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December 2013
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February 2014

so much Valentine goodness

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We've got a nice assortment of papergoods for Valentine's Day this year. As usual, we have set up our craft table for Valentine's card making: $2.50 per card includes use of our various supplies: colored pencils, scissors that cut various edges, rubber stamps, glitter, punches, buttons, baker's twine, and, of course, scraps of paper. We are particularly happy about the new superheroes and villains paper which we think would make great Valentines for school (and a nice change from what Walgreens has to offer).

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Sachi will also be at the branch libraries with Valentine garlands, cards & gift tags. Thanks to the Friends of the Library, these events are free to the public. You do have to sign up.

Feb 4th at Lakeview Library

Feb 11th at Pinney Library

Feb 12th at Monroe Street Library

Additionally, we have washi tape, rubber stamps, blank cards, scrap paper packs, glitter, punches and other supplies to purchase and take home for your own Valentine crafts.

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 I am particularly fond of the pad of little notes for tucking into lunch boxes and sending to loved ones, but, of course, we have plenty of individual notecards as well.

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Finally, next weekend is the Valentine Craftacular at the Madison Masonic Center downtown. There are sure to be lots of Valentine goodies!

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Souvenir: seeking (postcard) artists

It's been a long time in the works, but I'm pleased to announce that we are planning a group show for May of this year. The debut will be Gallery Night, Friday May 2.

Although we've been wrestling with the limitations of our space and intentions, I think we've finally managed to figure out something that will be right up our alley: postcards! This works both with our interest in paper & print, and with our goals of increasing our collection of regional images.

We are open to any medium (and it doesn't necessarily have to be a mailable piece but it must adhere to the size requirements): collage, photograph, digital art, print, fiber, ceramic....

finished size: 4.25" x 5.5"   (there is no restriction on depth/thickness. We imagine that most people will be printing on paper but you could submit fabric that is quilted, felt, something mounted on wood. You could even make a mini shadow box).

topic: Madison/Dane County/Wisconsin/Great Lakes/Midwest, you know, the region. Please keep in mind that people of all ages come downtown and to our shop - We don't require that everything match the tone of our shop but we reserve the right to decline any submissions that we wouldn't show to a 5 year-old.

That said, we ARE looking for your personal interpretation of what this place means to you. We have lengthy debates in our household, mostly because our Dad is a photographer and can be very snobbish about what constitutes an interesting postcard. Is it an image that anyone can replicate, that has almost become shorthand for this place to the point of being cliche? (yes, terrace chairs, I'm thinking of you). Is it an image that could represent any place at all? Well, ideally we'd like to find some spot right in the middle of the two, something that is recognizable without being cliche, Artfull without being unintelligible. But we'll take it all. A photograph of the Capitol in spring, a lithograph of a pig on a Wisconsin farm, a letterpress list of your favorite spots, little scraps of fabric sewn in a collage of Wisconsin winter colors.... Am I helping at all or just making it worse? I was trying to keep things open-ended but didn't want to stray into vagueness.

price: Anthology has a 50/50 split between store and artist. If your piece is for sale, please mark the price accordingly (knowing that you will receive half of the marked price). If not for sale, please mark so clearly.

submit your postcards to Anthology (drop them off in person, or send them in the mail: 218 State Street, Madison, WI 53703). No need to give us any advanced notice, just get cards to us by April 30.

You may submit more than one postcard.

Include the following information: artist name/email/phone, title of piece, selling price

Pieces will be on exhibit for the first week of May; unsold pieces can be picked up by the end of May; payment for sold pieces will be made at the end of May.

Laura and Sachi will each pick a favorite and we will have voting for a customer favorite as well. We will be awarding $25 store gift certificate prizes.

Not incidentally, we are always looking to expand our collection of regional imagery so we are hoping this show might lead to some new works for the shop. We hope to pick up to four postcards to be reprinted - with the artist's permission and acceptance of some terms yet to be negotiated.

