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June 2015
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August 2015

coloring books, who knew?!

Well, of course, it all makes sense.... Who doesn't like coloring? But apparently many of us forgot. I think what is most interesting to me is the way they are being packaged as meditation/stress relief tools. Now, anyone who does any sort of craft project with their hands probably doesn't need the reminder that doing things with your hands is a nice way to focus on the task at hand and clear your mind of other things and also relieve some stress. Again, apparently more of us needed the reminder.


We have been very inspired to see the many different lovely coloring books that are coming onto the market. A friend of mine actually traveled to Paris at least a year ago and came home to tell me that the big thing over there was coloring books. Guess it took a little while to reach us. I honestly think that all publishers are scrambling to try and meet demand so it is not just reserved for me. That said, my former boss would have some basic calculations: how much you sold in 1 week times the number of weeks you have (before, say, Christmas) and that gives you a ballpark of how many you should order. Let's just say it is in the hundreds according to her math. Of course, that works better when it is just a single item that you are working with. Meanwhile we are faced with a tempting array of choices: nature, Bollywood, Paris, flowers, geometric patterns, folk art patterns...  We just received some of the coloring books that we ordered in Atlanta so I've enjoyed about a week of not having my boss' voice yelling in my head about how I've underordered. In the meantime, I've got to sit down and do the calculations for Christmas.

I know, you didn't want to hear that word. Still, in my retail world, it IS Christmas, at least time to work on the budget and figure out what else we are missing that we didn't order in Atlanta or New York. Not exactly a sad task, though somewhat challenging as there is never really enough space for all the good things that I would order. As it is, things are feeling a little squashed in the office. We have been having a great summer so far - strong sales and lots of people coming in to the shop. We set a new all-time high the Saturday of the Art Fair, and broke that the following Saturday during Maxwell Street Days. Sachi and I are both teaching some workshops at the libraries in the next couple months, so there is some added clutter of workshop materials pulled into bins. I still have a little fantasy of a traveling bookmobile except with crafts. Then I wouldn't have to do all this packing and unpacking.

Speaking of unpacking, besides coloring books, other new arrivals at the shop include:

a further exploration of the mercantile/office supply/general store theme: office basics, including staplers and paper clips, with an Anthology twist, of course.


more mini memo pads from Japan, which caused one young customer to scold her friend: "OMG, why did you bring me here? I'm going to go broke!"



I've been working on some new designs in PhotoShop, including Christmas cards and a new print; while Sachi is going old school with hand-lettering and watercolors. She has a whole series inspired by one afternoon in Mineral Point.


And, it is getting to be calendar season. We still have a couple orders that we are waiting on but should have the full selection in about a week. We found some new planners this year so we have a bit more to choose from, including some that start with the academic year. I've got my eye on one in particular, even though it is totally impractical as I have barely managed to write in my thin planner, let alone this tome which I will be most likely to leave at home. Still debating about that. Maybe make it a visual journal?


and, of course, we both cringe and relish the national spotlight on Wisconsin's Governor as he runs for President. Sachi was inspired to make a card that pretty much sums it all up, a riff on his mistaken greeting to a rabbi, which may or may not have been sent, but which was discovered in the John Doe  investigation, and totally explains why Scott Walker would want to do away with open records, given that this would have not come to light had we not been able to check in on what our elected officials are up to. Meanwhile, I'm working on a mini print. As with all things Scott Walker, it is mostly a question of winnowing out and refining the blunders. So many to choose from! Mostly I'm trying to make sure that people within two degrees of separation of me know why he is unfit for the White House so if you have anyone in doubt, feel free to send them my way.



home again, home again

Well, I'd say that was a successful trip. Other than the fact that the weather was in the 90s and I think we didn't adjust our pace of working to a Southern pace. This was the first year that Sachi came with me and, as planned, she found things that I wouldn't have found. We have a couple exciting customized wares coming our way, including a Madison version of these city rocks glasses in fun rainbow colors.

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Oh, and, finally! key rings! I get so many requests for key rings, and mostly people are wanting souvenir Madison/Wisconsin key rings. The problem is that what I find is usually not that charming. But we love this simple graphic design, happily available as a wood key ring.

