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March 2013
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May 2013

waiting for spring

It's creeping in gradually - I listen to the birds singing while I'm waiting for the bus in the morning, appreciate the greening of the grass and the disappearance of those grungy piles of ice/dirt, watch as the trees branches start to develop those little bumps that will turn into buds. But it is taking FOR-ever! With the exception of a few sunny days, April has been a cold and rainy month, and no recitation of "April showers bring May flowers" is bringing me any relief. I am trying to keep in mind the challenges of last year's droughts, but now the river levels are rising and the overspills are spilling over. Clearly the lack of sunshine is not helping my mood, and it keeps things slow at the shop so there is no distraction to be found in business or busyness.

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We are in the midst of getting ready for Mother's Day and graduation. We have a lovely assortment of cards that I am quite pleased with and I tweaked the window earlier this week to show them off. This weekend is the start of the outdoor Farmer's Market so that always livens up our Saturday mornings, though we are in mourning for the lack of Ingrid's breakfast biscuits. Other things we are looking forward to are the upcoming shows that mark the start of summer craft fair season. The Handmade Madison show at Hilldale this Sunday promises to be especially lovely. We really enjoyed their holiday show at the Monona Terrace.

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I don't know how it is that time goes both slowly and quickly. At this rate, I'm sure Mother's Day will be here before we know it. Luckily, if I do say so myself, I think we plenty of lovelies for Moms. I don't know about your mom, but ours always enjoys consumables like soaps. Of course we have scarves, plenty of jewelry as well; Sachi and I have both been busy and we've restocked our many indie artists. But just think how much she would enjoy getting a card from you!

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I'm especially fond of the cut-out wood earrings that just arrived from San Francisco.

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On the graduation front (and in preparation for summer tourists), we've restocked most of our Wisconsin and Madison mementos. The Wisconsin necklace with the cut-out heart is always popular. New for grads this year are our popular Wisconsin pint and shot glasses. And of course we have plenty of t-shirts. And the license plate cuffs have already met with a great response.

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We were also busy this week making buttons for a customer to have at her massage class. It was fun to sort through our assortment of papers and I love the finished product.


And we got another shipment of the carved wooden stamp blocks. I especially like these because they are crafty but so much more unusual than some of our mass-produced items which could also be found at big box stores, not to mention that they give me ideas for printing fabric....

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The biggest excitement for me this week was to have Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. of Kennedy Prints! walk through the door. I am such a fan of his work, and also of his artistic integrity (even though it also drives me crazy). He represents my sister's side in an argument that we've been having for decades. Basically, that side of the argument is that the point of an artist's work is to get it into as many hands as possible - the satisfaction comes in the widest distribution of your work, and to do so means pricing works to sell. MY side of the argument is that our world suffers from an ongoing devaluation of hand work and that low pricing of artist work contributes to the devaluation and perpetuates the system whereby the "starving artist" has to get a second job, not have as much disposable income to also be a consumer of the arts, and has to otherwise find ways to make up for the fact that they are not paid for their time and expertise in the way that doctors and lawyers fully expect to be paid. I have yet to succeed in changing anyone's mind with my argument so perhaps I need to find a different approach. This is not the case with Mr. Kennedy, of course, but I find that since women are often the artists in question that there is also this underlying undermining and underpaying of women's work that drives me crazy. It is to your benefit, however, that I continue to lose the argument with Mr. Kennedy. Since he says that a $20 print is one he can afford, while a $25 print isn't always something he can afford, his prints remain $20 here at the shop - a bargain if you consider the amount of work that he puts into them.  Frankly, we have plenty of prints that took less time to print but whose creators receive more for their time and effort than Mr. Kennedy does. I refrained from mentioning that if he charged more for his prints, then maybe he would be able to afford a $25 print once in a while. 

We got prints from him last year and I had emailed requesting a restock, but wasn't expecting an immediate reply as I knew he was in the middle of moving his presses from Alabama to Michigan and seems to be constantly traveling around the country leading workshops. He happened to be in town with a trunk full of prints so he dropped off two boxes for me to peruse - an absolute dream of a task, done in my own space at my leisure without any competition from other shoppers (as was the case last time I picked out prints). Since I don't know when I will next get such an opportunity, I picked out a big assortment with a range of colors, including his coffee and book series as well as the new Rosa Parks series. I'm very happy to have such a full assortment back in the shop.

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The other exciting news is that I got my EKRA rug for my bedroom. This has been a long time coming - Emily has very patiently waited until my intention to commission a rug using my tax return actually matched the reality of the IRS. Finally, after five years in business, it did. Hooray for me! I sent Emily a picture of the quilt that is in the same room as the rug and she sent back this amazing rug. I'm super happy with it.  Even though it is a minor detail, one of the things that makes me happiest are some little pieces of a purply velvet fabric which totally remind me of my very favorite childhood dress which was purple velvet with a little bit of lace on the underside of the hem - that hidden lace always had such a secretly fancy touch to my mind.  Here's a picture of me in that dress - I think that was around fourth grade.


