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the traveler returns


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Ah, it's good to be home.  It was good to go away, of course, and a part of me still wishes I was in Florence, but a part of me was ready to come back.  There was a moment, walking around after dinner one night, when we walked past an alterations shop and there was a woman working away at the sewing machine, illuminated only by the light on her table - and I thought, "oh, I'm so glad that I have that to return to."  Not just a job, but this store which I am so proud of being a part of.  And I think about all the people who don't have jobs, and how much that gives me a sense of purpose and meaning and structure, how lucky I feel... which is the perfect feeling to carry with me as I return from vacation, relaxation and general getting-away from the petty complaints from behind the cash register (which might be the title of a book that I write someday).

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So, hmm... what of the trip is pertinent to this blog and this store?  Probably the most pertinent thing is the travel journal but that is still a work in progress and will require another blog post once I've figured out which pictures to print. Besides the travel journal, other projects that will spin off the trip will surely be a Blurb book, which, I think, will be the best way to handle the 1300+ photos that I took in 10 days.  Probably also snippets, as well as some new squares of blue sky to add to the snippets of blue sky collection... which I REALLY need to get to work on.  There's someone out there who is very disappointed that we don't have one in store every time she stops in.  

There are a few photos that stand on their own; perhaps I will have some matted prints for the shop.  And then there's the whole matter of collage inspiration - who knows what will happen with those images as elements.

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(In addition to who knows what else,) creative inspiration will be drawn from:

An exquisite felted art exhibit in Paris. 

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Views out of airplane windows.

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As a former geology student, the view of the landscape from so far above reminds me of the patterns and histories studied in class so there's a sense of nostalgia, as well as an aesthetic appreciation of the patterns of nature and humankind upon the earth.

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Lovely doors and windows from Paris to Biot to to Cinque Terre to Genoa to Florence.

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The grandeur of 16th century buildings.  Not to diminish the accomplishments of our time, and I'm certainly happy to be living in the age that I am, but as I was walking in Genoa, I was particularly struck by the feeling - what, four centuries from now, will people be marveling at from our present day?  The villas, the chateaus, the cathedrals all seem such a thing of the past.  We marvel at the craftsmanship, the attention to details, the time and effort.  What will be our legacy to the future?  

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The charm of little French and Italian villages.  Every corner I turned, I would exclaim, "oh, how charming!" and snap a picture.  Does it get tiring to live in such a location or do you just stop seeing the charm?

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The view from the balcony.  In France, we stayed in a lovely B&B in Biot.  Our room had a balcony looking out over the rooftops... and you could even see a little sliver of the Mediterranean.  It was so wonderful to have that space to come back to - to take a little rest from walking and touring and yet still experience the charm of the south of France.  That balcony made the trip a truly relaxing vacation and not one of those ones where you have to come home and take some time off to recuperate.  

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Fashion on the street.  Including a total Bill Cunningham moment as I chased down the Asian tourist wearing the fabulously striped socks and skirt.

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And, yes, I was glad I brought my red shoes.

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Shop windows & shopping. Or, perhaps more precisely, window-shopping.  When traveling, there is always the challenge of balancing what one wants to bring home with what one has space for.  Biot, as I knew in advance, is known for its glasswork, and there were many lovely colors and shapes of glasses which I would have brought home for Christmas presents, if I hadn't had to still carry them through another country.  And with only one day in Florence, we pretty much confined ourselves to the beaten track, which has a huge array of designer names to offer, most of which are so beyond my budget that I didn't dare step past the doorway. 

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To some extent, I was a little disappointed.  There wasn't a lot of time to really hunt out some stores, but I would have loved to find a French or Italian version of Anthology - paper products, local artisans and craft works.  I would have loved to see what French and Italian people are doing in the DIY realm.  There was one little shop in Porto Venere, where the woman was making jewelry as we walked in.  She had some very unique pieces and I was inspired (for my own creating, and to stock up on some presents - so you can't see them until Sachi's opened her Christmas presents).

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My other disappointment is not reserved for this trip.  Overall lately I've been feeling like there's some level of aesthetic which is missing in store merchandising. I realize there are many other tasks involved in retail and that window displays sometimes seem like a low priority, but is seems there could be some improvements in the ways that products are displayed (not that I'm claiming to be perfect).  Which isn't to say that there weren't some lovely sights to be seen.