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It does seem in the south that there is a lot more monogram and custom action going on. Though we didn't get carried away with letters on things, we were excited about some alphabet ornaments that look as though they were cut out from paint-by-number canvases. It has me off on a tangent that I'm not sure will actually materialize, but something about paint-by-number and the coloring book craze has some wheels turning. Speaking of coloring books, I think I might have lost track of all the books that we ordered. It seems like everyone is coming out with interesting floral/mandala designs, though my absolute favorite was the travel coloring book series with great scenes and collections of various items (like a whole page of shoes, another of pastries, another of lanterns) from the various places. Those, unfortunately, are still in planning stage. Add to that the issues of tremendous demand and not enough printing presses around the world, means that more coloring books will be arriving to the shop anytime between 2 weeks and 3 months from now. But I will be sure to keep you posted.

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Despite the fact that we purchased plenty of paper goods in New York and I'm running out of spinner space (and regularly lecture Sachi on not buying square blank cards), I succumbed to one new company from the UK, with little plastic animals with clever dialog. I think my favorite is the rainbow unicorn trying to come out to his horse parents. (spoiler alert: they already knew).

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and Sachi found a contemporary/hipster card designer with lots of pop culture references. This one might be my favorite:

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Other Sachi finds include a new Minnesota jewelry artist, sweet necklaces with semi-precious stones, little purses with fun fabric including walruses and hedgehogs, and boxed pencils that will be custom printed with "Madison" in a  bright red across the seafoam green.

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and one of my finds: cute little roller stamps that I've been coveting since I saw them in a friend's studio: little houses, hedgehogs, trees and sewing notions, among others.

We also stopped in the lovely Papaya showroom and were inspired by various merchandising ideas, including paint on mirrors and mini clipboards with dip-dyed burlap as a backdrop for new cards. Not to  mention their lovely new arrivals with inspiring text and gold foil. Those are already on their way, but other orders will be staggered across the next couple months. Gotta have some things for the holidays!

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off to Atlanta

Sachi and I are heading off to Atlanta this week for another buying trip. We'll be back late on Friday night, just in time for the Art Fair On/Off the Square.

This trip is not as charming as the Stationery Show in New York, but it gives us a good chance to see trends in various products and pick up some new vendors as well as visit with existing vendors. perhaps see what we can find for fixtures. I've taken this trip three years on my own but we finally have enough staff that the two of us can be gone. I'm looking forward to sharing the Atlanta experience with my sister, even though it mostly looks like this:


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That's the inside of one of three 13+ story buildings housing showrooms and booths from various vendors. There is quite a lot that is mass-produced and coming from overseas so of little interest to us, but each year I've managed to find some Wisconsin vendors as well as some hand crafted goods from independent companies here in the U.S. I think the funniest thing my first year was to round a corner and see Spring Green, Wisconsin on a sign. Spring Green?! I traveled all the way for that?! 

The theme last year was mostly about finding things I had always wanted: knee socks, jewelry with text, French linens, chew beads. Now it is Sachi's turn.

Besides covering ... oh, let's be realistic.. about a third of the booths at this show, I've already scoped out some places to eat and a few shopping spots. I'm not sure if we'll have time, but I try to go to Decatur to take in some of the local indie crafts at HomeGrown Decatur, where I often get some Christmas shopping done.

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and hopefully take the streetcar to their Sweet Auburn Curb Market and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site .

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As Madison is going through its own building boom, I am especially interested to visit other downtowns and see how things have shaped up. Atlanta, it seems, is working these last two years on bringing retail back downtown. They had a pop-up shop program last year and some stores stuck around, so I am eager to return to The Byrd's Box. The Atlanta gift show that we go to definitely features some southern indie artists but it is always nice to find little indie shops - they are oftentimes as inspiring and productive a stop as any booth at the trade show. 

Now I don't know for sure who is reading this blog at this point, but I know there are two charming Canadians who come to town for the Art Fair. There are still a few nice coloring books at the front of the store that you might enjoy taking a look at - I don't know if that's such a big thing there as it is here. I don't know if you are doing lots with washi tape but we are quite fond of the tape that just arrived last week with various scenes from Hong Kong. Sachi and I will be back to the shop on Saturday so we hope you'll stop in and say hello.



color palettes

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I'll admit I'm somewhat envious of DesignSeeds and the constant generation of color palettes - but also enjoying inspiration of various color combinations. I am also, at home, in the midst of my major reorganization of collage scraps, sorted by color, naturally, which has spun off into creating a bunch of scrapbooks in different color themes...  Do you ever feel like you have never made any progress at all in your life? Well, that's not quite the right way to say it. Just that what is a primary preoccupation remains so? I have spent my life sorting things by color.

