No, for real. We did actually leave town for a week but I can see that I have been neglectful. My apologies. Just as soon as I sort through this pile of paperwork, I promise to fill you in on all the comings and goings. I see a big pile of empty boxes so there surely are some new arrivals.

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Although in past years we have gone on a buying trip to the L.A. area, this year we decided to actually take a vacation so we spent a week in the San Diego area. Sachi found a great VRBO a few blocks away from Swami's Beach in Encinitas. Now, I don't know about you, but I am a beach girl. There's something about the uncluttered sightlines and sound of the waves that soothes me. It is possible that is a part of me which is unfulfilled by the lack of white space in my life? But it will have to make do with these occasional trips to the beach. I like the shop and my home full as it is.

In any event, we spent a lot of time walking on the beach, but also doing all the family-friendly things that one does when vacationing with a 7 year-old: the Safari Park, the Aquarium. We think this cutie should be the new owl.

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I was on my own for the Zoo and Legoland days, and enjoyed more leisurely walking on the beach, as well as checking out some local shops.

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and also indulging my obsession with succulents.

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and, of course, we ate lots of good food.

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The weather was quite amazing. Especially considering the state of Wisconsin politics, it was tempting to just stay there. At the least, I think Wisconsin should close mid-February to mid-March and we should all move to Encinitas. 

The snow is pretty but I do need to turn the heat back up at home. My nose was cold last night. But at least it isn't Boston. But then will come the drearies of March and April, when any pretty residual of snow gives way to muck and clumps and piles of discarded cigarettes. Which reminds me of this sign that I saw in Oceanside which I would love to replicate and put all over the sidewalks.

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And, now, for real. Back to work. I will return shortly with pictures of all the new arrivals.

heading south

I'll be heading out to Atlanta in a few days for the last big buying trip of the year (yes, buying for the holidays already) - I checked the weather and it looks like it will be hotter there than here (which I remark upon because the last two years, it has been the reverse). I'm making a long list of to-dos while there, though to some extent, the point of walking all those floors of booths and showrooms is to get a sense for general trends and directions ahead of the holidays. Much of what can be found at this show is mass-produced and brought in from overseas so there is much that I simply walk by, though it gives me a sense of what to look for in handmade. And for two years in a row, I went to Atlanta only to discover a new Wisconsin maker.

I was reviewing my post from last year's trip - it's fun to look back upon what I found - the things that were flops and the things that were successes (My old boss told me the CEO of Anthropologie said once something to the effect that if any of his buyers never had any failures, he would seriously consider firing them - the point is that if you don't have failure, you are not taking risk and are thus not liable to stumble upon some new hot seller. That perspective gives me a little more permission to try new things and know that failure is part of the process). It's always interesting to look back over the years and see what has been popular, and how I stumbled across it. Just for example, especially popular this year are our book letters and wall texts on tobacco lath. They come from Viroqua but I found them in Atlanta. The booth was filled mostly with the tobacco lath and was clearly busy, but what caught my eye were the alphabet letters. I talked to the salesman about the letters and he very kindly told me that he wasn't going to interfere with my business, but the wall words were outselling the alphabet letters 10 to 1 and he would encourage me to give them a try. He was right, halfway anyway, seeing as the alphabet letters have been holding their own. But I was also persuaded to try them in the context of all the wall plaques that were so common from so many vendors (yet clearly not handmade and not for our shop) - which just reiterates what I feel is the value of traveling to Atlanta and seeing all these vendors at once in one place. Or in three places, such as it is, seeing as there are three tall buildings to sift through. I do appreciate their Made in the USA and handmade sections, as well as what seems to be a growing section of fair trade goods.

For a change, I have an idea for our Christmas window already, but this trip will either confirm it or change it. I do have a fair amount of product in mind for the window, but we'll see what pops up there. I'll be bringing my camera but will be without internet access so, as usual, you'll have to wait 'til I come home for the sneak peeks. We've still been getting shipments from our New York trip; most of the Atlanta orders will be arriving later in the fall but at the rate we've staggered our shipments, there still is something new each week.

