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March 2015

writing letters


So, as usual, the second after I hit the "send" button, I started having second thoughts. Is it useful for me to send a letter to legislators who are out of my district? Does it do more harm than good? But the state of this state affects my business so I am not without justification. And aren't all Wisconsin legislators ultimately all of ours? It is perhaps my sense of sadness and anger that led me to send letters in haste last night but I'm just going to go with it.

So, here's the letter I sent. Still too long to be a letter to the editor. But I'm sending it to the Gov and to all legislators. Already getting the "if you aren't in my district, I probably won't reply to you" emails as well as this one from Walker: "I take into account the views of all of the citizens of Wisconsin, and I will keep your specific comments in mind during my service as your Governor." Yeah, right.


Dear Governor Walker and Wisconsin Legislators:

I am writing to you as a graduate of the Madison public schools and the University of Wisconsin, and as a member of the Wisconsin Business Alliance.  Though writing from Madison may leave me outside your district, I am writing as Wisconsin business owner with customers from around the state. I ask you to vote against “right to work,” the proposed cuts to the University, the ongoing cuts to the public school system, the undermining of environmental stewardship, and privatizing what should be government work (for the greater good, not for profit). I am very concerned about the effects of such legislative and budgetary actions upon the prosperity of Wisconsin’s citizens, and thus the success of my own business, not to mention others around the state.

Until I started my own business with my sister in 2008, I never understood what people were talking about when they said government should be run more like a business. I still don’t entirely agree, but there are some things about running a business which I think that this state is ignoring at its peril. What does it mean to run a business? First and foremost, is the realization of my complete dependence upon other people: my business is nothing if not for customers, taxpayers, union members, government employees, students, women, employees, family. The success of my business depends upon the success of everyone.

Other than that, there are really only two things on my mind:

1. What is new and unique? I am constantly on the lookout for new products and how I can differentiate myself from others. Just a hint: someone can always offer lower prices. What is Wisconsin doing to cultivate new industries and new customers in areas where growth is occurring? Is it really useful to undercut University research and teaching? How are we building upon what is unique about this state, the good people, great schools and natural resources?

2. How can I get more money?  How do I reach more customers and get them to spend more? What is Wisconsin doing about the earnings of the majority of its citizens? Frankly, the $60 I saved in property taxes can either be undermined or exponentially increased in a matter of minutes if I have more customers earning and spending more money. What is Wisconsin doing about the welfare of all of its citizens, about their quality of life and earning potential? I have seen distressingly little action that would bolster my customers and thus my business.

Please note that taxes are not on that list. To be clear, I pay taxes, I just don’t base any of my business decisions on how they might change.

So, I ask you: what is this state doing to promote growth? How is the budget or SB44 in service of such growth? What actions have been taken that would benefit the majority of my customers (the women? the middle class?). I have seen little evidence  that voucher and charter school expansion, “right” to work and reduced University funding will improve the bottom line of this business that is all of ours, the state of Wisconsin. I ask you to honor your commitment to our state Constitution and to all the people in your district and this state, to preserve that which keeps us unique and above all, improves the prosperity of all of our citizens.

Thank you very much for your service and your attention.


Laura Komai, co-owner, Anthology

deep breath

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So today was a day of protest at the Capitol for the.... I mean, really, do I even have to call it "right to work" in quotation marks? There's nothing right about it. I've heard "wage theft bill" and made a button for a customer today that was "right to mooch." There were protests last week for the University budget cuts, and, indeed, ongoing protests on that. Meanwhile there are so many other things wrong with legislative and budgetary proposals that I hardly know where to begin. Sachi got her dose of solidarity and energy when she and her husband went up to the Square over lunchtime. Mom is planning to bus down tomorrow. I caught little snippets watching the union guys go by. And we commiserated with customers and had an otherwise lively day of sales and conversations. It was a bittersweet remembrance of four years ago. Still, someone from Beaver Dam said what I was thinking: "disheartened." Well, I was remembering that sign of an elderly woman protesting women's rights which said "I can't believe I'm still protesting this shit." I feel so proud of all the ways that Wisconsinites have come together, have spoken up, have connected, yet it is still discouraging to have such a disconnect between what I want for this state and the direction it is going in. I'm trying to console myself with the reminder that someone I know who moved to Minnesota has since moved back. Still, that's where I'm at. Not exactly a cheerful blog post.

