how did THAT happen?!

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

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

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

a few of our favorite things. day 25/25. gratitudes.

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I had a moment a week ago when I got bogged down with the idea of reciprocity and fairness. To give you a little context, there are only the two of us Komai girls and fairness has always been a big deal. I have a friend with three siblings and she maintains that in a family with more than two children, there just isn't time to think about even distribution of goods. So apparently they didn't spend as much time cutting cake into even slices as we did. It is possible, then, that the particular circumstances of my personality and upbringing lead me to be especially picky about such things, and not necessarily in a good way. Which leads me in occasional moments to get stuck on the matter of fairness. Like, does the time and work that I put into something get returned evenly by the recipient? Like, isn't it annoying when it isn't? Like, how do you compete when the playing ground isn't exactly even? and so on. I'm not saying this was a proud moment for me, I just wanted to give you the context.

Of course, there's nothing like a six-year old to point out the error of your ways - specifically this one crying in Old Navy when we found shirts with My Little Pony and Frozen on them in sizes up to 4T but not in her size. "It's not FAIR! I hate little kids!"  Ah, yes, focus too much on what some people get that you don't get and you end up crying in the middle of Old Navy and hating little children. It's a slippery slope.

What snapped me out of it? Well, first, I have been working on my Christmas letter and focusing on gratitudes. It seems like I've heard a lot lately about how focusing on your gratitudes can have a positive and multiplying effect. It's something I have to practice very deliberately - perhaps that will come more easily in time. Even though it is easy to get caught up in the millions of dollars being spent on Amazon and at WalMart, on people with long vacations, on business owners with huge houses, I return to that Frank Llyod Wright quote I found a few weeks ago, about the truth of my life (not the facts and how they compare to others'). Second (only in terms of timing), my very dear friend who is always good at putting things in perspective and snapping me out of things came for a visit and generally got the ball rolling - it was just after her visit that I found that Frank Lloyd Wright quotation. And then just last week I learned late in the week that she had spent most of the week in the ICU. And I just have to say generally that I really did think that I was doing well with the whole gratitude thing and I'm not sure I really needed the reminder of our mortality and fragility and the very temporary nature of our presence here on earth. But apparently I did, that and a reminder of how trivial all my concerns about whether or not we have enough or too much to sell, if the scaffolding down the street will hurt sales, if the weather is going to cooperate, if the store is doing better than last year....  So, yeah, everything is better for my friend, more or less, than it was last week but some little part of me can't seem to stop projecting forward - not just in gratitude and joy, but in fear and sorrow (oh my gosh... what if it had been worse? what if I ended last week without my dear friend in my life?!). Makes one keenly aware of all that one has. We have been particularly fortunate this year - our Dad made it through surgery, my dear friend is alive. I don't know if this is a matter of just being older, but this year there seem to have been filled with more sorrow and loss than I remember in the past, making me more aware of the people who are not here for the holidays, though I still maintain that the influence of those people lives on forever. I can see how it can be particularly painful in the Hallmark-esque moments of the season, to be confronted with ones own sorrow and loss, to be celebrating without father/mother/daughter/husband this year. Unfair. Fair.

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But how easily do we let ourselves get distracted by the trivialities of life - by the sparkly lights and shiny things? I think it is particularly easy in the world we live in to see all that you don't have - to be witness to riches and see all that will never be yours; to wonder in a little corner of your mind if that $1000 bottle of wine is really that much better than your $20 bottle, and if everything is exponentially better all. the. time.  Of course, a lot of people would be happy with the $20 bottle. Obviously, it is useful to come back to the awareness of everything that one has (and perhaps how others would consider it so very unfair that you have what you do) and particularly all the presence in ones life (not just presents). Unfair. Fair.

