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February 2012

one last library look


I've been thinking a bit about the fuss over the 100 block of State Street.  I will return to it in its own post, but my thoughts are connected to the Bookless event at the downtown library this weekend so I can't help making the connection here as well. 

Bookless Madison 2012

Bookless seemed to perfectly encapsulate what I consider the best of downtown Madison - the diversity of people - all ages, all economic backgrounds - the mix of art and academics - in fact, these are qualities that I consider key to libraries themselves.  They have a very (lowercase d) democratic quality about them. 

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My concerns about downtown Madison development in general have to do with gentrification, unification, privitazation and aesthetics.  On the other hand, the generous spirit of a plan that would help fund the now-nonprofit Overture Foundation cannot be ignored.  But I really need to do more research about the 100 block instead of jumping to conclusions so I'll get back to the topic at hand.

Bookless Madison 2012

Saturday at the library was AWESOME.  If I somehow I didn't convey that enough via Facebook or otherwise propel you to get to the library, I apologize.  Because you missed some great fun.

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The downtown Madison library is slated for de/construction, with the new library opening up in the summer of 2013.  The books have been moved out, the temporary location is up and running, and for all intents and purposes, we were to have said our goodbyes to the library when it closed in November. 

Bookless 2012

UNTIL, some ingenious librarian (the famous Trent Miller, whose company Babysitter Deandra and Girl Lily always enjoyed on visits to the library) came up with the wonderful Bookless plan.  There are pictures here on Flickr from the party, which went on until the wee hours of the morning. 

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Sachi and I each managed to grab a little time away from the shop in the morning, running over to the library during the 10 am - 2 pm free family-friendly activities.

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I had to go back again, just before the 2 pm closing time because a customer showed me a great James Marshall stamp that she'd used on a catalog card.  In related news, we got a big box of library catalog cards from Memorial library, which is clearing them out... and I have some idea of an art/journal project.  I'm not sure what it will be.  But I love all the worlds that spin off of just the many titles of books on the cards.

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I have to admit that I'm a little jealous/sad that I didn't get involved - it looks like it would have been so much fun to get to trick out a room in the library, make an art installation with library catalog cards.  Though, looking back on the last two weeks of year end tax prep work, I'm not sure when I would have had time.

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I really admire the nimbleness of the artists, many of whom seem to have changed their installation based on the materials at hand. 

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So a huge kudos to the artists, but also to the library.  Because it is rare that artists in Madison get quite such a large canvas to work on.  How wonderful would it be if more building and property owners were open to something like this!  Aside from the spaces that are currently vacant, what a wonderful way this would be to say goodbye to a building.

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There's something a little sad and poignant about being in a space after its function has been trucked away - those dark corners, the abandoned hardware, the emptiness. Library 018

Not to mention the fact that I have grown up with this library, tromped up the stairs as a child, thrown a penny in the fountain,  checked the answer to the riddle in the clown's pocket.  After thirtysomething years of living in Madison, I'm starting to see how an old brain could be totally confused - all those layers of memories: what is a UW Credit Union doing there?  Wasn't there a Kohl's (grocery store!) with a big yellow arch that we used to try to slide down?  Didn't there used to be fountains in this mall?  And where did that Gimbel's go to?

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The event also reminded me of a few years ago when my parents were moving from my childhood home.  I was wrestling with some emotions of loss but a friend suggested that I make a journal of the house.  I ended up spending a lot of time taking pictures of the space after the bulk of the moving was done.  It was a new way to look at space that was usually filled, but spending time taking pictures was a helpful way to say goodbye.

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And, of course, seeing some of those traces of the old library experience were a little trip back in time.  I ran into an old childhood friend and we reminisced about trying to find those wheely stools so that we could reach books too high above us, how you could never find one when you needed it.  I overheard a parent telling his son, "those are the cards we used to keep track of books, before there were computers."  So strange to imagine the different world that exists.

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I do have to admit that I'm glad to see I'm not the only person with a surplus of rubber bands.  What's the deal with that?

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I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of the Oracle, but that's just evidence of the way that every corner of the library had something going on.   I didn't have nearly enough time to explore it all and I'm sure that I missed a lot, but I was worried that the accountant was going to show up for the aforementioned tax work.  I could have spent the entire four hours taking pictures of the space, the art, and the people amidst it all.

