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September 2013
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November 2013

catching up

Sheesh, have I really been so bad about posting? Yes. Sigh. I walked around the shop with my camera and found all sorts of things I haven't told you about.

I do have an excuse for the past week - and that is that our dad went for routine back surgery a week ago and so we have been somewhat preoccupied with the aftermath (which mostly involves planning who is going to bring him what sort of food while he stays in the hospital). Of course, one is always aware of one's parents' mortality, but such moments tend to bring it all into sharper relief. He is slowly recuperating and while I realize this is really not the worst of what happens in life, it has certainly added another layer. I have new appreciation for what it means when someone is staying in the hospital, not just emotionally. Just last night I was cooking one of his usual meals for Mom & myself, planning to bring him leftovers at the hospital and suddenly had a mini-crisis moment when I realized I didn't exactly know what ingredients he put into the marinade. He always asks us, of meals he cooks, what we will eat "when he's gone." And while this meal was always something that I breezily said I would cook, I realized last night how much more went into it.

Meanwhile, October is going so quickly. This week really snuck up on me. I'm housesitting for a few days so I am packing up for that - with my usual over-ambition about what I will accomplish. I'm also hosting a mini art retreat for my mom and her friend - we will be doing the pencil drawing and ink washing that I've been playing around with lately. It will be fun but there's always some prep time involved, as well as uncertainty with how the time will go. I have been working more on my own painting project - feeling mostly like this is all the practice/work that goes into the before pictures. What I have so far mostly feels like really great background. I don't know what the foreground is calling for. But I'm having fun so that's something.

Although the month has turned chilly and slowed down a bit as far as customers go, we are definitely seeing the start of holiday shopping, as well as tourists still coming in for souvenirs and other gift shoppers. There has been a flurry of arrivals:

charming felt animal masks, more Totoro wallets, sweet switchplates made by our very own Olivia

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I am particularly enjoying the box of assorted quotes and notes - they were sold as a complete set of 365 cards but we've split them up and many people have enjoyed drawing a card from the box and seeing what inspiration they get.

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Our regional collection is in good shape - we received more of the popular Visit Wisconsin print. I love all the little surprising icons that are found throughout the state. It is unlikely that these will be reprinted before the holidays so if this is something on your gift list, we would recommend coming in sooner rather than later.

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We are also pleased to be carrying Farmer's Market totes and prints - per the many requests from customers who aren't around on Saturday morning, and cute pocket notebooks with Wisconsin trivia on the cover. Additionally, the Wisconsin bicycle t-shirt continues to be a very popular item.

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Other new arrivals include farm- and dog- prints, notecards and tags, baby books and guest books, earrings with real flower petals, red and white stitched pencil cases, lovely hand-dyed silk ribbon (finally tracked down the source of the silk ribbon I've been hoarding since the days of Floralegium).

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Finally, we also received the Midwest version of the 36 hours book (after checking to make sure we were still in it, of course). We think this will be a nice Christmas present - perhaps a little more realistic than all of the U.S. and Canada (which is the thicker blue book which has also been popular for holiday giving).

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The New Domesticity ?

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Well, I have to admit that I am only on page 56 of the book and I did cheat and skim through the last chapter. And I also have to admit that my thoughts so far have me feeling like a crabby old lady (which I use as a term of endearment because to me it signifies a lack of interest in the pretense that pervades so much of our life and I can see the wisdom in that midset), but here goes...

Sachi checked out Homeward Bound from the library - a book we've been anticipating since we first heard about it. Well, I don't know if anticipating is necessarily the right word. We've been curious about it anyway.

from the author, about her blog, but it also applies to the book: " This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ – the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?"

