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April 2015
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June 2015

as promised, in part

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Hmm, I feel like I hyped up the arrival of the catalogs too much. Now that they have arrived and I've compared them to the purchase orders and the emails that I keep receiving from vendors, it is clear that we didn't pick up catalogs from nearly all the vendors we ordered from (good thing too, given how heavy my bags already were). But at least here's a taste. (please keep in mind these are pictures of catalog pages - not everything in the pictures is what will arrive, and everything looks better in person).

Although the space issue is an ongoing challenge, I had been feeling like our selection of wrapping paper sheets needed a little freshening so that was one of my priorities. I think we found a nice assortment, from viewfinders and mix tapes to lovely florals and otomi.

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Notepads, especially featuring the painterly watercolor washes and abstract florals.

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Party supplies: paper garlands, cupcake toppers, confetti, decorations...


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Crafty things: kits, washi tape, coloring postcards.

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Note books and journals.

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Though less than in previous years, we also found some new prints and other home decor items, such as these wall art pieces which Sachi originally purchased for herself at Artists & Fleas in the Chelsea Market.

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and, of course, note cards. Mom says: "where are you going to put it all?!!" but, seriously, we've been running low on cards.

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We've already received some shipment notifications from some vendors; otherwise will be coming in over the next few months. We hope you have a chance to stop in and check everything out!


For real....  Oh my goodness, is there ever so much catching up to do. But the real camera is in another place and all the catalogs and swag are currently en route via USPS. Seriously, we had so much to carry back from NYC that we needed to get a flat rate box from the post office! I think we placed about 40 orders, all of which will be arriving to the shop over the course of the next four months. I know, we want it all now too, but there is seriously no room. Anyway, I promise that I will follow up with a more thorough post once the catalogs arrive and I can share more pictures.  In the meantime, I would remind you that we are on Instagram, which is another peek into this shopgirl life. 


Off the top of my head, upcoming arrivals include: washi tape (Boston Terrier! cactus! chevron!), wrapping paper (floral! whales! vintage campers!), note cards (SO many note cards for so many occasions: coming out! birthday! cancer! same-sex adoption! weddings!), calligraphy starter kit, calendars, gift tags, boxed thank you cards, sheets of writing paper, staplers, confetti, notebooks...


And lots of inspiration to be had in booth layout and product design!

Some design trends: lovely hand-writing, abstract paint/brush work, soft pastels. And other excitement: an assortment of notecards from Australian and British illustrators. But, really, I will write in more detail once the catalogs arrive. It's all kind of a blur; plus there were times when we split up and wrote orders separately so I still don't entirely know what Sachi ordered. I think we only almost accidentally ordered from the same artist once. Oh, and by my calculation, the one time that someone thought my daughter had been in the booth earlier totally makes up for a couple years' worth of Sachi and I being mistaken for twins. Seriously, if you have to guess if someone is related, maybe don't ask if there' s a generation separating you.

As for the rest of the trip, I think one of the highlights for me (aside from the food), was stumbling upon an exhibit in ABC Carpet and Home of calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh. That was on our last night, when I was feeling pretty exhausted from the trip. New York City is very exciting but super busy and seems like a lot of work; part of me is always wondering what it takes to be a shopgirl in such a place, and gets tired out by the thought; another part of me felt like I spent the entire week either in someone's way or with someone in my way. Lots of people for this introvert. So it was good for my soul to come across this exhibit and the gorgeous merchandising they did around it. I mean, that place is so exquisite. We laugh because there will be something for $15 next to something for $4000. and everything is displayed in such a lovely manner. They are doing a lot of sand/glitter art all around and all the glittering and careful yet casual arrangement made me very happy.


This text was particularly fitting given my feelings of wanting to be home...


Aside from unpacking, I am in the middle of some ongoing decluttering (the ultimate goal is to clear enough space to get the sewing studio out of our parents' basement). Naturally, there are many distractions along the way. Currently: what to do about old journals? Before I acknowledged that I don't deal well with a big blank page, I let the appeal of blank books get the best of me. Now there is a shelf of books - I call it the shelf of failed good intentions, each with about four pages written in them. I re-read one page this morning and, honestly, am not at all sure I want to read any more of that - the anguish of being 20something? it was enough to live through all those questions once. And I have been tempted by the art journal works of various people. But I wonder if that will just be more of my same failed intentions. Though I have been successful with my travel journals of late. So maybe there's hope. I hear about all these people who are journaling their intentions and making them come true. and I think that some of the process of journaling is working through thoughts and plans, so I just have to get over my thinking about having something perfectly in mind before I can commit it to paper. Anyway, where was I? Thinking about journaling and what is a useful form for me, and also how to convert all the existing books into that useful form. I am thinking right now that I will do a little mono printing and collaging to move the pages from their unhelpful blank state.

