we can also set up a custom listing for you.  You can reach us by email ( with a list of the buttons that you'd like (and then pay by PayPal or credit card over the phone) or call us to pay by credit card: 608-204-2644.  Thank you! Ice 004


art & money

When the protests in Madison were just getting underway, I wrote something on our Facebook page about being sad for creativity and artists given all the various budget cuts going on.  Aside from cuts to specific arts programs, I was also feeling sad because it seemed like people were going to have less time and less money, less ability in their own lives to work on art projects when they were preoccupied with demands of work.  Someone objected to my comments, replied that creativity still happens, and then bid us goodbye.

Meanwhile, many other customers have expressed gratitude for our support and our concern about the proposed budget cuts.  My feelings on the situation haven't really changed. That said, I have really enjoyed the creativity that this moment has spurred on - people with clever signs and buttons, folk songs, screenprints.  THAT aspect has really been encouraging to see.  So, no, creativity doesn't go away.

The money matters... hmm... that's something else.  And sure, creativity and money are not the same things, but its hard to deny that our society uses money as a way of judging the value of something.  More money = more value.  It clearly says something when our national military budget is almost 20% of my tax bill and funding for arts is about 1%.  What would the world be like if we were dropping art supplies instead of bombs?  Well, a girl can dream anyway.  The inspiring movie, Rhythmic Uprising, shows an example of the way that arts can have such positive effects on the quality of life on an individual basis.  And personally, I find that my ability to work on an art project has a much greater effect on my day-to-day happiness than whether I get to vote.  Oh, I'm not saying that democracy is unimportant, just that our single-minded focus on political structure, and military might to enforce it, neglects other aspects of life that are quite valuable.

And I have to say, that there are some aspects about money and the craft world that I find deeply irritating on a feminist level.  Here's the thing: I've been a quilter for about 20 years, and then added back in photography, collage, beading, etc. to get where I am today.  In that time, I hear, over and over again, usually from the mouths of women: "oh, this isn't my real job," "I just do this for fun," "I just want to get paid for the cost of my supplies," the list goes on.  Quilters, I find, are especially notorious for lowballing the prices of their quilts.  If you truly figure in your time for: driving to the fabric store, shopping for fabric, washing and ironing the fabric, cutting, sewing, quilting, I think you are well below earning minimum wage for your time.  "But," they say, "I LIKE doing this."  Presumably, lawyers like some aspect of their job too but you don't see them charging below minimum-wage for their time and expertise.  Oh, and then there's the "I'm not doing this for the money" statement, which is either backed up by a "real job" or a spouse doing a "real job." 

And I'll admit, there is a little resentment on my part - this IS my job, I am the only income in my household.  Each person who makes statements diminishing the value of their handwork contributes, I feel, to the diminishment of everyone's handwork, which is mine as well.  In essence, we comply with a system that places a low monetary value on the work that we do.  Work that is often by hand and often by women.  This is part of a larger global and historic tradition.  And, sure, there are other things besides money in the world.  Perhaps we are willing to sacrifice wealth for personal happiness and satisfaction, but until the IRS is willing to be paid in quilts and collages, we need to have some caution in the way we disassociate craft from money.  Oh yes, did I tell you that my brother-in-law considers us Capitalists to the nth degree?  Inevitably, when my sister and I stumble across an idea, how to make money from it is a part of the discussion.  I am ever-striving for the day when I don't have to rely on multiple jobs and the generosity of friends & family to pay the mortgage, the IRS, the grocery store.  And sure, there are always costs that one can cut, but I think it is also important to look at ways to affect the bottom-line by increased revenue.

So, there you go.  I think that art and craft are important components in making the world a better place, and I believe they are as deserving of funding as anything else.

Kelley D. on Facebook said it well so I thought it best to just copy and paste her words (with her permission):

"Artists need to eat or art does not get made. Artists need to have shelter or art does not get made. Artists need to have time and energy to make art or art does not get made. Food and shelter and time and energy require money. If artists have to work at something besides art that we decide is a "real" job and make art in their "spare time," then art becomes "extra," and even pretend, something that is not as valuable or important or real as other things people get paid to spend their time and energy doing. We assign value to "things" and activities in our society with money. If we value art (and I defy you to look up from your computer and NOT find art) and the "things" that make it and that it makes possible in the world, we must pay for it. Period. Not everything that we need as humans is something that is going to make a proft for some corporation. The soul-life that is the real value of art is one of those things. The crazy thing about cutting public arts funding is that art IS something that will make corporations profit. People buy art. Artists are creative problem solvers who can look at a pile of stuff that someone else might throw away and make it into something beautiful useful and meaningful. And artists know how to get people working together toward shared goals by revealing what is important to them all. The thing that I think scares people who want to cut public arts funding even though it would be good for the economy to invest in it is that, to paraphrase a line from Tim Robbins' brilliant film Cradle Will Rock, there is something about artists that always gets socially responsible. The tagline for that film is "art is never dangerous unless it tells the truth." I can see where that might not be something in which corporate America is neccessarily interested in investing."

progress on the altered book

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I'm kind of looking on this as my project for the year.  I'm still just on the stage of creating backgrounds.  But it is nice to have something to work on in the evening.  In hindsight, I might have done more painting of pages before inserting them in the book; the drawback of using pages within a book is that one has to wait for paint to dry and even the hairdryer doesn't make things go as quickly as one would like.