Looking forward to seeing what you create!

lettering projects: Take what you Need

Take What You Need by L.T. Komai at Anthology
I won't repeat myself so you can read more about my belated/inept Skillshare here if you haven't already. But I did want to confirm that I did follow through enough to convert my pencil drawing into a final piece. Traced everything over with pen and then took it to the copy shop to make copies for the shop and to post around town. Only problem is that when I was drawing the piece, I totally forgot about margins! I ended up having to reduce the piece to 90% or so, and also make sure that I centered it - am I the only one who wastes lots of paper when it comes to reducing or enlarging originals? The copy machine always seems to twist things or put them off center in ways that I don't like. I should have just gone to OfficeMax because I have become familiar with their copy machines, and also their machines let you do a lot more things than the others typically do. For example, the area that was scanned was a smidge less than 8.5 x 11 and thus my reductions were cut off on the margin so I had to do a little work to fill in the cut off text before I photocopied it again. At OfficeMax, I would have been able to set the scanning area to a larger area, and also would have been able to do more with adjusting the contrast. All of this is to say that if anyone at OfficeMax is listening, I am BEGGING you not to do away with your copy machines as you proceed with this merger with Office Depot.  I have NOT been happy with Office Depot machines for a long time now and every time I go there, I end up wishing that I had just driven further in the car to get to Office Max. Rant over.

As soon as the weather warms up a little bit and I don't have to worry about how well the tape will stick to cold surfaces or getting snow on the pieces, I'm planning to post one of these outside the shop for passerby to take what they need. I'm also planning to bundle 5 or so for people to buy and share around.

Sachi has been busy working with the Gocco printer and coming up with all sorts of new card designs. I can tell my sister competitiveness is kicking in because I'm feeling like I need to step up my game to catch up with her (do you think you just grow out of these things? or you just have them with you for life and, if anything, they just get worse as you get older? - I remember my mom saying that I had no interest in piano until my sister started playing and then all of a sudden I was interested). She has printed several different cards already - and is now just impatiently waiting for the envelopes to come in.

  Wisco cards by S. Komai at Anthology

I like the idea of Gocco printing but so far my Wisco Mix is a larger design - not really suitable for a card, and I'm not even sure screenprinting is the route. I am still mulling over my options. I might make it into a transparency and use it for cyanotype printing. I might make it a two-part piece: screenprint/cyanotype/hand-drawn/painted.... I don't know.

In the meantime, I'm just focusing on the design aspect and gaining a whole new appreciation for graphic designers. I realize this would all go faster if I was working on a computer but instead I spent yesterday redrawing cassette tapes and the outline of the state. But I think some of that work is just the thinking and processing that is necessary for me. I had second thoughts about my initial design and drew a variation yesterday, only to realize that my initial plan was better so I redrew that and am now just thinking about what font I should use for the handwritten mix tape jacket. Well, I use "font" loosely, since there's a limit to what I can do with my handwriting. I'm still not sure about the actual cassette tape - I was thinking it would be cool to cyanotype an actual cassette tape but then I'm not sure I will be able to get the detail the way I want it to. I should just try to print one on plain paper and see how it ends up. Anyway, here's the rough rough draft (note that I remembered to put margins in this time).


Wisco Mix draft by L.T. Komai at Anthology


Bubbler fun

Well, first of all, you HAVE been to The Bubbler Room at the downtown Madison Public Library, right? It is pretty amazing. Not just the room, but we are pretty much crushing on the whole entire concept - the way the concept of the library has expanded and takes us steps beyond the creative inspiration that we gain and share just from browsing shelves. Sachi has three workshops schedule in February at the branch libraries and Laura has one scheduled in March at Alicia Ashman. We just learned today that we were acceped for the artist-in-residence program for March/April of this year. I'm feeling a little giddy about the whole thing, even though I am also feeling a little intimidated. As someone who did not go to art school and might be more Craft than Art, I have my share of insecurities about what I create compared to what others create... and have you seen the current artist in residence?! Wow. Just... wow.  The current artist is Victor Castro, who is not only working in the Bubbler, but also working towards a community art project for the new Meadowridge branch. I highly recommend stopping in to check out what he's been up to, as well as his redefinition of what is a useful art supply and what is trash. There are mini installations happening all over that room. It's pretty amazing, and also clear that lots of people are enjoying themselves.