I think Sachi was a little discouraged at the lack of businesses represented at the Capitol. We feel very strongly that unions have a positive effect on the take-home pay of Wisconsin citizens which , in turn, is to the benefit of our store. We question the motives of legislators who push for such laws as the benefits to the state seem paltry. On a good note, I am proud of our membership in the Wisconsin Business Alliance and really appreciated Lori Compass' report of the lack of support from local Chambers of Commerce.

and now... sigh.... just got word this evening that the bill passed through committee with, as near as I can tell, less than 24 hours between when it was presented and when it passed. You know, I'm sorry to be whiny about this and I promise I will revisit all my optimistic cheering-up posts shortly, but I feel like our state is being sold out from under us, one piece at a time. Who benefits from this? Another few rich people who want to squeeze some more profit from those who actually do the work. Where is the benefit to Wisconsin workers? where is the benefit to Wisconsin's small businesses? to Wisconsin communities? You know, to the actual constituents of these reckless politicians? *sob* I'm left with the feeling that so much haste and secrecy surrounds governing these days that we won't even have a chance to find out all that has been done until we are in the midst of regretting the state of the state.

Still, I'm thankful for the people who showed at the Capitol.

And, of course, I am thankful for the feelings of solidarity. I'm thankful for the opportunity to take action - so many different ways! I wrote my letter to the Senators and the Governor even though his response was laughable. ("I take into account the views of all of the citizens of Wisconsin, and I will keep your specific comments in mind during my service as your Governor." I don't think I've ever felt this to be less true than I feel now). Clearly the letter will have to go to Assembly next week.

I'm thankful for all the things that I love about Wisconsin and about Madison.

I like this quotation from Dale Carnegie, it suits me well.

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." 

I'm thankful for new work. Sachi and I have both been working on new designs and the pint glasses arrived yesterday. Yes, I love my little island. And of course there were buttons to be made.


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Tomorrow is Wednesday. "Right to Work" goes to the full Senate for a vote. Mom and Sachi are going to the rally at noon. I'm bringing all our paperwork to the tax preparer and then I'm going to work on some new t-shirt designs, send my letter to the rest of the legislators, see if I can edit it down for a letter to the editor.  We'll keep working away in our little ways, and hopefully the gap between Wisconsin and Minnesota won't keep growing.


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two sisters hard at work

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I'm feeling overwhelmed a little bit and there is a longer blog post in the works but in the meantime, I thought I'd share that we are, indeed, both getting work done. Sachi has a new t-shirt design in store, and I'm working on three more designs (two of mine and one of hers) to get ready for the printer.

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Also, I have new postcards and mini notes/gift tags, with more note cards and mini notes on their way, now that I finally figured out how to mask in PhotoShop.





catching up, all in one fell swoop

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So, first of all... ta da! I spent almost all of Monday and Wednesday in PhotoShop dealing with a backlog of good intentions. Cleaned up some of Sachi's drawings to send to the printers for pint glasses and note cards, tried to learn about clipping and text masks and started work on some new postcard/print/ t-shirt designs that I've been scolding myself about. Unfortunately I did not have the flash drive with all the Madison photos so I had to content myself with the few that I had on file there. Still, I'm practicing more and more in PhotoShop and keep finding new things to do. I'm happy with my little Capitol/Lakes silhouette, and am also imagining a series of Wisconsin silhouettes with various photos - maybe for gift tags and postcards?

As far as the shop is concerned, there was a pile of arrivals awaiting our return. and it pretty much all makes me happy (as you might expect since I ordered most of it) which eases the transition from vacation.

