shopgirl heaven

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That's what it looks like. 4 empty spinners just waiting for cards.

I have a chronic lack of space in all areas, but card display is one of the biggest culprits. I've been hindered by my inability to find spinners that will fit the sizes that I have and also fit the style of the store. Most card companies these days will offer some sort of spinner purchase program (buy $1000 of cards, get a spinner and just pay shipping...) but either the spinners they offer will not fit in the space I have or are made of that annoying plastic/plexi which I really don't want in the shop.

SO, I will admit to a little feeling of being a vulture when Shakti announced that it was closing. Sad, no doubt, to be losing a neighbor, but a little greedy about the possibility of spinners for the shop. Unfortunately for my sister, they became available yesterday when I was occupied with other things on my day off. I have a feeling there was probably some under-the-breath muttering as she rolled these guys up the block. But I promise it will be worth it!

Now excuse me, I have to go rearrange cards.


done and done

Anthology window

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

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

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

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

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

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

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phase 1 complete

Anthology window
I know I was going to save the big reveal for the installation of the Christmas window but I started thinking about all the things that had to be done, on top of feeling rather overcrowded, space-wise. I've been sitting on the cubbies that I had built for the store window since late August, which was generally fine at first but was starting to be more and more problematic. I am generally happy that we decided to stay in our space... but sometimes I could use just a wee bit more. The office and back hallway were filling up with Christmas shipments; I've even started stashing stuff under the craft table. Additionally, my mind was on an endless loop of that little game with one empty square that you have to move the plastic number squares around to get into order: clear cubby a and b, move them, put box z where cubby c was, store the items from cubby d on the desk, but maybe back to cubby d once I put it in place...?  Yeah, that was getting to be too much. Also, I decided that I wanted to set up the cubbies, arrange product in rainbow order, take some pictures for future ads and postcards, and then empty that display and set up Christmas. A little bit too much work to be done all in a single week.

So, I started putting my plan in place, only to deviate further and start even earlier. The first plan was after Halloween and thus early next week. The next plan was late this week (still keeping Halloween things in), starting Thursday morning. On Wednesday night, I joined a friend for Michael's Frozen Custard. Usually at that time of night, I would not have my favorite coffee chocolate chip shake because it would mean I wouldn't go to sleep, but I decided to indulge... and then apply the caffeinated energy to the window. Realistically, installing a big window during store hours is not that practical seeing as it impedes others' shopping for me to be climbing up and down ladders and toting stuff back and forth. And honestly, nighttime with the doors locked is one of my favorite times to be in the shop. So, I came downtown after 7 pm and began the installation. This meant clearing out cubbies that had been used for storage in the office, carrying them to the front window, and arranging them - all the while crossing my fingers that my idea was actually going to work out.  It did! 

There's still some tweaking to be done - namely, the back side of the display (on the inside of the store) is a little crowded. I think I have to move the card spinner out from that little nook. But it is quite nice that it doubles as storage and display space on the inside as well as the outside - that solved some of my problems about where I was going to store the items that were stored in the cubbies when they were in the office. Everything just kind of got bumped forward.

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I'm quite happy with the whole thing. I've been thinking and planning for a long time - spent hours looking through vintage and home decor books in my collection, thinking about what would be useful for the window. Basically I wanted something that had some flexibility, that would allow me to change arrangements as product warranted (as opposed to buying a single awesome piece of furniture). In one book, I found a stack of vintage crates and suitcases on wheels which was the starting point, though I eventually realized that I didn't really need the wheels as long as I made each individual cubby moveable. Even though the basic format - stacked wooden cubbies - won't change, I can still reconfigure it a bit to change things up. And if I get really ambitious someday, I can paint or stain them. I'm thinking a red interior would be really sharp. The sides are solid so I can also turn them to have a solid side facing out - to hang a clotheslin with cards? or a clipboard with a print? or maybe paint with chalk paint?  Yeah, my mind is still spinning, but at least I've gotten one big task out of it.

