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April 2014
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June 2014

back from the East

Slowly digging out from being gone for a week....  Too bad the pile of paperwork that I left didn't particularly diminish. Isn't it nice when you dig into such a pile and you find things that are expired that you can just recycle? Not really happening this time around.

There ARE new arrivals to the shop and there will be many more coming given all the orders that we placed at the Stationery Show last week (which will be spread out over the next couple months but have already started arriving - new Wisco prints and letterpress cards today). But I thought I would at least recap our past week away. Mostly, the diary of two shopgirls on "vacation." Many times we laughed at the way Sachi's husband would be irked with us - but we opened a paper and craft shop BECAUSE we like paper and crafts and shopping... so naturally we have a busman's holiday when we travel unsupervised. Sure, there are plenty of afterhours entertainments to be found in New York City, and we did manage to attend an art opening, eat delicious meals, walk along the High Line Park, take the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty, and otherwise enjoy the sights of the city.

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But the bulk of the time, as is proper, was spent - either at the NSS itself or in other stores - looking at, buying and thinking about: note cards and other paper goods, new vendors, store layout, window displays, placement of goods, things to make, etc.

(I always enjoy visiting ABC Carpet and Home - their merchandising is always inspiring, including the little artfully spilled piles of glitter in their window and jewelry cases.)

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But first up, the show itself. Two jam-packed days of walking up and down aisles scribbling down notes and trying to figure out orders to place. It's not a bad problem to have, but nonetheless a challenge to see it all. I'm happy with the many new vendors we found and excited about the directions that people are going in - particularly, for me, the growing selection of interesting text-based prints that are available, such as these from the booth of Live Love (and, yes, we did place an order and many of these prints will be arriving to the shop). I am still left with a sense that I didn't get everything done and need to spend a lot of time pouring over catalogs, just as soon as they arrive (I shipped them home in a flat rate box and was commended by the post office guy for how much I packed into one of those boxes).

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Taking pictures at the show is a somewhat delicate thing, as there are proprietary issues to consider, as well as the simple fact that I was pressed for time as it was. But, there's a great series of blog posts over at Oh So Beautiful Paper which conveys the sense of the show very well, and includes some shots of vendors we ordered from.

Besides the Stationery Show, we hit our usual favs and discovered some new ones, like Paper Presentation, which made us somewhat jealous of the square footage and size of market to be found in NYC - pretty much every color and size and shape of paper you could imagine - sheets, envelopes, tags... We are particularly enjoying the Chelsea Market, the food, the washi tape craft table at Anthropologie, the vendors in Artists & Fleas...

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Also the proximity to the High Line Park, where we strolled, took in the sights of city and art and spring flowers (and good thing too since 80-degree weather back home means that we returned to mostly summer flora).

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We lucked out with the weather and only had a few sprinkles, which left us mostly free to enjoy springtime in NY.

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oh, and we ate delicious food, like this brioche french toast we had at the Belgian bistro right next to our hotel in Chelsea. DSCN3062 (800x600)


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This trip also seemed to be much about books - we found several great bookstores and I added to my collection of children's books, as well as found some books to read during the vacation component of my trip. I am such a sucker for a well-illustrated children's book - I've actually had to force myself not to look too closely at children's books sections ever since we started the shop and I've been on a small business owner budget. I can easily drop $50 every time I look at children's books. We particularly enjoyed browsing Powerhouse Books in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, Brooklyn), as well as strolling the streets and coming across this little gem of stencil art, which makes me feel like stenciling all over the place.



DSCN3011 (800x600)And, of course, it is fun just to BE in another place, to view the sights and sounds of unfamiliar spaces, to appreciate new colors and shapes and lines and different arrangements from your own everyday. 

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 LOVED this sign at Posman Books in Chelsea Market:

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And then the two sisters parted ways and Sachi came back to Madison while I went on to Western Massachusetts to visit a friend I haven't visited in ages, grabbing 4 consecutive days of vacation, which I think I have not had since about August of last year. Hard to complain when one is totally responsible for deciding to work one's dream job, but it's not without its grinding elements. Though spring has been really busy for us, we also know things just get busier from here on out, so it was nice to grab a little time to do nothing but chat and eat and sightsee and read books on the porch. I did do a little shopping, thus prolonging the busman's holiday: and stumbled across a new printer whose work I hope to carry, as well as picked up ideas for window displays and other merch.