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(I'm consoling myself with the fact that Mr. Castro particularly emphasizes community involvement so obviously he has lots of expertise. But I'm sure I can come up with something fun).

Off the top of my head, I already have many more options than feasible - this reminds me a bit of any time I pack to go anywhere (housesitting, jury duty...) and end up bringing about 10 times more projects than I'll ever have time for. Painted pages? Fabric collage? Paper collage? Batik Paper? Photo snippets? Travel journals? Altered books?  And I haven't even started the Anthology- and Sachi- components of the time. Anything in particular you've been wishing we would share in a workshop?  The Bubbler has more space than our shop so we'll have a little more room to play around.


painted pages book: halfway

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Well, anyway, I'm making progress. My painted pages book is going to end up being four separate volumes. As it is, they are a little wiggly so I can see it is a good thing that I took my fellow bookmakers' advice and split it up. I think I would have ended up really frustrated with oen big super wobbly book. And even though I have been working so long with these pages, there is extra thrill now that they are turning into an actual book.

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 I am, however, learning that all the planning that goes into making a book was either not thorough enough, or just goes on longer than I realized. Although I put the pages into order based on content, it turns out that I am having to make some adjustments based on which signature sits next to which - a page on its own works well, but fold it in half facing out and put that half next to some other page...  not so much. There's a whole 'nother story and color line developing. Luckily the twinkling watercolors can be painted over nicely. The color shows through but a person could modify a cobalt blue into a plum purple, make an orange more reddish or pinkish as needed. So now I am going back through and looking closely at a two-page spread to see if there's any modification required. And I still have room for more writing but I think I'd leave some blank seeing as I'm not done with my fortysomethings and who knows what new text will come along.

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Although I didn't plan to do this, I decided to go back and label my photographs. Our dad is big on unnamed or very basically named photographs (i.e. "rock and water I") and to some extent I would agree with him that the photograph should just stand on its own. But then I thought it might be annoying in my 60s to try and figure out where the pictures were taken - better write it all down while it is fresh.. though I have already forgotten a few of them.

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I am also having a lot of fun with the covers, painting on black paper which I haven't really done before. Certain twinkling watercolors show up very nicely. And I'm also using gesso and then coloring it with colored pencil which creates a very pleasing line... to me, anyway. 

Now I have just two more volumes to bind. I'm using a different thread for each book and a slightly different arrangement of stations (the places where the needles go in and out of the paper) so that there is no need for one volume to precisely match the next, which wasn't going to work for me anyway. I'm thinking about an orange and a gold thread for the remaining two - it will depend a bit upon what I can scavange from my fellow bookmakers. And although it has been a lot of work, it is very satisfying to sit and hold my book, to read through it and compliment myself on the pages. Perhaps this won't be the end of my sewn book making...

belated Skillshare

I think I managed to confirm what I've known all along and that is that I need to take a class in person. All this talk about online classes is always tempting - the price is certainly always right and it seems like people who take them always end up with cool creations. But I just can't do it. First of all, taking workshops at Valley Ridge Art Studio has utterly spoiled me. I know I will have to get over that at some point but the drop from that wonderful setting to watching video on the computer in the cluttered office is just too steep. That said, I have been thinking a lot about hand-lettering and wanting to explore it more so when a friend mentioned she was taking a SkillShare class, I thought, why not? I did manage to watch the first installment and took notes like a diligent student and even did a little homework. But then I got distracted. Clearly this is a case of you getting out of class what you put into it, and there are certainly lots of opportunities to hold oneself accountable, network with other students, etc. But then the holidays came along. and what I put into the class was, well, not much.

However, thoughts have been percolating before and since. My first hurdle was deciding what phrase to letter. Making up my mind is always a challenge. I had a long quotation in mind but the first suggestion was something short. Then I was reminded of that "take what you need" sign which I've seen all over Pinterest and would really like to hang up on the light post outside the shop. I love the idea of it! SO, decision made. Sachi has been going all out on hand-lettering for our sandwich board and there is so much lettering going on right now (chalkboard and other) that there's no end of examples, and also evidence that whatever you've thought of someone has already done, and better.

