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Whispering Woodlands getaway

subtitle: using the "toy camera" option on my new camera (All right, I'm addicted. I'm going to have to calm down a bit - but in the meantime, I'm having fun using the toy camera option on pretty much all my pictures).

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I spent this past weekend at Whispering Woodlands, an art workshop retreat just outside of Verona. The workshop was taught by Pamela Paulsrud - I had seen what friends created in past workshops and I was eager to go myself. Now I just want more (word is her spontaneous mark making class is pretty awesome).

The setting was really lovely - it must be beautiful in the springtime, given the number of fruit trees that were around the property. Everywhere you looked there were little nooks for sitting and taking in one's surroundings.

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The studio space itself was pretty amazing. Everywhere you looked there were supplies that could be used and examples of past and upcoming workshops. I was overstimulated... but in a good way!

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As for the workshop itself, I think one of the things that I like so much about taking a workshop is being in the company of fellow artists - seeing everyone work through their own creative process, and seeing how every single person, even if they start with the exact same instruction, ends up creating something totally unique. It's always an inspiration. We worked our way through a series of exercises, drawing with compass and ruler in a very structured way - well, the forms were structured, but there was a lot of room for playing around with what lines you would draw. Even in those exercises it was fascinating to see how everyone ended up making different forms. I got to use my grandfather's compass with India Ink - it was amazing to think about his hands using the same tool all those years ago.

From there we worked with watercolors, colored pencils, gesso and inks in ways that were both structured and totally random. I really enjoyed working with inks and creating an approximation of a calligraphic look...  It totally made me want to study calligraphy, even though I know that there would be lots of tedious practicing to perfect the craft. For now, I'll just content myself with my chicken scratchings.

These are the pages that I worked on during the workshop. I spent some time on Monday adding more paint and ink. I'm not really sure where I am going with these - but I'm trying to just enjoy the process and the play. They could fold in half and be incorporated into a book, even though I was working with them in the vertical and they'd be tipped on their sides.  Sometimes I feel like I spend too much time trying to find the commercial value in something - and it is usually the times when I am NOT trying that successful things come to light. I could see work like this combining with some images of Madison's lakes or something. I would like to combine this mark making with the cyanotypes - I don't quite know how yet, but I feel like these lines would be really interesting in a cyanotype print.

Summer 016At this point now I am still just playing and considering this background work. I would like to do some collaging on top. Being me, I have to be careful about not overstepping and going past "done." I tend to go a few steps too far and then realize that I should have stopped earlier. There are a few that are close... but then, would they be more "done" if there was text? collage? little snippets of poetry?

Ww1And here are some closer pictures of some of my current favorites. Another thing I really enjoyed about this workshop is that Pam had us work in sets of three. After we tore our papers into the rectangle pages, we grouped them in 3s and then worked one set at a time. The advantage to that was that you could kind of hone in on one technique or brush or paint and work on it across the three pages (but not more than three pages - which is good for me because I tend to work in huge batches and any mistakes I make get compounded across many more pages, plus I get bored with whatever I am working on). This way, while the paint was drying on one set, you could then go on to another set. This resulted, for me, in a lot of what I consider background work - just filling in some space and getting paint down on paper. There needs to be a little bit of thinking and planning that gets worked into the process.

Interestingly enough, I think they work well together, even though they actually come from three separate sets.  Since I can get rather carried away with color, I picked out a specific palatte - purple, blue, warm  (no green or aqua) so that helps the pages work together.

I do really love the suggestion of calligraphy - would it be better if they were words you could actually read? I don't know.



I am particularly fond of this one. You can see the pencil lines underneath from our early structure exercises, which we then used - as suggestions more than anything. I also enjoyed using the twinkling watercolors - the colors are so lovely and I really like the way they interact with each other.


week in review

Goodness, but the month is going quickly.  I need to start being more diligent about my birthmonth celebrations. Though two trips to La Reve is probably more than enough celebrating...   Nah....

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I know that no one wants to hear this, but we are well underway for Christmas planning - assessing sales and inventory, prioritizing and ordering. I'm really happy with the new vendors we picked up from our trade show travels this year and feel good about the assortment we are creating. Less confident about where I am going to put it all. Although I started the major rearrange in the office, I've been somewhat slowed down because I seem to be suffering from some sort of crafter's elbow (I *know* it is not tennis elbow) or some other repetitive stress injury. I seem to only be able to work for about an hour before some part starts complaining. Considering how much I use my fingers/wrist/arm, it is not a surprise. SO, I'm taking a bit of a break from the heavy lifting and construction - with one big desk still to send off to Freecycle and two more shelves to construct.  Which means the office is still in limbo, though that should not last much longer because I really need the space to get back to functional. Can't wait to have more shelving!