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Plus, it was cool to see the labyrinthine backways in the basement and upper floors, those mysterious places usually for staff only.

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To sum up, Bookless felt like the epitome of an urban artful experience. 

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The level of participation from artists was fabulous; the repurposing of an unused space and supplies (catalog cards, stamps, shelving, labels) and the fusion of looking back and going forward was inspiring; apparently a lot of money was raised for the library foundation; and the turn-out of the community was seriously off the hook, and I don't use that phrase lightly.  And I didn't even muster up the energy to go to the party at night, but I can see from the pictures that it was quite the party.

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Art/craft, learning/doing, seeing/making, repurposing/recycling, old/new, community participating/celebrating/remembering.  All that I can really hope for is more of the same for downtown Madison. 



Huh....  Well, I did it.  Someone on Facebook mentioned Thing-A-Day and I just decided to go for it.  With very little thought involved as far as what I would make, what time I will need to make it.  This is a classic Laura move: just jump in spontaneously to a project that is big, the kind of project that you find yourself regretting at the end of it (previous examples include making a page for each letter of the alphabet in a 60 books project, making 8 editions of a book that I only need one of, and any other number of unfinished projects for which I prepped pieces for a dozen or so).

Of course, if I count things that I make for the store (including buttons) then I already do make a thing a day, but I have something else in mind - something sort of mapish, but maybe also libraryish.  We just got a huge box filled with library catalog cards and they are very tempting to me for some reason.  Also, I've been thinking a lot about geologic maps and other maps, kind of sciency images that harken back to my past life as a geology major.

I haven't really explored what other people made but I think that making an art journal page a day should count.  From my brief look at the website it seemed like there was a huge range, from photographs and sewing projects, to meals and sculptures.

In the process of rearranging and organizing my living room, I have come across my shelf of blank books.  I can't help it - I love notebooks.  But I'm realizing that the blank page doesn't really suit my style and I've never really been able to sustain my plans for journaling.  Several books have a few pages written in them, and that's it.  I've always been a little envious of those people who have a regular art journal habit.  Perhaps this will get me going AND use a blank notebook while we're at it.

Oh, isn't it fun to start new projects?!  Won't you join me?


more love


Well, perhaps the Banksy cards aren't exactly Valentine, but they seemed to fit well with Wisconsin's current political situation.  Miss Forward was holding a big bunch of heart balloons on Wednesday night; I found myself thinking of all the things that have inadvertently become symbols of the Wisconsin protests: plastic palm trees, heart balloons....


Most of my energy this week has been focused on Valentine garlands.  I'm leading a church Sunday school activity on Sunday morning so I've been working on the prototype.  I ended up going rather low-tech: hand-cut and hand-sewn paper hearts, which is just easier all around.

I've been rearranging my living room and studio space at home, doing a little organizing and consolidating (though much more needs to be done).  In the process, I was reminded of the wealth of supplies that I have and was pleased to put some of them to use for these garlands: 1 book of cake recipes, 1 atlas, 1 book of sheet music, 1 box of black & white Paris pictures... all to cut up into hearts.

paper heart garland

And as soon as I'm done with the Sunday school activity, the papercrafts will be coming to the craft table for February.  We've been gathering supplies for card- and garland-making: an assortment of papers and rubber stamps.  I might have to reprise my hand-cut doily rubber stamp for my Valentines this year.

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The low-tech theme continues with Sachi's projects: hand sewn heart ornaments, with text screenprinted by a local artist.


I also rearranged the front table a bit so there's room for our assortment of Valentine goodies.  The anatomical heart stamp has been particularly popular.



Meanwhile, Sachi installed the Valentine's window this week, also chock full of Valentine goodness. 



I'm particularly impressed with her embroidery hoops, with song lyrics that she hand-embroidered.  She HAS been busy with hand-sewing this year!


a few words from a small business owner about taxes

Two things:

1. Why do some people have effective tax rates that are less than other people's?

2. What is the good of tax breaks to generate business if the price that is paid comes out of the customers' discretionary income? 