But enough of that second-guessing. Someone hasn't made such a sign for the light pole outside of our shop, so get to work, Laura. Though Sachi has been working on her Gocco prints and has invited me to join in, I got distracted last night. Right now she is printing notecards and, in all honesty, the ideas that I have are not going to fit on a quarter-size piece of paper. So, instead I got out some of our old clip-art font books and started playing around with my idea. One of the things that was emphasized in the first installment of the Skillshare class was the need to plan things out. Which has probably been a big hurdle of mine all along. I used to work at a store where the merchandise manager was super meticulous about her signs: she always drew lines in pencil, created a grid, to make sure the spacing worked well, wrote the text in pencil and then wrote over in marker. I was never so patient. But, clearly, that is a more effective approach. So I was good last night and drew a grid on my piece of paper, setting out lines and marking places, measuring distances, etc.  This is my first draft. It still needs some work and I ran out of lettering ideas: luckily my sister is bringing in her reference books for me today. I still plan to make some modifications to the little tear off tabs (which will be cut like party flags so the bottom edge of this piece will look a bit like a garland. The original piece on Pinterest has: love, hope, faith, patience, courage, understanding, peace, passion, healing, strength, beauty, freedom, all of which are perfectly lovely sentiments, but I did also find an example that had "a chance" and it made me start thinking of the ways we use "take" in expressions. such as "take the cake." So I think I am going to spend a little more time on my words down below. "the long way home" comes to mind, as does "the high road." And I think I have to work on the "take" section as well. At this point I am not planning on adding color - I was just going to make it a simple piece to photocopy, maybe even have a pack to sell at the shop. Even though I could finagle a print-out, I kind of like the look of hand-lettering so I'm just going to work on it towards that end (By the way, I'm still feeling kind of sad and slightly desperate -  have I thought of all the possible projects I would do in the next year that I could get paper for? - about the closing of Archiver's. They have such a great selection of 12x12 paper that we just don't have room to store. I went again last night and got some punches for the shop, as well as some paper that I used as inspiration for my lettering and arrow-drawing. Really, they are a treasure-trove for graphic design).

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off and running

Already 9 days into the new year... Sigh. As is the case every year, I persist in the delusion that things will "quiet down" after Christmas. The deep freeze should have been enough to slow things down and while that works for customers walking on State Street, that does not work for the IRS. Yeah, that's right, I brought up TAXES. There's an avalanche of things that need to get done for all my year-end bookwork. That definitely lands among my least favorite tasks of this job. While it is really tempting for me to spend a lot of time summarizing the sales for the year, looking for trends, thinking about new vendors, the reality is that I must also spend time making sure all my notes are in order for the accountant and tax preparer. And then there's that little matter of inventory. Ugh.

"Is willing to accept that she creates her own reality except for some of the parts where she can't help but wonder what the hell she was thinking." Story People by Brian Andreas

There are a great many people who come into the store and say, "I sure would hate to inventory this place." And they are basically right. It's not that it is a difficult task, just rather tedious and drawn-out. So, just when we make it through the holidays and take a deep breath, maybe rest for a day, we get started on counting. We've been working our way through all the drawers and nooks and crannies in the office (doing a little cleaning and organizing as I go, but also making a list of more that needs to be done). Sunday will be the grand finale, when we call in all the part-timers (Mom is off the hook this year) and spend the day counting on the sales floor. Yes, we will be closed that day: January 12th. As a customer kindly pointed out, at least we get to count pretty things.

In addition to all the year-end stuff, despite any reluctance to think about the next holiday (seems too early, doesn't it?), it IS time for us to get our orders in for Valentine's Day. We learned the unhappy news yesterday that Archiver's is closing so we quickly rushed out to get paper for our upcoming workshops at the libraries (Valentine-themed for Sachi's three in February and travel-themed for mine in March). I know some people who just didn't get into the whole scrapbooking thing, but I think they were missing out. I have bought some great papers for collage and book pages and I will really miss the amazing selection they have. I feel the need to think about what possible projects I might have in the next four years and go back once again (already been there twice since I learned the news). We're putting together paper packs and craft kits for Valentine's Day, and we also ordered some mini notecards and envelopes so the kiddos can craft their own Valentine's for school. They DO still do that, don't they? I have such fond memories of decorating my shoebox in elementary school.... Sachi's also placing orders for some new individual Valentine's and we are preparing the craft table for a card-making extravaganza starting in February.