The arrival of the rug caused a landslide of rearranging in my room. I've been slowly settling in more deeply - last winter I finally got flannel sheets that actually fit the bed (I'd been using a double flat sheet instead of a fitted sheet) and finished up my quilt. Now I have the rug for the floor, it is time to tackle the walls.
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It's been about 7 years since I moved into my place and although I have been totally happy with the bluish periwinkle on the walls, I had some issues with a faulty second gallon. After all this time of covering the errors, it seemed like time to do some painting. Naturally I can't just paint the same color. At times, I had been feeling like the color was a little pale. In the process of taking all the art from the walls it turns out that there was some fading that happened - you see where all the art used to be. I didn't want a color so dark that the room felt like a cave but I also have so much art hanging on the wall that the color of the walls is really just like the frame or backdrop for the art. So I'm going a few shades darker, a lovely purply blue that is looking SO nice. I will have to move a few cobalt pieces out of the room as they totally disappear into the walls, but it's fun to have an excuse to rearrange the art in the place (I should note that I use that word very loosely as I rely a lot on greeting cards to provide decoration in my house. I have a few pieces that are my own or that are original art, but also some IKEA prints and random postcards). I'm working a wall or two at a time since I have so much stuff to move around but I put down the second coat on the short wall last night and was so happy with it when I woke up this morning. I'm getting anxious to hang up art. Maybe tonight I will paint a second coat and also do a little decorating. When things are in better shape, I will share you the after pictures, and then you will see how much of my energy is currently taken up with this project. It's a big project. But so nice. Nonetheless, most of my creative attention is focused on that room.

The other thing taking up our attention right now is various matters political. On the national level... sigh.... Boston, the Senate's lack of action on guns... and the feeling that there is just going to be more and more violence in our world - not a feeling of acceptance or even resignation, but just the thought that with all the unemployment, with people feeling less and less hope and promise about their lives, with the growing income inequality in this country, I don't see how more violence is to be avoided. So I spent the early part of the week folding paper cranes to have a simple and peace-filled task to soothe myself. I was running low on the sets that we sell at the store and the bright colors were a nice counterpoint to the gray rainy days.

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I also consoled myself with this text which I have been returning to rather more often than I'd like, yet it is a reminder of what I *do* have control over, and that is my own way of being in the world.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you –and inside every other person, too.” The grandson though about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Sachi has been talking with neighbor businesses to drum up support for the Alcohol Licensing Density Ordinance, or a variation on it - basically, some way to protect the diversity of downtown businesses so that we don't become just bars and restaurants and coffee shops. Naturally, we are biased, but I think that cute little gift shops have a lot to contribute to an area, and I particularly think that independent stores are a valuable asset. It is always disappointing to me to travel to bigger cities and only find the national chains in the prime shopping spots - as a tourist, I might not know where the funky stores are to be found, or have the ability to go search them out, and I miss being able to find them easily. Sometimes I think we have done so much damage to our communities in our single-minded pursuit of what makes the most money.  Meanwhile, I spent yesterday morning at the State Capitol in my role as member of the Wisconsin Business Alliance. We are a new group - but already 60 members and growing - working to improve Wisconsin's business climate while protecting the quality of life. I truly believe that quality of life issues (nice drinking water, unpolluted lakes, good public schools) are not at odds with business interests and it is frustrating to me that other big business players seem to put the environment and public good in conflict with business interests. I'm really excited to be a member of this group as I feel this gives voice to many of our earlier frustrations that came to a head during the protests in 2011. There is often a message that x is bad for business and I quite often felt exactly the opposite, and yet I was too small/powerless/busy to communicate my feelings on the matter. This group is a way for small businesss to have a voice to find ways to strengthen the quality of life in our state, which ultimately makes our businesses stronger. This was our first Lobby Day and I was terribly nervous about the whole thing but the Executive Director Lori Compass was very organized and prepared us for our meetings. We delivered letters to various legislators from constituent businesses, focusing on public education, broadband and clean energy, and I'd certainly say that we were successful in introducing our group to various legislators. We went in groups to various offices - I met with staff from Sen. Luther Olsen's office and staff from Sen. Lena Taylor's office; additionally, Sen. Taylor came off the floor (they were in session) to meet with us. I have to say that meeting was a little discouraging - and I honestly walked away consoling myself that you have to start somewhere but wishing we had the weight of more constituent businesses behind us. Oddest of all was my feeling that we'd have a better chance as businesses speaking to rural Republicans about our concerns over the lack of attention given to our public schools, the opportunities we are missing in the clean energy sector and the importance of broadband connections around the state. I was rather thrown by the feeling that there was not much common ground to find between myself and Sen. Taylor, both ostensibly Democrats. Of course, in many ways, the current crop of Republicans has been overly selective about what businesses they believe should get free market support (in Iowa, I hear deeply conservative areas are all in for wind power because of the business and jobs being generated but doing anything with wind power in Wisconsin is worse than pulling teeth), but at the least we can come to some common ground on the principle of free market with respect to clean energy.  Since yesterday, I have heard from other participants who have helped put things into perspective, and who shared their satisfaction with our first foray into state politics and put me in a slightly more cheerful frame of mind. Additionally, these prints arrived today for my graduation window which will be filled with inspiring text. I might have to purchase this one for myself.

