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November 2014
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January 2015

whew! we made it!

Well, it is a function of my retail world that  I'm already thinking about inventory in January and the Valentine's window in February (I thought of something good, so I'm happy about that), not to mention what might be the Christmas window for 2015...  Though I'm thankful that I don't work corporate retail because they are probably already really thinking about Christmas 2015, if not 2016. Still on December 24th, it is fair of the charming Olivia to declare as she did: you made it! We had a great year overall with a strong holiday season to continue the trend. Two weeks of Saturday-level sales every single day will soon taper off to the quiet of January, even though the month is filled with all the tasks I put off, preparing to file taxes, inventory. It is still a little more suited to my introvert nature.

Inventory, ugh. Though the store is still pretty full, the volume of sales means I keep uncovering empty drawers. Still, counting all these things we bought throughout the year is never a fun task. Not a difficult task, just a tedious one. But at least we have lots of help this year as we have added more part-timers. Plus it is a little different when the things you are counting are all things that you purchased yourself, and most of which that you still love.

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But speaking of inventory, it is now 10 am on Christmas Eve. We are open until 4 pm today, closed tomorrow, and then open 11 am - 7 pm Friday, 10 am - 7 pm Saturday, 12-4 Sunday... and so on. We find that a lot of people end up having holiday celebrations after the 25th of December and depending on the ratio of people leaving town to people coming to visit, the 26th through the 31st can be a busy time for us. So for those people, perhaps it is fine we haven't sold down to the bare bones. Sachi ran out of steam on sewing her Wisconsin felt ornament so there's only one or two of those left but we still have Madison map rocks glasses and Wisconsin pint glasses which have been popular. I did go overbudget on Christmas orders this year but all of the things that we re-ordered beyond the plan definitely paid for themselves. We would have been a lot emptier if I had held off on those. So, all in all, it's looking good. I'm glad that we still have rap names and superpowers prints, as well as lil' cheese curd onesies, even if we are sold out of beer posters, Wi/Mn t-shirts and Wisconsin ornaments (note to self: order more next year).

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Still, I had fun with a little photo shoot (a pale comparison to the one that a Madison College student did which we hope to use for future ads: an assortment of Anthology goods arranged in the shape of the state. So amazing!). If I do say so myself, I think we have plenty to choose from for those last minute shoppers... Of which there are always more than I expect...

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And whether you had a chance to stop in this holdiay season or perhaps won't be back again until summer, we thank you for everything that you've contributed to our business and wish you the happiest of new years!

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week 1. last one left. (eek?!)

Did I save the best for last? Not quite... because you know it makes me anxious that some people are just starting their shopping now. I was pretty much spot on with my predictions of early sell-outs: we just plain can't order enough WI/MN t-shirts and we're starting to run out of letters in the cut-out alphabet books. Still, there's plenty of Anthology goodness for you....

 1. T shirts. Specific designs in specific sizes are starting to sell out but I still think we have a nice assortment of Madison and Wisconsin designs.

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2. Posts. At long last, a nice assortment to fit a variety of needs: fun pineapples, classy cut-out books,

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3. Supplies for the crafter: twinkling watercolors, paper packs and books. I know I mentioned the wooden stamp blocks before, but, seriously, they are so lovely!

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4. Story Pictures. I love these sweet stories. This was one of the very first items we bought for the store, from an artist in Massachusetts.

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5. Repurposed book journals. Always a popular gift, especially if you can find a title that speaks to some childhood memory.

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6. Square photo punch. Even uncrafty people enjoy this tool for creating simple photo collages - a refreshing change on the photos that never leave the device that took them.

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7. Goodnight Loon. Sure to be a classic at the cabin, this playful twist on Goodnight Moon has a fun northwoods theme.

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8. Sachi's original lil' cheese curd onesie. A surprise best-seller for us, these are designed by Sachi and printed on Willy Street. A true Madison original.

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9. Art kits for kids.

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 10. Prints with inspiring text.

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 And that wraps that up! As always, we are happy to try and help you with gift suggestions in person if you stop by the store. Between us, we've shopped at many local stores this season so we can perhaps also direct you to someone else if we don't have what you are looking for. My personal shopping list includes: Capitol Kids, University Bookstore, Room of One's Own, Hatch Art House, The Camera Company, The Century House, plus an assortment of local restaurants that I purchased gift certificates from.

