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October 2015
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December 2015


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It's getting to be that time of year for me to sit down and write my annual holiday letter, an exercise I generally enjoy. Most of the time, frankly, I'm moving too quickly for lots of introspection, but I've found myself in a strange (particularly for writing holiday letters) mood ever since a friend expressed her "thanks be to God" feelings about the general prosperity of life. And that was before the Syrian refugee crisis really hit the news. And I'm not saying that I don't believe in God but I guess I'm wrestling with what my actual beliefs are, particularly in contrast to the many who seem to profess a belief in God without any adherence to what I believe are the ways that God would like us to be. Not exactly holiday letter writing sentiments. We'll see if I can turn that around somehow.

And I wouldn't say that I refuse to thank God but the whole thing seems rather nebulous. Perhaps you would give credit to God for all the good actions that people take, for all the ways that my life is what it is and not huddled in the cold wondering if I can get past a European border. Surely there is no God that deliberately puts any child in such a situation, let alone hungry in the land of opportunity? Does "Thank God" encompass all the people who have contributed to what my life is like? Is God just the umbrella thanks? Is the rest of it implied? It just somehow seems insufficient. So even as this year has had a growing sense of gratitude to everything about my community which creates my life, it has also created a sense of urgency about paying back (or forward) all that I have, to help be a catalyst for others and to work towards the ideals that I still hold this country to. For me, that might include thanks to God and church, certainly family, but it also goes to the larger Madison community - the neighbors and friends of family who helped shape my life, the Girl Scout leaders, the public school teachers, the UW Extension art teachers, and so on. Perhaps saying "thank God" is really just the jumping off point which propels you to do the work, a reminder that there are forces beyond yourself and that you can't stop at self-congratulations? even though somehow the way it is often portrayed seems more like self-satisfaction, something that is earned and deserved (and thus, implicitly, not available to all people). But maybe I am projecting too many media simplifications onto people.

And that is definitely not to say that I am NOT thankful; I feel so thankful for so much. I'm willing to concede to thanking God for being at work in the world through the work of the people, or thanking God for some underlying moments of beauty and peace which come sometimes at the least likely time or place. But most of my thanks are more specific:

For this adorable girl. For her mother (my sister) and her father who share her with me.


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For my childhood, for Dad (not pictured), Mom and my sister. For the opportunities that I had and all the ways that my creativity was nurtured.

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For this city of Madison and the state of Wisconsin, which, as much as it seems to be faltering at the moment, provides me with so much inspiration and support, as it did when we were children with so many artful (low cost) opportunities, for the many lives it built up, for the inspiration and success it fosters. For the way it provided careers for our parents, which enabled us to do so much, not the least being getting this business started.

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And finally, a huge thanks to artists, creators, customers, employees, blog readers, for all the ways that oh so many people help me to create this life. I was reading over our book of happy quotes to come up with business cards (that we have at the cash register but which I also use in our holiday ad campaign - see the first picture above). And I feel SO lucky, to have the opportunity to play a role in so many peoples' lives, to know the ways that my work here at the shop reaches into their lives, even if only for the brief time that they are in the shop.

So, in this season of thanks and celebration, I extend my deepest thanks to you. I wish you success and joy as you pursue your own paths, as well as the time and inspiration on your own creative endeavors. Thank you!


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Color Me Wisco

Ok, FINALLY, here they are: our exclusive Anthology coloring books!

We are so pleased with the results and excited to share coloring pages from the many regional artists we have worked with over the years. Each book costs $18, which includes payment to all of the participating artists. We are happy to ship via USPS (up to two books fit in one small flat rate envelope). The books are glue-top bound so you can remove the pages easily and there are no designs which are staple-bound through the middle of the design. Pages are white cardstock, printed on one side (none of those annoying decisions about which side of the page to color and which to have any markers bleed through onto). Each book contains 19 different images to color.