Certainly these are some trends we have been watching ourselves. In general, as people who like to make things, there are many aspects that we appreciate. I see the slow food movement, the DIY movement, the backyard chicken movement... all these things working together to create a different sort of world, one where people are more connected to their material world, which is a good thing. We feel strongly that the more people try to make things with their hands, the more they will connect with the work of other people making things with their hands - a connection which is oftentimes sorely lacking. And perhaps it is just a question of time, yet there are ways that I see the particulars of that sort of world not really meshing with the particulars of our current world. Just for example, the IRS does not accept eggs as payment. Now, if you truly manage to create a world that is off the grid, that might be one thing, but I don't necessarily see these things happening off the grid, and I certainly don't see myself as an off the grid type of person. I also see many of these movements happening in a world of relative luxury - even though people would say they are canning and growing their own food to save money, there is a luxury of time that is required. And not everyone has that. Is the single mom working two part-time jobs canning the tomatoes she grew? I doubt it.

Given the qualifiers first mentioned, here are my thoughts so far, which I have the idea of setting apart in numerical order, but I can see the points are all interconnected. But perhaps overarching it all is my sense is that the book isn't really speaking TO me... I don't know, somehow I thought that it was going to. But I think I am going to have to read this book as observer, and save myself the next 200 pages of saying, "but that's not me...."

1. I'm too old. That's right, I said it. At 42, I definitely don't qualify for the Generation Y that the author speaks of. That's fine. But I do see people of all ages embracing domesticity so I don't think it is an exclusive purview of Millenials. More significantly, I find that I fall closer to the category of the bra-burning 1970s woman than the jam-making 2000s woman. I have very serious concerns about the role of women and their income-earning potential in the world today. I have seen supposed happily-ever-afters end in such a way that I wish all women would have some source of income and security that is completely their own. I have major concerns about how we as a society value certain skill sets over others and "I just do this because it is fun, I just want to earn enough to pay for supplies" has always MAJORLY grated on my nerves. Perhaps the point of this book is that people are reclaiming the valuation of skills - and I can't argue with that - but there is still so much of life that is on other (monetary) terms that I have my doubts about how effective this valuation is when you still have to pay your  mortgage, your taxes, your electric bill...

2. Am I really the only person who doesn't have a computer at home? I love the internet, don't get me wrong. And the author is certainly correct to qualify this current domesticity as "new," based largely on the fact that there is now the internet. Women who stay at home are not isolated as they have been in previous generations, they have blogs, they have ways to connect to a larger community of people experiencing similar frustrations and triumphs. But they have to have an internet connection. To me, that is a luxury and it slightly narrows the category of person to which this new domesticity can apply.

3. I think government does good things. I am happy to earn money to pay taxes to fund things that I like that I cannot pay for on my own. I have some concern about the ways this domestic focus reflect a turning-inward of our lives - a focus on what we CAN control (how clean the bathroom is or how well our curtains are sewn) away from what we feel we cannot control (which, I believe, is just a ploy on the part of larger organizations to make us feel helpless and powerless and thus turn away from what we actually *should* be participating in).  Government is made up of people, people are not perfect. But anything that looks perfect should be suspect; I am quite sure that even those bloggers with their perfect photographs have their bad hair days. Overall, I seriously question the anti-government rhetoric of today (which the author links to the inward-turning domestic focus) and I believe strongly that the role of government and church are the same and equally valuable - to pool our resources to accomplish larger things that are beyond our individual ability.

Now, in the book, the author talks about the community that is created through the internet and through blogs - that is community which is created through your individual connections. That is very powerful stuff, no doubt about that. More powerful than just geographic proximity, because you share some major life events with such people. Aside from the fact that not everyone has internet connection, not everyone has a blog with thousands of followers. I am reminded of a story that our Dad tells about a Boston Bishop who was sick. The Bishop -obviously not one to deny the power of prayer - was also somewhat cautious, essentially saying that he didn't really believe God worked solely that way; otherwise the Bishop, as a renowned man on the receiving end of thousands of prayers, would be so much better off than some anonymous person equally ill. And yet, the Bishop said, those anonymous people are as important to God. So, too, while it is wonderful that someone with thousands of readers can receive $100,000 after she is seroiusly injured in a plane crash, what about that person who has no such connection? It is precisely for such people that our larger government and church organizations exist.