We so appreciate everyone's effort to support indie and local stores in the community; we really think it makes the world a better place!


new projects

"There was a single blue line of crayon drawn across every wall in the house. What does it mean? I said. A pirate needs the sight of the sea, he said & then he pulled his eye patch down & turned and sailed away."  Story People by Brian Andreas

Earlier this week, I met a friend who was taking a painting/collage class and her work for one week incolved creating a horizon line with collage. It was a very appealing look which made me want to go home right away and try it out. Since our holiday party is over, my mind is already on to the 2" x 2" book trade for 2015 and it occurred to me that this might be an interesting design to try out - maybe an accordion book that unfolds to a very very long horizon line? with a little bit of a story or something along the line? or just that text from Brian Andreas? I'm very inspired by the illustrations of Oliver Jeffers so that's kind of rolling around in my mind as well. Plus I'm thinking of all the scraps of paper and notes that I have - tearing those up into a horizon/timeline is an appealing thought.

Well, it's all early stages yet, but I found some pieces of white paper in my livingroom that can be cut down to the 2" width. I decided to leave them bigger for this inital stage of background painting. Most of the background is just the suggestion of pattern and color so it is likely that I will have to wash over what I've done and should probably proceed with more white on the rest of the sheets. But it was fun last night to start a new project and play around with paint on paper.

First step, a la Michelle Ward: brayering a thin coat of gesso onto the paper so I can work (and re-work) it more. Next step: using one stencil for some cohesiveness (one of my favorites from Stencil Girl Products), probably also adding more texture with gesso and bubble wrap or punchinella.

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I can't help it, I like circles. Next step: mostly dry brush, dabbing color on, going back over, spritzing with water, dabbing with a rag,

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dry brushing more paint, toning it down (keeping in mind that this is really all just supposed to be background. So far, so good. I feel like it's all rather greenish at the moment; I'll have to work more on color mixing. I feel like I'm going to have to lighten things a little bit more, but it sure was fun to spend some time just playing around with paint.

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how's the wrapping coming along?

It's an indication of our early suitability for this job that our mom would assign us the task of decorating Christmas packages at an early age. I'm sure it was just a ploy to get us out of her hair, but we spent many enjoyable hours adding frills of ribbon and bows to our various packages (and, no, we weren't the kind of family where presents arrive on Christmas Eve - they were always out under the tree. Santa took care of the stockings but the presents under the tree were exchanged between family members, and, yes, we spent a long time counting packages to make sure there was fairness between the two sisters).

Sachi enjoyed leading several workshops at the area libraries this season so we're happy to know we're passing along some creative gift tag options.

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Lately it seems I haven't had much time for wrapping so I've been lazy about it but for some reason this year, I've been able to do a little more. It may be a function of all the temptation available:  washi tape and scraps of various papers. We still have tons of Wisconsin maps, which we use mostly for button making, so I decided to use that as the base paper and then use our lovely papers as accents.

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We also got into a discussion of snowflake making and I got totally distracted by searching kirigami snowflakes on Pinterest - so many lovelies! Realistically, I don't have the patience for such detailed paper cutting, but the one that I made as an experiment ending up sitting underneath a sheet of glassine. Frankly, I don't quite know what to do with a tissue paper once you have it cut - it's so fragile! How do you stick them to the windows without showing little edges of tape? It could be nice on kraft paper gift wrapping - though again there's the challenge of attaching all those little edges down. Still, it's a fun project.

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week 2

Any desperation in the air? We're definitely seeing more men than usual, though most are just browsing. I'm trying to decide if everyone has cherry-picked the easy gifts and now we should just be focusing on the difficult ones? The people you don't really know? the hostess gifts for the surprise holiday party? the second cousins who will be at the party? I am also trying to balance being helpful without being pushy - but I cannot tell you how stressful it is to have someone who seems to like an item but walks away, only knowing that a small percentage of such shoppers will return in two weeks and wonder where that item has gone to. I hate to disappoint someone, but I realize it's not all in my hands.

We're happy to brainstorm with you if you come in and ask for suggestions - if we know gender and age we can at least give you some suggestions of popular items. Sometimes it might take a while but usually between the two of us we can come up with options. Though, really, you do know the person better than we do...

I'm a big fan of things that are useful or consumable. Of course, we have many items that are more on the decorative end of things, but in the interest of being moderately functional, here's week 2.