I feel like I have been relatively quiet on the political front but I honestly don't know what else to say. The Governor is still being really aggravating and pursuing a course which causes me great concern for our state. I have my moments of thinking we should just open a branch in Minnesota or Iowa and flee this place. But then I think about all the things I love about my state. Sigh. The police have continued to crack down on the singers at the State Capitol. Maybe someone who is younger who is used to more restrictions (post 9/11, for example) or someone who comes from another state whose Capitol has different policies has trouble understanding what is so upsetting but for my whole life, the Capitol building has been a place that belongs to the people - where you can walk in at any time, without restriction. To have the police be so arbitrary/random/harsh about what can happen in that building just speaks to a fundamental disconnection between government and the people it is supposed to be for/by/of. I'm trying to think about faith and risk that I sermonized about so recently, concentrating on love and hope not hate and fear. I have this niggling of an idea for a sash that will be a combination girl scout and beauty pageant and suffragette sash - ostensibly preparing for Monday's Stand With Wisconsin Women rally, but also just generally trying to figure out a format for a protest item, something to walk around the Capitol wearing. This idea I have is very nebulous - I haven't even decided on paper or fabric yet, but it has potential. Plus it helps to preoccupy my mind with creative responses to politics instead of just pacing and ranting. But it is a challenge, no doubt about that.  At least there are buttons.

  Shop 060And on the other extreme, I've just been huddling down in my parents' back yard, taking pictures with my new camera and focusing on flowers - getting inspired by colors and shapes.

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Since my wrist and arm have been bothering me, I am working on even fewer projects than usual (as I'm sure I've mentioned, much of this summer has been about working on jigsaw puzzles at home). Instead I've been reading books - rereading Queen of the South by Arturo Perez Reverte and also The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which I find really entrancing and artistically inspiring - it conjures up all sorts of images and ideas: clothing, collage, sculpture....  I also read Maira Kalman's And The Pursuit of Happiness which I also found inspiring - it instigated all sorts of bookmooking thoughts...

Shop 061I did manage to work on a few new Wisconsin charm necklaces. I've been pairing the Wisconsin charm with the flower charm (well, that's what the company calls it.... we all know it is a terrace chair....) but wanted to add some more. Finally I found an assortment I thought would work.

Shop 062Meanwhile, Sachi is getting ready to start a screenprinting workshop at Madison College. We can't wait to have that skill available to us! She has been busy unpacking and settling in to their new house, and getting my niece ready for her first days of kindergarten. Can you believe it?! Don't you remember when she was just a little baby sitting in our front window?! I will be away this weekend at Whispering Woodlands, taking a workshop with Pamela Paulsrud. I am ready to just create for the sake of creating - I feel like I've been spending a lot of time this year just restocking for the shop or trying to fit creative ideas into something that would be commercial viable. That hasn't been working so well; I think it is time to just play. I'm also going away next weekend on my usual end of summer trip to the Lake with my niece - we'll go to Green Bay (D.I.Y. Studio and Gifts and Assemblage Studio)  for a little shopping and visiting with friends and thento Point Beach to sit on the shore and stare out into space, then on to the Kohler Art Center, Nest, and hopefully Bookworm Gardens. Unfortunately, my annual pilgrimmage to Hamilton Wood Type and Printing museum will have to be postponed since they are still unpacking. Sigh.

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As far as the shop is concerned, besides Christmas prep, we have had our share of new arrivals. Calendars are trickling in - sill a few more companies yet to arrive, also some new sheets of wrapping paper, notecards, prints, jewelry...  Because of some copyright issues (which I find ridiculous - I mean, really? can you copyright a heart in a state? But the lawyer of the artist says that just because it is all over Etsy doesn't mean it is legal. Honestly, I think that this country is going to copyright itself to the death of innovation), our pint glasses with the heart in state were nixed. However, the artist came up with a design that I actually like better - I don't know what it is but I love text on stuff. The shot and pint glasses arrived today, which was just in time to bump me out of my sulk over this state. As we drove home from Milwaukee yesterday, I was marveling and the landscape which I think is so pretty - and so nice and green compared to some states, and also thinking about the super cool Growing Power going on in Milwaukee, not to mention the cheese and people I would miss. Guess we'll stay and fight.

