holiday greetings and the year in review

year in review

An artist friend, Mel Kolstad, recently shared her year in review which was inspiring and a little intimidating. However, along with the twinge of guilt about not posting as much as I intended, it got me thinking about this past year. Here are some things you might have missed in the goings-on of Anthology and the Komai sisters.

The Trump (& GOP) effect. To be honest, as soon as Trump won the election, I was expecting a recession. I am thoroughly unimpressed with the fiscal actions of the party of so-called fiscal conservatives. This obsession with taxes is, to say the least, puzzling. I'm sad that we seem to have lost the sense of any greater good or what we owe to the country which has created our wealth, never mind any interest in the ongoing build-up of said wealth. Because whatever someone says, they didn't build it themselves, and they are as much a moocher as anyone they accused of being so. We had an amazing 2015 thanks to coloring books, and a challenging 2016 (apparently all election years are like that) so I expected more of the same in 2017. I still don't think Donald Trump or Paul Ryan et al are doing anything to improve my outlook on long-term economic health but we'll take this little reprieve as we end the year ahead of the last. Because, as it turns out, people are fired up. We here in Wisconsin have been here for a while so there's a ring of familiarity, and a little tiredness, about it all. But there were buttons to be made, prints to sell. Sachi and I were in Phoenix for the Women's March and I told the part-timers we left behind that it would probably be a quiet weekend. Everyone might be heading up the Capitol to exercise their right to protest and that is fine. It turned out that everyone stopped at Anthology to get their buttons before they made their way up to the Capitol. Certainly in Phoenix we got the sense that turnout was higher than expected. Pretty much the best problem to have, particularly in regards to these matters.


And the button-making has continued. Every once in a while, there is a moment I feel like sobbing as I make a button that we've been making since 2011 which is just as true as it was before, but on the whole, the making and responding keeps me too busy to wallow in sorrow too long.


I take comfort, as I always have, from the many ways that many people are standing up and speaking out. One of my favorite pieces of text this year is from Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

"One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.


Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.


The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for."

I am heartened to see all the souls on deck. The people who are working and prodding and speaking and marching. The people who are knitting and cooking and writing and singing. Who are calling and writing and voting. The people who are making the world that they want. They do not keep a chair for despair.



Travel. A definite perk of store ownership is travel for business, this year to Phoenix for the Craft & Hobby trade show, to New York for the Stationery Show, and to Portland and Chicago for the Renegade Craft fairs. 


Plus the usual jaunts to enjoy the indie retail scene in Milwaukee and a long overdue trip to the Twin Cities. Along the way, we take our usual busman's holidays and check out the product mix and merchandising of all the stores we can find. We particularly enjoyed Frances in Phoenix and an amazing collection of brick & mortar stores in Portland (Collage, Frock Boutique, Noun, Tiny Llama, Little Otsu, Flutter, Tender Loving Empire and Crafty Wonderland to name a few) that gave us hope for the future of retail.


We also enjoyed the Portlandia Mermaid Parade.


Everywhere we go, Sachi has her little notebook and she jots down sketches and ideas for new products.

Sachi on a roll. Speaking of Sachi, she started out the new year with four new holiday card designs (knowing she would be too busy during the actual holiday season to get some done) and has been non stop ever since. 


I count about 24 new drawings/paintings that ended up on cards, tote bags, t-shirts, onesies and more.


She taught several workshops at area libraries and has lately been doing a lot of stitching, inspired by a workshop at The Regal Find. She just finished up a Valentine card and is at the beginning of a zodiac series (Pisces, Aquarius and Gemini were the first to print). Oh, and making a Mother's Day card.


Laura just trying to catch up. Most of my work for the shop seems to have been computer-based this year. I have several different files going in PhotoShop for various prints and cards. Not to mention the finishing touches on Sachi's designs to get them print-ready. Also, taking existing designs and putting them on different products. Some things made it out of the computer to the print shop but there are some big ones that still need some work. I managed about 14 brand new designs plus re-working of many others. Rumbling around for the coming year: snippets of blue skies in print form, Madison notebooks, a couple new Madison/Wisconsin prints including (maybe) a palmistry hand and a bandana pattern. It was a particular thrill this year to have my original Wisconstellations t-shirt worn by an actor in Forward Theater's production of I & You. The play was amazing and I was only distracted a few times by the happiness of seeing my shirt on stage.

also distracted with outside inspiration. The first half of the year was a lot of hard work that wasn't particularly interesting as we switched over to a new computer system. At least as far as customers and part-timers are concerned, the transition hopefully hasn't been too painful or even noticeable, with the exception of the added second register. I'm still adjusting to the discrepancy between salesperson over-promising and software developers under-delivering. Hoping for more progress in the new year. But by May I was ready to be done, or at least add a little more creativity to my days. It seems to be a chronic concern of artists that making their creativity their business will somehow suck all the joy out of it. I wouldn't necessarily agree with that assessment, but it does require some effort on one's part - to be able to recognize the things that are taking joy away and swapping them out. For my part, interacting with customers and trying to think of new directions and products for the store has been great fuel for the creative fire. While the rest of the year didn't exactly lack for work, I was able to add in a little more fun and creativity: our annual trip to Point Beach for some reading and rock collecting


and the inspiration of the John Michael Kohler Art Center and the Wonderland exhibit at the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh.


