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September 2015

more Wisco goodness

We're getting to the time of year when our focus turns to simply getting stocked up for the holidays. There's usually a little lull in the customers in September: a little breath between summer tourists and holiday shoppers, which means I can do a little cleaning and crunching and rearranging, figure out the rest of the windows for the year, and get to work on the rest of the orders - calculating what sold best from the new orders from New York and Atlanta, figuring last year's best sellers and how much we need for this year, and trying to find room to put it all. This time of year has a slightly different feel to it than the first half of the year, which is so focused on finding new artists and products, and, especially this year, creating or collaborating on new Wisco goods for the shop. It's fun to look back on past Christmases and see what the hot sellers were, and what new things have come along since then. It's also been fun to see the birds come up to roost on all our collaborations and hunting from earlier in the year. In all, it feels like we've been able to keep growing the collection of Wisco goods.

The latest additions in the past few weeks:

Sachi's find, which we called rainbow, but are really red, blue, green. The rainbow is perhaps more evident when you see the entire collection available from these Los Angeles sisters, who have created rocks glasses for a variety of locations, mostly big cities around the country. Naturally, we couldn't resist the temptation to have a custom Madison version.

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Volume 2 fresh from the shores of Lake Michigan somewhere near Manitowoc:


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and in other coloring book news, we continue to receive coloring books from our various publishers, but we've also been inspired to create an Anthology coloring book. We're gathering works from the artists we work with and are already up to a two-volume set. Look for arrival in store in early October.

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We've also enjoyed having a little coloring station up at the craft table.

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Other Wisco arrivals include a new print filled with signs and business logos from around the state. It's not just the colors, but it has a nostalgic feeling to it, some logos that I remember from my childhood, I guess.


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sweet cut out earrings:

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and Sachi's badger hugging Wisconsin on a felt pennant:  DSCN6733 (800x600)


Speaking of Wisco goodness, I enjoyed a quick beach getaway to the shores of Lake Michigan, including a stop in Sheboygan for some very tasty dinners and for this fun sight:

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In non-Wisco news, arrivals also include: awesome socks, colorful planners and sweet prints.

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I'll be away again next week but I see many orders with a 9/1 ship date so I will try to post an update shortly after I return.

how did THAT happen?!

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So, it's my birthday today. 44! Did all that time go quickly, or what? Now, I don't know if you are aware of this, but my general practice is to celebrate my birthMONTH, and, in fact, to celebrate plus and minus a month around my birthday. I'm sure this year is going no faster or slower than any other but I've been caught off guard a bit by the approaching day. Nonetheless, I think I have managed to include a pizza party, a potluck, dinner at a new restaurant, a trip to the beach and assorted other goodness into the past 30 days. We'll see what the next 30 brings. It's starting with dinner at Le Reve tomorrow night (should I call ahead and reserve my favorite dessert?) and a quick trip to Massachusetts so that bodes well.

However, for some reason, I am finding myself unusually reflective around these actual days of my birth. I'm not sure what started it but, just for example, a conversation with a friend recently about our paths led to her commenting about how all of this is God's plan and how even things we don't think are going to work out will because of said plan. I have to admit that I have a habit of not really facing my differences with this friend so I pretty much just went into shopgirl mode ("smile and nod") but I find myself wondering at why I was balking so much at her comment. I hardly consider myself an atheist, and maybe this is just my own reaction to the way, at this moment in U.S. history, God seems to be wielded as a weapon against so many people in so many thoroughly objectionable ways. I don't know. I returned home, still mulling over my objections, to this video on my Facebook wall. #SaveSyriasChildren. Also #BlackLivesMatter and, I'm pretty sure, many more hashtags that I don't know about, not to mention the 10-year retrospectives on Hurricane Katrina. I feel like a year or two ago I was thinking about the practice of gratitude and while my intention to start a gratitude journal has been the same as my intentions with almost all other journals which have led me to a shelf full of blank notebooks, the thoughts of gratitude, in conjunction with thoughts of privilege, add a sort of bittersweet note to these times. I feel very strongly that creating is my connection to our Creator God, that in facilitating creativity, in running Anthology, I am following God's calling to me. So, as I said, not exactly an atheist. But how do you reconcile things working out the way you ultimately end up wanting them to as God's plan when things certainly don't work out the way they ultimately should for so many people? I feel like there's too much underlying judgement about who is worthy or not, who "deserves" success (let alone a living wage or food or good schools). Perhaps that is just the imperfect human projection.  Well, we won't get into a long discussion here but I just mention this to tell you my frame of mind on the day of my birth, when I feel both grateful for so much of my life and yet somewhat at a loss as to where to begin on using my privilege, wealth and power for those who have less. But in my dream two nights ago, an art teacher gave me her business card with her email address on it so, yes, I will follow through and see about volunteering in the schools. I know I've mentioned this before, but I am still stuck on the concept of upstream work from a radio program I heard about suicide prevention. The show started out with those toll free numbers, staffed 24/7, posted on bridges and other key sites around the country. They then interviewed a social worker who said that such things are considered "downstream" - assistance provided at the very last possible moment, when all other avenues have failed or not been accessed. And while the social worker acknowledged the importance of such measures, she also said that they take a lot of time and energy for relatively little result. The desirable course of action is "upstream" - to catch the person before they reach such a desperate state that they see no other action than to take their own life. And most upstream actions are cheaper and more effective - small actions resolving small problems. I feel like so much of what we are facing right now is being addressed downstream, that so much of our time and our resources are being spent on applying band-aids in emergency situations. Well, anyway, to my mind, upstream is really ideal, catching people while they are young and helping create the kind of foundations that have seen me through these 44 years. Anyway, that's what I'm thinking about today so I guess I can be excused for not being able to decide what I will eat for breakfast or lunch. I was menu-planning last week for our beach getaway and am already thinking about dinner at Le Reve so today might just be an ordinary day. Maybe salad from Ian's for lunch?

