life after coloring books

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Well, that's not really a thing. Because now my attention goes to what I call Janice Math (that's my old boss, who had a general formula for calculating how much you will need of a thing: how many you've sold in the past month, divided by four to get the per week quantity you need going forward, times the number of weeks you are ordering for, minus what is in stock, perhaps times two if you are doing holiday calculations) and making sure that we don't run out of coloring books.

But when I look at the sales figures between now and December 30, it is clear that much of my attention simply needs to be on helping customers and keeping the store stocked. Shifting away from the season of looking for/creating new items.

That said, one happy side effect of the two Komai sisters drawing lots of new designs is that we have been able to translate those designs into other products for the shop. The first step was making coloring postcards and folded notes. Of course, Sachi has already applied her designs to other t-shirts and mugs. One common request is for dish towels, I'm assuming in a large part because they can be easily packed and you don't have to worry about breakage when you take them to far away places. We're always on the lookout for nice Wisconsin towels and at various times have had various designs in stock, all of which sell well. I am also not above begging and have approached different artists about custom designs for the shop, with various degrees of success. However, it also occurred to me that some of our coloring book designs might translate well to tea towels so I sent those files off to our printers on Willy St. I am SO happy with the results! I really like the effect of two colors on a screen and am pleased to add yet another item to our collection of new regional items for this holiday season - even better, items that are designed and printed right here in Madison!

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arrivals for real

The last time I told you about anything other than coloring books was August 20th. I hate it when bloggers don't keep up. My apologies. If it is any consolation, I have been busy working on awesome things for the shop. I have overcome my feelings of exhaustion from about two years ago - I think it really hit me then that things weren't really going to "settle down" nor would it be less work to run a business than it was in the early years. I can't remember if I've shared me recent revelation but I've finally hit upon the analogy of being a small business owner. Those early years were like being dumped into the Pacific Ocean. Even though I thought I could swim, it turned out there was a lot to learn and mostly I was just trying to keep my head above water. Now we're 7 years into this and I've figured out, for the most part, how to swim, but I have the entire ocean to cross. I feel more confident and capable, but there's still a lot of work to do. But, as a friend said, every once in a while, a friendly sea mammal comes along and lets me rest for bit. In any event, my problems are the kind that many people would like to have: so many customers and new arrivals that I don't have time to catch up on the other tasks I should be doing.

So, let's see, where was I?

Our Wisconsin coloring books are still at the printers so I don't have an update for those, though I will set up some sort of online ordering option for those of you who are far away. Sachi has to go to the post office and figure out shipping costs.

But we did make coloring cards from Laura and Sachi illustrations:

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In the meantime, here are all the things that have arrived since late August:

an assortment of prints:

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lovely jewelry (which Sachi ordered and which came in while I was away so was brand new to me when a customer brought it up to the counter):

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journals, including Totoro (!), mini colored pencils:

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cut metal art from Haiti:

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tea towels (with more on their way), Wisconsin stickers, notepads:

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coloring books, of course:

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necklaces for babies to chew on, stylish office supplies, gift enclosure cards:

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Totoro wallets, boxed holiday notes, wrapping paper sheets:

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new buttons, including Bernie and Hillary campaign pins:

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note cards, note cards and more note cards:

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And, yes, Sachi has been busy making Wisconsin ornaments:

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And that should just about cover it. Of course, more things just arrived today.

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.


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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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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.




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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!

summertime (?)

After feeling complete surprise at the arrival of June (where DID that time go?), Mother Nature quickly reminded me that it was summertime with a few high 80/90 degree days. And then yesterday I was so cold that my nose was cold. Still, the cool weather makes for much nicer sleeping, except for the fact that someone was using a chainsaw in my neighborhood at 5 this morning. Grr.

But that gives me plenty of time to get work done, right? All that work that was piling up and making me feel overwhelmed? So, shall I fill you in on all the new arrivals? Though there are things coming in over the course of a few months, we've had plenty to keep us occupied, and to challenge me with the matter of finding space.

