whew! we made it!

Well, it is a function of my retail world that  I'm already thinking about inventory in January and the Valentine's window in February (I thought of something good, so I'm happy about that), not to mention what might be the Christmas window for 2015...  Though I'm thankful that I don't work corporate retail because they are probably already really thinking about Christmas 2015, if not 2016. Still on December 24th, it is fair of the charming Olivia to declare as she did: you made it! We had a great year overall with a strong holiday season to continue the trend. Two weeks of Saturday-level sales every single day will soon taper off to the quiet of January, even though the month is filled with all the tasks I put off, preparing to file taxes, inventory. It is still a little more suited to my introvert nature.

Inventory, ugh. Though the store is still pretty full, the volume of sales means I keep uncovering empty drawers. Still, counting all these things we bought throughout the year is never a fun task. Not a difficult task, just a tedious one. But at least we have lots of help this year as we have added more part-timers. Plus it is a little different when the things you are counting are all things that you purchased yourself, and most of which that you still love.

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But speaking of inventory, it is now 10 am on Christmas Eve. We are open until 4 pm today, closed tomorrow, and then open 11 am - 7 pm Friday, 10 am - 7 pm Saturday, 12-4 Sunday... and so on. We find that a lot of people end up having holiday celebrations after the 25th of December and depending on the ratio of people leaving town to people coming to visit, the 26th through the 31st can be a busy time for us. So for those people, perhaps it is fine we haven't sold down to the bare bones. Sachi ran out of steam on sewing her Wisconsin felt ornament so there's only one or two of those left but we still have Madison map rocks glasses and Wisconsin pint glasses which have been popular. I did go overbudget on Christmas orders this year but all of the things that we re-ordered beyond the plan definitely paid for themselves. We would have been a lot emptier if I had held off on those. So, all in all, it's looking good. I'm glad that we still have rap names and superpowers prints, as well as lil' cheese curd onesies, even if we are sold out of beer posters, Wi/Mn t-shirts and Wisconsin ornaments (note to self: order more next year).

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Still, I had fun with a little photo shoot (a pale comparison to the one that a Madison College student did which we hope to use for future ads: an assortment of Anthology goods arranged in the shape of the state. So amazing!). If I do say so myself, I think we have plenty to choose from for those last minute shoppers... Of which there are always more than I expect...

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And whether you had a chance to stop in this holdiay season or perhaps won't be back again until summer, we thank you for everything that you've contributed to our business and wish you the happiest of new years!

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how's the wrapping coming along?

It's an indication of our early suitability for this job that our mom would assign us the task of decorating Christmas packages at an early age. I'm sure it was just a ploy to get us out of her hair, but we spent many enjoyable hours adding frills of ribbon and bows to our various packages (and, no, we weren't the kind of family where presents arrive on Christmas Eve - they were always out under the tree. Santa took care of the stockings but the presents under the tree were exchanged between family members, and, yes, we spent a long time counting packages to make sure there was fairness between the two sisters).

Sachi enjoyed leading several workshops at the area libraries this season so we're happy to know we're passing along some creative gift tag options.

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Lately it seems I haven't had much time for wrapping so I've been lazy about it but for some reason this year, I've been able to do a little more. It may be a function of all the temptation available:  washi tape and scraps of various papers. We still have tons of Wisconsin maps, which we use mostly for button making, so I decided to use that as the base paper and then use our lovely papers as accents.

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We also got into a discussion of snowflake making and I got totally distracted by searching kirigami snowflakes on Pinterest - so many lovelies! Realistically, I don't have the patience for such detailed paper cutting, but the one that I made as an experiment ending up sitting underneath a sheet of glassine. Frankly, I don't quite know what to do with a tissue paper once you have it cut - it's so fragile! How do you stick them to the windows without showing little edges of tape? It could be nice on kraft paper gift wrapping - though again there's the challenge of attaching all those little edges down. Still, it's a fun project.