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beginning to look a little like Christmas

I know, I know, you didn't want to hear that. But I thought I'd give you a little sneak peek into the planning process for holidays at Anthology.

To be totally honest, it all started with an NPR headline: "Unwanted chicks are filling up some city shelters and some activists are blaming fair-weather hipster farmers."

Before that, we took a day trip to Milwaukee for shopping and eating and found great inspiration from a deck of historic scientific illustration postcards. That was back in March, I believe. At that point, I had the idea of using those postcards as a backdrop and creating some sort of scientific window. Not exactly sure what, but that represents a narrowing of the thought process, believe it or not. I've been following up some leads on various scientific-related prints, t-shirts and other products but it has all been rather nebulous - do I go ocean? geological? botanical? Fill the window with periodic tables and lab glassware? I don't know!

Now, preparing for Christmas, indeed, preparing the store for any time of the year involves a fine balance between various factors, sometimes competing, sometimes working together. The first is the owner's idea of things that they love. The second is the owner's idea of how they want the store to look. The third is what customers want, which isn't necessarily articulated in any way other than what they purchase (perhaps I could divide this into what customers want, general consumer trends, and what customers actually purchase).

Thus we have a huge pool of things that I love. Within that pool is a smaller pool of things that I would actually choose to purchase for the store based on what we see as the niche of the store. The pool of what customers purchase overlaps to some extent with what customers think they want and the other pools, but there are also many things that customers want which don't fit this store. There are also things that set the tone of the store which might not sell that well - but which my old boss used to describe as "flash" - these are items that are critical to not only set the tone of the store but set it apart from others, and so you buy them anyway, even if you don't sell tons of them.

When planning for the window, I have to balance what I think would be cool (a window of periodic tables) with what actually works for the shop, as well as what is selling in general. I don't really think it is enough to just fill the window with one's best-selling items; the window also functions to inform people about items they don't even realize they might want, as well as to inform them about the store in general.

Thus, there is some underlying problem with my scientific theme - as much as I love it personally, as much as I think charts are cool things, as much as I think science and art are very much connected, I wasn't entirely sure how that was going to play in our store. Also, no one potential hot-seller had jumped out at me in the course of the year that would fit with that theme and be a money-generator. We placed many orders at the Stationery Show and while there were lots of wonderful artists at work, there wasn't a particular theme that jumped out at me to either reinforce my scientific direction or switch it entirely (just for example, last year, when I went to Atlanta, I had in mind a Christmas window with peacocks but I ended up finding such a fabulous collection of woodland ornaments that I changed direction). As of June, no particular product or theme had come along. Now, bicycles have been a strong theme for us so I could have gone with that, but I tend to hook them in with our graduation travel windows and our summer windows so it would have been nice to have something different for the holidays.

Meanwhile, what the heck is going on with owls?! I can't believe they are still going so strong. I keep thinking that surely something is coming along to replace them - maybe octopi? maybe foxes? but then I get someone in the store who is totally and newly in love with owls and I see the whole thing starting all over again. I'm kind of stumped, and also kind of over owls.  Plus, last year I did that woodland window with lots of mushrooms so I wanted to do something a little different from that.

Enter the NPR headline.

Now, to be totally honest, I really don't like chickens. I mean, I like to eat them, but I really don't like live birds in general and while I am guilty as the next person of "putting a bird on it" in my artwork and room decor, I specifically don't care for chicken imagery. At my old job we used to sell these wooden chickens and I still remember, not fondly, the time I had to make chicken wire shelves and fill the window with those wooden chickens. I heard more stories about people who had chicken collections and more happy exclamations. But that is not for me. I have repeatedly told our part-timer, NO Chickens. Nonetheless, I can sense a tidal wave turning against me - even our church has chickens!

The headline started it and though the trip to New York did yield some products, the trip to Atlanta solidified the plan. Add to this certain items which have sold well over the course of the year (Victory Garden retro prints and Nikki McClure's domestic/nature scenes that have been a staple for a while), the theme that is starting to come together is more of a hipster urban garden kind of theme - nature, but with an urban twist. So I get to use some of my scientific botanicals but it will more be about the intersection of people with nature - not just chickens and owls, but raccoons and squirrels and terrariums, gnomes and foxes and carrots, even a way to highlight the farmer's market bags that we are getting. This kind of connects with the slow food and locavore movement, which I see as connected to the DIY it fits right in with both the pool of things I would choose for the store and the pool of things that are trending in the consumer realm and the pool of things that are specifically suitable for our customers and based on past sales throughout the year. The chickens are not in my pool, but, yes, we'll have a few token hens.

