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September 2014
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November 2014

projects and products

oh, honestly, I don't have any excuse at all! I thought we were going to be slammed with shipment arrivals from my 10/1-15 ship dates but it really wasn't that much different from all the arrivals of August and September. The good news is that what arrived in August and September has been selling so that I have room to spare and all my stress about finding room for things has been more or less for naught. (Now the new stress is the things that are already selling out which were supposed to last through Christmas). There are some tall piles in the office - Halloween candy for tomorrow's downtown family Halloween, product for my holiday window, Christmas cards...  But there's still a path.

First of all, have I really not told you about the glitter washi tape that arrived to the shop?! Tsk tsk. It's so lovely and sparkly! Sachi's already planning to use some for her gift tag and garland workshops at the libraries in November.

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There has been a fair amount of unpacking to be done... oh, isn't it nice when one's shoes and apron goes so cutely with the packaging material?

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Other arrivals include more Nikki McClure prints and cards, stickers, knee socks (classic case of a store owner buying something just because she wants it for herself), charming kid art kits, craft books and some of our all-time favorite French postcards. It's a treat not to have to wait 'til Paris to stock up on all the cards I like.

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We have not been able to keep these alphabet books in stock. A few letters are already sold out and I'm told they are all working double-time over in Viroqua to meet all their orders. Crosssing my fingers that I can get one more shipment before the holidays!

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Sachi's cheese curd onesie continues to be popular and she's been hard at work on new card designs. Her Madison snow globe is pretty great, and I'm not just saying that because she's my sister.

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I'm so thankful that I get to be in business with my sister - mostly because I think we make a really good team. It seems like we really complement each other's moods: when one of us is panicking about finances, the other is feeling confident and vice versa. So we usually manage to moderate each other. This is particularly useful as we are rounding the corner on the end of campaign season. We go back and forth between being the one freaking out and the one reassuring. But, really, eek! I'm still trying to find the people I know who are not voting and persuade them that it IS worthwhile and listen to just the right amount of media while keeping my blood pressure in mind (but, really, is that Paul Ryan commercial so annoying? I always change it quickly so all I hear from him is that his mother and aunt deserve benefits... which leaves me feeling like he thinks I do not). In the middle of all our button making and sign printing, I was trying to figure out what my next window would be. Just a few weeks left before I install the holiday window. I kept running over a variety of options - some formula of product we have a lot of/that is selling well/that won't be in the holiday window and some relevant them. Then it suddently occurred to me that a campaign window is the way to go. I had fun one evening cutting out magazine letters - a seriously fun task that I really should apply to my living room decor, if I could find a free wall - though I decided to omit the first "We <3 Wisconsin" component because I was a little concerned that it implied the same thing that the detested Paul Ryan commercial does; some sense of us vs. them, deserving/loving vs. not - which while I do feel is the case is perhaps not the most effective way to campaign. Our position is pretty clear without that.

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And if the number of "Keep calm and vote Mary" prints and buttons that we've sold is worth anything, well, I'm not an optimist for nothing. In quiet moments, I take deep breaths and envision a state that is not run like someone's personal ATM (I read that in some comments section somewhere and thought that perfectly captures the way I feel Scott Walker treats this state - using the people and resources to get whatever personal profit he can get from it). I have been so impressed with Mary Burke's commitment to our local community (like this morning's article about how she sold her home to help struggling families) - a true public servant. Now wouldn't that be an amazing quality to have for Governor?!

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I've been rather wrapped up in preparations for Halloween. My niece keeps asking me why I'm not decorating for Halloween but I'm spending most of my energy on our costumes. Tomorrow is the Downtown Madison Family Halloween, during which we historically distribute about 50 pounds of candy. Lily and I have been watching "Adventure Time" which while mostly more a grown-up show than a kid show isn't gruesome or other ways inappropriate. I love all the food come to life, plus the scientific references casually thrown in. Anyway, a princess who is also a scientist - I couldn't resist. I used three skeins of yarn to sew my wig and am putting together a Flame Princess costume with a thrift store wool sweater as a base (good thing too, as I hear it is going to be cold - ah, so many Halloweens past spoiled by the need to wear a winter jacket on top!).

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I also finally got PhotoShop on the home computer so I've been working on a zillion different projects. It would, perhaps, be good to focus a bit. Nah...  I'm working on some holiday cards and everyday cards to sell at the shop, as well as the store postcard that we send out to customers. There's some balance to be attained between clarity and the number of fonts I want to use. Still working on that. I'll have Sachi stop in and rein me in - another way we make good partners.