In keeping with the children's book theme of the trip, I did go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and enjoyed seeing some original illustrations, peeking in on their craft room (with cleverly labeled trays: "put your scraps here" - now why didn't I think of that?!), and, of course, being tempted by more wonderfully illustrated books. 

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It was also lovely to experience spring on the East Coast - the azaleas were in full bloom, as well as lovely Dogwoods. Spring, as always, feels terribly short-lived - I'm getting a sinking feeling that climate change means we will get longer summers and winters when what I'd really like is an extra month of autumn and spring. At least I did make it to the arboretum before I left town, and there will be plenty of summer flowers to come.

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checking in anyway

Laura here, out in Western Massachusetts without the cord to connect the camera to the computer, without the purchase orders (sent home with Sachi) and without the catalogs of possibilities (taped up inside a flat rate box to mail home). But I thought I'd check in anyway because I have a feeling it has been a while.

Earlier in the week, we awoke at 3:30 am to catch the 6 am flight to New York City, taking a cab directly from the airport to the Javitz convention center, where we walked up and down aisles of paper goods at the Stationery Show. Lovely! We were inspired by all the goods on offer - the chevron, chalkboard, hand-written text and gilt accents seem to still be going strong and as usual we enjoyed being overwhelmed by letterpress offerings. I'm still mulling over some ideas for our holiday window, though last year what ideas I had were completely changed by the time I returned from the July show in Atlanta so I won't get too attached to my ideas. I am still seeing a lot of forest animal motifs but I read a profile about Spoonflower that said the whale is the new owl. Of course, when we go on such buying trips to the East Coast, it is clear that a nautical theme is a strong one, but I'm not quite sure how well that would play in Wisconsin. Though now I'm just envisioning graphics with ocean creatures in the Great Lakes...  That's completely aside from the other direction I was going. Perhaps I will know more by August. Our trip was a little on the short side so we had to pack all our work into slightly fewer hours than on previous trips. For the most part, I think we got it done, though I had to really just focus on picking up new vendors, as fun as it is to chat with existing vendors and see what they have been up to. For that, the catalogs and online stores will have to suffice. I had a slight panic-inducing moment on Wednesday when I looked at the clock to see it was quarter to noon, I still had a two-column list of vendors, and only 75 minutes left 'til show closing time. Luckily, I had starred the must-haves so I shifted into speedy mode. Sigh, still so many to think about, but there is something wonderful about having a pile of possibles when one is in need. The many letterpress cards start to blur together after a while so I still have to sort through them all, but the very fact that there are so many to choose from is a lovely problem to have.

I promise I will share pictures when I get back but off the top of my head, some things to look forward to in the next few months as shipments arrive: pocket journals, Japanese notebooks, rubber stamps, book plates, prints with inspiring text (nice lettering, photo backgrounds, clever sayings), French journals, mini books of quotations, patterned masking tape, and note cards, of course...  What fun!

Besides attending the show, we grabbed some time to eat good food, stroll the High Line park, attend an art opening of a friend, explore the DUMBO area of Brooklyn, go to Chelsea Market (several times as it was in our neighborhood), shop for children's books and more stationery and paper goods (we canNOT help ourselves even though I knew my brother-in-law would kill us if he was with us.. but he wasn't... so we could check out the competition, continue to shop for new lines, and otherwise revel in our love of paper). I gained renewed appreciation for the space that we have - even though it seems small by most standards, it is still quite large compared to some of the places we went to. I took the train out of Grand Central Station so finally got there for the first time - enjoying their little shops, the market food offerings, and the overwhelming bustle of people coming and going. 

And now I am visiting a friend in Western Massachusetts and enjoying a little vacation time. I don't think I've had such a block of time since before Christmas. New York is always amazing and inspiring, but somewhat exhausting as there is so much work and play to be done. It is nice to have some time to recuperate before I head back home to work and summer tourist season. I am also enjoying the loveliness of spring out here - new variations of flowering trees that we don't get in Wisconsin, including some lovely Dogwood trees - which, though I grew up on Dogwood Place, I'm not sure I've actually seen growing in situ (if someone's yard can count as such). Two more days here and then I will return to the shop, a pile of emails and paperwork, and the matter of finding space for all that will soon be arriving.


NYC/NSS, here we come!

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oh, are happy are we?! The excitement has been building over the last few weeks as the mailman brings something new and lovely every single day.