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I kind of wish I could have taken a picture of myself last night but also not sure I really want anyone to see how exactly I get work done and what condition my living room is in. I'm in the middle of a major paper shuffle - trying to wrangle all those pieces into some semblance of order.  My studio is a total disaster and I've taken boxes out of the studio closet and into the livingroom, with the intent of going through them and sorting/recycling. Last week I was focused on my notecard collection, this week it is old school notes, magazines, articles, pieces for collage. So last night I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by piles of paper: for the happy book, for the ad collection, for eventual collage, for more immediate collage projects, to share with the Bubbler, for travel journals, for the library travel journal workshop, to recycle. Out of all of that, I think that I managed to get rid of three boxes so I'm feeling like progress is being made. Before I got up from the floor, I started thinking, "hey, maybe I can have people over for dinner." But then I got up and took a bird's eye view.... not so much. It was very inspiring - to revisit some of my piles of intended projects (but resist going down the tangential path of starting something new), to collect some completed pieces for show n' tell at the Bubbler (yet to be determined how that is exactly going to work out), to stumble across some almost-finished pieces. I think it is so easy for me to get caught up in my head - thinking/planning - even though the best thing to do is just start shuffling paper, see the colors and shapes, start to glue things down, arrange things... I'm feeling very inspired to do some collage work after all of that work last night. That said, I've also found a local printer - just basics, but still fine quality (boy, things have come a long way, haven't they?) and need to sit down with my photographs to order some notecards. I am looking forward to having sets of Madison notecards by summer tourist season. And I am on hold just a little bit until my PhotoShop class starts in May because I have ideas for what I will be doing there... but don't know if that will match the reality.

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In other paper-shuffling news, this week has been a big week for Valentine card-making. Sachi was at two branch libraries and the table has been set up with various supplies for card-making. We've had at least three people each spend approximately 3 hours making cards - and I think about how happy I would have been if I had not created space for crafting in my life and had stumbled across such a thing. But most people spend less time than that.

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People particularly seem to be enjoying the mini envelope punch.

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 Tomorrow is Saturday and we are participating in an event for the 200 block - Walk the Block Bingo - where customers can visit various stores to fill up their card and then enter it to win gift certificates and other prizes.  Amy at Little Luxuries is the ring leader who organized the whole things - and, golly, what a difference it makes to use a professional graphic designer (even though I am mostly fine with our more casual approach to documents, these Bingo cards look great!).

Shop15 002We've had a spike in business these last few days, and the store suddenly shifts its demographic from the majority female that it is during most other times of the year (excepting the two weeks before Christmas). But it is fun to help people find just the right Valentine card or card-making supply or gift. We have a lovely array of jewelry and restocked our mini Wisconsin stamped charm necklaces just in the nick of time. Of course, it is convenient that SERRV and Kilwin's are on the block so you can get your chocolate fix as well (though I still prefer James J. Chocolate on Midvale Blvd. if I'm going to treat myself).

Meanwhile, I will admit to mixed feelings about the whole holiday. The crafter in me has always appreciated the glitter and the doilies, and the decorated mailboxes and tiny cards from elementary school days. Being single at Valentine's Day is generally not fun because it feels like the rest of the world is happy and paired up. But I've had couples tell me it isn't THAT much fun from their end either. To some extent it just feels like a Capitalist-manufactured day... and yes, I know, that is silly to hear coming from a Capitalist. I'm all in favor of buying stuff and giving stuff and, especially, sending cards, but not if it is just out of some sense of obligation and not being done with genuine heart. Well, I resolved those feelings somewhat now that I have my niece to dote upon and can distract myself with the sending and receiving of Valentines among friends. Also, at the height of my infatuation with Viggo Mortensen, I converted the day to V-Day so there is more to celebrate that way. Perhaps a little Lord of the Rings is in order tonight. Tomorrow I will be going to Milwaukee to shop its cool indie stores like The Waxwing (there's a print I think I want... if I can just figure out where it will fit in my home) and Sparrow Collective and Fischbergers and Broadway Paper, and to see my dear friend and V-Day compatriot and drink Sconnie Mosas (orange juice, champagne, Door County cranberry wine). Oh, and to get pastries for Dad from Le Reve.