I did find evidence of some downtown pop-up shops in Atlanta so I'm hoping to have a chance to check them out. As I travel - through small towns and to large cities - I am often struck by the way downtowns have suffered from rising property values and outsourcing to the 'burbs. Seems like lots of shuttered retail spaces or flagship stores of chains who can afford it. I'm interested to see Atlanta's pop-up shop approach, but also hoping that Madison can continue to keep this space lively and diverse. I feel like there's a real disconnect, in many places, between those who own property (which is, apparently, becoming more and more of a Wall Street investment) and those who actually live and work in the places, the tenants who create the sense of place  which the property owners profit off of. That is the concern rumbling around in this shopgirl's head - just a general concern about the long range state of downtown Madison, in light of macro trends (like in New York City)(and the aforementioned Wall Street investing). With that in mind, I head off to yet another downtown - on a much larger scale than Madison, of course - curious to see how all the different users of a city space work together.

back from the East

Slowly digging out from being gone for a week....  Too bad the pile of paperwork that I left didn't particularly diminish. Isn't it nice when you dig into such a pile and you find things that are expired that you can just recycle? Not really happening this time around.

There ARE new arrivals to the shop and there will be many more coming given all the orders that we placed at the Stationery Show last week (which will be spread out over the next couple months but have already started arriving - new Wisco prints and letterpress cards today). But I thought I would at least recap our past week away. Mostly, the diary of two shopgirls on "vacation." Many times we laughed at the way Sachi's husband would be irked with us - but we opened a paper and craft shop BECAUSE we like paper and crafts and shopping... so naturally we have a busman's holiday when we travel unsupervised. Sure, there are plenty of afterhours entertainments to be found in New York City, and we did manage to attend an art opening, eat delicious meals, walk along the High Line Park, take the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty, and otherwise enjoy the sights of the city.

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But the bulk of the time, as is proper, was spent - either at the NSS itself or in other stores - looking at, buying and thinking about: note cards and other paper goods, new vendors, store layout, window displays, placement of goods, things to make, etc.

(I always enjoy visiting ABC Carpet and Home - their merchandising is always inspiring, including the little artfully spilled piles of glitter in their window and jewelry cases.)

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But first up, the show itself. Two jam-packed days of walking up and down aisles scribbling down notes and trying to figure out orders to place. It's not a bad problem to have, but nonetheless a challenge to see it all. I'm happy with the many new vendors we found and excited about the directions that people are going in - particularly, for me, the growing selection of interesting text-based prints that are available, such as these from the booth of Live Love (and, yes, we did place an order and many of these prints will be arriving to the shop). I am still left with a sense that I didn't get everything done and need to spend a lot of time pouring over catalogs, just as soon as they arrive (I shipped them home in a flat rate box and was commended by the post office guy for how much I packed into one of those boxes).

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Taking pictures at the show is a somewhat delicate thing, as there are proprietary issues to consider, as well as the simple fact that I was pressed for time as it was. But, there's a great series of blog posts over at Oh So Beautiful Paper which conveys the sense of the show very well, and includes some shots of vendors we ordered from.

Besides the Stationery Show, we hit our usual favs and discovered some new ones, like Paper Presentation, which made us somewhat jealous of the square footage and size of market to be found in NYC - pretty much every color and size and shape of paper you could imagine - sheets, envelopes, tags... We are particularly enjoying the Chelsea Market, the food, the washi tape craft table at Anthropologie, the vendors in Artists & Fleas...

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Also the proximity to the High Line Park, where we strolled, took in the sights of city and art and spring flowers (and good thing too since 80-degree weather back home means that we returned to mostly summer flora).

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We lucked out with the weather and only had a few sprinkles, which left us mostly free to enjoy springtime in NY.

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oh, and we ate delicious food, like this brioche french toast we had at the Belgian bistro right next to our hotel in Chelsea. DSCN3062 (800x600)


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This trip also seemed to be much about books - we found several great bookstores and I added to my collection of children's books, as well as found some books to read during the vacation component of my trip. I am such a sucker for a well-illustrated children's book - I've actually had to force myself not to look too closely at children's books sections ever since we started the shop and I've been on a small business owner budget. I can easily drop $50 every time I look at children's books. We particularly enjoyed browsing Powerhouse Books in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, Brooklyn), as well as strolling the streets and coming across this little gem of stencil art, which makes me feel like stenciling all over the place.