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We definitely think Thimblepress wins for its most creative invitation - printed tea towel and recipe card/list, accompanied by a painted handle wooden spoon that makes me want to paint *ALL* of my kitchen utensils with color and gilt.

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Just a few more days and we will be in New York City at the National Stationery Show, our dream buying trip ever since Laura first learned about it back at her old job. Aisles and aisles of papergoods... what more is there to say? If the sneak peek in the form of announcements that we've been getting these past few weeks is anything to go by, there will be lots of temptation, lots of cool lettering, lots of gold. Oh my!

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We always appreciate seeing what our vendors are up to, seeing new color and pattern trends in the paper world, finding new goodies, seeing all the letterpress people chatting and laughing and sharing. Whenever I get discouraged about the way we are all plugged in to our digital/online worlds, all I have to do is remember the aisle after aisle of people making their living from selling Paper. It is always especially fun to see the many young artists who've made this a part of their journey.

We look forward to bringing back many lovelies to the shop, which will probably arrive over the next couple months.  Can't wait to share whatever it is with you!


Field Notes notebooks and other good things

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I managed to grab a little time on my day off for actual things one should be doing on one's day off: strolling in the arboretum and greeting the unfolding spring magnolias. The rest of the day was spent packing and toting things - moving back into the shop after our two months at the Bubbler. I'm pretty sure that everything in the Bubbler came from the shop so I don't know why it doesn't fit back in there.  We are also upgrading our computers so I had to make room for the computer guy to work. I even dusted the desk! (a task made somewhat more pleasant by the way the dusting cloth gets all glittery as well).

We've both crammed in some last-minute projects for the library. I don't know what it is about a deadline - we had those whole two months, but it was the looming end of our residency that made us start the frantic scramble. All sorts of things I didn't get around to. Sigh. I will be able to finish and install the other batik squares so that's nice, but as we were packing up, I stumbled across some supplies in the closet which I totally forgot about and which I had intended to do something with. Aren't these book covers fabulous? They were on display during the opening night gala of the library but I thought they would be cool for some sort of collage/installation. In lieu of that, I hauled them all out and took their picture so I can make prints and book pages. If I ever come up with a brilliant plan, Trent can be sure he will be hearing from me. I love the idea of someone taking the time to do something which is going to be covered up and only seen by some people, but doing it anyway.

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In other book news, we received more of the cut-out alphabet books. Letters seem to be a popular gift to give - after all, everyone has one, but are something I have yet to figure out exactly. It seems inevitable that the one letter I didn't order because we had plenty of will be the one that sells out after I've placed the order. And the next time around, it will be a different letter. With the exception of A, we have a nice array to choose from. I particularly like the old patterned covers.

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We also received our spring order of Field Notes, a product we casually picked up because they have Wisconsin notebooks, only to find that they have a dedicated following - mostly guys - who come to the shop specifically for these notebooks. In addition to the Wisconsin version, we have kraft, the new wooden covers, and the lagers & ales sets: in graph, plain or lined paper depending on the version.

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Last Friday was Gallery Night and our postcard show. Though the installation was a challenge and the day somewhat exhausting, what with setting up two Gallery Night shows, we had a lovely night and people seem to be enjoying the show. It'll be up through Wednesday but then I have to go back to maximizing how much money every square inch makes towards our rent.  I did enjoy seeing everyone's contributions and plan to add a few new designs to our postcard array. I decided that later this week after I've uninstalled the window, I will follow up with a blog post with pictures of everyone's postcards so you can get a little taste for the show. The weather mostly cooperated for Gallery Night and there were three shows across the street at Overture so it was a lively night. AND I didn't really catch anyone looking confused as to how we would possibly qualify to participate (as happened regularly in the past) so I'm feeling pleased overall with the event. Also, Sachi made cute little Wisconsin cookies and refused to let me streamline the process. Cut-out sugar cookies are one of my least favorite things to make but since she likes to make them, you might see them again next year.

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if only...

  Shop17 033 (the above picture is of one of two installations of "take what you need" at the library. "love" and "luck" are consistently the first to be taken; "the high road"  and "the long way home" tend to be last. I noticed "the cake" was last on one page... and I am still puzzled as to why anyone wouldn't want to take the cake).