Meanwhile the rest of the store continues to fill up.  We received some lovely indigo-dyed tea towels from a duo of local artists. I have been eyeying their dyeing workshops - hopefully I will pay attention next year and not miss out. These would be so much nicer to have hanging off the fridge or oven handle than those plain white ones!

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And while I am not quite ready to install Christmas, we will be unpacking our ornaments and cards shortly - for sure before Nov 15th. And we do have Thanksgiving and Hanukkah cards in case you are annoyed that I seem to be skipping over holidays. Our big "Black Friday"/Thanksgiving weekend sale is 25% off boxed holiday notes and we do have boxed Hanukkah cards (if you want to send those in a timely fashion, just let us know and we will apply the sale price in advance of the holiday weekend).

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Other new arrivals include this golden addition to our collection of state prints, inspiring messages printed on recycled tobacco barn lath from Wisconsin barns, charming woodland animal posts (the fox has been super popular! dare I hope this is finally the replacement for the owl imagery? that seems to have lingered much longer than any other animal) (and, no, I haven't seen that video - but I sure have overheard plenty of people in the shop every time they see something with a fox design),

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colorful ceramic vases, the Mendota Red candle, and these great postcards (I have long collected these for myself and out of the blue, the artist sent me her catalog - I do love it when that happens). I am particularly fond of the woman: "understand that nobody but you can make yourself less busy."

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beginning to look a little like Christmas

I know, I know, you didn't want to hear that. But I thought I'd give you a little sneak peek into the planning process for holidays at Anthology.

To be totally honest, it all started with an NPR headline: "Unwanted chicks are filling up some city shelters and some activists are blaming fair-weather hipster farmers."

Before that, we took a day trip to Milwaukee for shopping and eating and found great inspiration from a deck of historic scientific illustration postcards. That was back in March, I believe. At that point, I had the idea of using those postcards as a backdrop and creating some sort of scientific window. Not exactly sure what, but that represents a narrowing of the thought process, believe it or not. I've been following up some leads on various scientific-related prints, t-shirts and other products but it has all been rather nebulous - do I go ocean? geological? botanical? Fill the window with periodic tables and lab glassware? I don't know!

Now, preparing for Christmas, indeed, preparing the store for any time of the year involves a fine balance between various factors, sometimes competing, sometimes working together. The first is the owner's idea of things that they love. The second is the owner's idea of how they want the store to look. The third is what customers want, which isn't necessarily articulated in any way other than what they purchase (perhaps I could divide this into what customers want, general consumer trends, and what customers actually purchase).

Thus we have a huge pool of things that I love. Within that pool is a smaller pool of things that I would actually choose to purchase for the store based on what we see as the niche of the store. The pool of what customers purchase overlaps to some extent with what customers think they want and the other pools, but there are also many things that customers want which don't fit this store. There are also things that set the tone of the store which might not sell that well - but which my old boss used to describe as "flash" - these are items that are critical to not only set the tone of the store but set it apart from others, and so you buy them anyway, even if you don't sell tons of them.

When planning for the window, I have to balance what I think would be cool (a window of periodic tables) with what actually works for the shop, as well as what is selling in general. I don't really think it is enough to just fill the window with one's best-selling items; the window also functions to inform people about items they don't even realize they might want, as well as to inform them about the store in general.

Thus, there is some underlying problem with my scientific theme - as much as I love it personally, as much as I think charts are cool things, as much as I think science and art are very much connected, I wasn't entirely sure how that was going to play in our store. Also, no one potential hot-seller had jumped out at me in the course of the year that would fit with that theme and be a money-generator. We placed many orders at the Stationery Show and while there were lots of wonderful artists at work, there wasn't a particular theme that jumped out at me to either reinforce my scientific direction or switch it entirely (just for example, last year, when I went to Atlanta, I had in mind a Christmas window with peacocks but I ended up finding such a fabulous collection of woodland ornaments that I changed direction). As of June, no particular product or theme had come along. Now, bicycles have been a strong theme for us so I could have gone with that, but I tend to hook them in with our graduation travel windows and our summer windows so it would have been nice to have something different for the holidays.