I'm thinking of a whole series of customer quotations for December ads. And now that I have the technology, I really should do something about this blog. I know, it is long past time for me to stop using an existing template and create our own banner.

I've also been working on my fortune teller 2x2 book - in the computer. The physical structure is rather simple but there's a lot of work on the back end. I think I've made about a half dozen prototypes. I'm having trouble communicating the colors from the computer to the copy shop. It keeps coming out too dark. But I think I have the text and layout all ready. I'm getting anxious that it looks too simple, but I do think it is fun to recall one's childhood fortune-teller days. And if I am feeling too defensive, you can be sure that everyone at the party will be hearing about how much time I spent creating the background which is barely visible. I try to remember one of my first workshops I ever took, with Claudine Hellmuth, who told us that even if our background collage work isn't highly visible, it all goes into creating the finished piece and a sense of history that it has.

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I did get out a little bit to enjoy the fall colors - took Dad to Stewart County Park outside of Mt Horeb last Wednesday and have otherwise been enjoying the amazing colors and the lengthy fall we've been having.

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I think the rain was above average but seemed to be offset but many sunny beautiful days. I feel a bit like Frederick the mouse, trying to save up colors and warmth for the winter.

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campaign season, in earnest

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I've been somewhat preoccupied this week since Michelle Obama came to town and the campaign season has hit me in earnest. Sachi has been super stressed out about getting people their absentee ballots and we've done our usually complementing (when I'm stressed out about the budget, she's calm and vice versa). To some extent, given the base of money behind him, I've actually been pleasantly surprised that Mary Burke is polling as close as she is. But also, I feel like if she pulls too far ahead, then people will get careless about election day, and I don't want that. To be honest, I don't watch that much tv and any time a political commerical comes on, I change the channel, so the urgency of the matter hasn't really sunk in. Also, I'm trying to be both engaged and not so much that I get totally overwhelmed seeing pictures of Scott Walker, reading extra reasons not to vote for him, and stewing over my concerns for the state. There's a fine balance to maintain. I did help my mom scan and email her photo ID, just in time for her to submit it and for the Supreme Court to overturn the need to do so. Drives. Me. Crazy. Particularly when I think of how much money various municipalities have had to spend to enact these laws which won't actually solve the imaginary problem of voter fraud. But I digress, which is a common result of political thought.

And, of course, I realize I have customers who disagree with me, and also customers who might agree with me but might be tired of campaign season, but I decided to post an assortment of our buttons on our Facebook page. Thanks to their schedule feature, I was able to schedule a week's worth - posting one picture a day at various times of the day (apparently there's some formula about which time of day and which day of the week is the best time but I don't really remember those things so it is mostly a random experiment. Turns out that 9 am on a Monday morning is a very popular time). Thanks to the frequency of posts and sharing by many fellow pages and people, our post reach for the week just passed 8,000 (well beyond our number of page likes). So, that's been gratifying. And if someone was hoping that I would shut up already about campaign buttons, unfortunately the results mean positive/negative reinforcement of my behavior.

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What I really need to do is get out the camera and take more pictures - not just of buttons, but of all the new arrivals. We have had little flurries as a result of my 10/1 ship dates, though I'm realizing that my anxiety over everything coming in might have been a little overblown. So far, the pace has been manageable and I've found room for most things. I still have a few drawers with space to spare. It's not at all the same as my old job which was an order of magnitude larger in terms of boxes coming from, especially from overseas which have so much more packaging to deal with.

So, not other pictures, but this week's arrivals include: more dictionary page prints with inspiring quotations, farmer's market prints, birthday cards, thank you cards, knee-his, wallets, note books, post-it notes, recipe cards.

oh, and more sweet bud vases with an assortment of color palates. One picture, at least.

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I had a short moment of feeling overwhelmed and behind because I didn't have an idea for a 2x2 book for our holiday book exchange. Last year, I had them done in... oh, wait, I was thinking of the year before. The year before, I was done in January. I think last year it was more like October. So I guess I'm not as far behind as I thought I was. Well, the idea of being behind was enough impetus to send me to Pinterest to look at book structures and journal pages - only a few extra hours of distraction before I figured out my plan. So I'm in that new project starting phase, which is always the best. Since I've been doing more work in PhotoShop (well, Gimp at the moment), I really wanted to create the pages with some digital collage and needed a structure that would work well with an 8.5x11 page. I decided to make one of those fortune teller/cootie catchers. Remember those? Oh, I spent so much time folding those when I was a kid! Anyway, it is - roughly - going to be a set of short chose-your-own-adventure kind of stories, where each panel has to make sense with each of the following and subsequent panels. I've spent the last couple nights on the computer creating the altered photo backdrop and sent it to the printer today so that I can fold the prototype and then work on the text. So far, so good. Plus, all the time is in the digital work so I can print multiple copies and make one for everyone.