1. Madison map rocks glass... which I am finding almost impossible to photograph, made worse by the fact that my nails are stained with dye from batiking and look terribly dirty. The map of Madison is etched onto this glass, which comes in rocks and pint shape.

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2. Stamped pottery. Mugs, salad plates, and little dishes for spoon rests/bedside earring holders or what not. We love the patterns and colors of these dishes made in Milwaukee.

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3. Pocket photo albums. I love the cheerful colors of these albums which would be a perfect album to carry in a purse. And, trust me, Grandma still wants prints of those baby pictures!
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4. Boxed thank-you notes. I don't think it's just because I'm a paper person. Because, really, wouldn't it be a fine thing if we all wrote more thank-you notes?

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5. Paper pads. Of all our craft supplies, these are probably the most popular. If you have a crafter in your life, this is an easy gift - because who doesn't need more paper? Or, rather, who can't use more paper?! This nice 6x6 size is easy to incorporate into cards or cut up into garland triangles or other shapes.

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Other consumable/functional items: Wisconsin tea towels, assorted pint glasses, coasters, blank notes, note pads, journals, wrapping paper (or are we the only daughters who give their mom wrapping paper for future use?), and of course, any number of craft supplies for the creatives in your life.

Hope this helps!



playing with batik

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Yesterday I taught two batik tag workshops at Alicia Ashman library. Well, technically only one since everyone got scared off with the terrible weather, but my mom and niece stopped by so we had the room to ourselves during the second session.

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It's such a treat to use the space of the library and get to spread out to so many tables: one for ironing, one for dyeing, one for applying melted wax and two for drying. Each time I've refined the process - it was useful to focus just on small gift tags. I also limited the class to 10 so that worked well as far as the pace of the process and the amount of tools/supplies that we have. There are a few steps in the process that end up being bottlenecks but on the whole everything seemed to go smoothly. I do love batiking... though mostly this just made me itch to use the whole space for myself and spend an entire day playing around and experimenting.

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I particularly enjoyed using stencils - Stencil Girl stencils are really great to use. I feel like there's still some learning to do as far as which stencil will work best, but I think we got some nice designs out of them. I really love the feather stencil.

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I made a little progress on some batik pages that I'm using in some book projects but I feel like I'm still just fumbling around in the dark.

Prime example: of all the things I worked on, my favorite page was the back side of one of my batik pages that just has a light wash on it, and some dribbles from other pages. I love the intensity of batik dyes, but I also love this pastel version. It's fun, but also somewhat irritating - mostly that one's purposeful work falls short of one's accidental work. Which, yes, I know, suggests that I need to just kick that control freak part of me out of the way.

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And that totally made me think of Michelle Ward who does really great work with her scraps and other things that are incidentally created in the process of making (you know, the pieces of newsprint that are underlying everything? those were pretty fun on their own - and made me start thinking that maybe I should put some arches text paper underneath and create some interesting pages out of my dribbles). I learned a lot from her about being open to that serendipity. Now I just need to keep practicing it.

For example, how fun is this? The newsprint is used to iron off the wax - the first batch of batik I did created some interesting prayer-flag like texture on paper but I'm loving the silhouettes of the gift tags that we were working on. I kind of wish it was on paper that wasn't just newsprint, which, I can't help it, still conjures up the memory of learning my letters in elementary school and practicing on that irritating paper that would rip just at the sight of an eraser.

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We haven't yet corresponded with the libraries about 2015 but we have really enjoyed the partnership and hope that we are able to offer more workshops in the coming year!

week... ?

Hmm. I see from my schedule that this was supposed to be week 2. Is that really all the time that is left?! I've been trying to practice more math with my niece so yesterday we were calculating how many days until Christmas. We still have a little time to buy the last-minute supplies we need to finish up some craft projects. But I'd better not delay. I'm going to give myself a few more days on the week 2 post though; I'm not quite ready to declare that.

My head is all in a muddle - I alternate between thinking it is earlier than it is and thinking it is later. It doesn't help that vendors are sending us notes about ordering Valentines. It's strange to now be in that time that we've been essentially preparing for all year long. Even though we've had a really strong rest of the year, it's so easy to get caught up in the bustle of this time. At least, the time of placing orders is past - there's no way anything would arrive in time.... except, of course, for the things that we make ourselves and last minute pleas to local artists. Unfortunately that only clears the most fun task (buying) from my list of things to do. And instead of making things at night, I started a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle. A girl's gotta rest sometime.