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Strolling on the beach.  Another relaxing vacation moment from the trip, which also yieled a new collection (see below) and perhaps some other new projects. 

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Other elements of being near the sea.  (Namely boats). 
The Mediterranean!  I know, I romanticize it, but every time I am there, I am caught up in the history and nostalgia - to imagine how long humankind has been washing up on its shores.  We were there a little late in the season but had a few days with that intense shade of aqua-blue-green that I can't quite put my finger on.  I should have packed my paint chip fan but didn't have space... though doesn't that seem like it would be a fun travel journal component? Paint chip colors found on travels?  Hmm.  I have to go back!

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Since it was late in the season, many boats had already been taken out of the water.  That was a little disappointing - I mean, pretty much all the pictures of Cinque Terre have charming colorful boats in the water.  Thankfully in Monterosso they had striped boat covers so I got at least a few shots of stripes at the Mediterranean.  The shots I missed were the rows of striped umbrellas, also folded up for the season.  Still, I don't really care for traveling when it is hot so I was happy with the timing of our trip.

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Lovely arrangements of tasty foods.  Pretty to look at and yummy to eat!

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The work of other artists and craftspeople.  
I have to confess that I'm not really a museum person.  I really just like to BE in a place, to walk around and look at buildings and people and scenery.  So my experience of art is more as I stumble across it - murals and sculptures, displays in gallery windows, stonework on buildings.  I particularly enjoyed the mosaic in the tunnel at Riomaggiore - it had lots of interesting textures and tiles, not just standard mosaic tiles, but also pieces and slices of rocks, which appealed to the geology major.

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I love the hands on this mural.  They are supposed to be repairing a fishing net, but of course, I see hands working on a craft project.

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Writing daily in a journal. by hand.  More on that in another post.

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Other peoples' collections & thoughts of new collections. 
If there's a new collection that I returned home with, it is photographs of rocks.  The beach at Monterosso was so amazing.  I could have taken home every single black and white rock.  However, it IS a national park and I have also been thinking a lot lately about the stuff that we all have in our lives.  Well, I'm just transferring three-dimensional stuff into two-dimensional photographs but thanks to Blurb, I can fit a lot more photographs into a space than actual rocks.  Naturally I already have regrets - Dad asked me if I had taken that circle rock home, but no, it's still there on the beach even though such a rock is very rare, at least in my experience.  Ah well.  At least I have the picture.  To some extent - and this betrays the level of my collector nature - picking up a few rocks on the beach isn't even enough for me.  I love quantity.  And so it really makes more sense to have 100 pictures of rocks than one rock.

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Is this a European thing?  I had heard there is a bridge in Paris where couples go.  They place a padlock there and throw away the key, a symbol of their love and togetherness.  I've never been to that bridge and thought the custom was reserved for Paris, but it popped up along Via Dell'Amore in Italy.  First there were padlocks at the entryway, but they appeared along the entire path in random spots.  

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The Museum of Culinary Arts had a collection of menus, which was so wonderful, including this cover which shows (I assume) France herself bringing Capital and Labour together for a dance.  And don't they both look cheerful?

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Reflections.  I tend to look directly at a subject and find reflections more annoyance than anything else, as they regularly get in the way of the picture of a window display at the shop.  However, in Paris and Italy, the reflections are often just as appealing as the initial subject itself.

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and yes, there was a definite chandelier theme

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Well, it's pretty much always about colors for me.  It's the way that I think about almost everything from the books on my shelves to the product in the store.  I don't know if it is just my imagination or the hype of the Mediterranean, but it does seem like there's a particular quality to the light there which is unique.  Though it might just be tinged by the feeling of being on vacation.

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Patterns and shapes.  Yes, I'm quite pleased with myself for this picture, taken in Genoa.  I had to wait a bit for the Indian tourist to walk into the frame but I really love that splash of color against the geometry of the two buildings.

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My artistic life is mostly occupied with color, though travel (particularly in cities) always makes me pay attention to patterns in architecture. 

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Since I took that Valley Ridge workshop with Michelle Ward this summer, I'm also more aware of shapes (in the workshop, we looked to nature for inspiration for stencils and patterns).  As a result, there are several photographs that were mostly about capturing a sense of shape or pattern for future use.

