February update

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oh my goodness, there is so much to catch up on. How can I be behind already when it is only February? So, first of all, I read an article recently that said we are entering the era of picture and video, and words are falling to the side. As picture-happy a person as I am, words are good too. So I should follow through and catch you up to speed on the story behind the Instagram feed. So, let's see, where are we? 

The biggest news is that Anthology is turning 10 in about a month. I always say that the Ides of March are our birthday. We have plans for the 16-18th of March, cake and other treats on the back table, maybe some balloons... In addition to looking back on our past 1o years, we've been doing a lot of looking forward and thinking about plans for the next 10 years. Things are very much up in the air, but the walls are long overdue for painting so that led to a remarkably (for me) short conversation about paint chips, and an idea of a wall mural. Painting the store is a big task so that will definitely wait until we are in our 11th year, most likely sometime next January or February. BUT, the wall mural idea (which started out as Rifle Paper wallpaper, which, while lovely, would not be quite as site-specific as what we ended up with), turned into printed bags, turned into stickers, turned into a stamp. As usual, once I find an image I like, it ends up in a lot of different forms. 

After being jealous of other people's custom designs, I decided to stop sulking and at least make some new buttons. I am working on some new Madison notebooks so those should be ready by graduation.

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Naturally we had to rebut Scott Walker's dismissal of Madison.

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My other big project has been to prepare for our art exhibit at the library in June. A little ways off but I am working on prints of various Laura and Sachi works. Oh, and I am taking an online workshop from Kelly Kilmer so I have been preoccupied with painting and collaging in the evenings.

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Meanwhile Sachi has kept up her pace of card making. She has several new card designs already and is still going as strong as last year. No, your eyes are not deceiving you: she's already on to Mother's Day.

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As far as other new arrivals, this is the quiet time of year downtown so we've done a little restocking post-holiday, but there will be more to come later in spring. We have some new t-shirt designs in the works which are an exciting development (begging other artists eventually pays off). We did get more washi tape (phew!), 

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and have generally been working on restocking some of our favorites.

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We hope you are staying warm and inspired at the beginning of this new year! We are looking forward to new goods and new creative endeavors.


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Last month I got a text from a friend in Massachusetts who told me she had almost driven off the road when she heard my voice on NPR ("Wisconsin voters aren't enthusiastic about Republican tax bill"). I'm never very good speaking off the top of my head and wish that I was better at speaking in radio-worthy pithy clips, but I think I managed to convey our views. My biggest worry was that Ron Johnson would use my words to ask for an even bigger tax cut - he's good at misrepresenting what Wisconsin voters are asking for. But I think they edited for clarity.

This month starts a new season of the podcast American Bandito and features Anthology and 9 other local stores. The first season focused on local Madison artists. This season is a look at Madison creatives in retail.

 

Also, we were recently featured on Wisconsin Real Estate, one of the top sites for Madison, WI Real Estate. Check out the article at Anthology Sparks the Creativity of the Madison Community.


beginnings

Ok, January 11 and I'm ready for the new year. I just finished a big scrap-sorting project in my living room last night. Somehow, several different boxes had become jumbled together so that personal ephemera and collage ephemera needed separating. This was the before view, which has been this way, even through the appliance delivery process (as the delivery guys didn't have to go through the living room, that was the one spot I didn't need to clear a path).

 

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Also, I realized this year that I spent a lot of time searching for certain pieces of collage materials so I needed to do a little reorganizing. I had a couple bins leftover from taking to workshops and I needed to reintegrate everything. Now that is done, I am ready to begin my online class in earnest. While sorting, I pulled out materials and I've done a little painting and sewing of pages. I'm taking another class from Kelly Kilmer, this time focusing on the work of Maira Kalman and incorporating a Maira-ish style into my collages.

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My place is still relatively clear after the appliance deliveries of early December so, on the whole, I am feeling ready to face the new year and stick to my resolution of working smarter not harder. We'll see how long that lasts. Sachi already has her new Valentine design completed and is working on Mother's Day. And has shipped out reorders to some stores around the state who are now carrying her cards (Blue Moon Emporium in Appleton and The Local Store in Eau Claire). Some projects which have been rumbling around in my head since last year are coming closer to fruition, including a new Madison notebook

 

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And our 10th anniversary celebration plans are proceeding. I have started adding up some numbers for our anniversary print, amazing myself with the number of Totoros and lil' cheese curd onesies we've sold. We'll have a party in-store on our actual weekend in mid March, but also our art show Night Light event June 1. A buying trip to London in September. Par for the course, the celebrations are being dragged out. We are ever so grateful to our customers and artists and friends and family for supporting us on this endeavor!


year in review

An artist friend, Mel Kolstad, recently shared her year in review which was inspiring and a little intimidating. However, along with the twinge of guilt about not posting as much as I intended, it got me thinking about this past year. Here are some things you might have missed in the goings-on of Anthology and the Komai sisters.