I was rather discouraged to read that Mitt Romney's effective tax rate is around 14%.  I tell you quite honestly, it makes me feel that my work is less valuable than his work; that somehow I am less valuable than he is.  Now, certainly, I don't circulate as much money in the world, perhaps my circle of influence is not as large as his, but it seems to me that the principle of these United States is a certain level of equality, of fairness, of inherent VALUE in every single person. 

And yet, I think back to the civil rights era, the pictures of people with signs, "I am a Man."  Have we made progress?

I am a person.  I am a small business.  I am a creator, even of jobs if you count our part-timers.  I matter.  I will even go so far to say that for some people, I matter MORE than Mitt Romney.  So there.

The first year that we started our business, my effective tax rate was over twice that of Mr. Romney's.  Honestly?  I cried.  A lot, that year.  I cried on the phone to the IRS when setting up a payment plan; I cried at night wondering how I would meet those payments and pay the mortgage.  I cried trying to come up with some possible part time night job like grocery store stocker. 

That tax rate was much higher than it had ever been in all my years working for someone else, following someone else's rules, subsuming my own creativity and intiative to the will of someone else.  It was much higher than when I wasn't paying thousands of dollars in sales taxes because I was selling stuff.  And then, when I took a risk, steeled my nerves and became a small business owner (something which is talked about as if it is valuable and important to the progress of our nation), paid sales taxes, paid unemployment taxes, paid income taxes, I was met with hurdles. 

Now, I am not begrudging the amount of taxes that I pay.  Let me be clear about that.  I will say that the amount of paperwork involved in paying taxes is irritating.  I don't mind the actual paying of taxes; it just would be a lot less painful if I didn't have to spend hours dealing with the paperwork, if there was some coordinated and centralized form-filing-out department so that I don't have to reconfirm how many employees I have when that should be self-evident in the amount of taxes that I pay.  I came to realize that while our politicians and media talk about the value of small businesses, the things they were talking about were for businesses much larger than mine.  Structurally, it seems that part of our system doesn't care at all about me as a small business.  Will never care about me at all unless my business is big enough to afford me the kind of profits that will allow me to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobbyists or campaigns.  That's discouraging.

And when there starts to be a conversation about tax breaks and incentives for small businesses, it really seems as if I am once again not even at the table.  If I WAS at the table, I would say that a couple hundred dollars of tax breaks (because, for us as a small business, that's about all it works out to per year) is NOTHING compared to what my customers spend at our store, or what our customers could spend at our store.  All the tax breaks in the world are not going to help me if my customers are not in a better position to buy things.  Maybe these huge corporations don't depend on their customers the way I do, I don't know, all I know is that this talk of tax breaks is almost meaningless to me as a small business, particularly when it is accompanied by lowered discretionary income of my customers.

It has been an eye-opener.  That's for sure.  Now, on a daily basis, my value is affirmed by my customers, and by my own sense of satisfaction.  It is affirmed on the small local scale at which I feel that I have value and influence and power.  And that's fine. But overwhelmingly it means that my loyalty is to my customers, and to seeing that their quality of life is not threatened by tax breaks which are supposedly good for business but which leave schools and communities struggling.  In all honesty, I don't even understand how that scenario IS good for business.

I am happy to pay taxes for the many benefits that I reap.  But I am less happy about those who would pay less and yet reap the same benefits, who would somehow deny the way that they owe their wealth to society at large.  And I do not think I am unreasonable to begrudge someone a smaller effective tax rate just because... .what?  they have enough money to pay someone else to find all the loopholes?  they make their money from moving other money around not from talking to customers all day long?

Now, I realize that I am no expert in matters of taxes and national budgets, but I fail to see why the work that I do is somehow less important than the "work" of earning interest on investments.  WHY are capital gains taxed at a lower rate?  Is laying concrete and roadways, helping customers, selling goods or services - does that build this nation less than earning capital gains?  Because, according to tax code, certain work is more valuable/less taxable than other work which is taxed at a higher rate - by implication, I would say that the higher rate of taxation means that such work is of less value.  Really?  Is that the kind of country we want?