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way overdue

Phew! Finally! After doing my research and then debating with myself about bonus features vs. bulk/weight, I made up my mind about what camera to buy to replace the one that is lost. I am feeling very amazed about technology and quite happy to live in this day and age. In the 6 years since I got my camera, things have changed a lot. I think the megapixels and zoom are well over double what mine was. And since I don't have hi-def television at home, the screen is something else - more clear than reality, which might be more of a comment on my need to update my eyeglass prescription than anything else. Anyway, I still have to learn all the bells and whistles but I'm a lot closer to being back in business.

So, what has been going on in all this time that I've been sulking about using my brother-in-law's camera? It has been a very busy summer - making up for the slow start we had with our cold spring. Vacationers and conference attendees have been keeping us busy and t-shirt folding has been a big task.

We are still receiving shipments from our trip to New York and from my trip to Atlanta. And even though you might not be ready for me to say this, we are getting ready for Christmas. Most of our orders need to placed soon so I'm sitting down with computer spreadsheets and assessing sales by department and vendor. First time through I wasn't too far off budget so that was good.

In other news you might not be ready to hear, our calendars are starting to arrive. A month from now we should have the full assortment... but don't wait too long because they do start selling out. This year we especially love the Rifle Paper images, but Nikki McClure always creates a lovely calendar (which just arrived after I loaded up this picture).  Shop 040With move-in going on this week and next, we are seeing a return of the college students, which means lots of prints and wrapping paper. We had some new arrivals that I hadn't even had room for, but I made room to hang them in the window. The superheroes and villains sheets are also excellent for button-making.

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Most of the rearranging is just going on in my head right now, but I have been assembling some shelving and getting the office a little more organized. Somehow, all the products that we order to sell at Christmastime have to fit in our little space. Luckily that is my talent.

Other new arrivals include the Isthmus print and boxed notes, cute little stamps and office supplies (like a black cat tape dispenser).

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And apparently I should have spent more time with my camera. Since the last blog post, we have also received: little wooden posts (foxes, bicycles and more), locally grown t-shirts, my new Solidarity t-shirt design, decorative duct tape, book and lp wrapping paper, more sweet story pictures and beer chart prints.

blooms for the library

oooh.... we are counting down!  The downtown public library is re-opening in a few weeks and we canNOT wait. We have really missed them, even though they had a temporary location on the other side of the Square that really wasn't that far away.

In honor of the grand opening and to help with the opening celebrations, Anthology is hosting book flower making at our craft table for the rest of August.  Stop in and learn how to fold this simple paper flower out of book pages. For every flower you make for the library, you get to make one to take home.

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For the library's opening, we're making the flowers out of simple black and white pages but we've seen these made from atlas paper and think they would be fun from patterned paper as well. You are welcome to bring any paper you'd like to try (not cardstock though, that's a little too thick) and/or purchase some paper from our shop.  Book pages come from some old World Books that were donated from a school library - there's no charge to use those.

Sunday Sermon, August 11: Tales from a Shopgirl Life

The scripture readings are: Isaiah 1: 1, 10-20 and Hebrews 11: 1-3,8-16

These are my stories.

First. I use the term “shopgirl” to describe my life somewhat facetiously. It downplays what is my life’s work and what, I believe, is my calling. But to understand that, you should know that most of my Biblical grounding is in the early chapters of Genesis. I’m still stuck on the Creation. To my mind, creating is a fundamental expression of God’s love. Whether we garden, paint, sing, connect people, build places, in our own little ways, we create the stars and the seas, we create light where once there was nothing. I am endlessly grateful for this gift from God. As I see it, our obligation is to express our own creativity and to facilitate it in others; to encourage them to tap into that divine process and experience the satisfaction that comes from being a creator.

This is my offering to God.

Such an offering could be contrasted to the offerings rejected in Isaiah. God asks: “Do you think I want all these sacrifices you keep offering to me? I have had more than enough of the sheep you burn as sacrifices and of the fat of your fine animals.”

These were not trivial offerings in the material sense and yet they are a far cry from the offerings of one’s time and energy and passion, offerings grounded in the spirit of a Creator God.

I am reminded of the passage from Mark: “Pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay to God what belongs to God.”

