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July 2014
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September 2014

why yes, we're voting for Mary

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I know, I've been a bit of a slacker lately. I'll admit that we were a little tired from all the button-making and protest activity around the time of the recall. But please don't think we've changed our minds or our commitment to making this state the kind of place that is true to its citizens. Nor have we changed our mind about how poorly we think of Scott Walker as Wisconsin's Governor. So, yes, we ARE voting for Mary Burke! It's a no-brainer as far as we're concerned.

We had a slightly bizarre experience this week as we received an anonymous letter complaining about our hypocrisy of supporting Mary Burke while supporting the buy local movement at the same time. It included a tirade of (now shown to be false) talking points put forth by Walker about Trek's outsourcing and wages. Essentially, the writer granted that we could sell whatever we wanted to sell but that we should not be hypocrites about our buy local principles AND support an outsourcer at the same time. Trust me, I am not losing sleep over this. I mention it mostly because it elicits an interesting reaction in me which I'm quite sure the letter-writer was not intending, namely, we restocked our buttons, I realized I had to write this blog post, and I went and bought a Stand With Wisconsin bumper sticker for my car. I don't actually know what's a good approach for modifying someone's behavior. Because any time someone has criticized me for my politics, I mostly just double-down. Take, for example, the I <3 Wisconsin (except Scott Walker) notecard. I found it this week, removed from its pocket and all remaining stock hidden amongst some journals. This happens every once in a while with some of our political signs or merch - they will be flipped over, shifted to the back, generally removed from view. I imagine a Republican snickering as they walk down the street: 'that'll show them... they won't sell any and then they'll lose money ... and THEN they'll turn into Republicans ..... ?"  Right, as you can imagine, when I find the hidden merchandise, I just move it back into a prominent position, and the notecard-hiding-shenanigans just caused me to tell Sachi to order more of them (they were running low after all). I don't know, maybe no one is going to change anyone's minds we just have to be happy with our little shenanigans and feelings of triumph over little moments? I mean, I DO realize that not all our customers agree with me and I personally feel like I don't make the shop intolerable. I mean, it is clear where we stand but we can all be civil, can't we?

Well, anyway, the letter was civil enough so that's not my complaint in this instance. Mostly it is the anonymity that irks. This applies to internet comments too (as I have observed a huge kerfuffle over Mary Engelbreit's response to Ferguson... I mean, Mary Engelbriet?! Who can be hateful to her? Apparently a lot of people. As a P.S. to that, I will note that whenever I get discouraged with the level of hate generated in the internet comments section, I retreat to the SNL skit with the Devil). How is it that we can be so brave to say things, and yet not brave enough to claim our words? It's an odd incongruity and hypocrisy... which, I believe, trumps the hypocrisy of which I was accused.

I am willing to concede that I have my share of inconsistencies - letting slide behavior in people I like which I would otherwise abhor in people I don't. But the idea that Scott Walker is a more buy-local-friendly candidate than Mary Burke just makes me laugh. I'm sure that all of his WMC campaign donors called him up and said "ixnay" the outsourcing criticism, just as I am sure that he would be the first in line to outsource jobs if it would improve the profits of his CEO pals. I doubt the workers and small businesses of this state matter to him much at all. That is one of many reasons why I believe he is a poor choice for Wisconsin's Governor. And when it comes to creating jobs and improving the lot of the average Wisconsinite, I trust Mary Burke's experience in business at Trek as well as her committment to our local community, much more than his as a politician who believes in small government only as it suits him, but not enough to effect his paycheck or his ability to grant favors to people who have donated to his campaign. Sheesh... there I go again...  it is so easy to run a negative campaign!

But you all knew where I stood anyway, I just felt the need to reply to the anonymous letter-writer and since there wasn't a return address, this is what we ended up with. Not that I imagine I would have any success having a dialogue had there been a return address. Don't worry, I'm not that foolish.

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The real challenge as we approach election day, to my mind, is to resist the temptation to take only cheap shots and run a campaign that is entirely based on all the ways that Scott Walker is bad for the state. On the whole, I think that Mary Burke is doing a good job, but, actually, I don't watch campaign commercials. I change the channel if they come on, but most of the time I'm watching Netflix or running to the sewing machine during commercial breaks. There are many faults of Scott Walker and they are of great concern to me. Sachi has been making buttons that address that, but we have plenty of "Keep Calm and Burke On," "I'm voting for Mary," and so on. I do believe she will be a good leader for this state.