I saw a card once that said: "If only you really COULD work your a** off."  That's kind of how I feel this week. In some ways, I feel like the store is finally reaching a point where we have staff and system enough that I can ease off on my 6 day work schedule, in other ways, that has just enabled me to create more work elsewhere. We are winding down our time at the Bubbler and frantically adding "just a bit more" and also making lists of all that has to be done to move out. The new artists are moving in on Monday and while there will be some transition time (which means we don't have to totally clear our installations out), we do need to move out of the room itself... but not before the weekend. So mostly I'm just... waiting. It's that same feeling when you've done pretty much all the studying your brain can hold and all that is left is to take the test but it is not until tomorrow.

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I've had two days worth of batiking to generate paper which I am ultimately cutting and sewing into a quilt. I'm taking over the wall behind the librarians on the ground floor and phase one of installation revealed that I have a lot more batiking to do.  I've spent the last two nights cutting more paper into 2" squares to make more quilt blocks, also cutting some 4x2 pieces to use for a mini book that I will somehow bind for the next holiday party. I do so love this batik paper.

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On Thursday, I helped install part of the Gallery Night exhibit up on the third floor gallery space of the Central library. It's a collection of things made in the Bubbler - by makers-in-residence and by patrons and is a fun peek into the effects of that space. I've been told the Bubbler was just going to be another meeting space and I am SO happy that they opened it up for other uses. That exhibit will be up for the next two months.  In a related note, I enjoyed spending time up on the third floor - it's kind of a low-traffic area and it has a nice view of the rooftops.

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In related Bubbler news, the new issue of Madison Originals Magazine that just came out has an article about Bubbler Makers-in-Residence and includes a nice section about our work at the library, though it was poetry not pottery that we made.

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In addition to our Bubbler work, tonight is Gallery Night, and the culmination of our quest for postcards for the shop. We received submissions from a baker's dozen of artists and are enjoying the variey of creations and interpretations of a Madison/Wisconsin/regional postcard. From worrying that I wouldn't have enough postcards to fill the window and would have to spend last night making more, I went to having so many postcards that I didn't know how I would fit them all in. Also, Sachi wanted to wash the inside windows, so I spent Thursday emptying and lifting all our cubbies out of the way and then putting it all back together, trying to find room for what I displaced, and create space to display postcards. I kind of missed our old clothesline system which would have made hanging postcards easy, but managed to find a way to prop up and otherwise display the postcards... oh, and also create a space for Mother's Day cards. We really wanted to have a special exhibit for Gallery Night, but it is also coming right at the moment when our window is needed to convey our Mother's day (and shortly, graduation) gift and card options. So many things for a tiny space to do! I think I managed to cram it all in.

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Even though it has been a lot of work to create this postcard show, I am also feeling really happy about the results so that helps ease the tiredness that I am feeling. Also, we ate breakfast for lunch - pancakes and a breakfast sandwich at Short Stack Eatery, so I am feeling full & happy. A nap wouldn't be amiss, but there is still Gallery Night ahead of us. then busy Saturday. then moving out the Bubbler. Really, which is it? No rest for the weary? or no rest for the wicked?

We ended April on a very strong note, well above April 2013 sales so the year continues its strong pace... which also helps account for the feeling of tiredness. At least Sachi and I were able to take some Wednesdays off during the wintertime. Despite the cold of this spring (and the need for me to still wear Smartwool socks), the street is definitely getting more lively. I guess we're all ready to come out of hibernation.

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This will be our 6th Mother's Day and I think we finally have enough Mother's Day cards. Our first year in business, I ended up delving into my card collection and our assortment of thank you cards to find enough for customers. The second year, I ran to the copy shop and made up some collage ones. And every year since has been a close call. We went all out this year and I'm very happy with our assortment for all sorts of Mothers.

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 We also have our craft table set up for decorating your own card for Mom.  $2.50 gets you a blank card and envelope, and free run of the table: paper scraps, glitter, twinkling watercolors, decorative edge scissors and more.

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Last but not least, in addition to the window and postcard display work and the Bubbler work, we had some shipments to receive. I was super excited to receive this Madison print and card from a Milwaukee artist - we really like being able to find the intersection between artist styles that we like and souvenir goods that our customers are asking for. We think this one will be a hit!

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We also received more t-shirts, though I'm still waiting on the next batch of Wi/Mn hugging t-shirts. We had a big box of them a week ago, and most of them went to happy customers last Saturday. We did get our Midwest is Best, squeaky cheese curds, and I'm with Bucky so at least we have more to choose from than we did three weeks ago.

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And finally a delivery from the charming Alison, whose prints we love, and who gave in to our pleading and made a postcard for our show, and also printed it larger. We just love all the details!

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