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you betcha we're collecting signatures

I had a chance to be interviewed for our local news yesterday (about today's downtown holiday open house).  Naturally, out of the 10 minutes of interview, they picked my least favorite sentence.  Which leaves me stewing just a little bit this morning.  Being a not-so-articulate introvert, I often find myself with such morning-after regrets  -- wishing I could have been more articulate on the spot, thinking up better answers long after the opportunity is gone. 

But it also challenges me a bit because I can have the tendency to believe in figures of authority (in this case the media); to believe in the truth and accuracy of what I am hearing.  Not unlike my experience this year with the discrepancy between media reports and my on-the-ground experience of working two blocks away from the protests.

Which brings me to the actual topic of this blog post.  You betcha we're collecting signatures.  Recall petition signatures, that is.  For the recall of Wisconsin's Governor and Lt. Governor.  Now, it seems a little tiring, even to me, that the topic keeps coming up in the news.  And since I already signed, I'm not so keen on having people ask me wherever I go.  Clearly the Republicans are very worried about shoppers being "harrassed."  That said, any time I have passed a signature-collector, we just nod and make eye contact.  They have never been the first to speak and there is no intrusion at all upon my day.  I can see that if you are against the recall process, their very presence might be considered an intrusion.  Then again, the pro Walker bumper stickers are an intrusion on my day.  I like to think we at least have an ideal of a free country, where we can still disagree without being disagreeable, where people have the freedom to speak, and the freedom to pursue their vision for the world they want to live in.  Some malls have already banned signature collectors from their property and Republicans are encouraging other businesses to do the same (so says the news anyway).  And, fine, perhaps you don't want your holiday shopping mixing with your politics.  To be honest, I find that sentiment kind of ridiculous.  Basically, the message I hear is, "la la la, never mind what's going on in the state, just come and spend money."  Yet, what is going on in the state IS about money, and, for many many people, it is affecting how much money they will have to go shopping. 

From the beginning we have had moral and Christian reservations about Governor Walker's actions.  My dad will argue that church and state need to be separated but I really believe that at their best, church and state are working for the same end, the collective body working together, sharing resources for the good of all.  "Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do so unto me" or something like that.

But we also feel that Governor Walker's actions threaten the existence of our business.  Honestly, it seems only commonsense, though many businesses don't seem to adhere to such practices - but isn't it our best interest to think about our customers' best interests?  The small tax break that the Governor offers does little to offset the reduced paychecks of our customers.  Therefore we feel very strongly that we must do whatever we can to protect our customers, our livelihood, and our home state.

On a related note, I am SO tired of media (local and national) saying that this is about collective bargaining.  Yes, that is one aspect of the issues facing Wisconsin but it is really only one of many.  As long as we reduce the issues to that single issue, it is too easy to say this is a battle between unions and free enterprise, between state and private.  Sachi and I have been wrestling with our "top 10" list and have trouble making it something that would appear on Letterman.  But I was pleased yesterday to read in The Cap Times the following letter to the editor, which pretty much hits all the concerns I have, though I can always keep adding to the list (like concentrating power in the Governor's office by making more positions Governor-appointed...):

"I want my Wisconsin back

Dear Editor: I am a believer in the rights of the people of Wisconsin.  Those rights are being eroded daily by the Walker administration.  Among my concerns:

1. Funding for Planned Parenthood was blocked.
2. Tax cuts for the wealthy are promoted over the needs of the people.
3. Cuts have been made to health care for those who need it most.
4. Local jobs have been outsourced to other states.
5. Redistricting maps were drawn that divide communities.
6. "No compromise" is the motto.
7. Our environment has been sold out; high speed rail and wind energy possibilities have been cut.
8. Road construction was chosen over education.
9. Public workers were denied the right to bargain.
10. Voter participation has been restricted through voter ID and redistricting.
11. The Koch brothers and ALEC's agenda is being followed, not the needs and wishes of Wisconsin residents.

I want my Wisconsin back - the Wisconsin where citizens were respected, listened to and given a voice.  We have been lied to long enough.  The behind-the scenes power grabbing has got to stop."

And if any of those actions strike you as wrong and counter to the kind of state you want to make home, we hope you'll sign the petition to Recall Governor Walker.  Petitions seem to be readily available, from my own experience, but if you can't find one, please do check the United Wisconsin website (which also has its own top 10 list).. or just ask us when you are next downtown.  No purchase necessary.

crunching numbers

Buy local.  Buy local.  Buy local.