I revised my Keep Calm Wisconsin print and have an updated version for this campaign season.

DSCN3841 (800x600)Sigh.... Russ..... Remember how nice it was when the Senate would vote on things and he'd be the lone Progressive Left voice voting against? How good and principled you felt as one of his consitutents? Instead of embarrassed by those lists that come out with Ron Johnson's name on them - undercutting veteran funding, jobless benefits, affordable care... oh the list goes on. Sigh.

I also ordered the great Stand with Wisconsin graphic sticker for the shop. I really love the graphic - Lily calls it the blue punch. We got it at the shop for the casual shopper, but we'd also encourage you to get them from the AFL-CIO shop for $1 each if you buy ten or more.


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And, what else? Just please please vote. Even if you don't live in Wisconsin, vote wherever it is you live. We need MORE people participating in this system, as flawed as it is. I know, I'm an optimist, but I personally think that politics would look a LOT different if all the people who don't show up to the polls would. Even with the manipulation by Wall Street and the writing of laws by ALEC and lobbyists, I believe in the power of people to have an effect but only if we do not cede our power and our votes. I ran the numbers in advance of our primaries earlier this month and if my calculations are correct, Scott Walker and Ron Johnson came to office due to just 3% of eligible voters. And 12 times more voters than that simply declined to vote. Clearly the outcome could have been different. Especially in this "off" year which everyone says always leans Republican because Dems don't come out ( ARGH! come out! come out! Think what the years could have looked like if the Dems came out in 2010! We could have still had Russ! We could have Tom Barrett, who, not incidentally, is doing cool things in Milwaukee). I am glad to see various initiatives, particularly aimed at women (and, I hope also, in African American communities) to get information and tools in the hands of ALL people so that everyone can participate in our democracy (little nod here to Ask. Learn. Vote! which is working to connect women in Wisconsin with the tools to cast their votes).

Learn about your candidiates. Register to Vote. Vote. YOU MATTER. YOUR VOTE MATTERS. The only people who tell you otherwise are the ones who profit from you staying home.


week(s) in review

Nearing the end of August already?! I have been slacking on my birthmonth celebrations and the fact that school is starting has totally snuck up on me. Granted, my involvement is mostly peripheral; nonetheless, getting the girl to school on Monday morning after our sleepover night is an upcoming challenge. I'm feeling intimidated because my brother-in-law mentioned that he had perfect attendance as a child and I was always scornful of the children whose parents brought them late to school - which is a sure bet that karma is ready to repay me. Maybe the school can have a different measure for days when the Auntie is in charge vs. days when the parents are. Ah well. We'll be fine. It's amazing to think she's starting 1st grade - definitely reaching the age where I have clear memories of my own experiences and feelings. Sigh.

But before that, we are heading to Point Beach for our annual getaway. Hamilton Wood Type & Printing museum is in its new location so we'll be going there, also Bookworm Gardens and the Kohler Art Center. And the beach, of course. I'm meeting a friend from childhood along with her children. I'm a little nervous: I feel like our lives have gone on such different paths and wonder what we have left in common. But I guess we'll just fall back on our history. It's somewhat challenging to have in-depth conversations and develop any new history while keeping an eye on the kids. So... hmph... mixed feelings about all that... 


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This week, the Sketchbook Project came to Madison so that was a little flurry of excitement. I felt like a bit of a luddite as my lack of a smart phone was a bit of a hindrance. Meanwhile the shelves full of sketchbooks were tantilizingly out of reach except two at a time. The thing is, I look at things very quickly so I was feeling like I would spend more time waiting in line/logging in/finding books than I would actually looking at them. At least they have an online library. I saw several interesting bindings. I did get to check out two books but could have spent a long long time browsing, if not for my post-work, pre-dinner, hot night crabbiness. Still, it is worth checking out. I was very tempted to buy a sketchbook myself and join in the fun... until I remembered all the other blank sketchbooks on my shelves. Obviously, I have managed to create several journals so I'm not incapable. I did think about a modified shopgirl journal/sketchbook. I'll have to think on it some more. I think I do best when I can figure out some sort of theme or something, and they do have themes each year so perhaps I'll check into that. Meanwhile, I am very happy with my purple/blue/green book of shop ephemera and ready for at least two more volumes.