DSCN3011 (800x600)And, of course, it is fun just to BE in another place, to view the sights and sounds of unfamiliar spaces, to appreciate new colors and shapes and lines and different arrangements from your own everyday. 

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 LOVED this sign at Posman Books in Chelsea Market:

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And then the two sisters parted ways and Sachi came back to Madison while I went on to Western Massachusetts to visit a friend I haven't visited in ages, grabbing 4 consecutive days of vacation, which I think I have not had since about August of last year. Hard to complain when one is totally responsible for deciding to work one's dream job, but it's not without its grinding elements. Though spring has been really busy for us, we also know things just get busier from here on out, so it was nice to grab a little time to do nothing but chat and eat and sightsee and read books on the porch. I did do a little shopping, thus prolonging the busman's holiday: and stumbled across a new printer whose work I hope to carry, as well as picked up ideas for window displays and other merch.

In keeping with the children's book theme of the trip, I did go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and enjoyed seeing some original illustrations, peeking in on their craft room (with cleverly labeled trays: "put your scraps here" - now why didn't I think of that?!), and, of course, being tempted by more wonderfully illustrated books. 

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It was also lovely to experience spring on the East Coast - the azaleas were in full bloom, as well as lovely Dogwoods. Spring, as always, feels terribly short-lived - I'm getting a sinking feeling that climate change means we will get longer summers and winters when what I'd really like is an extra month of autumn and spring. At least I did make it to the arboretum before I left town, and there will be plenty of summer flowers to come.

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checking in anyway

Laura here, out in Western Massachusetts without the cord to connect the camera to the computer, without the purchase orders (sent home with Sachi) and without the catalogs of possibilities (taped up inside a flat rate box to mail home). But I thought I'd check in anyway because I have a feeling it has been a while.

Earlier in the week, we awoke at 3:30 am to catch the 6 am flight to New York City, taking a cab directly from the airport to the Javitz convention center, where we walked up and down aisles of paper goods at the Stationery Show. Lovely! We were inspired by all the goods on offer - the chevron, chalkboard, hand-written text and gilt accents seem to still be going strong and as usual we enjoyed being overwhelmed by letterpress offerings. I'm still mulling over some ideas for our holiday window, though last year what ideas I had were completely changed by the time I returned from the July show in Atlanta so I won't get too attached to my ideas. I am still seeing a lot of forest animal motifs but I read a profile about Spoonflower that said the whale is the new owl. Of course, when we go on such buying trips to the East Coast, it is clear that a nautical theme is a strong one, but I'm not quite sure how well that would play in Wisconsin. Though now I'm just envisioning graphics with ocean creatures in the Great Lakes...  That's completely aside from the other direction I was going. Perhaps I will know more by August. Our trip was a little on the short side so we had to pack all our work into slightly fewer hours than on previous trips. For the most part, I think we got it done, though I had to really just focus on picking up new vendors, as fun as it is to chat with existing vendors and see what they have been up to. For that, the catalogs and online stores will have to suffice. I had a slight panic-inducing moment on Wednesday when I looked at the clock to see it was quarter to noon, I still had a two-column list of vendors, and only 75 minutes left 'til show closing time. Luckily, I had starred the must-haves so I shifted into speedy mode. Sigh, still so many to think about, but there is something wonderful about having a pile of possibles when one is in need. The many letterpress cards start to blur together after a while so I still have to sort through them all, but the very fact that there are so many to choose from is a lovely problem to have.

I promise I will share pictures when I get back but off the top of my head, some things to look forward to in the next few months as shipments arrive: pocket journals, Japanese notebooks, rubber stamps, book plates, prints with inspiring text (nice lettering, photo backgrounds, clever sayings), French journals, mini books of quotations, patterned masking tape, and note cards, of course...  What fun!