And then add on top of that is this season of giving, when I'm running around happily finding gifts for our very small family, but when I am also witness to the people coming in - some happily and some not.  There are lengthy conversations that I overhear about what a person would like, what they need, if a person is settling, how maybe a $5 card is "too much." A big issue seems to be those people who are hard to buy for - Dads seem to be a big culprit - or the person for whom all of my suggestions are met with negative, and what is really needed is more of a therapy degree than a geography or retail background. Or the people who are shopping for presents all the while knowing that the one person they really want to give a present to will not be there to celebrate. The root of the problem lies beyond my ability to help. Of course, when it gets right down to it, aren't we really just trying to find a material object as a token of all that we have received, which is more than we can possibly match, materially speaking? Is that why it is so hard to find a gift for some people?  

If it IS a matter of fairness between individuals, do we ever really repay all that we receive from our parents? from those who have been with us in our sorrows and pains? from our dear friends who bring so much to our lives? And if it is a matter more generally of fairness, can you ever repay THAT? I see now that "pay it forward" is not just a matter of niceness, but of necessity - a way of generally being generous in ways that are fair and unfair at the same time. Of knowing that you can't exactly pay BACK all that you have received, but that you can be generous going forward, creating those very moments of un-reciprocated generosity in someone else's life. Fair. Unfair.

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Because, really, what else do we have? If I repay all my customers for what they bring to my life then... what? I owe them the money they spent at the shop and then some? How do I give back all that I have received? A person could get totally tied-up in trying to even the score.

ANYWAY, this is all a really long and meandering way of saying that the best gift of this season, of the entire year, is the gift of everyone who is in my life - my dear friends, my family, and you, my customers and fellow creators. Being able to work at Anthology is a tremendous gift - to create a meaningful job for myself, to work with my sister, to deal with all the challenges and gifts of being a business owner. And to all my customers who make my work possible - how can I return the gift? Hopefully when we each stumble upon our life's calling, we are met by people who can cheer us on, who can connect with us, who can appreciate the work that we are doing. Perhaps it isn't the same people who you do that for, but somehow it all circles around, and it's a lovely thing. Fair, even.

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Now I must note that what intially snapped me out of my wallowing was that visit from my dear friend and a reminder of my little notebook that I keep by my cash register. I keep it there all the time, and I tell everyone that they should have such a book of their own - and even though I know it is there, sometimes I forget it is there, but I cracked it open last week looking for a quotation for my Christmas letter. And I was overwhelmed with happiness. This little notebook holds an assortment of things I have overheard or been told, compliments about the store. I call it my warm fuzzy file because an geology professor from long long ago had advised us all that we should have such a file, filled with letters of recommendation and other compliments. He was preparing us for life as a woman in geology, but it works as well for me as an introvert in retail. It's quite useful.

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And so I come back to my most favorite thing, the best gift that I have received on this day of giving. My life, the life of all the people who are in my life, the lives of people I have been able to influence and inspire - all the more so because of having Anthology and not just hiding out in my livingroom/studio making things. Thank YOU! We wish you the happiest of holidays and enjoyment of all the presents/presence of your life.

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They left me with your shadow, saying things like Life is not fair & I believed them for a long time. But today, I remembered the way you laughed & the heat of your hand in mine & I knew that life is more fair than we can ever imagine if we are there to live it. Story People by Brian Andreas

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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new & old; looking back, and forth

I feel a little at a loss as far as where to begin or end.  Sachi and I are still feeling rather worn out from the holidays, while the unseasonable weather has kept this week busier than usual.  Then there are the visits with out-of-town guests and the general catching-up of the holiday season.  We were ready to start hibernating, but that is more of a late January activity.  There is still inventory and year-end tax prep to get through.  Sigh. 

Well, at least I can look around the store for easy inspiration - wow, my desire to facilitate creativity even works on me!  This will be my last post of 2011 and it seemed appropriate to draw from the words that I see around me everyday, from our notecards and prints, from some of my favorite artists who have been inspiring me (for years even before we opened).