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More doors and windows.  All right, I love doors and windows.  As I review my pictures, one is starting to look much like another.  There are a lot of door and window shots.

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and ceilings in Genoa.  I have to confess that I hadn't done much research about our destinations.  I did some work early on to figure out the general vicinity but I also feel like too much knowledge just means that you realize what you miss out on... because there's always something that you will miss.  Anyway, I hadn't done much reading at all for Genoa and it turned out that our hotel was just around the corner from a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Via Garibaldi.  On the night we arrived, we walked there without knowing what to expect - and I think the experience was certainly enhanced by the lack of expectation.  Amazing buildings and lovely spaces that made one think of glamorous past lives and ballroom dancing.

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And the sky, always the sky.  Which I'm often looking at and taking pictures of for the purpose of snippets, and just because I like the color blue.  Anyway, my grad school advisor would be disappointed if I didn't end with a sunset. 

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wisconsin proud

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Yes, we love our state, and our city too...  Going away on vacation is always nice, but coming home is nice too.  Though I didn't mean to start bossing around my sister right away, it must just come naturally to me as a big sister, and she responded by making more photo snippets per my request, so we have a new batch, including some of the recent pictures I took at the Farmer's Market (so, yes, whoever approached me asking if I was taking pictures for snippets, you were right).


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I know I'm probably repeating myself but I am so pleased that we've been able to build up our collection of local imagery.  I missed out with a few artists, one of whom is no longer selling his wares, but some new ones have come to my attention in the meantime.

We are particularly excited that Tara in Milwaukee responded to our request with this great batch of Madison notecards.

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Our Madison neighborhood map has now been joined by a Wisconsin counties map, Madison sweetheart photographs, new t-shirts, and a return of the felt Wisconsin ornament and the Madison lakes paper cut.

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And we're showing the love for the Midwest too... don't worry: new t-shirts, and the popular Great Lakes cut-out is back in stock.

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And you don't think we've forgotten about our Governor, do you?  I think what's happening in Wisconsin is playing out on the larger stage with the Occupy Wall Street movement; it's ultimately about concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, at cost to liberty and justice for all... but that's just my opinion.  I must say that police-protester interactions around the country have really made me thankful for the Madison Police Department.  Seeing protests from around the country and around the world bring home even more so how lucky I am to live in this place - to be able to express myself without fear of gunshots, arrests, or someone running the country for 40-some years.   I still haven't seen anything that convinces me that Scott Walker will be good for our state for a full term.  We are personally happy that our chance to collect recall signatures is fast approaching, and naturally Sachi had some new buttons to make.  We also have our prints, including the great new "Don't Let Yer Badgers Grow Up to be Weasels" made here in Madison and a new Solidarity t-shirt.  And, yes, bumper stickers.

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travel journal in the works

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Well, I'm making progress.  At least on this trip, I kept up and managed to write in my journanl every night.  Mostly just little notes, which fit the size of the paper and those little boxes that I had on the pages. 

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About four days into the trip, I started to face up to the fact that there was no way a single signature (a bundle of pages that are sewn together) was going to work for the structure of the book.  That's nicer because there's less stitching to be done, but with as many pages as I had (plus as many as I was going to add), I decided it would close better if I had several signatures.  The pages were thrown off a bit at the beginning but I think it won't be so obvious once I add the photos and the other ephemera.


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In addition to these folded pages of drawing/watercolor paper that currently make up the book, I plan to cut up some of the brochures and maps that I picked up and make them into pages, as well as putting pieces into the little spaces still left that I didn't write in.  My mom was smart and brought along her double-sided tape so she could attach things right away.  I will need to lay everything down on the living room floor and plan out where everything goes. 

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One drawback to my approach is that the text is in relatively big blocks.  I'm inspired by the journal pages of Teesha Moore but can see that I would have gotten closer if I had done my writing later after more images were incorporated onto the page.  Then again, there's no way I would have remembered all the details.  I suppose one should have a rough draft journal and then a final draft?  But that seems kind of silly.  I could have left more room around the text as I was writing...  Maybe next time.

I'm particularly pleased with myself... later on in the trip, with how I started to break out of my usual writing style and do some larger script to fill the spaces. 

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And, yes, there are still some blank pages so there will be room to add photos and little bits.