Besides attending the show, we grabbed some time to eat good food, stroll the High Line park, attend an art opening of a friend, explore the DUMBO area of Brooklyn, go to Chelsea Market (several times as it was in our neighborhood), shop for children's books and more stationery and paper goods (we canNOT help ourselves even though I knew my brother-in-law would kill us if he was with us.. but he wasn't... so we could check out the competition, continue to shop for new lines, and otherwise revel in our love of paper). I gained renewed appreciation for the space that we have - even though it seems small by most standards, it is still quite large compared to some of the places we went to. I took the train out of Grand Central Station so finally got there for the first time - enjoying their little shops, the market food offerings, and the overwhelming bustle of people coming and going. 

And now I am visiting a friend in Western Massachusetts and enjoying a little vacation time. I don't think I've had such a block of time since before Christmas. New York is always amazing and inspiring, but somewhat exhausting as there is so much work and play to be done. It is nice to have some time to recuperate before I head back home to work and summer tourist season. I am also enjoying the loveliness of spring out here - new variations of flowering trees that we don't get in Wisconsin, including some lovely Dogwood trees - which, though I grew up on Dogwood Place, I'm not sure I've actually seen growing in situ (if someone's yard can count as such). Two more days here and then I will return to the shop, a pile of emails and paperwork, and the matter of finding space for all that will soon be arriving.


end of summer getaway

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Well, I don't really think of it as the END of Summer, but there was that pesky calendar page turn, not to mention a sudden surge in fall-related posts amongst my Facebook friends. The month of August has gone by in a blur - Sachi was gone for two Saturdays and then I was gone; we were busy with summer tourists and getting ready for Christmas. I'm almost ready to settle into the full fall/holiday mode. Now the students are back and decorating their apartments and dorms so there's a shift from folding t-shirts to rolling up sheets of wrapping paper and taking prints down from the clothesline.

But I did manage to get away to the beach with my niece for our traditional beach getaway. We visited my childhood friend in Green Bay, finally got to the D.I.Y. Studio and Gifts and Assemblage Studio in its new location. Super inspiring! Also, the Green Bay farmer's market is so cool!  I would have stayed and eaten there, but our friends were expecting us. One nice outcome of the trip is the reminder (as is the case of pretty much all trips) of how one's life pretty much is the way one wants it. It is easy from afar to glamorize other places and lives (grass is always greener kind of thing), to feel grumpy about traffic jams in Madison or jealous about other people's washing machines, but as happy as I am to go away, I am happy, so happy, to come home.

One thing that I do really wonder about as I drive around the state is all those vacancies in downtowns and those "land for sale" and development signs in the middle of farm fields or the edges of highways. Frankly, it is a little disappointing. It feels like we are returning to the exact same way of being after a minor pause around 2008. I know that not everyone can be a shopgirl or have cute paper shops but it feels as if we are in need of some new ways of business. Maybe they are happening, just not as fast as I want them to. And I hardly expect everyone to agree with me about what kind of city is most fun to live in but I am SO not a small town girl. (I know, I know, Madison IS small town by some standards).  I love the liveliness and the mix of people downtown.

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But it is nice to get away, too. My introverted self sometimes just needs to sit on the beach. I even got to read a little bit of The Night Circus while Lily sat by my feet and worked on her drip castles.

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It was my actual birthDAY while we were at the beach so we celebrated with breakfast on the beach

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And then went on to a thorougly inspiring day: artful bathrooms (and art) at the Kohler Arts Center, which is such a dreamy space
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And then the charming Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan. We particularly had fun with the garden kaleidoscope.

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And then it was off to afternoon sweet treats at the Craverie in Kohler

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Now I'm home and settling into a totally frivolous art project for the fall. The pages I started at the Whispering Woodlands workshop - I've thought about it a lot and I just don't really see them as stand-alone art works so I am going to bind them into a book. Right now I am still working on the painting; then it will be on to text/journaling, and then binding. Perhaps I will even learn how to do the coptic stitch finally. I will share pictures of the works in progress soon, I promise. The pages are really looking great, if I do say so myself. One side is going to be color: blue, purple, red/orange/yellow and the other side will be either black and white or plus one color, with text. Right now I am thinking of collecting some of my current inspiring quotes - sort of a book of quotes for my forties. We'll see what actually happens. I'm looking forward to exploring more ways of writing text and writing in and around the drawing and painting that has already happened.