At the shop, I've shifted mostly into holiday prep mode: making my list of vendors, checking inventory, calculating what orders we need to place, and trying to time it all so we don't end up with one week of nothing but boxes all day long. We have received more note cards, and also you haven't nearly seen all the note cards until you've stopped in. Sachi did get her cheese curd design re-printed. "Outsourced" in the sense that she isn't making it in her studio at home but the printers are still local. She just quite wasn't able to keep up with production by sticking to Gocco printing. I have to admit that I'm rather loose when it comes to production: my concern is really about getting work out there so whether it is mechanically printed or hand-printed/letterpressed/linocut/screenprinted/whatnot is less of a concern of mine. Not that I can't appreciate the work that goes into printing by less mechanical means, it's just that the Capitalist in me gets anxious when my potential sales are put at risk by slower production.


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Besides note cards, we've received more prints, wool felt and leather journals, magnets, planners, and fun sets of gift tags and party confetti,

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also Emily's great crochet baskets which are useful to hold all sorts of things,

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various Wisconsin notepads and cards,

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 stickers, fun vintage remix post earrings, chunky necklaces which I'm pretty sure I mentioned before but I had to mention again because I love how they look on the book display on our wall.

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I have three different altered Golden book workshops coming up so I've been busy cutting paper and preparing for that. Luckily we found a stash of Golden books recently so I have plenty of those to work with. The librarians are saving a few for me (I'll be at Middleton on Sept 4th and Alicia Ashman on Sept 29th) and I love the idea of re-purposing library books for workshops at the libraries.

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Finally, we went to Madison Sourdough for breakfast this week. I hadn't really seen their back room and found it quite charming. I love the montage of pictures of the pastry-making process. I think Dad quite enjoyed the peek into the baking area and the Christopher Walken photo on their (walk-in, get it?) freezer was a great touch.

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I have a postcard!

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I know it doesn't seem like a huge thing, but this is a culmination of effort which began back in the spring (taking a PhotoShop class at Madison College... which morphed into using GIMP software at home). My very own Capitol photograph enhanced with colors and layers, including a layer of constellation cyanotype (which, technically means that the process to create this piece started about four years ago when I made that cyanotype)(always so exciting to be able to use past products on current creations).  Available as postcard and print at the shop.

Now what should I do next?


travel journals, sketches & notecards, ever more notecards

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I don't know if it is just because winter was so long last year, but summer seems especially lovely this year. We haven't had too many intolerably hot days and the nights have been so cool. I haven't had to turn on my air conditioner at all. And everyone's gardens seem really amazing. My creative talents and interest in work do not at all extend to gardening, so I'm just a viewer - but isn't this an amazing bloom from our mom's garden?!

It's been another busy week with a flurry of arrivals (8/1 ship dates mostly on orders from the Stationery Show. I keep telling my sister that we can't order any more blank cards... and then end up ordering more myself). Spaces that were empty are starting to fill up, and the bulk of the holiday orders have yet to arrive. Despite the added spinners this year and the corresponding increase in sales of paper goods, the drawers are starting to fill up. But I do love note cards!

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The clever cards from the UK arrived yesterday, as well as some zodiac cards for my holiday window. We also received more of the hand-lettered prints and notecards, and fun phrenology diagrams.

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My brother-in-law recently asked if having additional part-timer hours had helped with our workload and I had to think a bit. I have certainly been able to keep up with bookwork more than usual, but the increased sales of this year have kept me busy with reordering. My time hasn't exactly been freed for other things, but I did finally take some time to work on some projects I've been meaning to work on, mostly in the print realm, though I have magnet picture frames that are halfway done and can always make more Wisconsin charm necklaces. I reprinted the photo collages that I made at Walgreens so at least those are restocked. I was waiting to see if Walgreens was going to actually move their headquarters overseas, in which case I would have to immediately shift to a different processor. I am aware that I should redirect my photo processing to local sources but have been stymied by the need to recreate the collages - took the easy way out and just reordered them. I am working with a local printer on some prints of my PhotoShop images and still need to spend more time creating more of those. I'm waiting for the first batch to arrive back, which will give me a better idea of how well my image translated to a textured paper. I did, finally, revise the Keep Calm Wisconsin print in advance of the fall elections. So, at least I feel like I'm making some progress compared to Sachi's off-the-charts sales of cheese curd onesies. Honestly, you'd think you'd just outgrow your childhood patterns and habits, but I can't seem to break the need to compete with my sister.