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Amidst all the bustle of the holidays, I can't help coming back to the idea of how much has changed in a single year.  Although much of this time of year involves looking forward, making plans/resolutions/intentions for the new year, there is also, for me, an element of looking back on the year that has passed.  Part of this comes from the Blurb books that I work on (the year in pictures & projects, and the annual installation of the adorable girl photos) and my Christmas letter but this year in particular, I find myself marveling over all that has changed.  A year ago, there was nothing vague about my sense of dread related to Wisconsin politics, but, seriously, I had NO idea what was to come, nor what my involvement would be.  I certainly never would have guessed that we'd be closing in on 21,000 buttons made & sold since February.  It's bizarre to think of all that happened in less than 365 days.  And for all the planning that anyone does, there's so much we don't know about what the new year will bring.

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I'm still kind of wrestling with my new year resolutions.  To be honest, I don't usually make a formal list and just have some vague ideas.  Last year I had my collage, which should carry over pretty well into another year.  It was rather comprehensive and perhaps a little over-reaching in terms of what a person could do in a year.  But I made progress.  The last line "don't forget your sword and your ticket," was a line from the adorable girl, but I kind of feel like it ended up being a sword-wielding kind of year.

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For myself, the main thing that is preoccupying my mind is how I will be the change I wish to see in the world.  It is overwhelming to think of the scale of politics and economics, corporations and media... overwhelming and discouraging.  I'm not quite sure how I will go forward in that realm, though I do know that I am continuing my local buying and hopefully directing less money to the corporate and political realm.  Most recently, I've been caught up in the Madison Prep debate - thinking about the achievment gap here in Madison, and what a person, such as myself, can do about it.  I have this keen sense that we as a nation and state are failing our children. That parents who have the time and money and energy are taking their children out of the public school system and that we, as taxpayers, are abandoning our responsibilities to the public school system.  I'm not really sure what role is appropriate for me, just that I'm not ready to cede the education of our children to private industry.

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And I am hoping this coming year that I can refine the work/life balance, which is hard when one's work IS one's life in the way that it is for me, this being my dream job that I choose to create for myself.  Still, the introvert that I am needs a little more quiet time.

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As for the shop.  Well, who knows what is in store?  Every year at Christmastime, it is fun to look around at the products that arrived to the store, the new directions that we've gone in - It's always a bit of a surprise as I don't know what customers will be asking for, what artists will be creating, or what we will be inspired to pursue.  But that's the kind of change that is fun and intriguing. 

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In the new year, we are looking forward to a buying trip to San Francisco. Our uncle lives in the area so we will visit with him.  The last time I saw him was a year before we opened Anthology; I was wrestling with some job dissatisfaction and I clearly remember one lunch where, after patiently listening to my complaints, my uncle said, "I think it's time.  You need to open your store."  So he gets credit for the first kick in the pants that got us going on this path.  Dec 055

We have never been to this particular show, so we are curious to see what we will find (hoping that the Asian influence might be strong there on the West Coast since we'd love to find more Japanese goods for the shop).  We are also looking forward to a bit of a getaway; we tack on a few vacation days to the trip and are already making our list of places to go to in San Francisco.  I have always loved Flax, and am looking forward to seeing their paper collection.

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Sachi has already started planning for the Valentine's window and is busily sewing some text for embroidery hoops (think romantic lyrics).  As usual, we seem to compliment each other; when one is tired, the other tends to step up to the plate.  I did muster up enough energy to change the Christmas Alice window to our New Year wishes - a collection of words that loosely represent our wishes for the New Year.

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We are so thankful to all our customers, friends, family, artists, everyone who has been with us on our journey this past year.  Whatever your resolutions/intentions are, if you are the sort of person to make them, we hope that your new year holds wonder and inspiration and creativity. Thank you!!

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protest buttons thanks

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In celebration of the 18,000th protest button sold and in honor of the kick-off of Recall Walker petition collecting season, Anthology will be having a button sale on Saturday, November 19th.  Protest buttons made in-house will be 50% off - regularly $1 and $1.50, now 50 cents and 75 cents. While supplies last, though we will do what we can to keep up.  Stock up and bring some home for the holidays.  We still have "with Liberty and Justice for all," which I think means that there's a button for everyone.