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working and not

It's shaping up to be a rainy week which means absolutely no excuse not to get crafty things done. Slightly dreary, cold and damp is perfect weather for ironing or wallowing in the bright colors of fabric or crayons.

I started washing a load of fabric and sewed some headbands. I'm gradually collecting for another batch of fabric pennants. I also ended up with so much spare time one day that I actually finished all my usual tasks early and ended up delving into the pile of mending that is hidden in my sewing room. The worst thing about that is that after about an hour of sewing, I had four "new" dresses for summer. I am not even going to tell you how many years it took me to get to that hour of sewing. I've been doing studio cleaning for other people lately and talking with a friend who suffers from chronic procrastination and I can't help wondering why we do that to ourselves. There seems to be no good reason. More specifically, there seems to be so much reward to behave otherwise. I think about all the time that I spent thinking about the mending that had to be done, feeling bad about it but not doing it -- all of that time and energy is easily worth way more than the hour it took me to DO the mending. Think of how many other things I could have been thinking about or working on if my energy hadn't been sitting in a pile in my sewing room. Of course, finishing something that has been waiting for years does have some added element of satisfaction, I'm just not sure it is enough to warrant the procrastination that I did. Ah well, at least I have my dresses for this year.

That said, although I can pat myself on the back for the sewing, that doesn't quite make up for the other hours that I've been at a loss. I feel like I should be making something but I'm not quite sure what I feel like doing. Usually in those cases, I find it best not to sit around and think but just to jump in so I've been working on magnet picture frames but in a rather lackluster mood. Perhaps because the 5th birthday feels like a big milestone I've been doing more reflecting and creating high expectations for myself. I have some sense that I should come up with something new for the shop, not just keep making the things that I've been making for a while now.

So, I'm a bit in limbo. It doesn't help that my mental energy has been preoccupied with other matters, which I decided to put into a separate blog post for those who actually want the sidetracking into religion and politics that I sometimes do.

Meanwhile, Sachi has been hard at work. Most recently, she broke open some of the packages of Tim Holtz trinkets and made them up into the necklaces. It's a new look for her and I like it.


Last week we went to Wausau to the folded paper exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. It was an interesting exhibit with some amazing pieces, but also a range that prompted a discussion of art vs. craft. The piece in the photo below is made from a single piece of paper. People are so talented. We also enjoyed a nice lunch in downtown Wausau and had fun at the florist/design store Evolutions in Design. They had some great merchandising ideas and fun reuse of everything from bicycles to lab glass.

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Back at the shop, we've been looking ahead to spring and summer - getting ready for summer tourist season. We had these great ornaments made by a company out of Spring Green, which, amusingly enough, I had to travel to Atlanta to find out about. They also make a state of Wisconsin with the star over Madison so we are adding to our regional ornament collection. I tend to think of ornaments as a Christmas thing but tourists often ask us during the summer months.

  Thursday 002 Spring is slowly coming to Madison which also means time to think about Mother's Day and graduation. I've been making some Madison button photo frames which are popular gifts, as well as restocking the collection of inspiring prints. After running out of Mother's Day cards every year since we first opened, we have substantially added to our collection and are enjoying the variety. The first year we were open, Mother's Day was just two months after we opened (and it usually comes before the Stationery Show so you have to make sure not to wait for that), and we were totally unprepared. I remember going home to my own card collection and pulling ones that I could let go of. And at least two years, I've been running to the copy shop or collaging or sewing to come up with other Mother's Day cards to replenish our depleted supply. Hopefully this year we have finally learned our lesson.

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Tomorrow we have an altered Golden Book craft party to prepare for and a Madison Originals photo shoot, and Thursday we have interviews for our part-timer position. I got a shipment notification for the Wisconsin pint glasses so those should arrive soon. And we've been enjoying the chance to unpack more paper, this time mostly from Nepal, on this rainy day.
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