As far as the shop is concerned, it was a quiet week - lots of tourists and students helped us end the month on a very strong note - finally catching up from the cold slow spring. There was a little lull as far as shipments but we have a batch of Sept 1 and 15 ship dates as well as Christmas orders starting to come in. In two weeks we'll start the window construction - removing the platform to make a little more space. My fixtures for the holiday window are almost done... so I'm getting really impatient for the mid-November instalation. I don't know what I'm going to do for the windows in mid-Sept through mid-Nov, without the platform or the new fixtures. Then again, so much of our display is just on the clothespins up against the window. We'll probably manage.

home to the heat

(well, it WAS hot when I started this blog post. about a slacker)

Atlanta 004Phew... made it home! There were some intense thunderstorms right over the Atlanta airport at night and my flight which was originally to depart at 7:00 pm didn't end up leaving until 9:30 pm (include about 30 minutes on the runway). I finally got home around midnight. Eeew.... it is so hot. But I was too tired to do anything except splash some cool water on my arms and get out my tiny fan for the windowsill. Honestly, I know some people call it Hotlanta, but summer in Madison is not really any better (that said it has substantially cooled down now that I've returned to this blog post a week later). Perhaps the duration of the really hot and humid weather is shorter, but even that I doubt. I think Atlanta was about 10 degrees cooler than Madison was and strolling Midtown in the evening was quite pleasant. Of course, the bulk of my days and nights are spent in air conditioning - they even haev it arranged so that you can use walkways to get from one building to the next; no need to go outside at all. Most of my views consisted of tall buildings - I got utterly turned around and I thought I was heading downtown but it turned out that Midtown had just as many tall buildings...

Atlanta 005In all, the trip to Atlanta was quite pleasant. I realize there are right-to-work and cost of living issues underpinning the whole experience, but they definitely work hard to make sure you have an easy business trip.
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As far as the actual buying goes, to be honest, shows such as these aren't exactly our style. I do appreciate the handmade and Made in USA sections but there are many floors and showrooms of stuff to walk by; quite a lot that is lacking any handmade charm whatsoever. Nonetheless, I managed to connect with some new vendors so we are set up for shipments of new products in late summer and into the holidays. I also managed to figure out the theme for our Christmas window which loosely started with an NPR headline: "Unwanted chicks are filling up some city shelters and some activsits are blaming fair-weather hipster farmers." (Ultimately, I believe, the hipster farmers were absolved of some guilt, although one commentor pointed out that any farmer worth his salt would know exactly what to do with unwanted animals: cook 'em.).

I am not much of a chicken person so, no, it isn't going to be a chicken window, but it has an urban garden/wildlife thing going on. Seeing so many vendors in one place is certainly useful to help pull together the holiday window and look at trends that are occurring in the retail world, some of which I then take home and try to chase down in a more handmade way. Text is definitely still a big thing - tons of huge wall pieces with inspiring quotations seemed to dominate many showrooms. I did run into a few Wisconsin companies, which is always funny considering that we both traveled to Georgia to meet. I also found a few new vendors on my outing to Decatur - there's a great handmade store that is chock full of local artisans.

I've taken pictures of some catalogs just to give you a little sneak peek. Most items will arrive in late summer/early fall. Oh, and I also found some new fixtures so by Christmastime, we should have a somewhat rearranged store.... as much as can be done within the confines of our space.

We are starting to pull together our calendar collection.  I ordered wall calendars and planners in Atlanta, but we also have the Nikki McClure calendars on oder, as well as other artful ones. They should be arriving to the store in August. 

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Other orders include new vintage-image notecards and notebooks with inspiring text,  lovely handmade leather and felt journals, A-Mazing stitched notecards/art,

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cute little garden birds, flower earrings, bicycle mugs

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napkin sets, glass lockets, and insulated lunch totes.

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Meanwhile, we are still receiving orders from our New York trip. We made it through Maxwell Street Days and my sister's move to a new house so I'm thinking maybe the upheaval of this year can settle down now.