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Next step is sorting through all the pictures to find some to print out.  Or, rather, winnowing down the pile of pictures.  I'm going to make a Blurb book to hold the bulk of the pictures, so I just have to find a few representative pictures - so probably not print out all the pictures of windows with shutters or charming village scenes...

I have some time in the coming week so I am hoping to finish it up soon and then can report back with the finished product.

just checking in

According to my watch it is 11 am on the 19th here in Genoa.  I don't really know what that means as far as the day of the week or the time back in Madison...  maybe 5 in the morning?  on a Wednesday?  And I'm also not sure if there is any point in writing a blog post if one doesn't have pictures to back it up.  In the interest of packing lightly, I left my camera-computer cord at home so the pictures are just piling up in my camera.  I promise some pretties when I return.  In the meantime, my computer addiction gets the best of me. 

It is an overcast, slightly drizzly day and we are on our way soon to the train.  We're in that inbetween time when our bags can no longer be in our hotel room and although we could leave them here at the hotel for a half an hour, I thought I'd take this moment to sit down and write while Mom & Dad go for one last stroll.

I don't know what you've heard about Genoa, but it is beautiful.  We are staying on the edge of the old district, near Via Garibaldi, which is packed with palazzos from the 16th century.  Grand old buildings designated, rightly, as UNESCO World Heritage sites, with grand.. I don't know what to call them ... lobbies? foyers? I'm sure there's an appropriate Italian word for them.  Whatever they are, they make me wish that my old ballroom dancing partner was here so we could do some waltzing or something.  It makes me wonder -- what, in four centuries, will be the marvels that future generations look back on?  What will they marvel at when thinking about this moment in time? Nothing seems quite as spectacular as palazzos and villas and cathedrals and chateaus of Europe.

The buildings are my primary inspiration here.  I've been taking zillions of pictures and even started to worry in the late afternoon if perhaps I had reached my quota.  I'm afraid that one shuttered window photograph will look much like another.  I've seen several photographers meandering around town as well... but it kind of seems like cheating to come to Italy.  I mean, of course your pictures look great, look at the subject matter.  I think the bulk of my pictures will work for cutting into snippets and for the basis of collages, but I have managed to take a few interesting pictures which I think I might just frame for the shop.  I also tossed and turned for a while last night, thinking about the various Blurb book possibilities that await.  I'm thinking about converting some pictures with the Poladroid program, and making a Blurb book of that collection, as well as, perhaps, finishing the 'Random & Imaginary Travels in France (and Italy)' which I started so long ago - a combination of photographs and journal writing and pictures from my journal embellishments.

France, of course, was lovely.  I spent a hasty few hours the day of my arrival in Paris (we left for Nice the very next morning), stocking up on my favorite notecards (though I am happy to say that my greediness was somewhat tempered this time around since some of my favorite artists are now, or soon, available at our shop).  Mom took me to a gorgeous exhibit of needle-felted art work.  Sigh... so inspiring!  I find myself wishing that I was both rich enough to afford one of the gorgeous wraps or skirts, and also had enough time to be able to pursue needle-felting myself.  Perhaps that will be something to add to the list in the new year.  Ha ha.  I always start making lists around this time of year and then find that January is too busy with end of year catch-up and then in February and March I find that the list is too long to even come close to finishing, not to mention the new things from the new year that get added to the list.  And before you know it, it is October and I am making another new list for another new year.

In the meantime, I am contenting myself with writing and a little sketching in my journal.  Nothing so fancy as my sister, but I am pleased with my progress.  The little nooks and crannies that I created, as opposed to a single blank page, are certainly conducive to my style of note-taking and I've been diligent about writing every night, if only the menu from the day.  I am looking forward to returning home to my full array of supplies, to printing out photographs and adding them, and the many brochures, maps and tickets I've collected, to the journal.  Clearly I'm going to have to add a few more signatures.  I was silly to imagine I could get by with just one.

After Paris, we went on to Biot, which was a charming little village in the south of France.  I picked it kind of randomly from the area but I am quite pleased with our luck.  And the B&B we stayed in was quite fabulous.  We stayed there for three days and thoroghly enjoyed ourselves.  I have traveled elsewhere in France, but I do love being within view of the Mediterranean.  After that, we took the train to Genoa and will depart today for La Spezia, from where we will venture out to the small towns in Cinque Terre.  There, I'm afraid, I have some expectations due to photographs I've seen of villages, brightly colored in the setting sun.  Sometimes it is good to travel with few expectations - Genoa has certainly been a very pleasant surprise.  We'll cross our fingers about the rest of the trip.

