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June 2014
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August 2014

making space. and taking it up.

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Well, I'd say that was a successful Maxwell Street Days. We had a great Friday and Saturday, made people happy with good deals and cleared some space in the office. Then on Sunday we had our studio garage sale (pictured above) and as a result will be donating about $500 to local youth arts organizations. We had a couple family groups come by with kids who spent a lot of time pouring over our garage sale goods - one adorable pair of sisters who kept exclaiming: "this will be perfect! This is just what we need!" - and someone towards the end on Sunday who was so happy to score some library catalog cards to help decorate her apartment. I've calculated that this is my 15th or 16th Maxwell Street days, which is a lot of hours in the hot sun and/or toting boxes in and out. It was definitely made more bearable by the work of our part-timers, and the weather was in our favor as well.

Now one part of me is totally exhausted and ready for a break, and another part of me is anxious to organize and deal with the space that has opened up. Besides Maxwell Street Days, our summer sales have continued apace, which means I have a few empty drawers and shelves. Good thing, too, because Christmas orders will start to arrive and, at the moment, I have places to put things. But it would be good to do that in a manner which is less haphazard than it has been. I will be heading to Point Beach for my annual getaway at the end of August, but until then, it is high tourist season downtown. I feel like I'm just barely keeping on top of stocking t-shirts, but at least we have plenty of vendors to choose from. This week, the Wi/Mn hugging and Midwest is Best shirts arrived.

As far as other arrivals go, Sachi is super excited about these notecards which came all the way from Australia. She's been wanting to order them for a while. I only made her wait because there were so many cards coming in from our trip to the Stationery Show, but now I feel like a mean sister because I made her delay so long. Ah well, at least now she has plenty.

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We also received these sweet sewn fabric headbands and also fun comic book pint glasses.

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Also, cool art supply wrapping paper

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and fun party utensils.

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In other Christmas news, I think I've figured out a plan for the window and I also went through the list of vendors for the draft Christmas budget so now we have a plan for orders for the next few months. Meanwhile, Sachi got her cheese curd onesie design printed and it has met with great success. She's still working on some new Gocco card designs, as well as designs for other shirts/prints/totes. The competitive sibling in me feels the need to respond. I do have some graphic design ideas rumbling around in my head, as well as the oft-mentioned need to get back to Photoshop. Perhaps soon. I do have several upcoming workshops at the libraries to prepare for as well.

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And otherwise, summer has been flying by - many hours spent watching the girl practice her jumps into the pool, strolling with my parents...  I was feeling critical of myself for not accomplishing as much as I did 5 years ago but realize that my workday is substantially busier with customers than it was. Still, I do need to finish up some projects and restock the shop for the holidays. Also, get to work on that baby quilt and Christmas gifts, whatever those are going to be. I'm close to catching up on my Blurb books so I am feeling a little less overwhelmed about that project. In all, the slightly panicked and totally overwhelmed feeling that I had in late spring has abated somewhat, just in time for Christmas!

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great deals! fabulous goods!

Well, that was a teaser if ever there was one, particularly considering that I'm not prepared to take photographs of all the great deals... But I promise there will be. Maxwell Street Days is coming up soon: Friday, Saturday and Sunday - the 18th - 20th of July. We'll have tables outside on Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm, weather permitting, with many great deals. Just a reminder, our consigment merch does not go on sale. However, we still have many goodies marked 40%-50% off regular prices. On Sunday, that sale merch will move inside and we will have our studio garage sale outside: stuff a bag for $5 with random scraps and pieces donated or otherwise scrounged from studio corners and shelves. I have been working with someone who is downsizing their studio and the studio garage sale will be a beneficiary. There are fabric scraps, paper scraps, ribbon, buttons, rubber stamps and more. State Street will surely be filled with lots of great deals so we hope you have a chance to come downtown. I plan to post more of a sneak peek later this week.

Meanwhile, I've returned from Atlanta with a long list of orders. Most of them will be arriving in September and October. I found a great new crop of vendors, though I have to admit that I was, to some extent, doing my personal shopping on the company dime. There are several vendors that I personally like and I just decided, somewhat spur-of-the-moment, that we should have them for the shop. So, yes, we will be getting my favorite French linens. I did manage to pace myself and spread the work out over three days - walking around all the floors of showrooms and looking at product can be a little exhausting. There is, as I believe I've mentioned, lots of mass-produced stuff to sift through, but I am able to get a feeling for trends and things to look for in the handmade realm. I still feel like the geometric (chevron, abstract gemstone) patterns are going strong, as well as text. Of course, there was lots of Frozen merch as well - no, I did not buy any for the shop, but I did have to take a picture of Anna and Elsa for my niece who was quite excited that I met them in Atlanta.