The Trump (& GOP) effect. To be honest, as soon as Trump won the election, I was expecting a recession. I am thoroughly unimpressed with the fiscal actions of the party of so-called fiscal conservatives. This obsession with taxes is, to say the least, puzzling. I'm sad that we seem to have lost the sense of any greater good or what we owe to the country which has created our wealth, never mind any interest in the ongoing build-up of said wealth. Because whatever someone says, they didn't build it themselves, and they are as much a moocher as anyone they accused of being so. We had an amazing 2015 thanks to coloring books, and a challenging 2016 (apparently all election years are like that) so I expected more of the same in 2017. I still don't think Donald Trump or Paul Ryan et al are doing anything to improve my outlook on long-term economic health but we'll take this little reprieve as we end the year ahead of the last. Because, as it turns out, people are fired up. We here in Wisconsin have been here for a while so there's a ring of familiarity, and a little tiredness, about it all. But there were buttons to be made, prints to sell. Sachi and I were in Phoenix for the Women's March and I told the part-timers we left behind that it would probably be a quiet weekend. Everyone might be heading up the Capitol to exercise their right to protest and that is fine. It turned out that everyone stopped at Anthology to get their buttons before they made their way up to the Capitol. Certainly in Phoenix we got the sense that turnout was higher than expected. Pretty much the best problem to have, particularly in regards to these matters.

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And the button-making has continued. Every once in a while, there is a moment I feel like sobbing as I make a button that we've been making since 2011 which is just as true as it was before, but on the whole, the making and responding keeps me too busy to wallow in sorrow too long.

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I take comfort, as I always have, from the many ways that many people are standing up and speaking out. One of my favorite pieces of text this year is from Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

"One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

 

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

 

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for."

I am heartened to see all the souls on deck. The people who are working and prodding and speaking and marching. The people who are knitting and cooking and writing and singing. Who are calling and writing and voting. The people who are making the world that they want. They do not keep a chair for despair.

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Travel. A definite perk of store ownership is travel for business, this year to Phoenix for the Craft & Hobby trade show, to New York for the Stationery Show, and to Portland and Chicago for the Renegade Craft fairs. 

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Plus the usual jaunts to enjoy the indie retail scene in Milwaukee and a long overdue trip to the Twin Cities. Along the way, we take our usual busman's holidays and check out the product mix and merchandising of all the stores we can find. We particularly enjoyed Frances in Phoenix and an amazing collection of brick & mortar stores in Portland (Collage, Frock Boutique, Noun, Tiny Llama, Little Otsu, Flutter, Tender Loving Empire and Crafty Wonderland to name a few) that gave us hope for the future of retail.

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We also enjoyed the Portlandia Mermaid Parade.

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Everywhere we go, Sachi has her little notebook and she jots down sketches and ideas for new products.



Sachi on a roll. Speaking of Sachi, she started out the new year with four new holiday card designs (knowing she would be too busy during the actual holiday season to get some done) and has been non stop ever since. 

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I count about 24 new drawings/paintings that ended up on cards, tote bags, t-shirts, onesies and more.

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She taught several workshops at area libraries and has lately been doing a lot of stitching, inspired by a workshop at The Regal Find. She just finished up a Valentine card and is at the beginning of a zodiac series (Pisces, Aquarius and Gemini were the first to print). Oh, and making a Mother's Day card.

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Laura just trying to catch up. Most of my work for the shop seems to have been computer-based this year. I have several different files going in PhotoShop for various prints and cards. Not to mention the finishing touches on Sachi's designs to get them print-ready. Also, taking existing designs and putting them on different products. Some things made it out of the computer to the print shop but there are some big ones that still need some work. I managed about 14 brand new designs plus re-working of many others. Rumbling around for the coming year: snippets of blue skies in print form, Madison notebooks, a couple new Madison/Wisconsin prints including (maybe) a palmistry hand and a bandana pattern. It was a particular thrill this year to have my original Wisconstellations t-shirt worn by an actor in Forward Theater's production of I & You. The play was amazing and I was only distracted a few times by the happiness of seeing my shirt on stage.

also distracted with outside inspiration. The first half of the year was a lot of hard work that wasn't particularly interesting as we switched over to a new computer system. At least as far as customers and part-timers are concerned, the transition hopefully hasn't been too painful or even noticeable, with the exception of the added second register. I'm still adjusting to the discrepancy between salesperson over-promising and software developers under-delivering. Hoping for more progress in the new year. But by May I was ready to be done, or at least add a little more creativity to my days. It seems to be a chronic concern of artists that making their creativity their business will somehow suck all the joy out of it. I wouldn't necessarily agree with that assessment, but it does require some effort on one's part - to be able to recognize the things that are taking joy away and swapping them out. For my part, interacting with customers and trying to think of new directions and products for the store has been great fuel for the creative fire. While the rest of the year didn't exactly lack for work, I was able to add in a little more fun and creativity: our annual trip to Point Beach for some reading and rock collecting

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and the inspiration of the John Michael Kohler Art Center and the Wonderland exhibit at the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh.