God, in my limited understanding IS creation, so it makes perfect sense that God would reject our limited offerings based on fear and desire to appease, our false sense of property and wealth.

In a more poetic way, Nan Merill rewrites Psalm 50: “Shall I accept your proud and boasting hearts, the oppression, the injustices brought about through your fearful deeds? Never shall I accept such burnt offerings! Rather, offer to the Beloved a gift of thanksgiving with grateful hearts; for what other return can you make for all that Love offers to you?”

And so the idea of our shop was born. But just like the first few verses of Genesis, before the light and creation, there was something formless and desolate, engulfed in total darkness. Ok, I exaggerate, but only a little.


Second: In the beginning..... I had been working my way up the retail ladder at Little Luxuries since 1999. I expected to eventually be store owner, a plan reinforced by my boss moving to Minnesota. And then, in 2007, she returned to Madison. “Nothing is going to change, I’m happy with the way you are running the store,” were the first words spoken on the subject. These were followed by: “why are you doing it that way?” That was the month of March.

So began a time of crisis in my life. I questioned the path I had been following, I doubted my worth and ability. I felt there was no place for me in the place that I used to consider my own. I was still stuck on my expectation that I would be store owner of Little Luxuries. Since that option seemed closed off, I felt closed off from my own possibility. So I began updating my resume and planning to find some sort of job, anything, just to get away from the place I was being exiled from. That was the month of October.

Now, honestly, when people talk about faith, I am challenged. There’s that saying – whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger? I hate that saying. Because when you are in the midst of something? sometimes all you feel is that it IS going to kill you. Faith in the process and the pain? I can see why it is such a test. During that time, I can’t really say that I had faith in the process. I am thankful that I had people around me who had faith in ME, who saw value in me even when I felt devalued. It is only in hindsight that I can say those difficulties were setting the stage; that I had to go through that time in order for any other risk to seem small compared to the risk of staying where I was.

Perhaps that’s the biggest challenge when you read passages such as Hebrews. How DO they have such assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things unseen? For me, the evidence for such faith has accumulated in little things that end up being all right despite a multitude of worrisome scenarios, in unexpected gifts in the midst of pain and loss, in ways that sudden beauty and joy make themselves known. Those are the little things that might not make it into Hebrews 11. They are the little things that I tend to forget when I am in the middle of the big things, wondering if THIS will be the one that kills me. Yet remembering those little things brings me to faith, not so much in specific paths, but in ways that things DO work, in ways that beauty and love and God are there, even when there is darkness and pain and sorrow.


Third. And then there was light. Specifically, around 6 am the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when I awoke with an illuminated mind: My sister and I would open a store! It was so clear. Perhaps it was a foregone conclusion; perhaps my friends were just humoring me as we debated what skirt to wear for interviews. Perhaps there is no way for me to adequately convey how deeply I had connected being a shop owner to being at Little Luxuries, and how I had almost given up on being a shop owner simply because that particular path was closed to me.

At this time, I found the passage printed on the cover of today’s bulletin. "I don't know how long I can do this, he said. I think the universe has different plans for me & we sat there in silence & I thought to myself that this is the thing we all come to & this is the thing we all fight & if we are lucky enough to lose, our lives become beautiful with mystery again & I sat there silent because that is not something that can be said.”

This passage resonated with me because I felt like most of the year had been a battle with trying to keep myself at Little Luxuries and when I gave up on that idea, suddenly a whole new path opened up to me and my life became beautiful with mystery once again.

And so began the actual work of owning our own business. Life might have been beautiful with mystery but it was also really stressful and filled with long hours, hard work, low pay and a tremendous sense of risk. Yet I came to see that the flip side of that risk is the reward and satisfaction in even the smallest success. It is amazing how selling even just a note card becomes an affirmation of my work and taste. Though my tax bill brought me to tears, I was on a constant high that first year, making sales and overhearing customers’ enjoyment of the shop.Yes, it was scary, and not just because of the money. When so much time and energy goes into something, even the slightest lack of interest can lead to self-doubt; the person who stands in the doorway and then turns away makes me feel like running after them – wait! give me a chance! you might like me!

The reality, of course, is that I don’t expect to please everyone, nor do I expect everyone to buy something or even “get” what it is our store is about. At the same time, by putting so much of myself into our shop, even the slightest positive response acts as an affirmation of my work and of my very self. This acceptance of self brings a deep sense of satisfaction and joy, and it comes only by taking the risk of sharing myself with others.