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This altered book ultimately is going to be a dictionary of collections - collections know, lost, found, imagined.  I left in some of the pages, glued them together for added sturdiness, removed some pages, added some interesting double-sided scrapbook papers, created some more add-in pages by collaging paper/gesso/bubble-wrap printing, applied washi tape on edges, painted with sparkling watercolors.  Most recently, I've been painting bubble-wrap with gesso and printing on the pages.  I've decided to go with the bubble-wrap texture throughout the book.  Even though I like to do different things and I like a lot of variety with color and texture, I think the book will be more successful if it has some unifying elements.

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This year I have been especially mindful of all the previous artful experiences that go into my present artistic life.  Thanks especially goes to Valley Ridge Art Studio for a variety of workshops that provided me with the skills to create this piece: first of all, Carol Owen's altered book techniques, but also Anne Bagby's complicated papers, Leslee Riley's tip for Golden's ultrafine bronze, Juliana Coles' and Claudine Hellmuth's collage and layering tips, Katie Kendrick's textures and freeform painting on paper/cardboard, to name a few.  What a lot of help I've had!  
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The next step is taking pictures of collections and deciding how to incorporate the images.  I'm thinking maybe make them look like Polaroid pictures?  or not.  Who knows.  I also need to come up with text and decide how to incorporate that.  At the moment, I'm thinking of writing with calligraphy pen right onto the page but that thought is kind of stressful.  Maybe just find some interesting tag/label for each collection?  Hmm....

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united we stand - the view from behind the cash register

I started out working retail just after I graduated from college - that would be 1993.  With Mother's voice echoing in my ear, "You need to get a job. When are you getting a job?  You need health insurance.  When are you getting a job?," I headed out to see what I could find, landing an interview & job on the same day that I went out looking, at Boston Store, in the handbag department.

So, perhaps it is because I have spent so much of my working life in retail.  Though I went on to grad school and working an office job, I returned to retail as assistant manager and then manager of Little Luxuries, and then to open Anthology with my sister three years ago.

Now, in retail, you are trained that, "the customer is always right."  To which a former boss of mine would add, "even when they are wrong."  And although there are days when I'd like to hole up in the office or behind locked doors, just rearranging objects or making new items, the reality is that our focus must remain on our customers. It's not a perfect system, or, rather, I don't manifest it perfectly.  Sometimes I work more based on what I THINK is best for our customers, than what they say they want,  I make assumptions about individual customers based on my experience with the customers who came before them. But the fact is that I can make all the prettiest things in the world, array them as nicely as I want, but I won't have a store without customers.

And yet, I find that the experiences of the past couple months have brought a niggling feeling into clearer focus.  This feeling is that we draw dividing lines between taxpayer, customer, employee, business owner, government.  I will speak about them separately, and yet each of these is inextricably linked, if not residing in the same body.  Treating these groups as independent seems to me to be a great source of many of the issues of the moment. 

First of all, state and federal revenue sources: income tax and sales tax.  Sure, there are others, but these are biggies.  Who pays this?  The employee, the business, the customer.  Ideally, all three of these would earn more money, pay more taxes, and help to fund the programs that strengthen our society.  We seem to be focusing a lot on the health of businesses, and sure, we can't have employees without businesses, but can we actually have businesses without customers?  Do we, as businesses, not depend on the wealth and success of our customers?  I find it very puzzling that many businesses come out in support of measures that might benefit them as businesses, but which will hurt their customers.  We need to take more responsibility as businesses to consider the well-being of our customers, not just getting the products they want or being nice to them even when they are crabby, but ensuring their quality of life, which in turn ensures the existence of our businesses.

Second of all, how about us as customers?  We are trained to expect the best, fastest, brightest, and newest, all for the least amount of money.  We shop for our bargains and discounts and deals.  And what does a business have to do to offer bargains and discounts and deals?  Find the fastest and brightest labor, for the least amount of money.  On a large scale, this certainly leads to jobs being sent overseas.  The problem is that the American customer is also the American worker.  What happens when their pensions are reduced, jobs are downsized or eliminated, all to create something that appeals to the customer on the basis of price?  How can we as workers, support a system that diminishes the value of our work, just so that we, as customer can get a better price?  I find it utterly illogical.  We need to take more responsibility as customers to consider the well-being of the worker, to spend our money in ways that encourage fair compensation of our own work.

There are other distinctions we make which I find utterly confounding, but it is these two, from my view from behind the cash register, which hit at the heart of many issues we face.  The customer is the worker is the business is the taxpayer is the government is the worker is the taxpayer is the customer.  United we stand.

charmed, once again


I know, I know, I say this all the time.  But I love Vintaj brass.  I think some of my surprise in myself comes from the fact that for years I was a "silver" person.  I prefer cool tones and the way that silver goes better with everything - and when I was younger, the matching quality would have been high on my list of priorities.  And yet, there is something about the warmth of brass that I find quite appealing.

There are still some charms that I would love to see from Vintaj - a bicycle, a locket, a stamped nest with eggs, an owl in natural brass... I'm sure there were others that I was wishing for but can't think of them just now.

Still, we've made a huge leap forward with this newest shipment - an Eiffel Tower!  I predict this will be a popular charm for them.  Additionally, we've got some new filigree, a sweet new heart, a ballerina, more of my favorite swallow and the lady in the moon... Oh, and new shapes for stamping text onto. So many goodies! Ooh 001

And now they are all spread out on my living room floor.  I sat down last night and made a series of charming necklaces using the lovely hand-dyed ribbons that we have here. I've been wanting a new set of alphabet stamps and now I feel like I need to find something suitably French to go with the Eiffel Tower.  Well, maybe just a lowercase typewriter font or something.  I do love the way the Eiffel Tower goes with the little bee or the little bird, and the moon.  Thanks, Vintaj!

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