Volume 1:

Illustrations by: Nicolas Boehm, Kim Geiser, Carol Hambrecht, Rosy Hawbaker, Emily Keown, Laura Komai, Sachi Komai, Alison McDole, Lesley Numbers, Chad Thorson, Ryann Staton and Heather Wayne.




Volume 2, leans left (includes a few politically minded pages which might annoy the more conservative-leaning among us. But there are still plenty of really great illustrations that are not at all political).

Illustrations by: Mary Bruno, Emily Keown, Laura Komai, Sachi Komai, James McKiernan, Lesley Numbers, Adam Rosenbaum, Tara Scheuerman, Lia Spaulding, Ryann Staton, Chad Thorson and Carl Whiting.




How to order:

Send a PayPal payment to OR call us at 608-204-2644 to arrange shipping and payment by credit card.

One coloring book or two coloring books cost $5.05 to ship by USPS small flat rate envelope. Please give us a call if you would like to order more than two books and we will calculate shipping for you.

Items shipped out of state are tax exempt. In-state purchases are subject to 5.5% sales tax.

one book + shipping, out of state = $23.05

one book + shipping + WI sales tax = $24.31

two books + shipping, out of state = $41.05

two books + shipping + WI sales tax = $43.30


More than two books and we'll have to do the calculations when you call, but the medium flat rate shipping box is a likely option.

We are so excited to share the talents of so many Wisconsin (and a couple Minnesota) artists with you! As you may have heard, coloring books are very popular right now. There are those grown-ups who have been coloring their entire lives and will tell you they knew all along the benefits of sitting down and putting color to paper. Rumor has it that Jung himself recommended coloring mandalas as a tool for meditation. We've had customers buy them for college students and for 80 year-old mothers, to work on all by themselves in a quiet place, or with a group of friends over wine and snacks.

If you have additional questions or would like to place an order, please feel free to email or call us 608-204-2644






All right, there is some rule about not starting with disclaimers or something, isn't there? That said...  Here are my thoughts as I was planning our holiday window. 1: everyone knows it is Christmas and everyone is tired of being hit on the head with that information, right? So I have permission to not hit you over the head (though I will, as I believe I've mentioned, have the holiday music on shuffle starting after Thanksgiving, interspersed with non-holiday music, don't worry). 2. last's years constellation window worked really well even though it wasn't at all the traditional red & green color palette. 3. we'll just see what product theme we come across on our buying trips and go from there. 4. I'm tired of forest critters.

and some more thoughts as I walked away last night after 5 hours of installation: 5. did I get too carried away in excluding Christmas? that is not all my fault as some ornaments that I bought specifically for the theme were backordered. 6. I think the products we have are strong (and, realistically, could have just filled the window with the desk signs given the reaction they are getting) but I think I have to do a better job of putting together a color story. For me to not have a strong color theme going on is a bit of a slip from usual. Though it has been a challenge to come up with a color story when what you are really selling are pages for other people to color.


All that said... ta da! Welcome to our office Christmas, part one. It's still a little early and there will be some ebb and flow of products so there will be some tweaking. Also, I didn't make enough paper chains so I still have to fill in the corner with a pile of paper chains. For once, I didn't have any big prints going in to the window so I think that is also contributing to my ambivalence. It's a lot of little things that work well when you are standing in front of them, and I'm really happy with each individual cubby, but we'll see how it works for the people walking quickly by or looking from across the street.  At the minimum, the desk signs are really resonating with people.



and I have a feeling our prize ribbon is going to be a hit as well ("I survived another meeting that should have been an email" - I'm sure almost all of us have earned THAT ribbon!).