Valentine goodness

midwest is best t-shirt

Well, to tell the truth, I'm not quite ready yet...  I'm in the middle of a big rearranging project at home (rotated the living room 90 degrees and am finally dealing with the consolidation & studio organization that needed to be done after I moved things to the shop... FOUR years ago).  I've also been busy with year-end paperwork and resting from Christmas (which means spending time on Pinterest instead of making things to restock the store).  We had an amazing year in 2011!  I'm so grateful for our great sales figures but I think a little rest is necessary before we jump back in to graduation, Mother's Day, summer tourists, and Christmas. Our California buying trip this year is to San Francisco and is later than previous trips to Los Angeles so I have a few more weeks to wait before getting away from Wisconsin winter for a little vacation.

Meanwhile, Sachi has been working like crazy the past couple weeks.  Her main project has been sewing these little sweetheart ornaments with Spanish phrases, inspired by a box of Spanish sweetheart candies that a friend gave her:

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Today, Sachi is installing the Valentine's window (to be fair, I installed the New Year window right after Christmas so we are continuing to take turns on window installation and I am not being a total slacker).  Here are some of the pieces:

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In other Valentine-related news, this weekend I am helping our church Sunday school kids make Valentines to send to people who are home-bound or otherwise in need of a pick-me-up.  I decided, for the sake of variety, that we will make Valentine garlands instead of just cards.  We can all work together on the garlands and string a bunch of hand-cut hearts with Valentine wishes on them.  On to baker's twine, of course, my current obsession.

baker's twine

Or maybe we will just stitch them with red thread.  I kind of like the hand-sewn look.


And so on to gathering Valentine garland- and card-making supplies, for church and for the shop.  As soon as Sachi gets the table cleared of her window pieces, I can start unpacking.  I'm eager to make some garlands myself, and know a few customers who are apparently all ready for card-making, judging by their requests.

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Besides the crafty projects, we've got paper packs, cards, sheets of paper and more to choose from.

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This can be a relatively quiet time of year in terms of customers and new arrivals.  We are waiting to see what we find on our buying trip and also slowly making our way through our list of current and possible consignees to restock and add to our collection.  We did restock our "Midwest is Best" t-shirts, which were a popular Christmas gift.  We were also pleased that a new artist dropped into our laps with these great tiles with her own collage images.

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Finally, we were pleased to get more of the hearts for Haiti, stone hearts made by Haitian artists which fund works in Haiti.  We feel strongly that arts are an important part of life and appreciate the opportunity to help artists elsewhere in the world.

stone hearts Haiti

clever button girls

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Can I just say how blown away I am by the creativity of our customers?  I love to see what people think of! 

I got a message a few days ago from someone interested in button-making.  She was asking on behalf of her Waunakee daughter who wanted to make buttons for her team, and planning to come in Friday afternoon.  Now, I get the button question a lot, there are some specs as far as size/paper that are important to know in advance, plus I appreciate the heads' up on incoming buttonmakers. 

But I had NO idea what they were planning!  The girls came in on Friday with little ziploc baggies, one for each team member, with tiny little words and letters cut out from magazines.  Now, I don't know if you've ever tried to cut things out of magazines - the final look is cool, but it always seems like when you are looking for a particular word or letter, you can never find it.  I was told they spent 7 hours gathering these tiny little pieces and I'm not at all surprised.  Of course, if it were me, it would have taken a week because I would have gotten distracted with other collage thoughts.

Anyway, they spent Friday afternoon at the shop, gluing their little pieces down on our background papers, and then making them up into buttons.  I love that each person gets their own customized button!  I don't know how it was when you were in high school, but we had our little group of friends and each person had a nickname.... and how fun would that have been if we each had our own button?!  I'm jealous.

thanks, A MILLION!

Tuesd1 014I heard from a friend recently who asked me, "so you won, right?"  And I realize that I've been struggling a bit this week.  Mid-day on Tuesday, just after a conversation with my sister (she didn't want to overestimate and be disappointed, I had my heart set on a million), my Facebook page started filling up with the news.  A million signatures of citizens wanting to recall the Governor of Wisconsin.  Wow.  Almost double what was needed.  I teared up just a little bit.  The remainder of the day is lost in a blur of giddyness.  And of course, we immediately started brainstorming the next iteration of buttons ("one in a million," thanks a million," etc.).