So like Abraham and Sarah, we venture out into the wilderness that is the world; we leave what is comfortable and familiar and we take risks. But that risk is grounded in the love of God, in the sacred and genuine offering of ourselves.


Fourth (and last). The year was 2011. I think it is safe to say that I had learned a big lesson about the rewards that accompany risk, that I had strengthened my faith and trust in process even if the outcome seemed unclear. Our business was continuing to grow and I could see the path ahead for us, selling papergoods and locally made crafts. But faith isn’t just something you earn once; it has to be tested and strengthened, over and over again, apparently.

Now, from the start of our business, our button maker was an unexpected asset even though I had to twist my sister’s arm to spend the $300. It turned out that other people liked making buttons too and making buttons became a feature of our shop. It was not uncommon to hear a kid walking by and saying: “there’s the button store!” “Out of the mouths of babes” is not so out of place in this case.

And so came that week in February. When the Governor first introduced his budget, I had a strong sense that it was wrong – it went against what I see as the role of government, it went against how I think Jesus wants us to be at work in the world. The notion of Wisconsin being “open for business” seemed very limiting and short-sighted. The world of the small business owner is fiercely independent and yet utterly dependent at the same time; I had a keen sense of our dependence on our customers, and the threat this budget presented to their lives. So we stood in solidarity. We went to the protests, we watched as people streamed by our shop on their way to the Capitol, we wrote on our sandwich board and hung signs in our windows, we stood as the firefighters went by with their bagpipes and cheered the “cops for labor” signs.

On Thursday of that week, a regular customer came in and said: “where are your buttons?” Now, honestly, most businesses try to adhere to some notion of impartiality, even if that is betrayed by lobbying, campaign donations and partisan issue ads from their trade organizations. After our customer asked us for buttons, we hesitated. Although I felt strongly that the budget would have reverberations on all of our lives and that it very much concerned our business, we were still unsure. There’s a fine balance to strike between being Capitalistic and being opportunistic. But on Friday, an old school friend and union member commented: “You must be selling buttons like crazy! Union people love buttons!” I told her that we were still on the fence because we didn’t want to seem opportunistic. She said: “Make those buttons, girl!” Since that week in February, we have sold over 30,000 buttons.

There were plenty of times that I felt overwhelmed with anger and frustration, times when I worried about how our shop would grow when paychecks were shrinking, times when I feared for our state. But those are not the offerings that God wants from us. God wants us to take risks, to be daring in our expression of love and creation. Can you find a way to make an offering of your joy and love and creativity? Oddly enough, making buttons became my offering.

Though I was filled with the courage of my convictions, there was the risk that new customers would be offset by angry former customers, and we’ve all witnessed nastiness in the hyper-partisan world of the internet. But ultimately, what I objected to in others was the way they were letting their fear and anger set the tone for their lives. That is not the world I wanted to live.

So, yes, there was risk. But the rewards were great. I am filled with gratitude that we took that risk, that we participated in that moment. The button table was regularly surrounded by people, laughing, sharing their stories and pains; it was like a non-stop dinner party. To give you a taste, I’ve brought my offering of buttons to you today. I hope you’ll gather at the table after worship and pick out one out for yourself.

Big Union Men came in for buttons; sweet teachers near tears thanked us for our presence. So many people came to us who had never stepped in our store before. There was a strong sense that we were all overcoming feelings of being alone and being powerless. I grew and so did the store. We forged new connections to people and businesses; there was a lasting sense of togetherness and power. To my great joy, I witnessed a burst of creativity that jumped up to meet the challenge of the anger and turmoil. There was screenprinting, hilarious signs, chalk writing, decorated cars, t-shirt making, singing and songwriting... and yes, buttons. It made me proud to be a Wisconsinite, to be among Creators, and to be a child of God.


So, those are my stories. Like the texts we read today, like your own lives, there is faith and risk, there is doubt and fear, but above all there is love and creation and the offering of the very best I have to give to God.

May YOU find your buttons.

May you take risks and not be content with burnt offerings.

May you listen for God’s call to a more creative life.

And may you find your way to offer yourself to the world and God.

I promise. GOD promises. The risk will be worth it. The rewards will be great. Amen.

new arrivals, bad pictures

I gotta tell you, this camera situation is making me grumpy. Of course, at this point, I have only myself to blame since the resolution to the situation involves action on my part. I have to make up my mind. I'm getting closer - reading Consumer Reports, going to a few stores to look around at options. Although it is tempting to go with a fancy schmancy camera model, I really just need something that is small like my last one; small enough that I will carry it with me everywhere.  So I really just have to go to our downtown camera store.