I did take an afternoon break to explore some pop-up shops in the downtown area. They've started an interesting program to try and bring some retail back downtown and created a route with several indie shops. While walking to the shops, I came across this sing, which I really liked a lot, and not just because it coordinated so well with my outfit. I'm interested to watch these larger trends in downtowns, notably to see downtowns which lack retail now trying to lure retail back in, confirming my biased view that it is good for indie retail to be downtown.

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There's a very lively indie craft scene in Atlanta and I enjoy seeing what people are up to. I particularly enjoyed visiting the Indie Craft Experience pop-up market inside the Sweet Auburn Curb Market (which, in case the Mayor is reading this, was a great example for a public market, including space for such pop-up shopping, not just foodstuffs).

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And then I returned home with a suitcase made heavier for all the catalogs, to find these amazing carved wooden stamp blocks had arrived! So lovely! I'm feeling the need to stamp all over everything - some skirts, some stationery, maybe try some batik...  They are made in India but designed by Scandinavians, which, I believe, shows in the patterns that are some twist on traditional Indian patterns, with a little bit of Scandinavian style coming through. They've only been out on the sales floor a day and have already been very popular. Clearly I will have to reorder before I dig in.

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Other arrivals while I was away include more notecards (yes, we went a little crazy in New York, but only in the best of ways), IOU tokens, French journals, stencils and more of the layered lake paper cuts of the Great Lakes and Madison lakes. This week we will mostly be focused on organizing and preparing for Maxwell, though there's sure to be some new arrival as well.

heading south

I'll be heading out to Atlanta in a few days for the last big buying trip of the year (yes, buying for the holidays already) - I checked the weather and it looks like it will be hotter there than here (which I remark upon because the last two years, it has been the reverse). I'm making a long list of to-dos while there, though to some extent, the point of walking all those floors of booths and showrooms is to get a sense for general trends and directions ahead of the holidays. Much of what can be found at this show is mass-produced and brought in from overseas so there is much that I simply walk by, though it gives me a sense of what to look for in handmade. And for two years in a row, I went to Atlanta only to discover a new Wisconsin maker.

I was reviewing my post from last year's trip - it's fun to look back upon what I found - the things that were flops and the things that were successes (My old boss told me the CEO of Anthropologie said once something to the effect that if any of his buyers never had any failures, he would seriously consider firing them - the point is that if you don't have failure, you are not taking risk and are thus not liable to stumble upon some new hot seller. That perspective gives me a little more permission to try new things and know that failure is part of the process). It's always interesting to look back over the years and see what has been popular, and how I stumbled across it. Just for example, especially popular this year are our book letters and wall texts on tobacco lath. They come from Viroqua but I found them in Atlanta. The booth was filled mostly with the tobacco lath and was clearly busy, but what caught my eye were the alphabet letters. I talked to the salesman about the letters and he very kindly told me that he wasn't going to interfere with my business, but the wall words were outselling the alphabet letters 10 to 1 and he would encourage me to give them a try. He was right, halfway anyway, seeing as the alphabet letters have been holding their own. But I was also persuaded to try them in the context of all the wall plaques that were so common from so many vendors (yet clearly not handmade and not for our shop) - which just reiterates what I feel is the value of traveling to Atlanta and seeing all these vendors at once in one place. Or in three places, such as it is, seeing as there are three tall buildings to sift through. I do appreciate their Made in the USA and handmade sections, as well as what seems to be a growing section of fair trade goods.

For a change, I have an idea for our Christmas window already, but this trip will either confirm it or change it. I do have a fair amount of product in mind for the window, but we'll see what pops up there. I'll be bringing my camera but will be without internet access so, as usual, you'll have to wait 'til I come home for the sneak peeks. We've still been getting shipments from our New York trip; most of the Atlanta orders will be arriving later in the fall but at the rate we've staggered our shipments, there still is something new each week.