Honestly,  I don't mean to be ungrateful, but the sense that I've had most strongly this week is: there is a LOT of work ahead.  It didn't help that I watched the Ed Show and was informed that the entire country is watching Wisconsin, as if the fate of democracy rests upon us alone.  I do feel keenly that other Governors will take their cues from the fate of Scott Walker.  But, of course, it is also every citizens' responsibility to hold their politicians accountable for their actions. In that respect, I do feel that people are much more alert and active, so that is a good thing.

It certainly feels like a very historic moment.  I have a friend with a friend in academia who studies labor relations.  Last February, he apparently told her that history will mark this time as "pre-Wisconsin" and "post-Wisconsin."  That seems flattering, but only if it goes the way I want it to.

No doubt that a million signatures represents a lot of time and energy and work and dedication; no doubt that a million signatures is a powerful message.  No doubt that forward is forward, no matter how small the step - because as much as a million sigatures is an amazing thing, there is the matter of signature verification (which I thought Walker was supposed to pay for with his unlimited fundraising that he's been doing, but apparently not), voter registration and voter turn-out in new districts and voter ID still ahead.  Not to mention whatever other shenanigans Walker will get up to in the meantime and the likelihood that he will continue to divert Wisconsin resources to his campaign donors and appoint more unqualified people to positions with newly-raised salaries.  Not to mention the millions of dollars of fundraising, Super PACs and whatever else are going to start coming into the state.

So, yes, it definitely seems important to mark this momentous week.  To say thanks, thanks, a million times thanks.  So many people have put so much work into collecting signatures and sharing their stories.  So many people have awakened and connected to each other in ways they hadn't before. 

Governor Walker's response, as expected, trivialized the whole matter: 'it's easy to sign petitions but not as easy to vote.'  But it also betrays so much about what is wrong that it kind of breaks my heart.  Is it really supposed to be HARD to vote?!  Isn't everyone supposed to vote?  Isn't that our responsibility?  Isn't that how we judge other countries as far as how free they are?   So, I don't mean to be a downer, I'm just a little tired.  Not completely exhausted, not giving up or losing my momentum or determination, just a little weary and just a little sad about the ways that some people seem utterly uninterested in the idea of liberty and justice for all.

let the projects begin

astrology constellation book

Well, to be totally honest, I am mostly preoccupied with inventory and year-end business.  I need to spend some time with QuickBooks before the accountant comes.  NOT the most fun aspect of the job.  And then there's the matter of counting everything in the store which usually ends up going faster than I imagine and is perhaps more painful in anticipation than it is in reality.  Sachi and I have been going through the drawers and counting, sorting, reorganizing, restocking.  Today, (January 10th) we will close at 4 pm to begin counting the sales floor and we will reopen on Thursday (January 12th).  Yes, a day is missing in there - we'll be counting all day tomorrow so if you try to stop at the shop, I apologize, but you'll be locked out.  At least for these 9 hours, the accountant/taxman/insurance agent win out over the customer.

Other than inventory, this is a relatively quiet time of year.  There's a lull in new arrivals; we are waiting to see what we find on our San Francisco buying trip.  

In the meantime, as any good procrastinator will do, I've started an assortment of projects instead of concentrating solely on inventory.  First on the list is Blurb, which I believe I posted about earlier.  I have a few different notebooks that I am working on, as well as a commissioned recipe book.  Lucky for my sister, I can't run Blurb at the same time as the cash register so I can only work on that off hours.  Unfortunately for her, I can still look at Pinterest.

constellation handmade book

Which brings me to the other project I am working on. The art book guild that I belong to hosts a holiday party each year, at which we swap 2" x 2" books and I had an IOU left from our 2011 party.  Par for the course, I had something completely different in mind.  But a thought has been rumbling around in my head, thanks to Quince and Quire, via Pinterest, so I ended up going with that.

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It's a 2" x 2" book of constellations, only about as precise as one can get from an internet search, a silver sharpie marker, and a mini hole punch.  Which is to say, not that precise.  Still, I love the idea.  Each page has a constellation from the zodiac, as well as traits of that astrological sign.

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I've been playing around with handwriting recently.... Again, thanks to Pinterest, which had the idea of fake calligraphy - the pin for which I cannot find at the moment.  But the basic idea was to write the word with a single line and then go back and fill in the downstrokes to simulate the calligraphic line.  And also thanks to the amazing journal skills of Teesha Moore, whose use of text has always been inspiring to me.