And I don't know if this is just a function of the age that I'm reaching, or that I'm paying more attention, or that there has truly been a string of unusual tragic events, but I feel like several people have just dropped dead recently - very unexpectedly and generally too soon. It's a rather unsettling feeling, not to mention sorrowful. So, any feelings of ambivalence about the holiday are really just overcome by the need to tell everyone they are loved, to hold that adorable girl close, and to be thankful for all the precious and fleeting moments we are surrounded by.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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"In those days, we finally chose to walk like giants & hold the world in arms grown strong with love & there may be many things we forget in the days to come, but this will not be one of them." StoryPeople by Brian Andreas





done and done

Anthology window

Well, sort of. I spent the last two days installing the first phase of the holiday window. I was getting stressed out about all the stuff I had to cram into the window and decided to ease the pressure somewhat by installing the window in phases. We just have so much good stuff! I hardly know where to begin. But I am quite happy with the way the cubbies are functioning so that makes the installation somewhat easier. This week was the biggest task as I had to completely clear the window in order to install the lights. From now on, I can just make changes one cubby at a time. Yesterday was quite a mess in the store, with stacks of cubbies all over the place. But some semblance of order has been returned to.

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The holiday cards are mostly on the back table. We really went all out this year and got a big assortment. Our early bird special on Thanksgiving weekend (and before) is 25% off boxed holiday notes so we made sure to get plenty for people to choose from. However, the result is that I kind of need to keep the boxed notes separate from the ornaments until after Thanksgiving weekend. I was thinking about putting ornaments on the back side of the cubbies but I wasn't sure how well that would work. Then I decided to put the ornaments on the front tables. Then I went to Target to get an extension cord and walked through Macy's and I realized how totally annoying it was that the stores have converted so completely to Christmas. Those huge cardboard decorations are too much! So then I started thinking that maybe people wouldn't appreciate being met at the door with Christmas ornaments (particularly those who are waiting until the actual month of December). SO, I ended up displaying the ornaments on our new mint shelf up towards the front of the store. I managed to get one or two of everything out ... oh, except I just remembered another box that I have to unpack. At least there will be a complete sampling for the early shoppers.  Once our boxed note sale is over, I will have the craft table filled with all sorts of holiday goodies.

We've had a busy week with more arrivals. I keep thinking we're at the end but then another box arrives. But pretty soon we will have everything we are going to have for your gift-giving needs. The shop is very full right now!

Most of my brain has been preoccupied with the holiday window, but I did spend some time on my Blurb books. I am way behind schedule but managed to finish up the 2012 book of my pictures and projects and the book of my niece's pictures. Hopefully I won't be so far behind schedule next year. ha ha ha.  I did also make myself a planner for 2014. Even though this sounds goofy, I'm just going to hand-draw a two-page spread for each month. Last year I collaged a page for each month and then had to scan them and include them in my journal. It was a one-page spread and it just isn't big enough for me to write on - as a result, I haven't really been using this year's planner. We'll see if this is enough of an improvement. It was nice to pull together an assortment of photos. I added more photos of my own artwork, not just scenery, and it should be fun to revisit some of my creations over the course of a year.

Other than that, I'm sewing some batik fabric scraps into scarves and trying to figure out what else I can make to sell here at the shop. I need to make a batch of cyanotype scarves but the weather has not been conducive (I need a free day that is sunny and not too windy - the temperature doesn't seem to matter, which is a good thing because it got cold). My October consignment check was kind of low so I feel the need to come up with something new... whatever that will be....

 I have been enjoying the gradual changing of the seasons. Seems like we had several weeks without rain or too much wind so the colors on the trees were particularly lovely. And whatever its other faults, I love the beauty of snow falling, bare branches and assorted other aspects of winter.

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for grads and Dads

 I know, I know, I'm running late. This weekend is graduation for many area high schools and also Father's Day, AND our Dad's birthday. Poor guy, always gets short shrift since his birthday is on or close to Father's Day. I've already been thinking ahead to Christmas, but that doesn't mean I can skip all the big events in between. I did come up with a plan for his birthday present so that's progress. After last year's borderline existential crisis of little Katie somehow having grown old enough to graduate from high school, I have a bit of a break this year, but we still have plenty of cards and gift ideas for the graduates you are shopping for.

Shop 032We also have Madison and Wisconsin souvenirs for those who are leaving the nest, and journals and inspiring prints to send along with them. The Wisconsin necklaces in medium and mini sizes have also been popular gifts.

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As far as Dads are concerned, we have an assortment of cards.