I did find evidence of some downtown pop-up shops in Atlanta so I'm hoping to have a chance to check them out. As I travel - through small towns and to large cities - I am often struck by the way downtowns have suffered from rising property values and outsourcing to the 'burbs. Seems like lots of shuttered retail spaces or flagship stores of chains who can afford it. I'm interested to see Atlanta's pop-up shop approach, but also hoping that Madison can continue to keep this space lively and diverse. I feel like there's a real disconnect, in many places, between those who own property (which is, apparently, becoming more and more of a Wall Street investment) and those who actually live and work in the places, the tenants who create the sense of place  which the property owners profit off of. That is the concern rumbling around in this shopgirl's head - just a general concern about the long range state of downtown Madison, in light of macro trends (like in New York City)(and the aforementioned Wall Street investing). With that in mind, I head off to yet another downtown - on a much larger scale than Madison, of course - curious to see how all the different users of a city space work together.

summertime summertime

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Ah, Madison in summertime. Ice cream by the lake, laundry on the line...mosquitos, construction... sailboats, farmers markets....  SO many things to do in this area in the summer! I'm reminded of a grad school friend who was somewhat peeved with the department for bringing him to visit Madison in the summer - that did not adequately prepare him for what it would be like in January.

I hardly know where to begin as far as events go. We are gearing up for Maxwell Street Days which is always the third weekend in July: July 18, 19, 20. We'll have a sale table outside on Friday and Saturday, inside on Sunday, with selected items marked at 50% off regular price. No consignment goods are placed on sale. Outside on Sunday is our studio garage sale. The studio garage sale includes various odds n' ends which have been donated to us, or generated by us (such as tiny scraps of fabric that Laura won't sew with anymore). Buy a bag for $5 and fill it with whatever you like - ALL the money goes to local youth arts organizations.

Sunday July 20 is also the Craftacular (also, please note that applications for the HOLIDAY Craftacular are now open) AND MadCity Bazaar so you can get all sorts of crafty goodness!

The weekend before that - July 12 and 13 - is Art Fair On (and Off) the Square.   We will be open 4th of July weekend (and the 4th itself, 10-5 pm).

We had a lovely Make Music Madison evening on the solstice.

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Our work is still on exhibit at the Central library here in Madison. The butterflies are now all riding the elevator but you can find various paper works scattered around the library. I did just take down our part of the 3rd floor gallery exhibit but really enjoyed every which way people went with the photo snippets. I left a pile of library photographs for people to punch and add to the wall.

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I started a new quilt for a friend who is expecting a girl baby. The fun part - gathering the fabric - is pretty much over, and now I have to wash and iron and cut...  I'm still trying to figure out what pattern I will use. I found some fabrics that will be best if I can leave them large, which needs to be reconciled with the pattern I was going to use that was all small pieces. I delivered the Sunday sermon at our church this weekend so I've been spending a lot of time editing and practicing. I'm also working on PhotoShop (or something similar), needing just to invest some time in practicing. I have a lot of ideas at the moment, but it's all very nebulous - thinking about some thank-you notes and prints, but trying to learn a new medium at the same time trying to make sure my voice comes through. I also had a new set of note cards printed - blue travel pictures. Meanwhile, yes, I'm still nagging Sachi to get her cheese curd baby card re-printed.

In other printing news, I finally figured out what to do about my pet peeve of people asking me for a piece of scrap paper and a pen so they can write down something in our shop to order online later. A friend recommended a piece of paper with our contact info on it and I've been rolling that around in my head for a while. Finally I came up with these guys: mini cards with our contact info and overheard quotations from customers, a not-so-subtle way of trying to remind people about why it would be good to help us pay our rent, or at least why they would make other people happy if they helped us pay our rent. It was fun to go through my little notebook of quotations and pretend to be like Sally Field: "you like me, you really like me!"

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Besides all those goings-on, we've been busy receiving shipments from our New York orders. AND I'm going to Atlanta in a few weeks, though most of that buying will be for the holidays, with early fall ship dates.

In the meantime, plenty of new notecards and other paper goods, including lovely marbled notebooks and stickers from England,

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New print (and restocked prints), including the popular Nikki McClure bicycle print.

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I'm especially fond of these collaged and stitched prints from an artist we met at the Stationery Show. Check out the box they arrived in! Why didn't it ever occur to me to do that on the outside of my packages?!

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and I could not resist these fun paper bags. I love what people are doing in the paper party supplies realm right now.

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oh, and we added to our state charm collection and made these little guys. Yes, we'll be getting other states, too.

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The time is going so fast and things are really sneaking up on me. Last week I realized it was alreayd the end of June, time for Rhythm and Booms and then the 4th of July. I switched the window around to a Celebrate Independents theme, featuring many of our indie artworks in reds and blues.

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July is always a busy month but a fun time to show off downtown to the many out-of-town visitors. It's fun to stroll State Street on a lovely summer evening - we hope you'll have a chance to stop down soon.

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