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Hmm. I have to admit that for some reason on this trip I wasn't in as much of a photo-taking mood as usual. New York City of course is filled with marvelous sights and plenty of material. I can't really explain it. That said, the trip was wonderful. I'm sure what you are most interested in is the blog post that will come after this. We brought home three bags full of catalogs and purchase orders and are just sorting through it all. Items will be arriving to the shop over the next couple months but there are some lovely paper goods on their way - I promise you that!

As for the rest of the trip.... well, there isn't that much left after spending three full days at Javitz. Walking up and down aisles of paper products is fun but somewhat tiring. Nonetheless, we managed to squeeze in a few non-work jaunts.

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It is tradition to walk Times Square and Rockefellor Center, and then up 5th Ave, at night and enjoy the windows. Anthropologie of course always has a lovely window. The composition of stores on 5th Avenue seems to have changed somewhat over the years since and I do feel like the current style of window display is not quite as artistic as it has been at other times. I remember Mays when the windows were fully decked out and floraly in honor of Mother's Day. Punk as a theme is not really my style and there is something kind of off-putting about it being the focus of the Bergdorf's windows. Bergdorf's just seems so... un-punk... to me.

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We did explore some new areas of the city and finally walked the High Line park, picking it up very close to Javitz one late afternoon and then walking to Chelsea Market. It was rather hot and sunny so the gelato at the end was a nice treat, and there were all sorts of clever popsicle vendors along the way.  It is so fun for me to see the ways people are repurposing the urban landscape.

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Our version of shopping New York City might be rather different from others' - we aren't so much interested in the fashion. But we did manage our own version of checking off bucket-list stops. Ever since I read about this store, I have been anxious to go and we were happy to make our way to The Ink Pad. A-Mazing. If you are a crafter at all, you really should go there. They have zillions of rubber stamps, designs I've never seen before...  Sachi and I had a hard time making up our minds but each ended up going home with some additions to our collections. I'm quite sure we could have spent twice as much money. I feel like sometimes New Yorkers get this bad rap about being unfriendly but on the whole, I find that all my interactions are very friendly. Any time that I've really need help or directions, someone has been happy to assist. I cannot imagine what it is like to try and live and work in the City - there is just a larger volume of people everywhere you go, and trying to go to work when there are idle tourists meandering would drive me crazy (it already does drive me crazy at the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings - I would not deal well if that was a daily issue). The woman at the Ink Pad was friendly without being overly solicitous, and the selection simply cannot be beat. Sometimes when I go to a rubber stamp store, I am disappointed by the volume of "cute" bunnies and teddy bears, but they have a very artful collection. Last night I stamped some of the designs in my planner (which has many blank pages because I am being bad about actually writing plans in it) and had so much fun. Naturally, I left the planner and the stamps at home so you'll just have to take my word for it. There's one stamp that is like my stamp alter ego - striped tights, pouffy tutu, great flower hat....

Sachi finally made it to a dollhouse store. We'd read about one years ago and spent a long time wandering the 70s looking for it - only to find that it was in the process of moving and closed at both old and new locations.This time we had more success and Sachi added to her miniature bakery collection.

Tiny Doll HouseWe set out for the Tiny Doll House search without eating breakfast, figuring we could find something in the area. Naturally, we turned right when we should have turned left so we were having a hard time. After some deliberation about who to ask (the nannies? the construction guys? the store owner?),  we came across an elegant woman walking a well-groomed dog. She sent us to Eric Kayser, and we enjoyed a perfect French-New York brunch for our last meal.

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We also had a little time before catching our plane to stroll through Central Park. It must have been lovely a few weeks earlier with all the daffodils in bloom but there were some nice flowering trees and bushes. Central Park
Now we've been home for one full day. I've mostly caught up on what I missed while we were away, and now comes the sorting through catalogs and purchase orders - have to enter all that into the computer! One box already arrived but the arrival dates are spread out across the next couple months. We'll keep you posted!

we're off to see the Wizard


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Admittedly, it's hard to leave Madison right now. Spring is pretty much perfect - nice temps, assorted acid greens and magentas of emerging leaves, tulips, magnolias (almost at their end), apple blossoms, lilacs (just beginning). I don't know if this is payback for the crummy extended winter, but everything is quite lovely.