Three days in La Spezia and then 2 nights in Florence and Dad & I will fly home while Mom continues on for the final leg of her Italian tour.  Neither have been to Italy before; even though Dad is anxious about communicating in a foreign language he is at least enjoying the food and within 15 minutes of walking around Genoa, Mom said that she could definitely come back to Italy.

Hmm, well, that's certainly more than enough typing for now.  Definitely more than enough reading since you didn't have any photographs to break it up.  I promise an illustrated report when I get home.  Ciao!

Book Festival & poetry

Going on NOW!!!  From October 18th - 23rd.

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The Wisconsin Book Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.  The days are packed with many different events.

Inspired by Sachi's recent trip to New Orleans where she and her husband spotted a "Poet for Hire" on Frenchman Street, Anthology is pleased to announce that poet Jeannie Bergmann and her typewriter will be at our Craft Table on Saturday, October 22 from 10AM-3PM, during the festival .  Request a poem to mark a special occasion, honor a family member or dear friend, or just celebrate the day.

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The Bonefolders' Guild, of which Laura is a member, will have works on exhibit during the Book Festival as well.  The reception is Saturday, October 22nd from 8 pm - 9:30 pm in the Wisconsin Studio at the Overture Center.  The books will be on display in the Wisconsin Studio for the duraction of the book festival.

Of particular note, we are very interested in Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., who will give printmaking demos in the Overture Center Lobby throughout the Book Festival. On Sunday from 3-5PM at Union South there is a film screening for the documentary, "Proceed and Be Bold!" about his life, which sounds totally cool (both his life and the film). . (This, along with the story of the mobile printing truck traveling around the country, give us great inspiration about creativity in the world today). The Book Festival says: "Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. is an internationally recognized printing press artist, though he would rather be referred to as a "humble negro printer." He tossed aside his corporate 9-to-5 job at AT&T with its steady income and chose to live in extremely rural Alabama towns, going wherever his art takes him. Amos found his calling making chipboard posters he sells inexpensively, so anyone and everyone can afford his art. His posters are socially, politically, and racially charged: with quotes from Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, and phrases like "coffee makes you black." The documentary film Proceed and Be Bold! follows Kennedy, his friends, family, and colleagues, engaging with questions about the monetary and intrinsic values of art, the goals of an artist, the workings of race and culture, and what "the American Dream" really means."

We hope you'll come downtown and take part in the Wisconsin Book Festival!

market bounty

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Madison is well known for its Dane Country Farmer's Market (on the Square)  supposedly the largest in the country.  In my early days of retail downtown, I would go every Saturday morning before work, get some flowers, some sugared donuts, some cheesecurds, and whatever else caught my fancy.  That was about 12 years ago.  I think I might have peaked too early.  I'll admit that while the idea of the farmer's market holds great appeal, after about 10 minutes of trying to shuffle along with everyone else, I usually duck out.  Grumpily.  This is partly because Saturday is the busiest retail day of the week, and knowing what lies ahead for my day seems to really bring out the introvert in me.  The market certainly has a social aspect -- you bring your out-of-town guests to stroll around the Square, drink coffee and enjoy a leisurely Saturday morning.  But since it is a day of work for me, the leisure of other people can just be irritating.

So, here's my secret.  I love my little Westside Community Market!  I realized last week that it makes me happy to go there, and I wondered why I missed it on some of those Saturday mornings.  I'll try to do better for the rest of the season and into next year.  I've been trying to shop smaller - locally and from the people who actually make/harvest the stuff they sell (doing what I hope other people do in choosing to shop at Anthology instead of whatever corporately-owned chain they were thinking of).  I know it is a little thing, but that is one of the little ways that I've been trying to act more in accord with my own values, and to comply less with the corporate machine.

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Here's why I love it:

It is a manageable size and if I decide 5 minutes later that I do want those green peppers, I don't have to fight crowds and frowns by walking in the wrong direction and it doesn't strain my memory to figure out where the booth was where I saw those great raspberries. 