In the meantime, you are stuck with pictures from my brother-in-law's camera which, for some reason, really doesn't get along with me. SO, I apologize, the pics are yucky. But it is all better in person anyway...

It has been a busy week of new arrivals. Even though August is my birth month and is thus much-anticipated, it feels like it kind of snuck up on me. There were several orders with August 1 ship dates that we are seeing the results of.

Fun patterns of washi tape, as well as cute envelopes and stationery sets. Sachi is noticing there are lots of tiny patterns - in clothing as well as in paper goods and we are enjoying the results of the trend.


We got a new batch of "super cheesy" "native" and other Wisconsin printed onesies, as well as Sachi's Madison baby. It is possible that my nagging of the Wi/Mn hugging artist will result in onesies of that same pattern in the near future as well.


I had taken a bit of break on the whole back-to-school thing (since leaving grad school) but am falling back into it now that my niece is getting ready to go off to kindergarten.  Whew! WHERE did that time go? Our big back-to-school push is usually for the college girls decorating their dorms and apartments. But we did get more of the cloth sandwich and snack bags for lunches. And some cute insulated lunch totes from a Canadian designer.


We continue to unpack more notecards, journals and wrapping paper. And the calendars are starting to trickle in. I'm guessing we'll have the full assortment by the end of August/mid-September. And even though it seems early, that's the time you'll have the best variety to choose from. We keep ordering more but we tend to be sold out of certain styles by November.

Of particular excitement is the flourishing of our souvenir t-shirts. That was a new category for us last year and we've been encouraged by the response. So much so that we chased down some additional artists.  The Wisconsin Forward bike shirt has been very popular and hopefully we will soon resolve some of our delivery issues on the Wisconsin/Minnesota hugging t-shirt. Last week we enjoyed chatting with the many people who came to town for the American Cheese Society 30th annual meeting. We talked with people from all over the world and enjoyed their enjoyment of our city. This coming weekend is the Great Taste of the Midwest which always has spin-off beer tastings around town, as well as various brewmeisters coming to town to show off their creations. Just in time, the craft beer t-shirt came back, looking pretty spiffy in its new heather red color. We also have our classic very many varieties of beer in print and t-shirt form.

craft beer

Sunday sermon

Our pastor is away for a couple weeks and we agreed that I would deliver the sermon on August 11. I've been slowly working through it, aware that editing is in order, but thinking the date is far away. Suddenly last night I realized that August 11 is coming up pretty soon. Better get to work!

I read through it once this morning. 20 minutes. Yeah, editing, definitely. Of course, while I was reading it, I found a few more additions as well. My sermon is titled "tales from a shopgirl life" or something like that and discusses the connection of faith and offerings and risk, my Creation-based focus on the Bible, and how that all relates to our journey at the shop.

I've been thinking back to the beginnings of the store and in doing so, I hauled out my little journal of gratitude. You might not know this, but behind the cash register, I have a little note book where I write down compliments that people give us and things overheard in the store. A Geology professor of mine once told us that we should all keep a "warm fuzzy file," that would contain copies of letters of recommendation and any other such documents, things to remind us of our value, things that are particularly useful when you are feeling de-valued or otherwise down in the dumps. The cumulative effect of such a file, or journal, is quite powerful. It is easy to be in the moment of one's own mood, combined with outside influences - as a shopgirl, I am susceptible to those days when the general public seems particularly general, when no one walking in the door seems to understand what the store is about or even seem interested in buying a notecard (a notecard! I mean, really, since my sister and I are such collectors of notecards, that is something I rarely have trouble buying). On days such as that, it is a simple matter to open the drawer and haul out my little book, to read all the things that people have said. It is a quick pick-me-up and one I highly recommend for everyone.

Anyway, believe it or not, basking in compliments IS related to my Sunday sermon, because one of my stores that I am sharing is about that very act of taking risks and making the offering of yourself. There is no doubt that I do take things too personally sometimes. When I am completely uninterested in a sporting goods store, it really isn't that I dislike the people who work there; likewise, I really don't expect to be liked by everyone. So there's both a stepping away from taking things personally and also a very deep personal aspect about the store - everything in it comes from our hard work and our tastes.

I'm getting such a kick out of re-reading my happy book that I just had to share some with you. Just a few because otherwise it will stop being sermon prep and will turn into bragging and procrastination.