4. I'm single. I'm quite sure that someone would say this is the talk of a bitter spinster, but please don't feel sorry for me. I pretty much have my life exactly as I want it, and I don't have room for much more. I realize that everyone makes their choices and sets their path, and there are pluses and minuses to any course - there is many a time when a couple comes into the shop and I think to myself, "see, that's why I'm still single." That said, SOMEONE's gotta pay the bills, and in my case, it is me. I am not the kind of person who would last well off the grid. I like the luxuries that my salary pays for. I believe that I am equally capable and deserving of being paid for my time and expertise as anyone else. I wouldn't say that I am envious or resentful of other people's lives, but so far what I see of New Domesticity is that is often accomplished because there is a spouse who works in the non- domestic sphere.  And when a woman, whose life is in some way underwritten by the salary of her spouse, devalues her time and work, I do feel that generally downgrades all such time and work and reflects back upon me - that has an effect on the collective worth of such activities. I believe I read somewhere that if all the tasks of homemaking were outsourced for a year, it would cost a household well over $100,000.  Doing such tasks for oneself should not detract from their value and in some ways the New Domesticity does indeed re-value such tasks. But IRS still won't take your chicken eggs in payment. Furthermore, much of this is still "women's work" and aside from principles of feminism and equality, I have some personal interest in making sure that it is valued on ALL of the scales we weigh our work and worth.

5. I'm not a mom. Thank Goodness. Seriously, I invest a lot of time and energy in my adorable niece - but I'm always happy to have the other 6 nights a week to myself. Perhaps if I was a mom, I would pace myself better. Though I kind of have a feeling that I would be wracked with guilt about all the other things that other moms are doing and would be in danger of completely losing my sense of self. That's fine... but I like my self. And I also know that children grow up... and THEN you'd have to find your sense of self all over again? I don't know, the chapter about attachment parenting has already lost me. Also, is this just because our mom was of a different generation? Were the Baby Boomer parents really that involved in their career to the point of not parenting? I hadn't really had that sense. The author definitely speaks to a particular woman who is reacting to a lack of a traditional mother figure in her life by becoming supermom themselves. Did all those moms really hate their jobs that much? Were they really that deficient as parents? Now, I know that our mom loves us but she was pretty clear from early on that there were other aspects of her life. I guess I've always felt that no one or two (or more) people can be the end-all, be-all of your life, even if they are your children. But then again, I'm not a mom.

6. I'm a Capitalist. My brother-in-law comments on this often, but it is true that Sachi and I often think quickly about how to monetize something. So, clearly, I'm not the one to lead the charge to a new economy. I think there are many ways that we can use our money differently and for the better, but I'm not really ready to give up on making and spending it.

7. I LOVE my job. Just yesterday we were walking with our Dad and out of the blue he says, "I never really worked my whole life." This was a familiar refrain when we were growing up. The fact is, he was employed (mostly through grant money) through the University of Wisconsin for decades, well past the time when other people might have retired. He always expressed it as Play, not Work, and considered it somewhat embarassing that someone would actually be paying him to do that. Meanwhile, our mom would come home from her work at Steenbock Library with stories about various research projects that she helped students and professors with. Both of our parents always expressed a great curiosity about the world, which was satisfied through their jobs. So I don't really think of a job as a drugdery or something to escape from. Even though I am an extreme introvert and might be well suited to a life of domesticity, there is so much that I have gained from a life in the public sphere, so much that I have gained from creating our store, that I can only encourage other people to do likewise, and somehow the New Domesticity feels counter to that.

So, there you go. Only 56 pages in and apparently I had a lot of pent-up thoughts. This started because I asked the question of Facebook friends and fans and someone replied that they were interested to hear my thoughts. What was a 4-point Facebook reply became this.