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It has everything that I need.  The one exception is Farmer John's parmesan, but aside from flowers and produce, there are chocolate croissants, RP's pasta, Ethel Ann's yummies, Potters crackers, Gitto tortillas....  In fact, sometimes my haul is more like a Baker's Market basket than a Farmer's Market basket.

I also don't have to torture myself with wondering if the apples that I got were the best to choose from or if I should have waited two more blocks to make my selection.  Choice is good but sometimes I think we carry things too far and demand more choice than we can possibly cope with. 

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I can park the car, walk through the market twice, make all my selections, and take some photographs, in less than 30 minutes, which is about the right amount of time that I can dedicate to the endeavor given that an 8-hour workday lies ahead.

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It's on the West Side of town in the vicinity of my childhood neighborhood and I regularly run into people I know.  Now, given the aforementioned introverted qualities, that isn't always a good thing, but on the whole, I walk away from the encounters with a happy feeling.  Even when I run into people I know, there's still room for me to swing my arms (if I so choose, which cannot be said of the downtown market).

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Also, I get a little bit of a feeling of being famous.  Usually someone recognizes me as Anthology; last week someone even reminded me that they'd saved a strawberry tablecloth from their garage sale just for me.

Of course, I do love Farmer's Markets in general - the colors and textures are very appealing and inspiring and I could spend hours just taking pictures, but for me, westside is best.
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Recently I was asked for some pictures of the shop, which is always an interesting exercise that reminds me of the view that people see when they say, "It's so full in here! / I can't focus / There's too much to look at," or some variation on the theme.  I hear that a lot.  I generally resort to, "You should see my home. / We don't like to limit ourselves," or the retail classic, just smile and nod.  Yes, it IS full in here.  But, really?  is there any store that isn't full?... besides a New York boutique, which, quite honestly, I don't see how they pay rent with so little merchandise.

I have to remind myself that when I went to Macy's recently, I had the exact same thought, which for me, carries some judgment - "it's so full in here," was followed by "what are we doing to ourselves? do we even need all this stuff?"  Of course, I am biased about the fullness in my shop - either I made the stuff, I know the person who made the stuff, or I liked the stuff enough to purchase it for the shop - in short, there is some emotional attachment to this stuff that I don't have to the Macy's stuff.  And I recognize that I can't please everyone, for the most part, there are more people who say, "I love all the stuff you have in here," than who say, "there's too much stuff in here."  Maybe their reaction is as much to the kind of stuff, the variety of stuff?  Or do they go to a grocery store cereal aisle and say, "there's so much stuff in here."  To be fair, I'd agree that we, as American consumers, are faced with an abudance of choices and stuff.  We are surrounded everywhere by so much stuff and by a bombarment of the senses, but I'm not entirely sure that retail is the place for you to go and find your zen emptiness.  And, honestly, it isn't like there's no editing going on - I pick from a very big pool of stuff to find the stuff that goes into the store.  All of which is to say, that you're stuck with the stuff in the shop, should you choose to walk through the doors.

And speaking of stuff, we are getting more in every day!  I can tell that we are gearing up for the holidays, orders are arriving, all the little nooks and crannies are full to bursting.   I'm fantasizing about knocking out walls and taking square footage from our neighbors.

I hardly know where to begin as far as new arrivals.. let's see.... 

Illustrated playing cards, notebooks and sketchbooks, letterpress notecards, altered book journals, rubber stamps, card & passport cases,

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Deandra up in Minneapolis has got me thinking about terrariums, which for me means thinking about shapes of hens & chicks for collaging, and jewelry options more than actual terrariums.  We were really excited to get these lovely necklaces from a Wisconsin artist.

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She shipped them in these lovely packages, how cute is that?  There was once a time when I spent lots of care on wrapping things, I think I might have peaked too early.

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Then there is a lovely assortment of new jewelry: button bracelets, word drop earrings, key rings, ceramic earrings,

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Even though the week has been unseasonably warm, we are gearing up for fall.  There are some new knit scarves on their way, and Jenny brought us more of her armwarmers.

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And I installed the bird window so we've got more bird magnets and prints, ceramic bird rings and necklaces.

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And, oh yes, we are still not happy with our governor.  We were pleased to get these new prints in from a local printing co-op.  Our efforts continue in the building of a souvenir collection  - some new Madison and Wisconsin souvenir t-shirts and prints coming in soon.
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Last but not least, we are really excited to now carry the lovely book by Dottie Angel.  We were across the aisle from her at The Creative Connection Event and were totally charmed by her many creations.  The book is quite lovely, down to the paper stock and stitched details.
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Yeah, it's stuffed.  But there's not really anything I want to give up.

