Holiday Hustle

9 Dec

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We’re several weeks into the holiday production season, which although it is going very well, feels very very crazy busy.  We had a relaxing Thanksgiving in Calistoga, then jumped immediately into holiday parties, booking flights to Seattle, crab season, holiday orders, an even busier production schedule and oh my god, rain… all to the tune of a hacking cough that won’t quit. This year I tried to strategically wind down client work as I ramped up production in the shop, though the “winding down” part took two weeks of intense pushing, while racing back and forth between the production space and my office.

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In the last two months I launched a few new products, namely genre record dividers and book dividers, then just last week, I threw in some holiday record ornaments, just to keep things teetering towards too much, just for fun.

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Now my production assistant and I are hustling to keep it all going– packaging orders to send out every few days, and keeping up with production demands.  All wholesale orders for Urban Outfitters, Turntable Lab, Dijital Fix, Sound Fowndations and others are all wrapped up for the year, and I’ll be closing up the online shop around the 20th of December to take a few weeks off. Its hard to believe that a little over a year ago I was just launching the shop, unsure of how it would all work out, and worrying whether anyone would want to organize their vinyl… and now… I don’t have that worry anymore!

Wholesale, retail, handmade

31 Oct

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The new genre collection is set to launch in the shop on Monday, and it already feels like this new collection has been a long time in the making. I will readily admit, I am not an audiophile, I am not a music expert, I am a not even a super fan (except when I’m drunk and its Tracy Chapman). I’ve stumbled into this world of serious experts/hardcore music enthusiasts/musical classifiers… I just want to organize your shit so it’s easy to find, it’s accessible, and more enjoyable for more people. I sometimes wake up at night with a new genre idea in my head, or wake up worrying that I’ve forgotten a significant genre… (real serious worries, guys). I’ve been toting around a list of genre ideas for weeks, a crumpled paper full of ideas and genres. I’ve been talking to collectors and bartenders, browsing music stores and making prototypes. I’m up to about 50+ genres at this point, but its hard to be selective when hilarious ones pop up, like “80s Hair Bands” or someone requests “New Wave” or “Children’s Folk”.  This process is a little different this time around-last November I was running around like a madwoman, getting ready for my first shop launch. It seems hard for me to believe that the shop has been live for less than a year… but when I let my mind wander to the actual number of panels I myself or my assistants have sanded and packaged in the last few months… then yes, it suddenly feels like I’ve been doing this for years, not 11 months.

I’ve been slowly adding new retailers in California and New York. This summer, Urban Outfitters started to carry a few of my products, and in early fall, I began working with a UK distributor, Sound Fowndations. Working with retailers is a different beast, packaging larger quantities for wholesale, versus my smaller-scale individual sales every week through the shop. I still love sending packages out of the shop or my office each week, I love getting emails from customers who are SO EXCITED to get my product in the mail, and spend an afternoon or evening reorganizing their collections. They send me photos, they tell me about their weird collections, and that is weirdly, really wonderful and unexpected. Wholesale accounts have allowed me to grow and invest in my business, hire assistants and buy more raw materials in larger quantities.

Wholesale is sometimes really horribly stressful. I get obsessive about every package before I send them off into the unknown. Maybe because I don’t know who the final customer will be? I want everything to be perfect, and I worry about not having any interaction with the people buying my products on the other end. What if they don’t understand that everything is made by hand, or they don’t know that the boxes are screen printed in a small shop? That kind of stuff winds me up, which is probably why I spend so much time responding to individual emails ( about when I’m going to start making genre sets for books (SOON) or answering questions about production wait lists or custom sets for bigger collectors. Up until my first retail order back in the spring, I knew, and remembered every single sale and individual product I made. Now though, I don’t know every customer, and I don’t remember every set that comes off the production line. I remember sets in new states or new cities, or specific interactions with particularly particular customers. I still feel like every product is the most important product as it moves through my humble assembly line, but that product is quickly replaced by a new most important set that follows it. I guess being my own boss is hard and funny and weird, that is what I am babbling on about. I didn’t intend to be here, but my thoughts and list-making tendencies are a few months ahead, thinking about where (and what) I am working towards next.