I did rearrange the window - second to last before I install the holiday window (eek! can't wait!). Even though I had to get out the iron, I had fun installing this assortment of market things, including the oh so lovely French linens. Now I have to figure out what the last pre-holiday window is going to be. I'll have to see what product is not going in the holiday window and make something from that.

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more book works



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Mostly. Monday afternoon I was at Alicia Ashman library for a travel journal workshop. They saved all their discard travel guides so we had tons to choose from and spent an enjoyable afternoon cutting paper and discussing bucket list trips. They had cookies!

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I have a show and tell at Middleton High School next week, a UW Arts Enterprise class panel discussion and one batik tag workshop left this fall. But other than that, I'm starting to wind down the out-of-store traveling in anticipation of holiday busyness. There were several things with shop dates between Oct 1 and Oct 15 so those are weighing on my mind. Meanwhile Sachi is just getting going - she's been working like crazy on a new note card design and new ornaments, sewing her Wisconsin cheese ornament, and getting ready for her upcoming library workshops. Oh, and making buttons.  This is probably my new favorite, which is in reference to one of Scott Walker's campaign commercials. To be honest, the second he comes on TV, I change channels so I haven't even seen the whole commercial - I am just left with the impression that Scott Walker is in a deep hole, which is either where I would like to put him and/or where I think he is leaving the state. It's apt.

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Speaking of matters political, we are gearing up on our money stamping efforts and just awaiting the arrival of our stamping station so there will be opportunities for you, too, to stamp your bills and get the message out. I've thought about this a lot, and I really feel it all comes down to the amount of money we have allowed into our political system: the wealth required to run for office, and thus the level of campaign donations required to sustain that.  In my dream world, not only would campaigns be publicly financed, but when someone makes a donation, if (as they would have it nowadays) they require anonymity, the politician should only know as much about the source as the rest of us voters would. Wouldn't that be nice? I mean, sure, if you believe that someone is doing a great job, donate whatever you want, but to have your name attached to it... I mean, really, does anyone believe a politician can be impartial after receiving thousands of dollars? I feel nicer towards people who spend money in my store, and that only takes a few dollars. Anyway, the lovely people at StampStampede will be sending us stamps so you can buy your own to take with you, or just stop in and stamp. I am hoping that with our shop so near the Capitol more than a few of these bills will make it into our legislators' hands.

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Besides gathering four tubs of art projects to bring to show and tell at Middleton High school, we had a festive weekend due to Overture Center's 10th anniversary celebrations. We are donating 10% of our sales from the weekend to them - we always appreciate all their programing. But we especially appreciate the grand celebrations they put on for their 10th. Makes me wonder what we can possibly do for our tenth. They brought in several circus wagons and many performers. It was a great weekend.

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The week before, I went to Milwaukee to get Mom from the airport. I spent the whole day there even though I was still feeling somewhat poorly. I took it easy and punctuated my visits with friends, shopping and eating, with sitting along the lake and walking along the riverwalk. Totally jealous of Milwaukee once again.


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Isn't this a great sign in the Third Ward? I wish we had signs like this.

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At the shop, we received more of the ever-popular Wi/Mn hugging t-shirts which we can't seem to keep in stock.  It's hard to be popular.

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We also received more of the little cards with inspiring quotations on them - people regularly spend several minutes going through the collection to find just the right one. We also received more of the writing pads with quotations, and these new zip pouches. I love text.

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Speaking of, we have a large assortment of Amos Kennedy prints at the moment, including his smaller... well, he calls them postcards, but I don't see how they are anything except prints given the way they are produced and the many layers of paint that are on them.

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I'm enjoying the lovely French linens, pins and necklaces made from book covers

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and these amazing stamps. I'm taking a slow-stitching workshop in a few weeks and am planning on altering a yukata that I got at Goodwill into a dress, doing whatever slow-stitching/patching/applique mostly on the hem so it is not too crazy. But it is tempting to add some stamping in as well. Hopefully I will have more luck with this online class than the last one - online workshops don't really suit my learning style but it would be nice to have something for show and tell. In any event, at the moment, I'm enjoying the thought of a new project.

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