Although this is generally the very slow time of year that does not warrant any buying at all, we are replenishing some of our t-shirt stock. Still waiting for the Wi/Mn hugging t-shirt to come back but we did get our Represent shirt, Easy Breezy Beersy and the Wisconsin bicycle. Most other items won't be restocked until later in spring.

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We are off to a good start as far as creative endeavors/resolutions. I still have a variety of new projects in mind and some very vague ideas, but I did sign up for PhotoShop so I am looking forward to doing more with my Madison photographs, maybe making some new prints and notecards for the shop. After her screenprinting class in the fall, Sachi is raring to go. She finally hauled out the Gocco printer she's had for ages, and has been printing like mad for the past two nights. This is her first design, I'm sure she has many more to come. I have some ideas myself - the question is whether I can transmit them from my brain to paper. We'll see - I've had limited success with such endeavors in the past. At home I had a flurry of picking-up which resulted in a more cluttered studio but a clean-up living room and entryway... which I have promptly re-cluttered. I'm trying to get a better handle on all the paper I have: magazines and catalogs for collage, also school notes and ephemera from my past. I had a morbid thought that if I suddenly got hit by a car, my place would be pure hell on my mom and sister to clean out so I'm going to try and wrangle some of that paper. Anyway, the result is a lot of piles in my livingroom right now. But I'm making progress. I did come across a box of childhood artwork, including the card for my mom which I distinctly remember thinking was the most beautiful thing I'd ever made. And I came across some drawings of mine from when I was 4 and a half. Not that I was a child prodigy, but when I saw them, I thought, "hey, I could draw!" I think because my sister is so totally amazing at drawing, I always left that realm to her, but that is something that I would like to explore more - in my own, overly simplified way. Which is to say that maybe, just maybe, I will be able to generate something that will end up being a Gocco print. We'll see.

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In the process of cleaning up, I came across my pile of crochet and knitting and almost dove back into that, except I couldn't remember how to cast on. Clearly I need some refresher lessons. And so, instead of getting distracted by something else, I returned to my book of painted pages. After my book arts holiday meeting, I had lots of suggestions and thoughts to mull over. I'm going to end up creating a set of four books and then make a box to house them. The big pile of pages was just getting unwieldy, particularly given my inexpert binding skills. I had a grand idea of trying all sorts of different binding but decided that the cool thing about the spine is the edge of the painted pages and they don't really need any distraction or further embellishment. So I'm going with the simple coptic stitch, using six needles near the center of the spine (there are some smaller pages that are centered in the book so I can't have stitching along the whole length of the spine). The book is a little wiggly, but I have made improvements from the first two books that I bound - always satisfying to see improvement. Now I have to make covers for the other three books so I'm back to drawing with the compass and ruler. I think I will use different color thread for each book and will just adjust the placement of the sewing stations on each book so that there's no imagining that each book will be identical to the next one. I'm just not that good with measuring and precision.

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On a small note, I taught my niece how to make yarn pom poms - I remember making them obsessively when I was in 5th grade. She picked out about four colors of yarn to mix in and I just let it go. I'm learning. Twice now she has started doing something that I would personally NOT do; once I tried to overrule her and ended up with a tantrum on my hands, and the next time I decided to avoid the tantrum (thinking that I would end up saying "I told you so") only to realize that her original plan was much more awesome than mine was going to be.  SO, now I just let her do her thing - which is what art is supposed to be about anyway, I know. When I made pom poms as a kid, I definitely only used one color and was so compulsive about matching that I surely wouldn't have put together the yarns that she did. Yet her pom poms turned out totally awesome. She had to trim some yarns because they were "frisky" but she ended up making several, and even taught her BaPoh (our Dad) how to make them.

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