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T-shirts have also been a popular Dad gift, and our pint glasses (perhaps along with an assortment of craft beer?) and deck of Gentlemen's cards are our current favorite suggestions.

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Meanwhile, people seem to be enjoying this picture of our dad that we found, hipster glasses and all.

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25/25 Day 25: Gifts & Gratitudes


Day 25. Christmas Eve/Christmas Day/later, depending on when you read this. We ARE open from 9 am to 4 pm on Christmas Eve but at this point, I think I've made all the suggestions of my favorite things. As a control freak/planner, I have been done with my shopping for a while. I am not bragging, but not having Christmas presents by this time would seriously stress me out. To avoid such anxiety, I am on the lookout for most of the year, and when I find something, I buy it and hide it in the closet. Shopping right now for me consists of last minute perishables for the stockings. But I know that other people have different traditions and better methods of sticking to a budget (because what do you do when you find something perfect in July, buy it, and then find something more perfect in December? For me, buy that also, usually.  Our mom's birthday is in February so I can at least just carry her presents over to the birthday).

In any event, as I thought about this list and coming to the end of it, it seems most appropriate to end not with things, but with gratitudes.

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. -Meister Eckhart

And I know this is strange coming from someone who owns a shop, but I've become much more mindful of the stuffedness of our lives. When I was younger, I was quite a shopper... well, I still am, I just do it for the shop. But the kind of shopping I did seems representative of how we were as a nation - on this unending, and often unthinking, cycle of buying and searching for what's new. Does that really do any good? In our own lives? in the world as a whole? I'm just starting to feel that we overextended ourselves so much - doing and buying and seeing and acquiring without much thinking and being.

Now, clearly, I'm a capitalist, I like stuff, I like selling stuff, I like buying stuff, but I also think that we need more than just that. For me, the depth of the experience comes in shopping with local businesses and knowing that the stuff has some story and meaning. The depth comes in having my own store and connecting with the people who actually make the stuff, as well as connecting with the people who buy the stuff. The depth comes in having a shorter distance between the hands that make the stuff and the hands that receive it.

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So here at the end of the season of preparing for Christmas, of buying and selling stuff, I am also thinking about my Christmas of giving and enjoying the moment.  There has been much discussion about the "War on Christmas" this year but I have to admit that I haven't really been paying attention to the discussion. Christmas has always been a magical time for me, but I think that magic has to be something that you create or maintain - it doesn't really matter what the outside forces are trying to do.... so I seriously question someone's ability to have a war on your Christmas unless you let them.

Christmas for me is about making the connection, materially, yes, to the people who I love. I wish everyone could just be out shopping for presents for the people they love. Obviously there are elements of obligation that add some less desireable element to the whole process, but as a stuff person, shopping for presents and sending my Christmas letter is one reflection of my affection. It's something that I really enjoy; then again, that's part of the reason that I opened a shop. But even though we are so often focused on the material gifts, there are so many gifts that I receive, so much abundance in my life. I feel so tremendously grateful for the opportunity and ability to create our shop. To spend time with my sister, to connect with local artists, to have connected with customers and so many other people, to be able to share the work that I do and the things that I love on such a grand scale. Thank YOU!

We've been receiving Christmas cards from many of our vendors - some electronic, some paper - and I've been grumbling a bit about electronic greetings. It doesn't really appease my need for holiday greetings. Then again, I don't have everyone's mailing address. So here I am as well, sending out my wishes for a very happy holiday season, for the blessings and warmth that surround us all, even in this cold and dark midwinter (how does that work when you live somewhere warm? It's such a great metaphor for us here in Wisconsin. I suppose you get by just fine, don't you?).  My hopes for you are the time to enjoy the gifts that you have, to sink deeply into the connections to the people you love and the things that you love doing. I thank you so very much for providing me the opportunity to do what I love.

Merry Christmas and a very very Happy New Year!


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25/25 Day 22: More gifts for Him

Judging by the proportion of men to women in our shop, the men need more gift suggestions, but just in case you are still looking for a gift for him...