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I painted corrugated cardboard for the covers, drawing on techniques learned at Valley Ridge Art Studio workshops (registration for the 2012 season is opening this weekend!): Katie Kendrick and Michelle Ward.  And I got to use my constellation rubber stamps and black & white striped washi tape so that was fun.  Oh, and the paper for the pages was just lying around here at the shop; it must have been scraps from some project - isn't it rewarding when you actually get to use the things you don't throwaway because you might be able to use them someday?

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I'm well on my way to completing an edition of four.. and will perhaps expand that, depending on what else comes along to distract me.  I finished working on my 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle and am relatively well stocked as far as items at the shop so I have a little lull in terms of what I will work on in my living room, where there is no inventorying to be done, nor Blurb work.  There is, of course, cleaning to be done, but that will have to wait until there's something else that I'm procrastinating over.  Like taxes.

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Blurb love

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I'm pretty sure that I'm repeating myself but just in case you didn't get the message.... I LOVE BLURB!  So much.  I can't even begin to say. And, no, they aren't paying me to tell you this. 

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Here are the reasons why I love them so:

1. Ease of use.  I am not a computer person.  I can type, click/drag but have never spent any time on Photoshop or any other computer/design program. After you download their software, you take your time on your own computer to create your book, then upload it to them for printing at the end.  There are zillions of layout options and you basically just drag your photos into place.  It is not without glitches (I tend to crash the software when I am cutting and pasting large blocks of text or working with as many photos as I do) but on the whole, I've found it quite handy.

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2. Sheer volume of photos that can fit in a book.  Seriously.  The book I made for my trip to Italy had about 1300 photos in it.  I couldn't print 1300 photos for the price that I paid, let alone wind up with them in a bound book.

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3. They keep making improvements.  I know, in the computer world it seems like people are constantly coming up with changes that are just aggravating, but it seems like each upgraded version has specifically addressed issues that I was having trouble with - just in the time that I've been using Blurb, they have added calendar pages, new layouts, the ability to make your own layout...

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4. Quality.  I've been making 7x7 books with their somewhat glossy paper.  For real durability, a person would probably want to make a hardcover book - their image wrap books are really nice.  The quality of pictures, the color and sharpness, is all great as far as I'm concerned.  There are even options for finer paper if a person should want to go that route.

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5. Variety.  I mentioned the variety of layouts, but they also keep coming out with new shapes and papers.  I just received the 2012 calendar that I made myself and yes, I'm pretty happy.  Their new trade & notebook books are even more reasonably priced and are my new addiction since you can write on the paper.  I have ideas for several journal/notebooks for the shop.

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5. Having paper copies of digital stuff.  I am definitely a fan of the digital camera, but I find that I'm generating more pictures and printing less.  It's great that I can be more selective and less wasteful about what I put to paper, but what to do with all those pixels that are piling up on my computer?  As a librarian's daughter, a part of me feels that we are losing our history to this digital age.  All these little tweets and texts that are traded back and forth - what will remain of them as evidence of how we've spent our time? And perhaps a photo by itself isn't that great or interesting, but as a collective record of a year, it's worth at least 1/16th of a page.  I'm starting in on my fourth book of pictures & projects, which I make every year.  There's so much in the course of a year that I forget; being a visual person, having a book to look back on is perfect.  Recently, I read a blog about making a ta-da list, looking back on the accomplishments of the year; my pictures & projects book functions more or less that way.  I can't wait to have a whole shelf of books to look back on, and I think every artist/writer should have a book for every year to document what they've been up to.  What a great collection that would be!

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Well, I could go on and on but I think that covers the main points.  Like most projects in my life, I am quickly approaching the point where I have more works in progress than works completed...

Completed books: ideas & inspirations creations & celebrations, 2x2: collection of small books made by the Madison Bonefolders' Guild and Milwaukee Book Arts Salon, Year One of Lily (also year two, year three, year four), Pictures & Projects 2008 (also 2009, 2010), 2012 calendar notebook journal, Laura notebook, Here & There travel journal, For the record (travels in France & Italy).

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I am particularly happy about my calendar because it always seems like the pictures on my birthday month are not the ones I would have selected.  This way I could pick whatever I wanted for my birthday month, as is proper.