However, it will be nice to get away.

And I do kind of feel like I'm on the brink of that moment when Dorothy arrives to the Emerald City - all shiny and wonderful...

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In a few days we will be departing for the National Stationery Show in  New York City. We can't wait! (though as much as I have been anticipating this for a long time, it suddenly snuck up on me and I've had a little flurry of cleaning the office and making sure the store will be ready for other people to run it in our absence. Thank goodness that didn't last long.)  We've got a long list of booths to go to, vendors to check in with, and that's not even counting the things we don't know about yet. So fun!

We've been receiving so many lovely postacards and announcements from various vendors - there's a definite perk to being in the stationery business.

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Unfortunately for you, I still don't have a smart phone so you'll be stuck waiting for pictures and updates until I return to Madison later next week. But I'll bet if you go to Instagram or Twitter  you will probably find plenty of other pictures.  As you can imagine, for two sisters who collect stationery as we do, there is much temptation to be found.

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We're departing early on Sunday morning so I'll be back later in the week with pictures, and to fill you in on what will be arriving to the store over the next few months.

the happiest place...

It's hard to say which is the actual happiest place on earth for me...

The aisles of the Craft & Hobby Association trade show?

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The sandy & sunny shores of Southern California?

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Or the place that actually bills itself as the happiest place?

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As far as you are concerned, the first might be the truest. But we did have a lovely getaway. Although I caught a cold and am returning to colder weather and a long list of chores, I was more than ready for the break. I'm feeling a little more rested. And also refreshed. And crafty and inspired. So it's all good.

The business component of our trip was attending the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) trade show. In past years, we have taken little workshops but we didn't register in time this year and anything that tempted us was already filled. I find myself in a strange position of being a shopgirl and also feeling rather ambivalent about the stuffness of our world. CHA has zillions of make n' take opportunities which are a great chance to try out new products and projects - a person could probably just do that the entire time, and yet part of me was a little uninterested - either the projects were for products we wouldn't carry at the shop, or the finished product wasn't really something I wanted to pack and take home and try to find room for. There were many clever projects and products but I guess I was in more of an observing frame of mind. That said, there were certainly temptations. We love what Vintaj brass is doing with inks and color on their brass pieces (here is a case of something that we like but aren't sure we would carry in the shop - the inks, I mean). And Elmer's glue had a very fun looking bulletin board project. I might be getting picky in my advanced age. As is often the case, there might be components that I like about a project, but I would use different paper, different colors, etc. I'm not ignoring the process-related component of the experience, there just wasn't a process that outweighed the product for me. I am still a stuff person, I'm not denying that, but I'm just being a little more careful about what stuff comes into my life.

One stand-out make n' take was the tote bag that Sachi made using Martha Stewart craft paints and screens. When I initially walked by, the screen they were using wasn't to my liking but by the time Sachi was ready to stand in line, they were using a lovely doily which I am quite jealous of. Then again, I actually have more than enough bags, so I was mostly content to leave the project to Sachi while I looked at paint colors. The project was certainly perfect because I did order paints and screens and it is good for us to know how to use them. I do love Martha's style. I had been thinking about getting fabric paint for the shop and am also interested in expanding our stencil selection so that people can do their own stamping/printing - such as on t-shirts and tote bags, so it was perfect to find this product. Martha is also making translucent paint for painting on glass. There were so many lovely examples, and so many pretty colors to choose from. I had quite a hard time making up my mind. How clever is that to stencil designs onto old book covers? That has great potential for a store window...

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Other orders include: crafty books, tags, scrapbook paper and ephemera, bezels, felt, trinkets, stickers, mini storage tins... and much more. The ship dates are spread out over the next couple months so you'll have to stay tuned for new arrivals.

The other component of CHA is walking up and down the aisles and being inspired, not just by product for sale, but by the clever merchandising and ideas that each vendor shares. The booths are always brimming with clever ideas. One booth had sawed old suitcases in half and was using them as shelves in their booth. These lovely books were covered with paper and washi tape.