Are you tired of hearing the message?  I'll admit, sometimes I get tired of it - specifically, I get tired of the energy that I have to put into checking sources and labels, reading the fine print, making choices and decisions mindfully, thinking not just about short-term cost and convenience.

And yet...

As a local business myself, and as someone who has been wrestling with my discontent with things political and corporate, I have to say that one of the simplest actions that I've been able to take this year is to be more mindful of my consumption.  Not just the volume of my consumption, but where, exactly, is my money going to?  We are trained on many levels to respond en masse, to buy en masse, and to do so at places that can respond to our mass demands.  And I believe we are also trained to believe that our power is just in our mass, as if there is nothing that we as individuals can do to change the world, and therefore why bother trying?  Certain people have a lot to gain if we cede our power.  Certain people HAVE gained a lot because we are not exercising our full buying/voting power.  But we are not the masses.  We are individual people.  We have power in our individuality.  And, hey, why not support other people who are pursuing their individual dreams?

(I might add, at least from my own personal experience, that if someone has a small business, they are probably working really hard for not a lot of money, which means they don't have much money to spare to throw into the political campaign system/mess which we currently have.  That way, even if you do disagree with their politics, they can't do much damage).

With the barrage of Black Friday ads coming my way, I've been extra-inspired to find some alternatives and stumbled across Plaid Friday (how clever is that?), Independent We Stand, Shift Your Shopping, 3/50, Small Business Saturday (nicely but oddly promoted/founded by American Express.  I say, oddly, because if you really want to be a friend to small business, you would pay cash, or at least not pick the credit card that charges the highest rates).  Then there is our own Dane Buy Local, an excellent resource for finding businesses right here in Dane County.  All of these sources provide a number of arguments for the buy local case.

I know, there are issues of convenience, there is complexity.  Local people work in national chains, local stores buy things that are made by international corporations.  The matter is not cut and dried.  Nonetheless, I have found it relatively easy to shift at least a percentage of my purchases to local sources.  And I don't mean to exaggerate, but I do think this is one of the most critical issues facing us right now, issues that movements such as Occupy Wall Street (and beyond) are asking us to face up to.  I feel that a lot of problems can be traced back to the ways that we as consumers have been separated from who we are as workers, taxpayers, employers, government.  We buy something because it is cheap and somewhere someone loses a job because a company had to shift production overseas to produce the cheaper good.  Does that even make sense?  Without making things ourselves, we are distanced from the process of making, from the time that it takes and even from appreciating the items themselves.  Then we start to devalue labor of others and even the people themselves. 

We work in jobs that require little of our own individuality, and wasn't this supposed to be America, the land of opportunity and individual achievement?  I think that one of the attractions my dad had to the U.S., coming from Japan,  was that sense of individual achievment versus group identity, and yet what do we, as a nation, really do to support the individual?  This is not about laziness or poor work ethics or delayed gratification, this is about being able to work at something that is satisfying on a deep and personal level.  From my limited experience in corporate retail, that ain't it - are those really all the jobs that we have to offer people?  Why not reward the people who are taking initiative to create and follow their own path to success?

So, yes, I am asking you to think about changing your buying habits and shift as much as you can to local sources.

But just to prove that Anthology is practicing what it preaches, I did a little number crunching.  Not only does your purchase support our little shop (the payroll of my sister, myself and two part-timers), our own creative endeavors (it fluctuates, but on average, 25% of our sales are of items made by Sachi or Laura), our rent paid to the Goodman Foundation (which, I assume is still doing good things), but we donate a percentage of our sales to local youth arts organizations.  Oh, and we pay state and federal taxes - sales, unemployment, income...

Furthermore, many of the items in store are made locally or by small business artists around the country.  We like to buy local too.

So far in 2011, of the items sold in the store:

40% are made in Wisconsin, much in Madison (since Sachi and Laura are the two biggest contributors to items made in the shop).  We are pleased to be able to support our fellow artists, and also to generate substantially less packaging waste (as most items are hand-delivered in a shopping bag, instead of triple-boxed to be shipped from overseas).

Another 30% are from independent artists from the Midwest and beyond (including Canada but not crossing any oceans).  These are small businesses, usually only one or two people, doing the creating, packaging, selling, advertising.  We're pleased to support them as they pursue their passion.

