Elizabeth and I have had the bookstore for almost 19 years and we generally agree on most things we bring into the store. We’ve even said, quietly at the end of a long day when we’re dreaming a bit on what else we can do, “Wouldn’t art supplies be great?” Secretly, we both have a passion for art supplies. Why I’m not exactly sure. I can’t draw at all, but there’s something about a sketch book and nice pencil that delights me. Elizabeth is much the same, and she can draw. Combine our love of all things arty, paper, pencils, crayons – heck, even good coloring books – and a brutally long winter where warmth never seems to take hold on sunny days, and you’ve created the perfect storm for the great arts supply arrival.
As the sideline buyer, Elizabeth is responsible for bringing in some of our bestselling items: all of our cards, do-dads, toys, artsy things, and more. I am responsible for receiving these when they come in if she’s not there. I set about to receive two or three different sideline orders on Friday. They were all art supplies. At first I loved the idea of so many great pencils, pastel crayons, sketch pads, etc. But then I quickly became overwhelmed. I kept thinking, through my laughter, where are all of these going to go? I do not do displays, except the most simple ones. My skill is not in making things look pretty or necessarily inviting to the eye. Elizabeth dons her ubiquitous elf hat (we have a longstanding joke at the store that when Elizabeth stays late to rearrange sections, she’s “elfing”) and can make just about anything look good and suddenly people are buying whatever she’s put out.
I texted her a photo of what had come in. Partly to tease her but also partly for guidance. I was utterly overwhelmed. These boxes are all writing implements or sketchbooks. That felt like a lot to me. I was getting confused about how to group them and where they should go. Elizabeth came in at two for her shift and we all had a good laugh. Then later that day and well into the evening (elfing is hard stuff that takes concentrated time with no customers) she texted me photos of the our new sections with handmade signs that say Spring into Creativity. And we are selling them! How can we not? They all look so inviting. Doesn’t everyone loves the possibility of creation, of taking a blank page and filling it with lines and shadows to make a picture? And what better way to create young artists than with easy (and very affordable) and fun supplies?
Here’s the only thing: I took one sideline meeting a month ago when Elizabeth was out sick. What did I order? Pencils!