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There were art workshops in the latter part of the year: random marks and paste papers at Whispering Woodlands

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and a collage mandala class at Wet Paint. I also participated in a group tarot card project

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and tried my hand at screenprinting with the amazing Lesley Numbers during her artist residency at the Bubbler.

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I got totally distracted by tarot cards and ended up making a whole book of assorted tarot card collages.

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Oh, and Anthology hosted Kelly Kilmer for an evening class. Plus I took an online workshop from Mary Ann Moss. So far, all the art projects that have spun off these various classes have not yielded product for the store so I'm feeling a little guilty about that. But also confident that things are brewing up in this cluttered brain. Somehow they'll all work out. I would like to do a series of Madison collages but nothing quite seems to gel. Perhaps in 2018.

New & Good. Every year, I look back and marvel at all the new things we found. The Stationery Show in New York was particularly fruitful as we added more journals, note cards, letter sets and other goods. We found a new distributor of Japanese goods so we've added more washi tape and other such lovelies.

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Other new goods include painted prints from Portland, tea towels and party trays from Milwaukee, t-shirts from Michigan, rubber stamps from San Francisco, embroidery kits from Portland, Ron Swanson earrings from Michigan, washi paper earrings from Madison, enamel pins from Chicago. Of course many of our existing artists kept coming up with new goods for the shop. Possibly new in 2018 - the Wisconsin/Michigan version from the artist who brought us Wisconsin/Minnesota hugging. I am starting to come to terms with the reality that we can't always carry all the things we've ever had over the history of the store. But, hey, stickers! You have no idea how happy our inner children are that stickers are going so strong. We've been making our own designs into stickers, but also enjoying the cat cupcake and smash the patriarchy variations.

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And speaking of smashing the patriarchy, we were impressed by all the artists at the Stationery Show who had expanded their lines to give voice to their political concerns. We've long believed that it is disingenuous for a business to say it is neutral - if you look closely enough at where they spend their money and time, there's nothing neutral about any of our lives. I think we can be truthful about our beliefs and motivations AND find common ground. The result has been a burst of fund-raising for various non-profits, including Planned Parenthood and Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, by way of women artist selling prints, totes and cards.

10 years. (!) This coming March will be Anthology's 10th birthday. Wow! Time flies. We have been working for several months on various aspects of our birthday celebrations. Of course it doesn't only last that day, or week, or even month. We were accepted to a show at the Central Library on the third floor for June and July. We're thinking a Night Light is a good birthday party as well. So right now the plan is small(ish) celebration for the birthday weekend in store. Cake, of course. And then some more partying in June with our art opening. I have several different ideas in mind but so far the work that is done includes the Laura and Sachi pieces for the exhibit (the title of the show is "Line and Color are Sisters" and will include a little compare/contrast between the two of us).

 

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I have also, after many printed drafts, finalized our poster.  Sachi and I are still discussing reworked logo/bags for the occasion. I had a vague idea about making a Blurb magazine but I am not entirely sure that is going to happen. I do love Blurb, there's just so many pictures to sift through. No matter the product, you can be sure that there will be lots of celebrating.

looking ahead. It always seems like I can never have predicted all that happened in a year but we're looking forward to more inspiration and seeing how the makers of the world lead us to new distractions and creativity. Sachi's been doing a lot more with watercolor and goache and I expect we will see more embroidered flowers and other stitches.

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I've already signed up for an online class called An Artist's Study, whereby we pick an artist (I picked Maira Kalman) and work their inspiration into our own journal. First I have to finish sifting through the collage ephemera. It's been in a bit of disarray for a while, to the point where I am wasting too much time looking for one particular image, so I dumped out some bins and have taken over the living room floor. Hoping I can get that done before the new year. It could be a late new year's eve.

As ever, we are so thankful for our customers, artists and fans. You warm our hearts with your support and encouragement and for all the ways you are at work to inspire creativity in the world. May your new year be filled with joy!

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holiday greetings and the year in review

My holiday year for the last several years has consisted of one page, double sided, single spaced, narrow margins, with paragraphs of different aspects of the year (such as travel & work), broken up by quotations. But this year, when I started to think about sitting down to write (what starts out as four pages and has to be edited down to two), I just couldn't do it. I have a vague idea that in 2018 my plan is to work smarter, not harder but everyone has so far questioned whether or not I can actually stick to such an intention. In any event, the lazy version of my holiday letter ended up being an 11 x 17 piece of paper, cut in a meandering accordion fold and folding up into a book that was 2.75" wide and 4.25" tall. It was a bit of a challenge in terms of page layout and photo-selection, but I still think it was less work than the other way. And, yes, I overlooked a typo. Perfection is overrated, right? Who knows how I'll possibly follow this up next year. Anyway, since I've been so remiss in blogging, here, in brief, a summary of the year via my holiday letter. I have good intentions of rounding out the end of the year with a better summary of the store accomplishments. There's still time. You'll just have to imagine the accordion fold, but I do recommend looking up single-page accordion-fold books. There are more structures than you'd imagine.

 

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I also included some poems in the letter as there are two in particular that have been touchstones for me this year, plus the hymn that often pops into my head when discussion of "America First" arises.
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