There are many other great locally-owned small businesses in our area, and beyond.  When I sit down and think about what it is that I love about a particular place, it is not the national chains that can be found anywhere, it is the unique and interesting shops and restaurants, the individual character of a place.  And I hope that you will join me in supporting those local businesses as they pursue their version of the American Dream.

Thank you!

Alice's Winter/Wander/Wonderland

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Well, this window has been a long time coming.  I've been plotting for an Alice in Wonderland window for ages and finally all the pieces came together.  I only wish I had larger windows so I could really use all the lovelies that I gathered.  As it is, everything is just going to have to take turns.  I had planned to make it more winterland than wonderland but got distracted with various possibilities.  So, it's really only vaguely a holiday window but I think it represents our store well.  Closer to Christmas, I'll probably bring the tree more front and center, but this felt about right for this moment - as much as I've been preparing for Christmas at the shop all year long, I'm not quite ready to jump full in.

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To be honest, I've only recently become obsessed with Alice in Wonderland.  Of course, I always like the blue dress with the little apron, and who hasn't been tempted to shout, "off with her head!" every once in a while. 

No, my latest preoccupation wasn't connected to the movie, though maybe there is some mass conscience that I was tapping into since the timing is suspicious.  But, before I knew the movie was coming out, I was working on an altered book for an exhibit.  I'm not sure I even went out hunting for Alice in Wonderland specifically, but I found an oversize storybook that ended up being a perfect format to work with.  In the process of working on the altered book, I read the story several times and each time found more things that charmed and spoke to me.  For that project, I ended up using chapter headings and excerpts as springboards to a somewhat autobiographical piece.  And then I made some mini books along the same line. And then a collage...


Ages ago I found these paper masks for the various characters in the story and thought those would be great for a window.  I've been hanging onto them for a while and this year suddenly seemed right to pull all the pieces together.  Or, rather, find more pieces to pull the window together.

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An artist in Texas makes some lovely prints on old book and sheet music pages, including the illustrations from the classic edition.  Illustrations which are also used on our scrabble tile necklaces, notebooks, notecards and rubber stamps.

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I even managed to find some Christmasy items that (loosely) fit with the theme: some sweet mushrooms and fairy houses from an artist in Utah, and glitter houses from an artist in Appleton.  And some cupcake ornaments are on their way to complement the felt donuts.

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And I found some great t-shirts with the white rabbit riding a bicycle, and had fun making coordinating paper skirts for the mannequins.

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Being a text person, one of the pieces that I am most pleased about is from one of our newer Wisconsin artists, a letterpress artist in Kimberly, who made a series of Alice quotations on our request.  I really love their contribution to the window.

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A customer once commented that coming into our store was like falling down the rabbit hole.  We hope you'll stop in to have your own adventures in our little wonderland.

protest buttons thanks

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In celebration of the 18,000th protest button sold and in honor of the kick-off of Recall Walker petition collecting season, Anthology will be having a button sale on Saturday, November 19th.  Protest buttons made in-house will be 50% off - regularly $1 and $1.50, now 50 cents and 75 cents. While supplies last, though we will do what we can to keep up.  Stock up and bring some home for the holidays.  We still have "with Liberty and Justice for all," which I think means that there's a button for everyone.

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This is the time of year when the slide from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day goes fast, when I'm thinking about giving thanks and wrapping up a year, about what has changed from last year (what new items do I have to offer this Christmas?  what have I accomplished in a year?), about what to write in my annual Christmas letter, about what I hope for in the coming year.

And it is not that there aren't other things in my life or the life of the store, but a big part of all those thoughts is... buttons.  Buttons, buttons.  A year ago, who would have guessed that would be so?  A year ago, I never would have predicted all that has happened and the role that buttons would play. 

Five years ago, to be precise, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, was when the plans for Anthology first solidified.  That was my light-bulb moment at 6 a.m.  It is funny to think about our path and the role button machines - which I first had to twist Sachi's arm over (She always wanted a button machine and I told her this would be a great opportunity since it would be a business expense and we could use it to make buttons for the store.)  We had so much fun making our own buttons that we ended up inviting customers to make their own buttons.  The button machine wasn't even in our business plan. 