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I was also asked to write a little blurb about courage so I have been revisiting my Alice in Wonderland altered book and the process of leaving my old job to start Anthology. Now there's an example of a book that I enjoy revisiting. I have to make more like that. Which brings me back to decluttering. Because in the old days, I used to make books I would call happy books which were really just assortments of cut-outs from magazines. I have a big box of things meant for such books so I'm thinking right now that I will get to work on attaching those scraps into book form. I did a little last night - and more importantly, managed to find some scraps that no longer qualify for the happy book and were thus sent to recycling. Bit by bit I will make progress.

And in other distracting news, I keep learning about new apps for the iPad. The latest has me making fun modifications to pictures and thinking about what might be next for a series of cards and prints for the shop. Of course, New York was very inspiring so I have lots of ideas swirling around. Anyway, I just wanted to give you a brief update. In a few days, the flat rate box should arrive from New York and then I can give you a better update about all the new arrivals. 






NYC, here we come!

Just a few short days away from heading out the New York City for the National Stationery Show! How excited are we?! You have no idea. I have always loved the idea of this show, since way back when I first heard about it and tried to convince my boss that we should go there. Since the store I was working at did only a very small business in paper goods, it really wasn't practical. But you can bet it was first on our list when we opened Anthology. Now I'm thinking back to our first trip in 2008, when the store had only been open a few months, and where we brought along the baby and took turns walking the aisles. And now it is 2015 and we have all grown so much!


In retail, the effects of the internet can sometimes be the elephant in the room, but I have to say that I'm optimistic about the fate of brick & mortar retail, not to mention the fate of things actually printed on paper. Despite all the ways we have of staying in touch digitally, people still buy cards! Those "kids" (and adults, too) who are walking around with their noses buried in their smartphones? They have helped increase our sales of paper goods .. not quite tenfold, but still, substantially. And isn't it so much nicer to receive something on paper? We've been experiencing that ourselves these last few weeks as various stationers send us their invitation to stop and visit their booth. The mail has been quite inspiring, particularly the hand-addressed envelopes. Inspiring me to think more about my own hand-lettering.

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We will be gone for most of next week but thankfully all the part-timers are stepping up to the task. We will be open reduced hours but you can still stop by and get your paper fix. But stay tuned for all the orders and arrivals that will be coming in over the next few months! We are looking forward to seeing the new trends and designs, and getting a better handle on some vague ideas that have been taking shape for the direction of the store for its next 7 years.

Meanwhile, around the store, we are definitely getting ready for summer tourist season. Graduation at the UW was yesterday and today and we have many people in from out of town, as well as many students coming in to buy gifts. Sachi and I have been scrambling a bit - I don't know why graduation continues to catch us off guard. I guess I was too focused on Mother's Day. But I did install the graduation window early in the week and we have plenty of Madison mementos and inspiring prints/journals, as well as cards, of course. We were particularly excited to receive this postcard from a Minnesota artist, with the promise of the same design in wrapping paper size to come in the near future.

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We've also been working with a new artist on a custom Wisconsin design and we got the shirts back from the printer this week. We're in awe at the level of detail - we sent a list of options, but he added many more, including the Fonz.  How could I forget about the Fonz?!!

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Sachi also got her latest addition to her onesie series: the Minnesota hot dish.

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And I don't know if you've heard, but coloring books are all the rage. There's one in particular that is so popular, the paper makers can't keep up. We have more on order but are sold out at the moment. That said, we have a great new coloring book from a Wisconsin artist (which I think is even better than the Scottish one, not that I'm biased or anything), and many other options to choose from. I'm still enjoying my still life floral bouquets on nicer artist paper which is holding up to twinkling watercolors and providing a nice diversion in the evenings.

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And by this time next week, I will have an update for you on all the exciting things we've come across in NYC. I'm not at all sure of our internet access while we're there, but will remind you that we are now on Instagram so you can check there for the most immediate impressions of the show, internet connections willing. ooohh.... we can't wait to see what we find!




a little giddy

Do I say this every spring? and is it just because my eyes are so tired of the gray and white of winter? But, seriously, this spring is SO lovely! The magnolias seem to be lasting longer than usual and I've found several trees that I didn't even know about. And now the crab apples are starting to burst into bloom - on the way to work this morning, I kept exclaiming over the profuse blooms. And then will be the lilacs. and the various acid green shades of new leaves. I think a girl could be excused for being giddy.