Really, my big task at this point is restocking and assesssing what is where on the sales floor - is there something we have a lot of that isn't selling? something that is selling out and can thus be moved to a less prominent place? are most things in the window also on the sales floor? what was in that bare space that just opened up? and so on. The good news is that my dreams have been more or less pleasant of late so the stress dreams in which my former boss appeared to scold me about merchandising have abated.  Every few days I'm spending a little time moving things around - there's still a couple trouble spots that I have to deal with.

I find myself a little more worn out than usual at the end of the day but when sales are so much higher than they are on an average day at least I have an explanation. We are really really close to meeting sales for the entirety of 2013 so it feels like we are on pace for a good end to this year. I guess that my system of budgeting from last year just needed to add back in the winging it from the previous years. There's such a thing as not fixing what ain't broke but sometimes you need to double-check.

What else? I'm glad that I do most of my present shopping throughout the year, even though it means I am at risk of going over budget with last-minute impulse buys. My final task is writing my Christmas letter which has been a bigger stumbling block than usual this year. It's some combination of being audited and worrying about racial and financial inequality in this country that is giving me some trouble. I'm getting close. I already gave myself permission to send it late, as a New Year letter if need be, but there's something satisfying about being able to reciprocate and connect with people during the holidays that propels me to keep trying. We'll see what happens with that.


week 3: 10 under $10

oh, right, it's also that time of year when the need for little token gifts raises its head. Got a Secret Santa going at the office? Trading gifts with your book club? Going to visit second cousins? As always, we work on gathering an assortment of affordable and crafty goodness, some of the highlights in the under $10 category include:

1. magnets. Well, first I have to admit that my refridgerator is old so it actually holds magnets on the front. I don't know how you all do it with those stainless steel fridges. That would drive me crazy. I had to expand onto my file cabinet. Anyway, we have an assortment of magnets from souvenir to snarky and they make an easy present, in my opinion.

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2. stickers. Not just for kids... because who doesn't love stickers?

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3. Curly Girl cards. One of the very first companies that we ordered from, these cards have long been my favorites. Well, first I should mention that I actually decorate with cards: I have several of those floating IKEA shelves and I just prop about 6 cards on them, and change them around when I feel like it (because, trust me, I have more than 6 cards per shelf in my collection). The sentiments of these cards are very charming as is the artwork, and they make sweet little pieces to hang on the wall.

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 4. washi tape. We have a number of craft supplies that fit the under $10 price category but washi tape is probably my favorite of the moment. I'm making some more garlands with washi tape, and Sachi is taking a bunch to her workshop at Lakeview Library tonight. Even if someone is not very crafty, who doesn't need tape? And who couldn't stand a little tape WITH. GLITTER. on it?!

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5. Totoro coin purse. $3. You would be amazed at how many people love this guy. And I don't just mean kids. There are 20-somethings who watched it over and over again while growing up and a few of them tell me that every time they use it to pay for something, they get compliments.

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6. mini books. These charming books have letterpressed covers and an assortment of quotations inside relative to a particular theme: travel, love, childhood, cooking, retirement, encouragement, etc. What is it about little books? I can't resist them.

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7. Gift tags and other little pieces of paper. I like to tuck them into my niece's lunch box but they make nice enclosures and notes for other occasions as well.

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8. I know it is easy to get swept up in the consumerism of the season, but sometimes the best thing really is the loveliness of the thought that you can send. These great cards have a variety of inspiring quotations - I like to randomly pick one out and see what my message for the day is. Today was this:

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People regularly stand and sift through the entire box just to pick out the words that are meaningful to them and more than one person has carefully selected 6-8 for their friends.

 9. Wisconsin cards. We keep adding to our collection of Wisconsin notecards and I think this year might be our best yet, as determined by the existence of "I love you more than Culver's." As mentioned above, I often use cards as mini pieces of art for decoration

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10. mini colored pencils. Eek! How cute are these! I had a set of these when I was little and I treasured them. I don't know what it is about their smallness which is so appealing but I can tell by everyone's reactions that I'm not the only one who remembers them from childhood. They ARE functional, and you can just use a little pocket knife to sharpen them. But to be honest, I don't think I used them when I was little. I just enjoyed looking at them.

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Whoops. I though of one more. 11. IOU tokens. These pocket tokens are a variation on the coupon/IOU theme but they are resuable and could be traded back and forth. I think they are a sweet way to commit to giving some time to someone.

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