There were art workshops in the latter part of the year: random marks and paste papers at Whispering Woodlands


and a collage mandala class at Wet Paint. I also participated in a group tarot card project


and tried my hand at screenprinting with the amazing Lesley Numbers during her artist residency at the Bubbler.


I got totally distracted by tarot cards and ended up making a whole book of assorted tarot card collages.


Oh, and Anthology hosted Kelly Kilmer for an evening class. Plus I took an online workshop from Mary Ann Moss. So far, all the art projects that have spun off these various classes have not yielded product for the store so I'm feeling a little guilty about that. But also confident that things are brewing up in this cluttered brain. Somehow they'll all work out. I would like to do a series of Madison collages but nothing quite seems to gel. Perhaps in 2018.

New & Good. Every year, I look back and marvel at all the new things we found. The Stationery Show in New York was particularly fruitful as we added more journals, note cards, letter sets and other goods. We found a new distributor of Japanese goods so we've added more washi tape and other such lovelies.


Other new goods include painted prints from Portland, tea towels and party trays from Milwaukee, t-shirts from Michigan, rubber stamps from San Francisco, embroidery kits from Portland, Ron Swanson earrings from Michigan, washi paper earrings from Madison, enamel pins from Chicago. Of course many of our existing artists kept coming up with new goods for the shop. Possibly new in 2018 - the Wisconsin/Michigan version from the artist who brought us Wisconsin/Minnesota hugging. I am starting to come to terms with the reality that we can't always carry all the things we've ever had over the history of the store. But, hey, stickers! You have no idea how happy our inner children are that stickers are going so strong. We've been making our own designs into stickers, but also enjoying the cat cupcake and smash the patriarchy variations.


And speaking of smashing the patriarchy, we were impressed by all the artists at the Stationery Show who had expanded their lines to give voice to their political concerns. We've long believed that it is disingenuous for a business to say it is neutral - if you look closely enough at where they spend their money and time, there's nothing neutral about any of our lives. I think we can be truthful about our beliefs and motivations AND find common ground. The result has been a burst of fund-raising for various non-profits, including Planned Parenthood and Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, by way of women artist selling prints, totes and cards.

10 years. (!) This coming March will be Anthology's 10th birthday. Wow! Time flies. We have been working for several months on various aspects of our birthday celebrations. Of course it doesn't only last that day, or week, or even month. We were accepted to a show at the Central Library on the third floor for June and July. We're thinking a Night Light is a good birthday party as well. So right now the plan is small(ish) celebration for the birthday weekend in store. Cake, of course. And then some more partying in June with our art opening. I have several different ideas in mind but so far the work that is done includes the Laura and Sachi pieces for the exhibit (the title of the show is "Line and Color are Sisters" and will include a little compare/contrast between the two of us).



I have also, after many printed drafts, finalized our poster.  Sachi and I are still discussing reworked logo/bags for the occasion. I had a vague idea about making a Blurb magazine but I am not entirely sure that is going to happen. I do love Blurb, there's just so many pictures to sift through. No matter the product, you can be sure that there will be lots of celebrating.

looking ahead. It always seems like I can never have predicted all that happened in a year but we're looking forward to more inspiration and seeing how the makers of the world lead us to new distractions and creativity. Sachi's been doing a lot more with watercolor and goache and I expect we will see more embroidered flowers and other stitches.


I've already signed up for an online class called An Artist's Study, whereby we pick an artist (I picked Maira Kalman) and work their inspiration into our own journal. First I have to finish sifting through the collage ephemera. It's been in a bit of disarray for a while, to the point where I am wasting too much time looking for one particular image, so I dumped out some bins and have taken over the living room floor. Hoping I can get that done before the new year. It could be a late new year's eve.

As ever, we are so thankful for our customers, artists and fans. You warm our hearts with your support and encouragement and for all the ways you are at work to inspire creativity in the world. May your new year be filled with joy!




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Mel Kolstad

It's so great to see all of the wonderful things that you've done, and all of the cool things you have in store (HA! Pun intended, I guess!) for all of us in 2018! Thanks for the sweet shout-out too, Laura! :)

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