To top it all off... I suppose every year there is some new trend or direction or product to be excited about, but it feels like this year is particularly strong. Sometimes there's a bit of a lag from winter but this year we have several projects in the works that make for a promising summer tourist season. I'm really excited about working with a new t-shirt artist - and I'm sorry to tease you, but you'll just have to wait 'til we have them in store. The serendipity of some of these happenings is quite fun. For example, a Madison College student picked us for a graphics design project and now we've got an awesome image for our next set of advertising postcards and gift cards. Didn't she do an amazing job?!
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In the line of new arrivals with some level of customization at our request: we have a new Madison food map (and these same artists are working on a Wisconsin patch for us). I'm getting better at finding people who might do custom work, not to mention describing what I'm actually looking for. The ideal is to find someone whose work you like and who would hopefully just need minor tweaking in order to add to our Wisco/Midwest collection.

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Or just have someone stop in the store with something that is a perfect fit, like our restock of the Wisconsin notepads.

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So, despite that fact that every year I am slightly caught off guard by graduation (I don't know what it is - am I focusing too much on Mother's Day? skipping over to summer? focused on June high school graduation?), I feel like we are in good shape: plenty of Wisco charm necklaces, graduation cards, and, of course, prints.

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Meanwhile, Mother's Day is upon us. For once this year, I am not worried about running out of cards, but only after a marathon session in Photoshop on Monday making a few last minute cards. Thank goodness for local printers.

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We have a great collection of cards and the simple sign in the window is doing the trick. My former boss was the one who first told me to just keep it simple... and it is amazing how many people walk by and exclaim: "Mother's Day is May 10!"


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In other news: Our discussion with our landlord has finally been settled to everyone's satisfaction so that is a load off our minds. The original letter was for $18,000 for a year's worth of utilities - we can only laugh about it now because it has been reduced to match the usage on our 1000 square feet of space (instead of the 9000 of the entire building). I don't know what kind of revenue people think small businesses take in, but we'd have to sell about 8000 note cards to pay that bill.

On a good note, it has been a week full of birthday celebrations of our fellow small businesses. We wish a happiest of 25th birthdays to Little Luxuries, with special thanks to Janice Durand, the founder, who taught us so much about running a business. And we also send a happy 40th birthday to A Room of One's Own and Orange Tree Imports. We feel fortunate to have such strong women role models for successful retail careers in this community.

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We had a really great experience with UW-Madison School of Business students who worked on some marketing ideas for us. In these times of budget cuts and assorted attacks on public schools, it felt like we were living the best of the Wisconsin Idea: a small business partnering with the University to benefit from the knowledge of that body. In the course of our lifetime, we have benefited so much from public schools from elementary to graduate levels; we definitely feel that we owe our success to so much of what Scott Walker is trying to undermine. So I guess that means we all have to step up to shore it all up. Sachi's been volunteering at Lily's elementary school and I've been trying to figure out how I can be most helpful. I do love reading children's books so I could happily sit for hours and do that but I'm not sure that any child wants to sit for hours. I'm starting to think maybe volunteering in the art classes? I mean, surely the art teachers could use some help cutting paper and wiping up paint? I was so inspired by the art in the hallway at the elementary school, it seems like it would be fun to witness more such work.

Meanwhile at the shop, our dressers have filled up as if they were never gone. I'm having some ongoing challenges with photographing this store - it never looks as charming as the places in the Mary Engelbriet or Martha Stewart magazines! But I'm so happy with the dressers themselves and super excited for Lovely Retro Renos to redo more for us.

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For one brief moment, we had this hot new coloring book in stock. That lasted less than a day. There are more on order, but I would also like to mention that there's a Wisconsin artist who I would consider on par with this UK artist: Kim Geiser - in fact, her doodles have some stronger components of whimsy and inspiration, in my opinion. We'll be getting her coloring books next week so stay tuned!

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Oh, and one big reason for our giddiness? The National Stationery Show is only a few weeks away! We'll be heading out to New York City for a sister trip. Whoo hoo! No one raising their eyebrow at the fact that we are going into a paper store even though we've just spent 8 hours looking at paper goods! The lead up to the show is always fun as we receive postcards and announcements/invitations from our various papergoods vendors - and, boy, do some of them go all out! What a thrill to get real mail. I really need to send more letters. If you haven't yet checked us out on Instagram, that's where you can keep track of all the mail we've been getting, and perhaps find inspiration in stationery design and/or lettering. I'm still trying to adjust to the iPad/camera/computer interface, not to mention finding WiFI and also trying not to double post too much between Facebook, this blog and Instagram. If you are visual as I am, you might enjoy the pictures on Instagram without all the narration, but I will try not to be too neglectful of this blog, either.

And I think that's it for now. I'm not expecting too many new arrivals this coming week but I will be sure to share any new goings-on. I'm in the process of reorganizing my studio and I'm embarrassed to say that there's no way I can share any "before" pictures with you. There's just too much. But I'm making progress on some winnowing so I think I might actually be able to consolidate my sewing studio (in my parents' basement) with the rest of the sewing + paper crafts. Maybe even in time to avoid having to put that on next year's New Year resolution list.