This week's notecards include: love from Madison and Wisconsin, popsicles, and a few expletives. I must say that I generally don't feel that expletives are necessary to communicate, but some of these had me bursting out with laughter.

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We did get more of the very popular Secret Garden coloring book in. I think this was a back order from our first order. There are still more coming. I appreciate that the publisher is actually filling orders, it seems, according to date placed, not just sending all the books to the biggest demand (Amazon, I'm assuming). And, yes that is a calendar you see in the photograph, just the first of many. We'll have the full assortment in store around the beginning of August so I'd recommend waiting until then for best selection. Unless you think you simply must have these delicate flower drawings on your wall next year.

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I also finally wrapped up a variety of Photoshop projects: updating the text on our Keep Calm Wisconsin print and small business print, making some new Madison thank-yous, and three new Madison prints.

We received the wonderful collage/stitched prints which have me mulling over my own endeavors. I still feel like I have lots of techniques that I haven't full explored, not to mention tons of paper for collaging - I need to work on giving myself time to work on my own collages. It is challenging for me sometimes because I'm thinking so much about how to translate works into things commercial, but it would be fine to just play around...


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Oh, in other exciting news, our Wisconsin patch arrived. We were so thrilled to be able to work with some artists to come up with this design! And now, at least, I can answer yes when people ask if we have patches.

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Earlier this week I was feeling pretty discouraged about the state of politics in this state. The Republicans are in complete control and it feels like they are driving this state into the ground just to adhere to ideology. I don't understand it - emotionally, intellectually, morally/Christian-y, or even as a business person. It is very frustrating. Though I did realize that I was not following my own words from my button "live and vote your love and faith not your hate and fear" and was doing exactly what I dislike so much about the conservative movement in this country right now. Everyone seems to be so reactionary, grasping on to what they have and completely disregarding the way other peoples' well-being has concrete effects on their own (never mind the theory of being a Christian nation). So I lectured myself about not stewing in my fear and sadness for our state. Well, as you can see, I am not really over it. I think I have to temper my newspaper reading for a bit. The current hastily-passing legislation is about a 20-week abortion ban and hearing women stand before politicians to tell their stories is heart-wrenching. I heard a story on the radio a long time ago about the suicide hotlines that have signs at major bridges around the country. The person was saying that these are the last-resort measures, but that when you are talking about mental health services, it is really ideal if you can deal with issues "upstream" as opposed to waiting for the moment when things are tumbling over the edge - cheaper and more effective than waiting until the moment someone is standing on a bridge. That's kind of how I feel we are (not) dealing with so many issues right now, just waiting until the last crisis moment when all you can focus on is just the immediacy of getting that person off the bridge. But where are the people who are concerned about abortion who are providing services that mean the situation never occurs in the first place? Why do we spend so much energy (and anger) on this moment when it would be so much more affordable and productive to focus on education and contraception? Where is the funding for such things? and if you are so concerned about Life, where is the funding for all the things that are required for everything that comes after? These women share stories of a baby who might have a short life in excruciating pain if they live that long at all. And how is the GOP planning to fund the prenatal care, even the testing? I keep forgetting what the estimate is - $275,000? to raise a child to the age of 18? What is the GOP doing about creating a state where people have good jobs and ability to raise their children? Oh, and don't get me started on schools. or the Bucks stadium. It feels like everything being done right now is just going to create more situations of metaphorical standing on bridges. Not to mention really bad business decisions. (I know, I used to think that government shouldn't be run like a business but I've modified my position somewhat. It helps that all the things I want seem like good business decisions: like investing $1 in the University and getting $25+ in returns, unlike the Bucks which is more like a $3 return.) But there I go again. I'd better go make some more buttons. Or maybe color something.

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Anyway, as you can see, I am in the midst of ongoing "snap out of it" lectures to myself. Luckily we received more of these cards. I'm posting one by my door so I see it every day as I leave. I think we should all have such encouragement.

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as promised, in part

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Hmm, I feel like I hyped up the arrival of the catalogs too much. Now that they have arrived and I've compared them to the purchase orders and the emails that I keep receiving from vendors, it is clear that we didn't pick up catalogs from nearly all the vendors we ordered from (good thing too, given how heavy my bags already were). But at least here's a taste. (please keep in mind these are pictures of catalog pages - not everything in the pictures is what will arrive, and everything looks better in person).