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Even the process of making protest pins started very serendipitously.  We felt very strongly that Governor Walker's actions were wrong and were going to be hurtful to our community at large, as well as to our customers, and so we stood with the protesters from the beginning.  Sachi made her signs, we teared up as the firefighters passed by, I installed our first protest window.  But, mostly, the first couple days, we stood.  We witnessed.  We felt kind of blindsided and helpless; and it felt a little lonely to be standing in the store watching everyone walk up to the Capitol.  Of course, it wasn't about selling, this was not the time.  But then our customers (who regularly walk by and point us out as "the button store") started coming in and asking where our buttons were.  A friend commented that we must be selling buttons like crazy since protesters love their buttons.  Of course as a business, we are always trying to think of ways to build our business.  But I believe that you can't really sell a product unless you really believe in it - you have to pick the things that speak to you so that your heart is in your store.  And in the end, while making buttons has been monetarily rewarding, I think it has saved my sanity this year in many more significant ways.  I can feel alone, helpless, powerless; and then I can check our sales history and be comforted by the number of people who have bought buttons and who agree with me (and extrapolate how many recall signatures that translates into).  I am not alone.  I can feel minimized, marginalized ('oh, you're just a hippie Madisonian') and have my day immediately brightened by a phone order for buttons to be shipped somewhere in northern or eastern or western Wisconsin.  I am not alone.  I can feel voiceless and unheard, and then I can come into the shop and vent my frustration by coming up with new slogans, not to mention that the physical act of making buttons can use up a little aggression.  I can feel worried or threatened about possible hostility, and then I can appreciate that civility prevails.  Most of all, providing the space of our button table has created little pockets of community, moments when random strangers come together and share a chuckle over buttons - these moments of laughter are so valuable to me, and to play a role in hosting them is something that I am truly proud of.

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Yesterday we sold our 18,000th button since February of this year.  That is more buttons than we've sold in the previous years since we opened.  That is pretty close to the increase in sales between last year and this year.   A percentage of that funds our local non-profit donations, which have increased substantially this year compared to last year.  That is thanks to the people who have come into our store (or called/emailed) to purchase our protest pins.  THANK YOU!

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enamel sneak peek

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I know I've mentioned before how much I love enamel. We always love it when we get to pick out pieces for the shop - some of which are available for your own jewelry-making, many of which I make into the earrings and necklaces that we have for sale.  I always feel a little bit like Donald Duck's uncle who would swim/roll/otherwise bask in his piles of gold coins - except for me, it's gorgeous shades of enamel pieces.

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And we thought it was about time that you got to share in the fun.  So we are excited that we were able to make arrangements for an enamel trunk show over Thanksgiving weekend.

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The back table will be filled with a lovely assortment of enamels and we will be on hand to help you if you'd like to do a little jewelry-assembly right on the spot.  Or, you can just pick out lovely pieces to bring home with you.  There will be lots to choose from in many different shapes, colors and sizes. 

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It is a simple matter to put a pair of enamels on ear wires for a simple earring, or cluster a few onto a necklace.  Paired with our warm brass findings, you could easily get a few Christmas presents taken care of, and you can take credit for making them yourself!

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We will be closed on Thursday but the trunk show will take place during our regular business hours on Friday and Saturday.  We will be keeping some pieces in store for the rest of the holiday season, but, come Monday, leftovers will be sent back to Duluth so get 'em while the getting is good.

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There are shapes and styles we don't regularly carry in the store, plus you'll get a taste for how I feel when Sara comes to town - so many lovely enamels to choose from!  here are just a few pictures to whet your appetite.

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The Recall Walker catalog, of sorts

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In the past two days, I've received two out of town inquiries about "Recall Walker" prints.  I love to see the support for the Wisconsin fight rolling in from around the country, but there's little that gives me a greater thrill than sending items out to elsewhere in the state.  I think it is easy to fall into the trap that one is alone - too small to make a difference.  "Oh, you're just a privledged liberal hippie in Madison," they say, "no one else feels this way," "you're exaggerating..."  But each little package that goes out to the state reminds me that, no, I'm not alone.

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In any event, I am determined to persist.  I think that Governor Walker is bad for the state of Wisconsin.  I seriously doubt that he is motivated by anything except greed for power and money and I frankly don't think he cares about the well being of most of this state's residents, an approach which I find highly objectionable in the office of the Governor of the state.  I have seen nothing to indicate that he is interested in job creation except as it rewards the people who donated a lot of money to his campaign.  So, yes, we'll be collecting recall petition signatures at the shop.  And, yes, we will continue to sell our buttons, which have now been joined by other items.

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Here, in brief, is a catalog of the items we have in the store.  We are happy to ship them out (prices quoted do not include shipping/handling), just contact us via email at


1. "Keep Calm &...."  My original creation - well, I came up with the words and the design and sent them out to be offset print.  11 x 17, black text on white cardstock. $5

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2.  "Keep Calm and Recall Walker" A commissioned print available in a variety of colors.  8 x 10.  $16.