How about you? Have you read the book? Do you have thoughts about the various trends in domestic arts? Where do you feel your generation stands.. if there is such a thing as being able to speak for a large and diverse group of people....? How do you feel the smaller act of creating fits into the larger world?

can't resist

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no.... I'm not putting Christmas out yet. I'm getting impatient (though a person should hardly complain about time going quickly if she is as guilty as the rest of speeding it along). I've finally given up on my complete office re-do - I think it was just going to be too crazy to get that big desk out while all the holiday orders are coming in. That does put a bit of a crimp into my storage situation. I'm sure it will all work out, there's just going to be a lot of shuffling. Right now, the fixtures I had made for the window are being used as storage in the office. When it comes time to install the holiday window (about a month away!), I will have to empty them of all that they are storing and find someplace new to put those items. However, the new fixtures out on the sales floor will create both storage and display space so I'm sure it will all work out.


In the meantime, we are otherwise looking ahead to various holiday events. The Holiday Craftacular is always a fun event and this year we are donating rolls of washi tape for the goody bags that go to the first 50 shoppers (there's always a long line of more than 50 people. I don't know how early you have to get there to get one). And we are looking forward to the other holiday shows: MMOCA's Holiday Art Fair, the Winter Art Fair Off the Square, Handmade Madison. Now if we can just find the time to go to them all (on top of tending shop). Unfortunately for me, my parents' dishwasher died so my Christmas present to them was money for that. Not as fun as finding an artful pin or scarf for Mom.

My painted pages book is at the stage of needing to be bound. So I'm somewhat stuck for the moment as I have to first learn how to do the coptic stitch and then actually do it. Like many of my projects, it has tipped over into the phase of just needing to be worked on, instead of starting and playing. We'll see if I get that done yet this year. I did make some mini painted pages for a mini 2x2 book for the 2014 holiday book trade so I can practice the coptic stitch on that. And I'm working on some 8x10 painted pages to collage and sell at the shop or make into notecards/prints. I really feel like my painting is more like background painting. While fun, the pieces still need something...more. I have to figure out what that is.

In the meantime, I have been doing some restocking in preparation for the holidays. I finished a huge batch of magnet picture frames so we should be set on those. And I'm working on more of the stamped charm necklaces. The Wisconsin charm has been a very popular necklace component so we're stocking up on those as well. Meanwhile, Sachi has continued sewing and sewing. At least this year we have a larger assortment of souvenir ornaments. But so far she has never been able to keep us stocked on her sewn Wisconsin ornament. She's trying to build up a bigger supply this year. We'll see how that goes ;)

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 We have ben receiving more shipments from artists around the country: some lovely stainless steel earrings made in Wisconsin, cool card cases and wallets from San Francisco, handmade journals from Utah, more Minnesota/Wisconsin tees and onesies from Minneapolis.

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We are super thrilled for the two Chucks at The Soap Opera, who went to Iowa recently to get married...  Never mind that I basically consider them married and that if it weren't for the (to my mind) unconstitutional constitutional amendment here in Wisconsin, they could have celebrated their marriage in the state where they live. I only just sent my letter to the Wisconsin Representatives and Senators in Washington, D.C. about the shutdown and I realize we are a little behind on making shutdown buttons, but my mind is stewing over a postcard for the state legislators. I'm starting to feel that when people disagree with you on what for them is a moral level, how do you even have a conversation? how do you find common ground when some really basic assumptions are not assumed? I think the answer might be money.  I *think* maybe I could say to a Republican: we might disagree about what is or isn't good behavior or Biblically sound, but perhaps we can agree that some matters should just be someone's private business and making them public- and state-business is costing my business money so maybe we could just agree to take it out of the public realm? I know, I know, that doesn't really address the matter of civil rights, or trampling of them, and perhaps this is a case of me as a businessperson, being a hammer and looking at all problems in terms of nails, but sometimes the discussion of what is "right" and "wrong" seem to be at such cross-purposes, and without any change of resolution, that I'm just personally feeling like maybe I can speak at a less personal and emotional level and just make it about the money. Anyway, I just have to find the words simple and clever enough and I think it could be an easy write-in campaign - just a postcard that says "you are costing me money" ?