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This is the time of year when the slide from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day goes fast, when I'm thinking about giving thanks and wrapping up a year, about what has changed from last year (what new items do I have to offer this Christmas?  what have I accomplished in a year?), about what to write in my annual Christmas letter, about what I hope for in the coming year.

And it is not that there aren't other things in my life or the life of the store, but a big part of all those thoughts is... buttons.  Buttons, buttons.  A year ago, who would have guessed that would be so?  A year ago, I never would have predicted all that has happened and the role that buttons would play. 

Five years ago, to be precise, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, was when the plans for Anthology first solidified.  That was my light-bulb moment at 6 a.m.  It is funny to think about our path and the role button machines - which I first had to twist Sachi's arm over (She always wanted a button machine and I told her this would be a great opportunity since it would be a business expense and we could use it to make buttons for the store.)  We had so much fun making our own buttons that we ended up inviting customers to make their own buttons.  The button machine wasn't even in our business plan. 

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Even the process of making protest pins started very serendipitously.  We felt very strongly that Governor Walker's actions were wrong and were going to be hurtful to our community at large, as well as to our customers, and so we stood with the protesters from the beginning.  Sachi made her signs, we teared up as the firefighters passed by, I installed our first protest window.  But, mostly, the first couple days, we stood.  We witnessed.  We felt kind of blindsided and helpless; and it felt a little lonely to be standing in the store watching everyone walk up to the Capitol.  Of course, it wasn't about selling, this was not the time.  But then our customers (who regularly walk by and point us out as "the button store") started coming in and asking where our buttons were.  A friend commented that we must be selling buttons like crazy since protesters love their buttons.  Of course as a business, we are always trying to think of ways to build our business.  But I believe that you can't really sell a product unless you really believe in it - you have to pick the things that speak to you so that your heart is in your store.  And in the end, while making buttons has been monetarily rewarding, I think it has saved my sanity this year in many more significant ways.  I can feel alone, helpless, powerless; and then I can check our sales history and be comforted by the number of people who have bought buttons and who agree with me (and extrapolate how many recall signatures that translates into).  I am not alone.  I can feel minimized, marginalized ('oh, you're just a hippie Madisonian') and have my day immediately brightened by a phone order for buttons to be shipped somewhere in northern or eastern or western Wisconsin.  I am not alone.  I can feel voiceless and unheard, and then I can come into the shop and vent my frustration by coming up with new slogans, not to mention that the physical act of making buttons can use up a little aggression.  I can feel worried or threatened about possible hostility, and then I can appreciate that civility prevails.  Most of all, providing the space of our button table has created little pockets of community, moments when random strangers come together and share a chuckle over buttons - these moments of laughter are so valuable to me, and to play a role in hosting them is something that I am truly proud of.

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Yesterday we sold our 18,000th button since February of this year.  That is more buttons than we've sold in the previous years since we opened.  That is pretty close to the increase in sales between last year and this year.   A percentage of that funds our local non-profit donations, which have increased substantially this year compared to last year.  That is thanks to the people who have come into our store (or called/emailed) to purchase our protest pins.  THANK YOU!

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good things & gratitudes

Good things come in threes.  Well, maybe it should be multiples of three since the list surely goes beyond three.  Nonetheless, Anthology is pleased this June 2011 to celebrate (a little belatedly, but, hey, we were busy):

1. Three years in business.

2. One paid-off small business loan.

3. Three more years, plus an option for an extension, on our lease.

We are so grateful to everyone who has been with us on this adventure, and to many years ahead! 

Christmas & New Year wishes

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What an amazing year we had in 2010!  We are so grateful to our customers, our consignment artists, the people who inspire us, the people who were inspired by us...  Oh, so very many people!  As we looked around, the store is a veritable treasure trove of our thoughts and wishes for you this holiday season and into the new year.  And after the thousands of words that I've typed this year, perhaps it is best just to let the pictures do the talking.  Cranes for peace, more joy and on it goes.