Summer, not so secret

14 Oct

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Small behaviors

4 Sep

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Scenes like this used to be the norm, before Neebu had his accident and Muuli got all primal and rejected her injured brother. More than a year since his accident and recovery, Muuli still hisses and smacks her relatively unphased and unbothered brother on a near-daily basis. Some days however, she seems to forget all about her need to be top cat, and snuggles like these happen. In the last week or two I’ve snuck up on a handful sessions like this, and I can’t help but hope for more. Cat hierarchies are complicated! Power struggles aside, it is sweet to see them all succumb to a little pile of cat-love every once in a while.

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Changing cities

15 Aug

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In July we took a trip to Seattle for a mix of family and business. First family, then business. We spent a few days on the Eastside visiting my family in surprisingly hot summer weather. We had happy hour among blackberry bushes slowly trying to reclaim my mother’s backyard. We watched hummingbirds in her flowers and got chased inside every night by giant mosquitos. The area around my childhood home is still wild and undeveloped, it is deeply green and in such contrast from parched San Francisco right now. We drove a few miles down the road to visit a new-ish local farm in the pasture of a former dairy. As kids and then later as teenagers we’d drive by this dairy on our way to the river or the falls, and had to hold our breath as we passed this stretch of country road. Now the cows are gone, the dairy has been converted to another use and that farm-y smell is long gone.

We spent a few days north of Seattle visiting Intern’s family for a big family reunion and got caught up with all the aunties, cousins, new babies and family friends we haven’t seen or met in a long time. Our usual cooking lessons with Intern’s ammi were brief, the weather was hot and there was a big party to prep for. Our free mornings and evenings were spent digging through old family photo albums, hearing stories, and finally getting a good laugh and a hearty dose of some awkward photos of those uncomfortable teenage years that have until this trip, been hidden away with purpose. Other people’s teenage years are really endearing to look at, I felt so much love for my young lanky Intern and his sweet sister, during the baggy clothes years of the 90s. SO. MUCH. LOVE. I don’t think Intern enjoyed it quite as much as I did.

I spent some time at my mom’s house looking for two Rome books I wanted to bring home, and in the course of searching, found a few old boxes of mine full of high school and college photo albums and journals. I flipped through a couple sort of hastily, it brought up a mixture of nostalgia and uncomfortable embarrassment for me. I was suddenly feeling old but also feeling like all of that feeling was still recent in my mind. Reading old journal entries was just too much for me, I stopped rereading after a few very earnest entries, one about my first time voting in a general election, and another about an apparently very drunken college party… that was SO FUN. Hopefully older, older Kate will appreciate how much younger Kate documented her life in journals, cause right now it just causes me to cringe. I stacked all those journals down at the bottom of the boxes and repacked them again– I think it will be a few more years before I feel ready for a good trip into the past.

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We said our goodbyes to family and spent some time in Seattle working and visiting shops before taking the train down to Portland for a few days of the same. Our conversation kept rotating around the same subjects: could we live here? Does this city have what we want and need? The purpose of our trip wasn’t to evaluate Seattle and Portland for possible livability– we have no moving plans, yet we couldn’t stop. Portland has always been the city that we’ve pondered and put in the maybe category. It seems to be some of Seattle, some of San Francisco, and a lot of other things too. Seattle has changed since our last visit, and even more since we left it 5 years ago. Portland has evolved too, as it will continue to do. San Francisco is racing in different directions of course, in good, bad and strange ways. Instead of accepting this, Intern and I have been busy dissecting it, like we are searching for something specific.

Cities aren’t the same once we leave them, and they don’t stay the same, even if we stay put. Our wise Portland friend Kanna reminded us so expertly, “That’s the thing about cities, they change, that is what they are supposed to do”… or something like that. What she said was succinct and so perfectly simple, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. We love where we live, and can’t imagine life in the suburbs or the country, because we believe life there moves too slowly. We crave change and movement, but at the same time we’re living in our chosen city and constantly questioning and critiquing the changes around us.  Why is it that we can’t come to terms with the very thing that we love about cities?

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