In all honesty, in our family, the actual day is not that important. Mother is out of town and it is just Dad and I for dinner tonight, something from the freezer because Mother came home to realize that there is no room in there at all. I will be going away for most of next week so today I should be doing paperwork and other usual tasks at the shop so it is rather a usual work day. Though since I am working my dream job, it seems a totally suitable birthday schedule. So, we'll see, perhaps the day will include updating you on all the new arrivals, reconciling the credit card, working on October's schedule, rearranging the window, placing some Christmas orders. Happy Birthday to me!


Did I seriously forget to show you the postcard I made?! Bad, Laura. DSCN6640 (800x600)

AND, I'm finally getting to work on my sister's awesome idea: a Madison/Wisconsin coloring book with works by some of the many artists we work with. How cool will that be?! Well, there's a little bit of work yet to be done but I think this is going to be a great addition. We've had some frustration with the internationally famous (internationally printed) coloring books as it seems that no one is quite able to keep up with demand. Example, this Color Me Calm book which arrived, sold out, arrived, sold out  in the space of a month. Hopefully I reordered enough for the holidays (but, yes, my boss' voice is still scolding in my head about under-ordering).


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Classic Komai solution: just make your own. I just sent out requests for artwork this morning and already heard back from a handful of artists. This is going to be good stuff.

 In other store news, last night's cool weather and the very many back to school ads are making me think about fall, though in other ways I'm already on to Christmas. A retail calendar is a strange one. But I was not ready to see Halloween decorations in store as they were when I went to the craft store last week. Eek! Don't worry, on the sales floor we're still in the middle of lovely summer, aided by Rifle Paper Co. florals.

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We are starting to get more things from our May and July buying trips, including a fun assortment of washi tape, and stickers. We were interviewed recently for the Wisconsin State Journal and it was funny to think of the ways our interests from childhood have just carried over into the store. I don't know about you, but our mother is still very pleased with herself for getting us to do all sorts of chores just for a 25 cent sticker. The sticker- and note card collecting continues...

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We got another batch of t-shirts back from the printer and I finally made a girly version of my Madison tee. We get many requests from customers who are looking for a Madison shirt for someone named Madison. Oddly enough, most of our other shirts kind of hint around the topic but never quite did the trick. Hopefully this will.

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This week has been a little on the quiet side. Next week I will go away on my annual beach pilgrimage to Lake Michigan with Mom and my niece, staying at Kohler Andrae State Park this time, visiting some of our favorite art and inspiration spots (Hamilton Type and Print Museum, Kohler Art Museum, Bookworm Gardens). September tends to be a slightly quieter month for us, which is good as that should give us time to finish up the rest of the holiday preparations. Maybe give me a chance to clean up the office. Ha.


so we went from Tuesday where there was so little to do that we were scraping the bottom of the barrel for tasks (cutting out felt Wisconsins, dusting, stamping bags) to Wednesday and Thursday with such an onslaught of boxes that my feeling that we had a little breathing space was replaced by wondering where I'm going to put all these note cards. DSCN6613 (800x600)

I recently learned about a friend's business featured in DesignSponge. We worked together at Little Luxuries and it is a thrill to think about the shopgirl reverberations out in the world. If you are in the New York City area, I'd recommend checking it out: Stem & Bloom. Congrats, Lana! (and Adam). More significantly, in the interview, Lana says: "I also think it’s helpful if you can say that you are your own customer. It was a product that I wished existed and would have subscribed to if it had." Which perfectly sums up the Komai sisters and our relationship to paper goods.

In that context, I suppose it is no surprise that I am inundated with note cards. We realized that our efforts to stagger shipments after the Stationery Show in New York didn't quite work out as it looks like 8/1 was a common future ship date that both of us picked. As a result, this week has been particularly paper-heavy. Arrivals include:

calendars with great linocut images of vegetables, birds and flowers

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Japanese notebooks and other paper goods


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note pads and little calling card/lunchbox notes

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and note cards, note cards, note cards

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Besides trying to find room for everything and restock what has sold in this first busy week of August (is everyone taking one last vacation before school starts? I don't know. But it has been busy!), I managed to grab a little time to go out to Pope Farm Park and see the sunflowers. Quite an impressive field. Now I'm crossing my fingers that the friends of the park start a Kickstarter/GoFundMe campaign to build a viewing platform. Us short people are particularly at a disadvantage. I had to stand on a picnic table for this one.

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