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and, ever and again, thanks, thanks and evermore thanks. Dec23 016

love from the world wide web

I know it seems a little self-indulgent, but sometimes I just love to wallow around in blog stats and see where everyone is visiting from and find out who is saying what about Anthology online.  And I'll confess that the thrill of seeing travel/nytimes pop up every few days has not waned.  I know, it was only one sentence, but being described as "a whimsical boutique filled with colorful crafts" in the New York Times is a happy compliment.

Today's highlight comes from Life Liberty & Lip Gloss, which reviewed the shop a few days ago.  Although it is a thrill to get a mention no matter what, this review was particularly enjoyable.  Of course it helps that they appealed to the fairytale side of me:

"Ever wonder what it might be like to step into a fairy godmother’s attic? Wonder no more. Anthology in Madison, WI is an enchanting three-dimensional collage of a crafting boutique. The place weaves a spell around visitors that makes it difficult to leave."

"If you have a single creative bone in your body, appreciate beauty in any way, and/or have a love of whimsy, don’t miss Anthology when you’re in Madison!  In fact, it’s worth the drive if you’re in range."

Aw, shucks.


"I've just fallen in love with this store. I'm so glad to have found you."*

I'm pretty sure that I've told this story before, but this time of year always makes me think of it.  Four years and six hours ago, I woke up after several challenging months.  Of course, when you are in the middle of things, it is hard to see what it is all leading up to.  Change had been underfoot at my job for months, I was doubting myself - my talents, my abilities, my plans.  There were tears.  I had even spent most of October updating my resume (which hadn't been updated since I started my job about 10 years before).  THAT alone was a stressful project - how DO you convey your skills and talents on one piece of paper?

"When I got home, I told them, 'I think it's daughters of elves and fairies working in there.'  I didn't want to go back out on the street."

But when I woke up, early for me, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I woke up suddenly and everything was totally clear.  I know, I know, it sounds so cheesy, so cliche, but it was one of those classic light-bulb-going-on moments that people talk about but which I didn't really believe in. After months of deliberating over what I was going to do for the rest of my life, trying to make compromises to fit my plan with my boss' plan for me, thinking out loud while friends patiently listened and didn't say anything about my secretarial aspirations, trying to figure out what job I could take to "fill the time," when I woke that Wednesday morning, my only thought was, "we should open a store." 

Of course there were moments of doubts and anxiety which followed afterwards, but the clarity of that moment stays in my memory. 

"This store is very inspirational.  It strikes up memories, give me ideas.  There's not much like that out there these days.  Thank you."

I'm thinking about that moment especially this year because I am delivering a sermonette at church on December 5th.  The topic is preparing and I've been thinking a lot about ways that we prepare.  Times that we think we are prepared for one thing but are really preparing for another.  Times that we feel unprepared and yet we have never been more prepared.

"This makes me want to go craft.  Like, right now."

And that Thanksgiving day, I spoke my plans outloud to friends and family.  In some ways, I had never felt more prepared.  Because my Christmas letter for about 10 years kept saying, "by 40, I want a store of my own."  That was why I had my job in the first place, because that was the first step on that path.  Not to mention all the projects that filled my apartment, which could easily fill up a store.  But I wasn't 40 yet!  There was still so much preparing to be done.  In some ways, the timing seemed a little off.  I hadn't really been expecting my job to come to an end at just that moment.  The business plan wasn't written.  The adorable girl was just a month old, and who starts a business with a newborn?

"I appreciate you being out here and sharing your creativity."

In hindsight, the moment was just about perfect and I am so glad that we seized upon it.  The economy was still in pretty good shape, we cashed in on some stocks while they were still valuable, the bank was willing to give us a loan.  And, let's face it, starting a business with a newborn is, in some ways, easier than trying to set up shop with a toddler who doesn't sit still.

And now we are coming up on our three-year anniversary in a few months.  There's very little that I would differently if I had it to do over again, which is always a comfort. 

"Look how adorable!  I just want to eat this shop!"

I feel tremendously thankful - for my sister, my family, that adorable girl, our customers, our consignees, for the ways that risk and daring are rewarded and for the ways that I get to share creativity and inspiration every day.