3. "Don't let yer Badgers grow up to be Weasels" Screenprint in various colors. 12 x 18.  $10 - $12.

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4.  Buttons, buttons, more buttons.  We've added some more specific recall text to the collection, as well as some new vintage ladies, though OMG GOP WTF remains one of the most popular.  $1 - $4.50.  Also, protest button bracelets - a collection of 6 of our mini 1" buttons in bracelet form.  $14.

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5. Protest sign ornaments.  Personally, I like to find an ornament each year that commemorates the year.  I just have to decide on the message.  $12.

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6. Screenprints from Milwaukee artists.  Not exactly recall, but the "Union Made" print is a great piece of art, and we love "WI Rise Up."  $16.

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7. Postcards.  85 cents each.  Some of our own original photographs as well as work by other artists.

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Starting November 15th, recall signatures can be collected.  Sachi and I went to a training session and we will have forms at the shop if you want to add your name to the petition.  The Demcoratic Party of Wisconsin is working with a lot of different grassroots organizations, but centralized information might best be found here.  Wisconsin residents who are eligible voters are eligible to sign the form, and if you want, forms are available online to download, print, sign, and mail in.  The forms must be supervised (and not just left out on the counter) so you'll have to ask one of us if you would like to sign the form.  And don't worry, if you don't want to recall the Governor (or are otherwise tired of being asked to sign the petition) and are somehow still reading this blog post, we won't pressure you to sign.  We just felt it important to continue work in the direction we want Wisconsin to go forward.

travel journal: done, mostly

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I think.  Well, there's pretty much no more room so I think I'd better call it quits.  Although I trimmed the cover too much so I might need to do some work on the cover to make it fit the interior of the book.  Plus I was going to add some text to the cover too.  Hmm, forgot about that part.  Well, the inside is done anyway. 

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I didn't quite think through the binding so the book does not stand up on end.  The pages are all sewn but along the centers of each page.  One perhaps should have measured the same distance up from the BOTTOM of the page, and that way the lower edge of the book would be even and it could stand up.  At least, for a change, it kind of actually sits and closes, which is pretty amazing considering how much stuff I packed in there.

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I did substantially edit the photographs that are in the book, with just a sampling of the many that I took.  But I didn't do as well on editing the ephemera.  There are some maps that I just put in as is; I could have made snippets or something and reduced the bulk.  Ah well.  Also, the ephemera is in order and the journal writing is in order, but they don't exactly match up with each other.  I should have spaced my writing out more. 

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As far as the technical details: photos and ephemera are attached with a mix of sewing machine stitching, double-sided tape, washi tape.  Pages are a mix of white (drawing? painting? paper; not as heavy as watercolor paper though), scrapbook paper, maps/ephemera/bags gathered on the trip, hankies, notecards.  Pages are sewn to the cover in four signatures.  What else?  Some pockets were created by sewing photographs on only three sides, other pockets were made by incorporating envelopes onto pages.  I have some text I might add in as captions to pieces of ephemera and photographs, and there are still a few odds n' ends, but it's mostly done at least.

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ooh la la

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All right, I'll admit it. Buying local is a great principle which I try to adhere to... much of the time. But I'm glad we live in a world where I don't just have to eat wild rice and cranberries and things that only grow in zone 4.

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As far as Anthology goes, we are always working hard to find more local and regional artists, even indie artists from within this country, because we feel strongly about supporting the talents of our friends and neighbors without crossing the pond.  On the whole, for the volume of sales that we do, I feel happy with the amount of packing materials we are able to cut out of the picture as a result of this approach.  Items delivered by hand from someone in Stoughton require so much less packaging than items made and shipped across the Pacific.  I'm not too keen on the thought of all those container ships crossing the oceans to bring us goods from overseas either.... but.... oh, I sure am glad they brought some goodies to me!

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The latest arrival are some sweet French notebooks and coloring books.  There's something about French illustrators, I don't know what it is exactly.  I like to spend time in the French Children's book section and I was pleased to find some illustrators have expanded their work.  I'm hoping for notecards in the near future, but for now am quite pleased with this shipment.

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I'm enjoying my niece's latest developments in drawing so I'm not sure how I feel about coloring books at the moment - I want to watch her develop her own style.  But I might have to get a few coloring books.  The illustrations are quite charming.

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