And besides all this? I've been enjoying a beautiful fall here in Wisconsin. I have to admit that I really dislike all things pumpkin-flavored so I dislike that element of this time of year  -- I mean, really, you can't go anywhere without someone promoting their pumpkin flavored this or that. Ugh. But we've had a really lovely fall, weather-wise, unusually warm on some days, sun shining through leaves in various shades of yellows and oranges, blue skies, cool nights...  Of course today is gray and rainy, but we had fun with leaf piles yesterday.

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rained... out? in?

Lots of thunder and lightning woke me up early this morning and while I would ordinarily just spend the extra time being cozy in bed and listening to the rain, my mind was spinning and there was nothing for it but to get up. Even knowing that today is a long day at work because of Gallery Night (I won't be home until 9:30 pm) didn't keep me from coming in. I think I arrived around 7:30. Some days are like that. It's been a slightly strange few weeks at the shop - quiet because of the lull between summer tourists and holidays and yet full with unpacking shipments, rearranging, and making plans. Meanwhile my brain is extra-full: planning for Christmas, trying to squeeze a few extra square feet out of the shop, making a list of things to restock for the holidays, wondering what my next art project will be and if I can find space to put more text into my current project.

Through the School of Business, we signed up to participate in a class project, to work with a group of students on some planning for the shop. Ever since we celebrated our 5th anniversary and I took that financial planning workshop, one corner of my mind has been preoccupied with thoughts of what I want for the next five years. All these thoughts are like little bees buzzing around in my head and I'm having trouble focusing. I've met with the group of students once and already it has been really helpful. I think it is good to get outside perspectives on a situation - questions are always asked that you might not have considered (even though the usual one: are you going to move your business online?, was also among the questions. The answer to that one right now is no - but sometimes I wonder if I am being a fuddy duddy when I say that the whole reason we opened a brick & mortar shop is because I believe there is something very tactile about the buying and art experience, and worthy of a in-person experience. I realize that some of this might just be because of the kind of person I am, but internet shopping really doesn't thrill me. I've had so many experiences of going to a store and then looking at its website and being disappointed by how lacking the website is compared to the in-person experience.... or I am I being one of those crabby people who thinks that everything is better the way it "used to be" and is irrationally closed-minded to something that would actually make life better? No wonder I can't sleep in). Anyway, it should be an interesting exercise this semester to have four students working on plans for the store.

I feel like I had to take a little bit of a break from paying attention to state politics.  All the signs that I see point towards a small percentage of people getting wealthier and everyone else's life just getting worse, including those who are really mad and afraid right now for the current bad condition of their lives. It's discouraging, I will admit.  I feel like my life will be fine so it isn't a specific concern for myself or my family, but I do have concern for people who are already living on the edge, who live in a place with few opportunities or little infrastructure. That said, there have been some recent developments at the local level which make me feel a little better, chief among them is our county executive actually admitting that climate change is happening AND making plans to adjust to it. I have seen no such indication that our state is doing likewise, ditto for our country, despite the fact that the insurance industry and the military are already well on their way to making changes to deal with the uncertainty that lies ahead.

And on the federal level? what is there to say really? I am super happy about the Affordable Care Act. I think that everyone should have health insurance and that it shouldn't be tied to a job. I am irritated with the people who play on fears of rising rates - because, that's right, our rates weren't rising before this. Ha ha. The notion that we are not already paying for the uninsured among us is ridiculous.  But I think that is the whole point of what is best about big institutions - about government and about church, that we pool our resources and collectively pay for things we couldn't on our own. And I feel that the bigger the pool of participants, the better. So, Yay! Obamacare!