Although the space issue is an ongoing challenge, I had been feeling like our selection of wrapping paper sheets needed a little freshening so that was one of my priorities. I think we found a nice assortment, from viewfinders and mix tapes to lovely florals and otomi.

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Notepads, especially featuring the painterly watercolor washes and abstract florals.

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Party supplies: paper garlands, cupcake toppers, confetti, decorations...


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Crafty things: kits, washi tape, coloring postcards.

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Note books and journals.

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Though less than in previous years, we also found some new prints and other home decor items, such as these wall art pieces which Sachi originally purchased for herself at Artists & Fleas in the Chelsea Market.

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and, of course, note cards. Mom says: "where are you going to put it all?!!" but, seriously, we've been running low on cards.

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We've already received some shipment notifications from some vendors; otherwise will be coming in over the next few months. We hope you have a chance to stop in and check everything out!

NYC, here we come!

Just a few short days away from heading out the New York City for the National Stationery Show! How excited are we?! You have no idea. I have always loved the idea of this show, since way back when I first heard about it and tried to convince my boss that we should go there. Since the store I was working at did only a very small business in paper goods, it really wasn't practical. But you can bet it was first on our list when we opened Anthology. Now I'm thinking back to our first trip in 2008, when the store had only been open a few months, and where we brought along the baby and took turns walking the aisles. And now it is 2015 and we have all grown so much!


In retail, the effects of the internet can sometimes be the elephant in the room, but I have to say that I'm optimistic about the fate of brick & mortar retail, not to mention the fate of things actually printed on paper. Despite all the ways we have of staying in touch digitally, people still buy cards! Those "kids" (and adults, too) who are walking around with their noses buried in their smartphones? They have helped increase our sales of paper goods .. not quite tenfold, but still, substantially. And isn't it so much nicer to receive something on paper? We've been experiencing that ourselves these last few weeks as various stationers send us their invitation to stop and visit their booth. The mail has been quite inspiring, particularly the hand-addressed envelopes. Inspiring me to think more about my own hand-lettering.

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We will be gone for most of next week but thankfully all the part-timers are stepping up to the task. We will be open reduced hours but you can still stop by and get your paper fix. But stay tuned for all the orders and arrivals that will be coming in over the next few months! We are looking forward to seeing the new trends and designs, and getting a better handle on some vague ideas that have been taking shape for the direction of the store for its next 7 years.

Meanwhile, around the store, we are definitely getting ready for summer tourist season. Graduation at the UW was yesterday and today and we have many people in from out of town, as well as many students coming in to buy gifts. Sachi and I have been scrambling a bit - I don't know why graduation continues to catch us off guard. I guess I was too focused on Mother's Day. But I did install the graduation window early in the week and we have plenty of Madison mementos and inspiring prints/journals, as well as cards, of course. We were particularly excited to receive this postcard from a Minnesota artist, with the promise of the same design in wrapping paper size to come in the near future.

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We've also been working with a new artist on a custom Wisconsin design and we got the shirts back from the printer this week. We're in awe at the level of detail - we sent a list of options, but he added many more, including the Fonz.  How could I forget about the Fonz?!!

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Sachi also got her latest addition to her onesie series: the Minnesota hot dish.

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And I don't know if you've heard, but coloring books are all the rage. There's one in particular that is so popular, the paper makers can't keep up. We have more on order but are sold out at the moment. That said, we have a great new coloring book from a Wisconsin artist (which I think is even better than the Scottish one, not that I'm biased or anything), and many other options to choose from. I'm still enjoying my still life floral bouquets on nicer artist paper which is holding up to twinkling watercolors and providing a nice diversion in the evenings.

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And by this time next week, I will have an update for you on all the exciting things we've come across in NYC. I'm not at all sure of our internet access while we're there, but will remind you that we are now on Instagram so you can check there for the most immediate impressions of the show, internet connections willing. ooohh.... we can't wait to see what we find!