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in progress: imaginary French travels (art book), French & Italian travel photos for the shop (minus the family souvenir pics), Pictures & Projects 2011, cyanotype notebook / story of blue, and zillions of ideas for project notebooks - everyone would have gotten one as a Christmas present if only I'd gotten my act together sooner.

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I completed one commissioned book of someone's artwork and writings and am working on a commissioned recipe book and a family-history/grandmother-tribute book, as well as my mom's (belated) birthday book.  And I'm helping Mom with her photos and writings from our French/Italian trip, and she's thinking about a book of her personal history.

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Most recently - now, okay, maybe this is a little morbid but you don't have to worry about me, I'm fine  - I've been thinking how cool it would be to have a Blurb book as a funeral "favor."  It seems like it would be great to have a book of a person's thoughts/images/wisdoms/photographs/artworks to take into the rest of the days.  Because doesn't it seem like the speakers at a funeral are never enough?  I mean, how do you convey the entirety of a life?  And fine, maybe a Blurb book still wouldn't do it, but I do think that would be an awesome thing to create. 

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Happy 2012!

"In those days, we finally chose to walk like giants & hold the world in arms grown strong with love & there may be many things we forget in the days to come, but this will not be one of them." Brian Andreas

I don't know what it is exactly, perhaps it is just my starry-eyed optimism that has somehow managed to stay undimmed even through the political tumult of 2011.  I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that our December 2011 sales were well above December 2010 sales (and not just because of buttons).  It also has something to do with the amazing creative renaissance that I witnessed in 2011 - in the face of frustrating politics and shaky economics, I was concerned that people would no longer have time for creating, would be preoccupied by trying to cover their rising cost of living, would be distracted from following their passion by having to follow the strictures of their workplace.  And instead I was blown away by the ways people found to voice their anger, their hope, their humor, their very selves.  In song, in metalworking, in signs, in video, in printmaking.  The list goes on.  Of all that has come about from politics in Wisconsin, this creative renaissance is truly inspiring to me. I am filled with so much gratitude for the people who supported our shop, for the moments of laughter around the button table, for the spirit and resilience that I witness everyday.

I have a strong & good feeling about 2012.

I realize there is a lot of work ahead of us and maybe all of my wishes won't come true but I am also very mindful of everything that was wakened in 2011 - there is a sense of anger and frustration (with politics, mostly), that's true, but there is also a sense of energy and vigor, of committment and community.  If everything that has led us to this point brings more of us out to vote, makes us think more about where we shop and how we eat, helps us think more about the hands that actually made whatever it is we are buying/selling/giving, gives us a stronger sense of our Christian or moral or American duty, well, then I think my optimism is not misplaced.  I don't things will be easy or easily resolved, I think we will always be fighting against those who would deny us power or wealth or influence, but I think we are strong, and have the ability and generosity to support everyone else on this journey and affirm the value of All.

I know, there are great forces that have been at work for decades now and some part of me feels that I am witnessing the American version of the fall of the Roman empire.  There's little doubt in my mind that lots of people will be worse off for more years to come, that some people will never willingly let go of the money and power they have, even if it is at cost to the health of our entire nation.  There are great forces at work against the American Dream, but that doesn't mean we have to cede our dreams or our voices.

Change is coming - it is here, in the slow food movement, in the buy local movement, in the ways that the internet connects us and informs us, in the diversity of our population, in the challenges of the environment and the demands of the world.  I sometimes feel like some people's political and economic motivations are based on a way of life that is more fitting for the 1950s, but that time is gone, the world is changing.  They will fight it, and desperately, but I don't think the change can be undone.

"There is a river flowing now, very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say we must push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history we are to take nothing personally least of all ourselves, for the moment we do that, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves; banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for." Hopi Elder's Prophecy

I would also note, though I've forgotten what Madison businessperson said this, that I am taking to heart the notion of defending Madison like a city-state.  I feel so blessed to live here, I love my city, and my state, and I am resolved in my committment to uphold the qualities that I love so much.

So, 2012, bring it on!  We have spirit, we have resourcefulness, we have creativity, we have wealth.  May we use it in the pursuit of Liberty and Justice for All, and a Happy New Year.



"...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind." --Neil Gaiman