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 Other arrivals include this great local beer t-shirt from Milwaukee,

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and license plate key rings and charms from Tennessee (finally!  People always ask us about keyrings but I have a really hard time finding something that suits our shop).

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This week I am teaching a workshop at Pinney library: a reprise of the altered travel journal workshop. The librarian there has saved us various travel books and maps that would otherwise be discarded - and I kind of like the idea of having workshops that repurpose those library cast-offs.


Perhaps because I've been thinking about altered books and what to do with ephemera, at home I've started the mammoth task of wrestling with all the ephemera I've accumulated related to the shop: postcards and business cards of vendors, notes, the cards that came with the bouquets from our opening weekend...  I sorted everything into one gigantic box and was initally overwhelmed with the quantity of stuff and how to organize it. I decided to go with my fall-back: by color. The first grouping that I'm working on is my favorite blue/purple/greens. I pulled out all the pieces that fit that color palate, using some larger pieces as pages, using some of my batik pages and other pieces of cardstock and wrapping paper as well. I've been machine stitching pieces to those pages, and also creating pockets, and just using double-sided tape. I'm saving washi tape for the last step to use judiciously as is befitting the more expensive method of adhesion that it is. So far, so good, though the "book" has gotten rather gigantic. I had a box that a vendor sent us with cool hand-lettering so I am using that as the container. I ended up just making three signatures, which I am stitching into the box with what I believe is a simple pamphlet stitch. I still have one more signature to stitch in as well as a little pile of ephemera yet to attach and already there's no way this is going to close. But I think I will just wrap a ribbon around it several times to keep it more or less closed on the shelf. I had a passing thought that it would be cool with coptic binding to have a visible spine, showing off the batik paper that I used to enclose each signature, but I'm just not sure it would hold up to all that was in there. On the whole, I'm happy with this volume. Now I have to figure out what the covers/containers will be for the rest.

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more batik works

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That little taste at the library was just not enough!  I've been feeling a little impatient and thought it would probably be best to get that out of my system before I teach again on Wednesday night at Alicia Ashman Library. Luckily I awoke early this Sunday morning and was downtown in plenty of time to work on a partial batch of batik. I had some pages already started from when we were residents at the Bubbler. I was planning to use those pages for a happy book of various ephemera but, as usual, made many more pages than I need for that particular project. Concurrently, I have started an ephemera book of notes and cards from the shop, especially all the lovely cards we get from various stationery vendors in advance of the Stationery Show in New York. oh, and also cool business cards, etc. Anyway, I have a whole box of such things at home and decided last night to split them up into books by color. The first book will be my usual purple/blue/greens. All of this is to explain why the colors of the batik paper that I worked on this morning are so narrow.

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Also, while photos are uploading, I realize I'm having trouble sharing these without a lot of qualifiers. Basically, I'm still at that stage of learning and practicing when it comes to batik. Of all the pages that I have created over the last several months, it is rare for me to make a page that I think will stand on its own. That said, I enjoy the process, and I'm ending up using some of them in my PhotoShop work so the work is not without value. But I feel like I'm not fully illustrating the potential of batik to you.... but hopefully I am at least giving you a sense of the promise.... I think the colors and the patterns are really lovely and the process is fun. They are making really great pages for my books, and also worked really well to cut up and sew back together for the "quilt" that I have at the library.

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If a person is going to do the entire batik process from start to finish, you would need lots of space and time. Limited in both of these respects (seeing as the craft table has lots of new arrivals on half of it), I did a skimpy version of the process: the pages that I started with already had one coat of wax and color but I am learning that you can add to the complexity and loveliness if you do a second coat. I wasn't particularly happy with how they were looking... SO, I added more wax and more dye. Given my space limitations, I just hauled out 6 containers of dye: lilac, blue, olive, kelly green, turquoise, teal. After that dried a bit, I did a wash of color on the back side because I know that I'll be using these pages in a book. I also know that these are going to be background onto which I am going to sew the various pieces of ephmera so I'm mostly just playing around and not too concerned with how lovely or composed each page will be. In the spirit of playing around, I treated myself to my favorite wood stamp block and some stencils from the shop.

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I've been curious to try these Stencil Girl   

stencils with melted wax. They are made with a high quality mylar which can be used for projects that involve heat. There are some plastics (my sequin waste, for example) which can start to warp and melt during the batik process and are probably not really good to be used in that particular setting. Not so with these stencils. The main challenge for me was to decide which ones to use. There are so many awesome designs!