But boo, Shutdown! also boo, debt ceiling limit! and boo, budget cuts! Does anyone really have any expectation that such behavior is going to help this country? or are they so beholden to their global corporations that they don't care about this country anymore? When I think about these years since 2008 I kind of want to cry - I firmly believe that we could have had an actual economic recovery if we hadn't ceded to ideas that taxes and government spending are bad. We're all connected, and austerity is really, REALLY, not the way to go. Ugh. What's a girl to do? This shutdown is so maddening to me - it started on a more nebulous principle level: thinking about things deemed "non-essential" which I consider essential, feeling wretched about Head Start kids and people going hungry, stewing over the ways that the Paul Ryan budget has essentially been applied to this country even though I think it is unChristian and unAmerican, fuming over the ways the obstructionist GOP is preventing this country from reaching its full potential and the way that all politicians seem more indebted to money than to people... well, you get the drill. Although I have a vague idea that more of our customers are state employees (and are thus already feeling the pain of the Governor's faux austerity - austerity for a few people while the rich people get more tax breaks), there is of course the direct and indirect effect of still more people not earning paychecks. As a business owner, I would like my customers to have MORE discretionary income, not less. 

And then I learned yesterday that the small business loan we were applying for is on hold because of the shutdown. I am well aware that this is a minor thing in the grand scheme of things; we really just needed a few thousand dollars to get us through now (when product is arriving) and December (when sales are arriving to pay for the product). We had a credit card error resolved in our favor so I was starting to think that we might not need the small business loan anyway. But the principle of it is this: we are a small business and we could literally create jobs with our small business loan because we would be buying stuff from artists all around the country. Well, maybe we would just create one or two jobs, but still. We would have more stuff to sell in our shop, we would generate more tax revenue for the state and feds, AND we would turn around and spend our money at other businesses. I suppose it might be called trickle-down, except that I feel like that phrase has been co-opted and mis-used by the GOP so much that I am not sure I can take it back. And now all of that potential economic activity is put on hold. Not just for us, but for every other small business around this country. I mean, I understand that the GOP has major social issues that it is concerned with, but I would really expect a supposedly fiscally-concerned, party of business, to be somewhat concerned with the financial consequences of their action. And this gets to the root of the problem that I have seen at state and federal levels: the bending-over backwards to please people with wealth (i.e. power) at cost to the good of our nation and state as a whole, not to mention the utter lack of fiscal soundness. I have a feeling we are going to be cleaning up the mess the Governor made for years to come, paying for his tax breaks and budget shenanigans (what do Republicans call "kicking the can down the road" when they do it?). Maybe this is just the Christian in me talking, but, "whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do so unto me" ?!!!  I just don't know how we can have possibly come so far from these principles. Also, I don't know how to talk to somehow who thinks otherwise. What really kept me from falling asleep last night is that I plan to write a letter to all the Wisconsin Congresspeople and to the President. But knowing it would be sent to Paul Ryan and to Barack Obama makes it somewhat tricky. Plus, I have heard enough from Brene Brown that shaming and scolding is not an effective way to talk to people. But what do you say to a Paul Ryan? I suppose if the Nuns on the Bus couldn't change his mind there is little that I would do. But I really feel the need to add my two cents. I imagine - what if every single person in the country sent a letter to Congress saying exactly what the effects were? Would that have ANY effect at all? Is there any way to penetrate the wall of exclusivity and privledge that surrounds them? Any way to convey the massive harm of their in/action? Sigh.

So anyway, that's been MY week. I am working more on my painted pages book and that is coming along really well. I've been writing text with sumi ink and pen - I have the idea that my text could be even cooler if I really spent time on the writing, but I kind of just want to have the words in there - it's not really supposed to be a finished work of art, more of a journal in the sense of an ongoing, just put your thoughts down, record. I have also been slowly making my way through a batch of magnet picture frames, perhaps enough for the Christmas season. I really need to sit down and think about what else needs to be made. Sachi's been taking a silkscreen printing class at Madison College so I'm mostly impatient for her to have the skills so I can use them...

And now the Halloween window is in, I can really start counting down the weeks to installing my full holiday window, more shipments are arriving every day and I still have some orders to place. I did go to the grocery store so I accomplished that much this week. And no, no pictures in this blog. I did not create any new buttons to go along with my ire over the shutdown. We did get some new journals and notebooks, notecards and jewelry. I will take pictures soon, honest.