First, ribbon. Isn't it lovely?! You can't even imagine how much ribbon there was to choose from but I did have to watch the pennies. Well, it's a start anyway.

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Second, sketchbooks and notebooks with a variety of papers: blank, lined, grid, dot. I'm finding the dot quite useful for my hand lettering projects that are still in the rough draft stages.

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And, of course, we're getting ready for Valentine's Day. The card table is set-up but we also have an assortment of Valentines from our many clever artists around the country. There's a definite spike in the ration of men to women shopping.


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We also received this new Wisconsin print so the collection continues to grow.

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And new flour sack towels from a pair of artists in New Mexico. I love the graphics, and, yes, I'm hoping to persuade them to create a Wisconsin/Madison one for us though I will settle for the Northwoods one for now.

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I really need to sit down and work on new buttons! I really felt like I was in pretty good shape coming back from vacation but then Sachi asked me if I was going to install a new window and someone else mentioned that it was the 4th anniversary of the protests which has got me thinking about the week that it all started.  I feel so fortunate that I was able to be witness and participant. I am thankful for all the connections that arose because of the protests even though I'm utterly frustrated at the deaf ears the protests otherwise fell on. So, yes, a new window is in order. It's good that we were out of town the week that the budget was unveiled - I took a little break from the news but of course being back in town means I'm right back in the thick of stewing over things. But at least there is constructive work to be done. Sachi is working on buttons, and I'm doing a thorough restock as well (nice to have something to do with one's hands even if it is discouraging that the same buttons still hold as true today as they did four years ago). And apparently Walker complained that the threats from the protesters forced him to get to the Capitol via underground tunnels so as to avoid the menacing crowd. My brother-in-law rightly pointed out that we couldn't let that slide. So here's our reminder of the menace:

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This week is also the week to get all my paperwork in order for the tax man. Well, I haven't even dealt with my personal taxes but I've been busy getting the store's ready. He has to start with those first, so that buys me a little time (maybe a week?) to get all my papers in order. So, from a leisurely return to work it has turned into a busy week, so much so that after yoga on Wednesday (during which I tried to breathe and focus but was somewhat distracted by the thoughts bouncing around in my head), I came back downtown and installed the window. So, that's taken care of.

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And, what else? oh, we got our favorite Culver's card back in. I can already tell I didn't order enough.

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No, for real. We did actually leave town for a week but I can see that I have been neglectful. My apologies. Just as soon as I sort through this pile of paperwork, I promise to fill you in on all the comings and goings. I see a big pile of empty boxes so there surely are some new arrivals.

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Although in past years we have gone on a buying trip to the L.A. area, this year we decided to actually take a vacation so we spent a week in the San Diego area. Sachi found a great VRBO a few blocks away from Swami's Beach in Encinitas. Now, I don't know about you, but I am a beach girl. There's something about the uncluttered sightlines and sound of the waves that soothes me. It is possible that is a part of me which is unfulfilled by the lack of white space in my life? But it will have to make do with these occasional trips to the beach. I like the shop and my home full as it is.

In any event, we spent a lot of time walking on the beach, but also doing all the family-friendly things that one does when vacationing with a 7 year-old: the Safari Park, the Aquarium. We think this cutie should be the new owl.

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I was on my own for the Zoo and Legoland days, and enjoyed more leisurely walking on the beach, as well as checking out some local shops.

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and also indulging my obsession with succulents.

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and, of course, we ate lots of good food.

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The weather was quite amazing. Especially considering the state of Wisconsin politics, it was tempting to just stay there. At the least, I think Wisconsin should close mid-February to mid-March and we should all move to Encinitas. 

The snow is pretty but I do need to turn the heat back up at home. My nose was cold last night. But at least it isn't Boston. But then will come the drearies of March and April, when any pretty residual of snow gives way to muck and clumps and piles of discarded cigarettes. Which reminds me of this sign that I saw in Oceanside which I would love to replicate and put all over the sidewalks.

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And, now, for real. Back to work. I will return shortly with pictures of all the new arrivals.