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Still other booths had collages of book pages,  paper sculptures, and any number of items covered with paper or paper tape.

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Finally, it is nice just to leave cold winter in Wisconsin. Part of the enjoyment lies in returning home - despite the cold, it is nice to be back in my bed, back to our shop. It is always fun to get out and see what is going on in the retail world, how other stores are displaying their wares and what items they are selling. There is some envy in the amount of square footage that some people have; I go back and forth between enjoying/envying a spread out boutique look and being totally puzzled about how they can make any money with so little on display. And there is also some enjoyment in the ego boost of finding that Anthology can hold its own, more or less. Everyone has their own unique spin on their retail world but I'm happy to come home to MY dream shop. I'm still amazed at the lack of card selection that I find out there - we know of so many amazing card vendors that we don't have space enough for all their cards, so it is strange that other stores seem to select from a more limited pool. I'm finding this especially true of places like Papyrus, which used to hold more interest for me. And, of course, after 5 years of shopping for cards for the shop, the things I like in other people's shops are often items that I've considered for my own. 

That said, we do love Blue Windows, a shop in the Belmont Shores neighborhood of Long Beach. The shop always has something charming, and their Valentine window was especially inspiring. Chalkboard paint on clipboards?! Looks like I need to check out the UW-Swap shop...

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In all, we had a lovely and inspiring getaway and are ready to get back to work. Time to plan the installation of the Valentine's/write more window, plan our 5-year party, get ready for the spring/summer tourist season, restock and make more things to sell. Oh, and deal with year-end taxes. Sigh.

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I've been in a bit of a daze lately - this time of year is heavy on thinking at a time when I'm feeling too tired for thinking. On a good note, I'm ahead of schedule on my work with the accountant - we finished up W2s and 1099s last week. Now "all" that remains is the final prep to get everything ready for the tax preparer. These are the not so thrilling days of our lives. Additionally, Tuesday was inventory day so we were closed while we finished counting the whole store. It's not a particularly difficult task, just tedious, though more enjoyable because I like the things that I'm counting. It would be worse, for me, to inventory Home Depot. All of us discovered things we had forgotten about which revived my desire for more square footage, with some modification. I always think of more space in terms of more stuff, but it would also be nice to have more space so that I didn't have to cram all the stuff we have into this small space. There is quite a lot that just doesn't get as much space or attention as it should get. That said, post-inventory, I've finally gotten to the pre-Christmas clean-up which allows everyone and everything a little more breathing room.  We still have our Christmas sale table but I also made room for Valentine's cards and craft supplies. It is a little early for me, but I know it will here before I know it. We do have two at least two other card companies coming in and are waiting for the anatomical heart stamp as well. I've enjoyed finding some empty drawers, doing some consolidating and rearranging. I've also enjoyed the instant gratification from selling things that haven't been sold in a while, all because they got moved around. It's nice to give the place a little freshening. I've never been much for the hard sell so I've compensated by honing my talent for tweaking the arrangement of product in order to boost sales. It can be a very powerful tool which, in my opinion, not enough stores make use of.

And with all that talk about needing more space for the stuff that we have, it might seem incongruous to say that we are two days away from our first buying trip of the year. This trip will take us to Southern California to the Craft and Hobby Association trade show. Each buying trip has its own perks, but we are particularly looking forward to this one because it gives us a chance to see what is new in the crafting world and also provides a little refueling of our own creative juices.


I haven't had time to do a lot of planning but we already have a list of some shops to check out in Long Beach, which is where we will be staying. My brother-in-law teases us about our busman's holidays and it might be true that I should find something else to do with my spare time, but I'm looking forward to seeing what other people are doing in the retail world, and also just strolling without my down coat on. I could even just sit on the beach and read a book, wouldn't that be exciting!

I think one of our favorite things about this show is not just finding new vendors and products but also the displays that all the vendors create. There is always a lot of inspiration... We are looking for some new craft table projects, but also some window display ideas, new things to make & sell.  I will have limited computer access so I'll probably just blog when we return, so I'll just leave you with pictures from the last time we went.