Meanwhile, what the heck is going on with owls?! I can't believe they are still going so strong. I keep thinking that surely something is coming along to replace them - maybe octopi? maybe foxes? but then I get someone in the store who is totally and newly in love with owls and I see the whole thing starting all over again. I'm kind of stumped, and also kind of over owls.  Plus, last year I did that woodland window with lots of mushrooms so I wanted to do something a little different from that.

Enter the NPR headline.

Now, to be totally honest, I really don't like chickens. I mean, I like to eat them, but I really don't like live birds in general and while I am guilty as the next person of "putting a bird on it" in my artwork and room decor, I specifically don't care for chicken imagery. At my old job we used to sell these wooden chickens and I still remember, not fondly, the time I had to make chicken wire shelves and fill the window with those wooden chickens. I heard more stories about people who had chicken collections and more happy exclamations. But that is not for me. I have repeatedly told our part-timer, NO Chickens. Nonetheless, I can sense a tidal wave turning against me - even our church has chickens!

The headline started it and though the trip to New York did yield some products, the trip to Atlanta solidified the plan. Add to this certain items which have sold well over the course of the year (Victory Garden retro prints and Nikki McClure's domestic/nature scenes that have been a staple for a while), the theme that is starting to come together is more of a hipster urban garden kind of theme - nature, but with an urban twist. So I get to use some of my scientific botanicals but it will more be about the intersection of people with nature - not just chickens and owls, but raccoons and squirrels and terrariums, gnomes and foxes and carrots, even a way to highlight the farmer's market bags that we are getting. This kind of connects with the slow food and locavore movement, which I see as connected to the DIY it fits right in with both the pool of things I would choose for the store and the pool of things that are trending in the consumer realm and the pool of things that are specifically suitable for our customers and based on past sales throughout the year. The chickens are not in my pool, but, yes, we'll have a few token hens.

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card catalog (!)


Whew!  What a week it has been!  Very intense and somewhat stressful, but in the end, wonderfully giddily great.

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I've been dealing with end of year paperwork (ugh) and technical computer issues (ugh) but over all of that was the knowledge that Memorial Library was cleaning out its card catalog room.  I spent a lot of time hounding people at the library - I'm sure they were happy to see the last of me.  I had this anxious feeling that might be natural considering that I am a child of librarian AND a WWII Japan survivor who is incapable of throwing anything away in case it might be useful as something might be in times of post-war scarcity.  The thought that all those years of typewritten cards would just be tossed in the recycle bin created a high level of anxiety that did not mix well with a malfunctioning credit card system.  In the end, several boxes of library catalog cards have made their way to the shop.  We will have them available during our studio garage sale, and I have plans for an assortment of artsy projects, as well as book-related scrap paper packs.  I think they will be great collage elements.

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Most of all, as someone who has always wanted a library card catalog, walking into Memorial Library and seeing a room full of my version of the holy grail, all marked "SWAP" added a tantilizing component to the week.  Various people agreed with me about the necessity of such a piece of furniture in my life; others shared their own wishes and rumors about long lines and widespread advertising.