1. Just in the nick of time, we received more neckties from Jes out in Brooklyn.  We love her great designs.

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2. The very popular Illustrious Omnibus of Super Powers, as well as the Grand Taxonomy of Rap Names. These prints are very popular and also provide a great source of entertainment for the guys who are waiting while their girlfriends are shopping, though they might get a crick in their neck from having to look up at where they are hanging.

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3. Playing cards - the Spy Deck and the Gentleman's Deck, complete with tips and trivia.

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4. iPad cases. Upcycled from men's flannel shirts. We love that they kept the pocket!

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25/25 Day 21: Made by Laura or Sachi

Sometimes when people ask, I get a little tired of touring them around the entire store. But about 25% of our stock is made by either Sachi or Laura, reflecting a variety of materials that we tend to dabble in. Sachi's formal training is in printing and drawing; Laura's first foray into making things to sell was in the quilting realm - but from there... well, it's anyone's guess.

1. Jewelry. Relatively simple construction relies mostly on the loveliness of enamels that we acquire from Duluth. Laura spends many a happy evening sorting and coordinating these trinkets. Meanwhile, Sachi's speciality is a little finer & delicate, her sweet little bird nest necklaces are very popular gifts.

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 2. Laura's magnet picture frames, an easy way to display the latest picture and a popular gift item.

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3. Photo snippets. Mementos of Madison in one-inch or two-inch photo squares.

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4. Sewn ornaments. By Sachi, who has patience for much more hand sewing than Laure ever will. Just a cautionary note: the felt Wisconsin ornament is selling quickly so you might want to call us to make sure we still have them. (608) 204-2644.

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5. Laura's cyanotype scarves. Printed on white silk using the light of the sun and the shadow of objects such as doilies to create lovely patterns.
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Well, that's good for starters. Of course there are the popular button bracelets which are made right here at the shop, paper packs assembled from our paper assortment, earrings, collages, onesies designed by Sachi, Laura's quilts and table runners, knitter's pockets....

25/25 Day 19: Gifts for stockings

For some reason, stocking presents seem to be the last ones that I get around to.  I still have my brother-in-law left, but I might just head to Brennan's or Willy Street Co-Op and get some tasty food. I do like the challenge of finding rather small in size items... though my brother-in-law teases us about not particularly sticking to a budget. It turns out it is very easy to find small things that push you over any limits. But in the interest of sticking to size and budgetary limitations, here are a few stocking present suggestions:

1. Magnets. Now that we have added to our collection of old metal furniture, I'm feeling happier about the arrangement of magnets in the store. I used to have to walk customers all around the shop to find the full assortment. I am personally quite fond of our sarcastic bird magnets, but I'm not sure if they are totally suitable for stocking presents. Perhaps Curly Girl is a better choice. This is another vendor we have carried since we first opened the shop. I always loved the notecards and had them at the top of my list when we first started making plans. I feel the same way to this day.

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2. Little notebooks. I have a major weakness for little notebooks, but I am particularly fond of these little guys. I carry one in my purse to write down reminders, and also things that my niece tells me... often while we are driving around in the car.

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3. Mini clothespins. There was a young boy in the shop recently who felt that such mini clothespins were utterly useless, but we actually find them quite useful. My sister has prints hanging up along ribbons for decor in my niece's room - she uses these little clothespins, just as we do around the shop. I like the ability to easily change things around.

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4. Luck. Lucky pennies and lucky charm necklaces.

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5. Buttons. We do have an assortment of non-political buttons, but many people are purchasing from our protest and campaign assortment for left-leaning stocking presents.

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25/25 Day 18: Gifts for bicycle lovers

Goodness but there are some dedicated bikers out in the world!  Every morning while I wait for the bus, I still watch people ride by me on their bikes. In December. Granted, the weather is milder than usual and they haven't had to break out the heavy-duty snow tires yet, but still.  Kudos to them for their dedication.

I don't know if it is because of the growing number of people riding their bikes or the growing number of people intending to ride their bikes or feeling nostalgic about riding their bikes, but bikes as a motif have been very popular this year. For those, may we suggest:

1. Bicycle paper products.  We have several different small presses making notecards with bicycles on them, as well as some new bicycle wrapping paper.

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2. Bicycle prints. on paper, but also on dishtowels.

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3. Bicycle dishes. Made by Beth in Milwaukee.

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4. Bicycle tees.

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