"You have the cutest store.  I just love it.  You took something you loved and turned it into a store, didn't you?"

Nothing is perfect - it is a tremendous effort for the introvert that I am to be nice to stragners 6 days a week.  There are days when I feel tired or overwhelmed, anxious or crabby.  But every single day, someone comes into the store and pays us a compliment, thanks us, purchases the perfect present or just the art supply that they were looking for.  I have filled a notebook with the happiness of customers and I feel so grateful for having the opportunity to have an effect on the creativity of the world.  Happy Thanksgiving!

"I'm just in love with this place.  Everything here is so thoughtful. It makes me a little misty."


*actual customer overheads


Happy New Year!  We hope that you and yours enjoy a very happy & successful, creative & colorful New Year!  We are thankful for every little thing that every person has contributed to Anthology - not just in terms of dollars and cents, but in terms of the moral support, the appreciation, the kind words, the creative inspiration... the list goes on.  We closed out 2009 today and are happy to report tremendous growth as we have learned much about running a business, have stretched ourselves as artists, have filled in spaces on the walls and in the drawers, and, yes, have even increased our sales (double digits, no less) compared to 2008.  Thank YOU!  Thanks to the many artists who share their work and fill our shelves, thanks to our customers who appreciate the collection we've gathered and our hours of hard work, thanks to our friends and family who provide such support and patience, thanks to this amazing and inspiring world, and thanks to every little ounce of creative energy.

Just last night a customer came into the store and said to me, "I love this place.  There is such care everywhere, everything in it has such heart.  It makes me a little misty-eyed."  And honestly, people tell me things like that EVERY single day!  Wow! Am I lucky or what?!

And really, all I was intending to say here on the last day of 2009 was thank you, but of course, there are other things that come to mind.  Chief among them is looking ahead to 2010.  Sachi and I are already busy thinking up some new projects, both for ourselves, and also for the craft table.  We will be going to the Craft & Hobby Association trade show at the end of January.  We are greatly looking forward to the trip, and not just because it is in southern California (though that doesn't hurt).  Last year, we found lots of new art supplies and project ideas and inspiration and we can hardly wait to see what we bring back this year!  I'm also hoping to add to our craft party selection and have been spending a lot of time browsing online.  So many things to see and do!  Martha Stewart.... well, it's Martha, what do you expect?  I've found a number of possibilities and, quite frankly, am a little overwhelmed with all the things to do, but I managed to focus long enough to make these little goodies.  They seem like an appropriate activity for the new year so we'll have them at the store just as soon as I gather all the supplies.  Super simple to make, but how fun would it be to have a bowl of these as party favors?  Ta da!  Martha used felt but I like to create a double-sided effect using some of my many quilt scraps.  Now I just have to decide on some suitable fortunes to tuck inside.DSC09322  

And finally, I wanted to share an excerpt from my holiday letter here because it seems fitting:

Leaning out as far as she can, hoping she'll fall soon,
so she can stop worrying about whether it will happen or not. - Brian Andreas

There is something tremendously rewarding about taking a big risk such as starting a business.  Besides the financial risk, there is a great degree of vulnerability that many people are not sensitive to.  Yes, it can be painful, to open oneself up so publicly, to risk the criticism, the lack of understanding, the disinterest.   It is especially tempting, as an artist and an introvert, to just stay holed up in my studio.  But in pushing myself to lean, to reach, to connect, I have been met with such enthusiasm that the fall has a soft landing.  Daily I have people tell me how much they love the store and how much they’ve been inspired and I feel truly fortunate to be able to play such a role in so many people’s lives.

Don’t you hear it? she asked & I shook my head no & then she started to dance
& suddenly there was music everywhere & it went on for a very long time
& when I finally found words all I could say was thank you. - Brian Andreas

I am grateful to all the people in my lives who share their music, their passion, their art, and inspire me to share my own.

The world is filled with amazing inspirations, opportunities and fortunes; I hope you find the best of them in the New Year!