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For those of you who are not familiar with SWAP, it is the place where all the university surplus goes to die.. and then be reborn.  They are open to the public only on Fridays and one Saturday a month.  And despite the fact that my sister was due to leave on her weekend vacation, I made her wake up early to accompany me to the outskirts of Verona.  I didn't even know if there would be card catalogs there, since I had seen many at Memorial Library just a few days before and had been informed that they were only going to SWAP as room was available.  (I had visions of going to SWAP every Friday for a month, which I might do anyway since there were many other cool things, and potential for some pieces for my studio at home - I passed up a great bank of lockers which Sachi persuaded me would not work in the store... but when I got home I regretted that I hadn't thought of them for my house - unfortunately someone was loading them into their van as we were loading the card catalogs).  There was, indeed, a line of people waiting for the 8 am opening and I imagined some running and shoving would be involved.  Thankfully, as soon as the doors opened, the bulk of the rush was for computer parts, and I spotted the card catalog files two aisles over - four down on the floor.  I stood by one while Sachi went and got someone to help us; while standing there, someone else put a claim on another, but my vision of an all-out retail brawl never came to fruition.  As I stood there, the more that I thought, the more that I decided this was also probably my one chance to get such a thing... and maybe I needed one for myself as well as one for the shop. 

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Long ago, I visited a friend in Minnesota and confessed my wish for a library card catalog file and her schoolteacher husband expressed regret that two weeks prior they had redone the school library and put the files in the dumpster.  So close!  Not that I would have had anywhere to store it, and moving it would have been quite a complication (those things are HEAVY!).  AND now I don't even have to regret missing that opportunity.

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So, yes, I bought two.  In addition to the four on the floor, I saw more up high on a shelf, and knew there were still some to come over from the library.  So I didn't feel too piggy.

I managed to fit it in the shop pretty easily, and have been consumed with putting all the little things into the drawers.  I cannot believe how much it holds!  Yesterday I had time to make labels, another fun aspect of this project.  I could have spent triple the time trying to find labels that fit the contents, but in the end went mostly with patterened paper.  I printed out the labels on clear address mailing labels, so the pattern of the paper shows through.

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Meanwhile, at home... well, let's just say it is a good thing that I had already started my studio/living room rearranging and organizing.  It sure is a big piece of furniture.  I have very little "real" furniture so it is even more obtrusive.  But totally worth it considering how much stuff it fits.   I'm trying to practice what I preach in terms of studio organization and not get too carried away with distractions - just focus on the basic level sorting; the fine stuff and the tangential projects can be done later.  Right now, contents of old drawers are strewn on the floor awaiting placement in new drawers.  I think this is going to be a great addition to the studio space and will really help a lot with the organizing process.  Aside from the fact that I got what I always wanted, I'm giddy because it is actually working better than I even imagined it could.  Still, it will be a while before the dinner party invitations go out. 

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oh, p.s. $120 each.

bicycle window

Can I just say how pleased I am with my window?  I'm installing it tonight and having lots of fun.  And also feeling rewarded as people walking by on this cold rainy night pause to look in the window and exclaim over the products.  Sachi and I have been gathering bicycle-themed items for this window for over a month - I'm not exactly sure what started it.  Perhaps Jes' great new bicycle t-shirt combined with the "keep calm and ride on" print.  In any event, we've collected an assortment of prints and clothing with bicycles printed on it.

I just had a lengthy conversation today about merchandising windows and leaving white space, and seem to have broken all the rules that I was instituting just a few hours ago.  This is the first time I've hung so many prints in the window and I like the collage effect.  Plus, it's not exactly color-coordinated in my usual style, but I think it all works.

I was debating a little.  Sachi and I have been discussing how the protests are evolving - we've been coming up with some new buttons and even as there are days when there are fewer people on the square, we are continuing to sell buttons and we continue to feel as we did when we installed our first protest window (February 15th... seems so long ago!).  We still feel very strongly that Walker's actions will hurt our business and we also feel strongly that we want to support the people who are protesting at the Capitol.  But it is also important to keep one's window fresh and changing. 

So my debate was how to keep the protest aspect and also go ahead with my bicycle window plans.  But then a few days ago, it suddenly occurred to me that the two themes work pretty well together.  I was reminded of my first protest window when I put in a bicycle t-shirt with words like, "there's room for all of us on this ride."  Something like that. Sachi came up with a new slogan so she'll make that sign tomorrow and add it to the mix.