Crescent City Creativity

"Why don't we have this in Madison? And what can I do to bring it there?"

Those were my two most frequently asked questions on our recent trip to New Orleans. My husband and I flew to the Cresent City the first weekend in October to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary.

Throughout our stay I was so impressed by the respect for art and music and the people who make it. The movement seemed to be for the people by the people, with few signs of wealthy patrons building multi-million dollar arts complexes. Instead, there were dive bars with tip jars and people who would haul their typewriters or instruments to the sidewalk and draw customers and crowds.

Our first night was Art for Art's Sake, a Gallery Night-like event on Julia Street in the Arts/Warehouse District. Traffic was blocked off, galleries opened their doors to the public, arts cooperatives offered demonstrations in glass-blowing, screen-printing and book-making, and food vendors served up steamy dishes and drink specials. The event drew people of all ages and I was struck by the city's involvement in blocking off the street and allowing food and drink vendors to participate. It probably helps that you can carry an open container on the street without being stopped. Our own Gallery Night here in Madison is well publicized, but it is up to the individual shops and galleries to make the event, and it would be nice if the Museum of Contemporary Art took a more active role in organizing food carts, street performers and musicians that night. Highlights from Art for Art's Sake included one artist's painstaking paintings of paperback books (, and a show by the director John Waters entitled "Catholic Sin."

Later that night we strolled down Bourbon Street and heard European Jazz (which I find kind of funny--the idea that a genre of music has been exported and re-imported to the U.S.), traditional Zydeco, and a brass band similar to Mama Digdown's here in town, but with street dancers.

Our newest employee recommended the Faubourg-Marigny District for music, and for that I am eternally grateful. We spent our second night strolling Frenchman Street, stopping in a couple of jazz clubs and watching some kind of swing dance competition (lots of hipsters in hats and vintage dresses). The coolest thing was a group of street musicians who had soldered/duct-taped a dozen percussion instruments to a giant metal wheel that they could roll down the street. They stopped at a corner and offered drum sticks to anyone walking by who wanted to play. We probably have some zoning code against such a music machine (and maybe New Orleans does, too), but I like that people would be so bold as to offer us the experience.


Arts are a big part of the tourism industry--painters set up in Jackson Square and the Artist Alley in the French Market. Your purchase of original art is tax exempt, so that is another way the state encourages you to buy local paintings, pottery, prints and jewelry.

While tacky t-shirt shops abounded (I never have to see another fleur-de-lys or "Who Dat?") there were a few hidden gems--shops featuring the work of local screen printers and a whole wall of different designs highlighting NOLA neighborhoods, effects of the BP oil spill, and Katrina clean-up (Restore, Rebuild, Rebirth). Here in Madison there's no shortage of Bucky t-shirts, but I'd love to see more that reflect city life.

Our last night in town we returned to the Marigny neighborhood for another set at the Spotted Cat. The band played only pieces written between 1920 and 1930 and the vocalist had a distinctive style that sounded like a scratchy record from that era. While strolling down the sidewalk we listened to a group of drifters playing Bluegrass (guitar, saw, juggling girl) and Tom bought their CD. We noticed a young man who had brought his old typewriter to the sidewalk and posted a "Poet for Hire" sign and we couldn't resist. After giving him a few details (5th anniversary, choice between NOLA and NYC, got lost trying to find the zoo, ate raw oysters for the first time) we let him be for 15-20 minutes while he composed a poem just for us, just like the scene in "Before Sunrise." I've already contacted a local poet who has done some performance work in the past, so Anthology might have its own Poet for Hire during the Book Festival.

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(guest post by Sachi)


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I'm making progress at least, but seriously, why do I keep doing this to myself?  The Wisconsin Book Festival is coming up soon, but before that, I will be departing on my vacation.  So, naturally, I had to come up with a book art piece that involves making 10 mini books, make that 11, to celebrate the decade of the book group of which I am a member.  And I couldn't come up with that plan at the beginning of the year with plenty of time to work on it.  And now it is...  4 days before the deadline and 7 days before I depart.  Five of the 11 books are done.  Sigh.  I wonder if it is too late to add "incomplete" to the title of my piece.