Anyway, my latest preoccupation is sorting Anthology products by color. Although pictures of new arrivals are perfectly suitable, I've just been thinking about diversifying with respect to the photos I post here, on Facebook and on Instagram. I think this is partly fueled by all the collection images I see on Pinterest, not to mention the photography of places like Present and Correct, and the piece created for our store business card/advertising by the amazing Holly Whittlef.


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I don't have a regular schedule planned, but if you are on Instagram, I'd invite you to follow us there for this new series, plus our own creative endeavors, the inspiration of others', travel pics and scenes from shopgirl life.


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Whoa. Well, this has been quite a couple weeks! I hardly know where to begin, except, of course, with congratulations to all the people whose personhood has been acknowledged last week! Seems like a variety of fronts upon which we made advances. I have come to the realization that the notion of liberty and justice for all is one that still requires much work, especially since it contains an inherent conflict in the way individual liberties can impinge upon those of other people, not to mention on the work of justice for all. Still, when your individual liberty is to be exclusionary or even violent towards other people, it seems like there needs to be a little tempering of that liberty in the name of justice. So, anyway, a good week. I'm in the middle of reading Above Us Only Sky by Michele Young-Stone, which among other times and places, includes some sections on Lithuania under Russian and German occupation. Not a pretty picture. Though I know it is fiction, it is still a good reminder that all my flailing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the regime of Scott Walker pales in comparison to what other people have had to endure. Always good to have some reminder of all the things you should be grateful for. (That hasn't changed my mind about Scott Walker, mind you). so, yay for same sex marriage! fair housing! health care!

At the shop it has been an otherwise busy time, too. Summer is here in earnest though the relatively cool temps are deceiving me about the passage of time (I was surprised when it was the end of May and surprised once again at the end of June. I'm blaming it on the cooler than usual weather). The coloring book craze has only caught us off guard in terms of trying to keep the store stocked. Of COURSE we are unsurprised that people would enjoy doing something with their hands and with color. We are managing to keep a steady rotation of different books, but certain titles are definitely fast to sell out.

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One of the newest arrivals from the Stationery Show are these charming postcards and notecards.

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Besides keeping the store stocked with coloring books, we're mostly keeping up with restocking the store. New arrivals come often which is a good thing and yet some shelf space gets freed up so things are going out the door as well. Still, I've had a few moments where shipments arrived and I just put them in the office because I wasn't ready to face making room for them. Who ordered all this anyway? Oh. Right. Me. and my sister.

Of course there are note cards, including the line of empathy cards from Emily McDowell.

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Hot-sellers have been restocked, including the colorful ChewBeads, bird magnets, cute embroidery kits,

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and more Wisconsin prints

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My own new Madison prints are selling well so I'm feeling a little better about our silent sisterly competition (Sachi's lil' cheese curd onesie has been selling like crazy so I feel the need to catch up).  I have several more designs in mind, which is good, since Sachi has three new card designs. Our Mother says she did nothing to encourage this competition between us but I think it comes down through the paternal line.

In other exciting news, we're working with an artist on some custom felt pennants for the shop, and my years of begging are starting to pay off with two other Minnesota artists. Don't hold your breath, but I think we'll be getting that Wisconsin hugging Minnesota image in a pint glass. And this popular tea towel of Wonders of Wisconsin is on its way in sheet paper form.

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In other Wisco news, we got the bamboo cutting board in its smaller iteration, and an instant best-seller Wisconsin map with spaces for saving your bottlecaps (comes in a small and medium size, as well as a wall size,

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We also received another order of blooms from Rifle Paper Co: prints, cards and notepads. So lovely!

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 Other arrivals... let's see:  Boston Terrier knee-hi socks, Rock and Roll Alphabet book, Goodnight Loon, cut out alphabet books, Midwesterner onesie. & More!