In the end, the protest theme is kind of mixed in with the bicycle theme.  We have two new prints from Milwaukee artists - "WI RISE UP" and "Union Made" but I think they go well in the mix, particularly with the print of many people on bicycles: "I move, You move, We Are Movement."

Sachi found some reproductions of vintage bicycle prints, and I'm quite fond of the Billy Ocean print. 

And then there are the variety of screen prints: bicycles on skirts and onesies, neckties and t-shirts, not to mention the "sexy sexy bicycle" shirt and the ever popular "Let's Rub Tires" bicycle notecard made in Milwaukee. 

And pretty soon the weather will actually be pleasant enough for me to dust off my bicycle.  I admire those hardly souls who have been bicycling all winter long; I'm strictly a fair-weather cycler.

window Tuesday

Windowtuesday 001Well, here's how it started out - the window that Sachi installed earlier in the month to show off the assortment of vintage inspiration.  After about three weeks, it's time to change it to something else.

Step two is to clear the window, vacuum out the dead bugs, change any lightbulbs.  I'll spare you a picture of that stage.

Step three is to try and narrow my focus just a little bit.  I had a very long list of possible elements for this window - paper packs, notecards, prints, jewelry, wrapping paper...  We are into tourist season now so we are getting a lot of people who are seeing us for the first time, or who were last in about a year ago.  I try to make the window tempting, to give some sample of what the store is like inside, as well as to feature favorites or best-sellers.  It's a lot to ask of this little space.

I spent much of Saturday cutting triangles to make garlands.  Although I was tempted to just sew all the triangles together, that would have meant scheduling a night at the sewing machine.  Instead I simply punched holes and threaded them onto ribbon.  All of these papers are available at Anthology by the sheet. We were trying to find a way to show off the great transparencies that we got from the California show.  They would be nice as overlays on notecards or wrapped around a glass votive holder but we collaborated with our upstairs neighbor to hit upon the garland idea.  She made some for a French-themed shower that she was throwing and I loved the way they looked so much that I wanted to make some here as examples.  The transparencies look especially nice in the window - I like the way they let the light through.  I continue to have trouble taking pictures of our windows.  The angle from the outside means that there's quite a reflection, and of course, from the inside, everything is backlit.  And I did get a little carried away taking pictures of the garlands, but I quite enjoy them.


After much deliberation, the overall theme of the window is... I don't know... coral/aqua summer colors? celebration? new arrivals?  I had various bird and Paris themes in mind but those were going to be a little more on the pastel side - themes that got set aside for the moment when we received the French cards and some new lovely prints.  So it is a bit of a mix and there isn't much white space, but people might as well know right up front what they are in for. 

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I know that it does limit the depth of the window, but I do love using our clothesline just up against the glass to show off various goodies - this time it is prints from Portland and Minneapolis, notecards, various scrapbook supplies including paper and notions.

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And here's the window from the side and inside.  I decided to hang the Nikki prints along the edge because they read really well from a distance.  Because of the reflection and the small size of many of our products, it can be hard for passerby to "read" the window.  I enjoyed unfurling some pieces of our washi paper to hang along the side wall.  And it was fun to incorporate the portable writing desk that was made by our great grandfather.  There's a note inside: 

My mom used it for ages for notecards and such; it was only after she gave it to us to bring to the shop that I noticed the note.  I love its foretelling.

a new window

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Well it was a busy Saturday in the morning, with Farmer's market, relatives visiting and much more.  Things got quieter in the afternoon and for some strange reason I was feeling energetic so I started installing a new window.  I was going to change them on Tuesday.  We got a new shipment of the silk ribbons, which I love a lot, so I wanted to put those in the window.  In all, I was trying for a more pretty/elegant look than the usual playful/colorful look.  We're featuring all sorts of lovelies: Dainty Daisies hand dyed slips and flowery headbands, vintage and reproduction millinery flowers, German paper scraps, journals, notecards, charms and pendants for jewelry-making including from Vintaj and Persimmons.  So much fun!

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