rearranging all around

5 hours later and the window installation is done. That post is coming soon. In the meantime, a little belated head's up about the blog rearranging. This Typepad blog has served us well since we opened in 2008 but I've been feeling like I needed to give it a little TLC. This feeling was further emphasized by our work with UW-Madison digital marketing students, who have given us lots of helpful suggestions, as well as the general kick in the pants that I needed to get to work. Well, not exactly the best time of year to get to work on this, but I made some small(ish) changes. If there's something you are missing, please do let me know. I might have gotten carried away with the editing. And, yes, I know I have to do something about how this reads on smart phones and tablets. That's on the list. As is finally creating a custom banner - no excuse for how long that has taken me given my access to Photoshop. Still, that will probably be an after-holiday, mid-February project. Anyway, I'm open to feedback, especially if there's something you found helpful which is now missing.

getting there

I realize it is entirely possibly that you did not want to hear this, but it IS getting to be time for the holidays. We always try to strike a balance between our customers who are asking for boxed notecards in October, and the ones who don't want to hear a thing about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I'm pretty sure that no one would put Xmas stuff out until after Thanksgiving if they weren't selling it or otherwise reaping some financial reward (putting you in the frame of mind to buy presents). Realistically, the combination of Black Friday and waiting to deck the halls of a shop until after Thanksgiving means that someone is going to have a really brutal Thanksgiving Day, setting up all the decorations (I'm looking at you, Nordstrom's). I don't even have that much space to work with and it is taking me over a week to make all the switches.  While I was at it, I took the opportunity to move a few other things around in the shop, probably the last big move until 2016. I condensed and moved some necklaces, created a new place for coloring books, and lots of other things, or at least I think it was a lot since it seems like it took me the entire day to do.

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After that: boxed note cards. Partly because we have some advent calendar notecards and partly because our Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Thanksgiving weekend special is 25% off on boxed notes. Goodness, do we have a nice assortment of boxed notes this year! They take up the entire craft table so I had to find homes for all the coloring books that were there, and then find all the cards that have arrived over the course of the year which I had stashed into various storage spots. Then, organize all the back stock so we can find more when we need them.    DSCN7469 (800x600)

Second step: Ornaments. That requires a crunching of the accessories area, more baskets and a little winnowing....

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And then the second to last step: wrapping paper. I needed to do a major overhaul which took most of the day: took all the sheets off the rungs, re-sorted them, pulled out all the drawers of the flat file, reorganized the back stock, found at least 12 different pieces of paper which had sold out and not been restocked, not to mention all the sheets of holiday paper which had to be brought out. Phew! Naturally someone wanted to look at the boxed notes after I had completely cleared them off the table to make room for three piles of wrapping paper. I really think there is some law of physics which applies to this situation: where attention/need is in one area, there will be at least two customers who want to be there as well.


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Next up: the window installation.

spontaneous marks

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After whining a bit about not having enough time for frivolous art projects, I got away for a weekend at Whispering Woodlands for a workshop with Pam Paulsrud. I really enjoy her workshops - a few years ago, I took one called Sacred Geometry, which was similar. This year was supposed to be spontaneous marks, which involves a little non-dominant writing, a little work with sumi and walnut ink and funny tools like pop can nibs, plus some spritzing and other sink work. It's not really something that I see translating into work for the shop but it was really nice to spend a solid weekend just playing around and creating. We were supposed to make an accordion fold book but I had a few too many pages for the simplest version. I spent most of Monday working on the binding (my least favorite part) and actually managed to have a finished book. So often I feel like you go to these workshops and get started but go home with lots of intentions (which I rarely follow through on).

Anyway, I wrote a story/poem for the book and copied the text onto transparencies and then sewed it in. There's a little bit of text on each page (the longest bit is pictured). The story didn't quite make it past the 8 year-old review board: "does your story have temporal words, Aunt Laura? Is there a beginning? a middle? an end? are there periods? question marks? exclamation marks?" Well, I'm quite pleased with the finished book.


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This week, I also led two batik tag sessions (one at Pinney through the Bubbler) so now I've got batik and random marks rolling around in my head. I think it would be really interesting to combine them but have to think about that some more.

In the meantime, I have two possible Overture exhibits in 2016 so I'm starting to think about a couple projects for those. Lots of brainstorming going on. Always fun to think of new projects!!!