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I finished the canvas out at Valley Ridge so at least that is taken care of.  It's a long narrow piece with a column for each year.  The engineering/logistics are going smoothly enough so I don't have much in the way of troubleshooting.  Thank goodness for small mercies. (I think it will look better against a white wall, and the engineering isn't perfect, but basically one pair of eyeglasses (with a story inside) will hang below the column of each year).  I really just made the canvas as a vehicle for the eyeglasses since I couldn't think of another way to hang them on the wall.  I kind of feel like the canvas is stronger than the story eyeglasses, but since this is a BOOK festival, I can't quite just hang the canvas.

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But, really, I couldn't have just come up with one book that summarizes the decade?  I had to make a separate book for each year?  At least they are a simple accordion shape so they are not technically that difficult.  But I was taking care of the adorable girl for the past four nights and did not get much work done, nor much sleep for that matter.  We already had to run to Savers to get a few pairs of eyeglasses for the project.  And I have to scrounge up one more pair - I was NOT doing my math right and added an extra year to the decade, and that story is already written.

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I did have one ulterior motive fulfilled.  My sunglasses have been missing a screw and somehow all the ones that I had in my little kit were not quite the right size.  In all this work with eyeglasses, I did manage to find a screw that fits so now I don't have to worry about losing that lens.  Yay.

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At least I will be on a plane soon enough and can leave all this behind.  I am SO ready for a vacation.  I really think the world would function much better if everyone worked 4 day workweeks.  This week is 12 days for me, hence the crabbiness.  Now to just get through the rest of the list that needs doing before getting on the plane.  I'm still in that moment of having a long list of things to do and some delusion that I will get it all done if I only work fast/long enough.  I'll be ready to give up that illusion... and throw myself into taking pictures of France and Italy and soaking up the inspiration.  Sachi just got back from New Orleans and had a very inspiring time.  I might make her sit down and write a guest post here - sounds like there was lots of creativity in the air.


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Among other things, I'm currently working on the travel journal that I'm taking to France & Italy in a few weeks.  There is the matter of making up my mind, doing the work, re-making up my mind... 

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I've been happy with the past two travel journals that I made, using altered book techniques (see last travel journal) and address books.  But I had good intentions about using what I have and not going out again to the shops.  I have a tendency, when I first start a project, to get utterly carried away.  I'll make one, but in the process, cut paper or fabric, or otherwise prepare for several more.  In the case of producing for the store, that works fine - good, assembly-line approach that's effective for restocking magnet picture frames or headbands.  When it comes to book projects, that means a lot of started projects.  Such as my painted page edges.  These were for the imaginary French travel journal and other books inspired by works of DJ Pettitt (I never took a workshop from her, just saw some amazing pieces from Valley Ridge workshop participants.  I managed to finish two such sewn books, but have pages painted and sewn for several more. 

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And I know, one should leave room in one's journal for the actual writing and imagery and emphemera collected on the journey.  But I find that I do very poorly with a totally blank page.  I have a shelf full of journals with only one or two pages written in at the beginning, evidence of my good intentions.  On my two previous travel journals, I used scrapbook pages for the journal pages, so that even at the beginning of the trip, when I opened my journal, there were non-blank pages. 

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I particularly like the tabs made with vinyl.  There are still some pages without tabs so that is the one last thing I'd like to do before I bind it all together.  I've got some feathers and other little tidbits that would work well as tabs.  The nice thing is that binding is super simple so I can easily take it apart when I get home, if I have more sewing I need to do.  Because trying to sew on pages in a bound book is a pain in the butt.

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Since the pages are leftovers from the imaginary French travel series, there already are some French photographs on the pages, but there are some pages that will still have room for images and text and emphemera.  Honest.

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The cover is canvas with a thin coat of gesso, and then a background painting.  Perhaps I will wait for the cover collage until I've returned home.  In the meantime, I'm a little obsessed with using punchinella (sequin waste) to create texture in my paintings.  I like the bit of consistency it lends from page to page... though hopefully I'm not straying into Next-Stop-Wonderland consistency ('the hobgoblin of little minds').

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Now I just have to finish my piece for the Wisconsin Book Festival before I leave, find my spare flash card for my camera, oh, and try to pack everything in my little backpack.