"What a happy little store!"

"This is gorgeous. Just gorgeous. This is oxygen. Thank you for letting us come in!"

"This place has my number. It looks like what my dreams look like."

Ahh.... feeling the love.... editing the sermon is looking less appealing......


ready for August


I have this naive hope that August will mark a new phase in this year, even though it is my birth month and is thus filled with any number of celebrations. I'm not quite sure what it is. Something in the air? in the stars? I feel like this year has been full of upheaval, definitely more than usual. I have had two dear friends lose parents, one dear friend lose a grandparent, my sister move to a new house, my bedroom in total disarray while I painted, trips and housesitting more than usual that kept me away from my usual routine, that little tumble from the window which was minor but added another wrench in the works. I'm sure there is more. Oh, our five-year anniversary celebrations (so, yes, it hasn't been all bad). And several friends in long-term relationships that came to an end, sometimes abruptly (at least from where I stood). I've been managing to get things made at the shop but I feel like I'm in some kind of limbo with the creative process - not sure what project to work on, trying too hard to fit creativity into commercialism, dealing with restocking of the usual without lifting my head up far enough to do more long range thinking and setting the stage for new projects...  It is possible that I am thinking too hard and getting caught up in the "perfect" trap so the card I received from Kennedy Prints is almost spooky in its timing. But I can't even seem to make up my mind what medium to start with.

In the meantime, I got a call this week about the second parent death this year. Lucky for me, her daughter was calling to ask if we could help out with buttons for the service. I say lucky because isn't it easy to feel so helpless in such situations? To know that nothing you can do can really ease the sorrow and loss; to want to help but not knowing where to begin? But a task. That I can help with! Especially buttons. The Mother's name is Robin so I spent some time digging up pictures of robins for the daughter to choose from. Then making those into buttons. The daughter had the idea of putting the buttons into a nest and I told her I could find one. Of course, every nest I found was way too tiny for the purpose. Running low on time, I went with a wreath I found on clearance at JoAnn's.  It had way too much stuff on it so I spent time with the wire cutters and trimmed the greenery back. There was some fake butterfly that was particularly tacky. But there are two eggs in the nest and there are two children left behind - my friend, and her brother. I worked on a similar project for the funeral earlier this year - it ended up being for my mom's colorful hat filled with blue jays in honor of the Jay who was no longer with us in body (but here in spirit in so many ways). I'm really liking this more dimensional collaging and am learning all about the joys of the hot glue gun (honestly, I've hardly ever used one in my life so I had no idea what I was missing out on. And, yes, I did drip some glue and burn my finger). After I trimmed back some of the fake leaves, I added some paper cut-outs back in. I know, it is somewhat strange for me to say there was too much on the wreath only to end up back to too much. But I think it is more artful with the papercuts. Now I'm just somewhat worried that it is too much for a funeral or is not suitable for the style of the family.... but I figure there will be a profusion of blooms in wreath and flower form; this piece certainly won't get lost....


 And as far as the shop is concerned, we are well in the midst of summer tourist season. You'd think after these years, we would know better about pacing ourselves. Both Sachi and I have turned to each other, exhausted at the end of the day, only to check the sales figures and realize, oh right, of course we'd be exhausted when sales are so much higher than an average March. With the advent of August comes a new round of arrivals with Aug 1 ship dates.  Now that Minnesota has gay marriage, it kind of feels like Minnesota is hugging  Wisconsin in consolation. We were also pleased to connect with the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation because their Forward bicycle montage is a great addition to the shop.

  P8024026I am hoping this month to make up my mind about a new camera so I can quit grumbling and also get back into the picture-taking routine. We've been doing a little rearranging around the shop (probably nothing you'll notice until some new fixtures arrive), re-hanging pictures, creating some new jewlery displays using old books, planning ahead for some minor construction projects which will culminate with our holiday window. Summer tourist time also means folding lots of t-shirts. Besides a restock of the Minnesota-Wisconsin hugs t-shirt, we also received the Forward bicycle t-shirt from the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. We've been eyeing the shirt as it came in on customers but the tipping point was seeing it in Lori Compass' bag as she left on the GoWisco tour of the state.

What else? There are several boxes that arrived today and yesterday - we haven't even had time to crack them open. I believe there are messenger bags, note cards, wrapping paper, origami crane earrings, duct tape, washi tape, stationery, bibs and little garden bird decorations. Those might be projects for next week.