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I've also had my eye on the wood blocks that we received at the shop. The patterns are so cool and I'm pretty sure that such things are used for traditional batiking... or printing at least. Perhaps the batik ones are all copper, but there was potential. I find that melted wax can spread out a bit once put on paper, so that sometimes blurs the precision of one's lines. However, the wood block seemed to work pretty well. I didn't get a perfect stamp, but I think that it will make lovely patterns. I don't know how well all of the different designs will work, but I was quite happy with the one I selected.

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I am eager to experiment more with second layers of color and wax - I'm still trying to wrap my head around the final look, but I do love the added complexity of color and pattern. I really like the feathers stencil but I think that the succulents stencil will look really amazing with two layers of wax and color.

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I'm thinking about a batik tag workshop closer to the holidays. Working in the small format of gift tags makes things go quickly and it seems like these would be really fun for holiday packages. Since I have zillions of library catalog cards, I played around with stencils using those. But I think they will be perfect for the tag workshop.

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I've been doing all my work kind of assembly-line fashion, when I can grab some time. Perhaps I would have a little more to show off if I was being more careful. Still, since they are going to be background, these are all going to work just fine. And, more importantly, getting them done means I can get to work on this new book I have in mind.



batik at the library and other things

Whew... August already... That means it is my birth month and time for me to think about celebrating. It kind of snuck up on me this year. Luckily, Mom is going out of town and I've already planned to take Dad to Le Reve next week so that should be a perfect way to kick off the celebrations. And I do have a campsite reserved at Point Beach State Forest at the end of the month.

But, really, I've been thinking about Christmas. My holiday window is coming together and I am having lots of fun with it. We went with the forest animal theme for two years in a row (well, first was mushrooms and gnomes, second was foxes and chickens) and I'm ready for a change. The colors this year are going to be navy, gold, silver, purple - right up my alley!

You will be happy to hear that my hastening of the year has been punished with complete lack of mental preparedness for the next calendar year. We've already had several people stopping in to ask about calendars and inside I'm thinking: I'm not ready!!!!  Outside, at least, we already have several calendars on order which are starting to arrive. We have about four more companies yet to ship - everything should be in stock by mid August.

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In other product-arrival news, the week has been full of papergoods. The best kind of week. Besides calendars, we received new notecards, printable invites, grocery notepads and new Wisconsin prints.

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Also, Sachi has continued her Gocco printing and is also working with a local screenprinter on more cheesecurd onesies and other goods.

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Meanwhile, the competitive Komai spirit is causing me some angst as I try to figure out how to catch up to her level of production. It would help if I could focus, but I have too many ideas zipping around in my head. I did spend some time on the computer and came up with one design with the Capitol combined with one of my cyanotypes. It's a start.


Last night I had my first batik workshop of the season at the Hawthorne branch library. They have a very nice community room, which was good, because we had a full class of people making batik paper. And no, I apologize, I did not take pictures. I am finding it is a challenge to do that as well as to be teaching a class. But I really enjoyed seeing all the things that people made - I love to see how everyone, starting from more or less the same place with the same tools, injects their personal style into their creations. I brought map paper and tags and could seriously have a workshop just on batiking tags - that would be so fun for the holidays. The only drawback is that I wanted to jump in myself....  Clearly I'm going to have to schedule some time just to play with batik. Because I don't have anything else I should be doing. ha ha.

Anyway, the only pictures I managed to grab were during set-up: wax melting on the griddle, and the lovely array of colors. I will be teaching the workshop again next week at Alicia Ashman library but it is already full. Given the response, I will try to find some other opportunities to teach at other libraries.

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Finally, I feel the need to mention punchinella.  Last night I brought my book with batik and painted pages to show people examples of what can be done with paper once it is batiked. I was asked how I created a particular texture and I realized that this is the second time this year that someone has asked me about this texture. The "stencil" is what is created when sequins are made: a narrow strip of shiny plastic with zillions of holes cut out. Sequin waste, aka punchinella. I get mine from Sky Blue Pink. It is available in many colors and shapes and is useful to incorporate into collage but I mostly use it as a stencil, here: with paint and also with gesso which adds texture and acts as a bit of a resist since the gesso doesn't take paint the way the rest of the surface does. As some one who loves polka dots, this has long been one of my favorite tools for adding texture.

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