During the ongoing protests at the Capitol, there are those who haven't just gotten angry, they've gotten creative. And that creativity has spawned T-shirts, buttons and other items with slogans that convey their anger with a bit of humor.
Nancy Rathke, 72, didn't set out to be recognized for anything other than her anger about Gov. Scott Walker's budget reforms and union-busting tactics. But she's made a name for herself by carrying a sign that reads "Now You've Pissed Off Grandma!" Three independent documentary filmmakers have interviewed Rathke, including one visiting from San Francisco.
The actual slogan, "Mr. Walker, Now You've Pissed off Grandma!," is the brainchild of Rathke's daughter Liz Rathke, a freelance artist. "The whole slogan started when my sister Susan and I started going to the protests. Our mom wanted to become involved and has really found her voice," explains Liz.
T-shirts, totes, hats, buttons, gym bags and other items with the slogan are available through Liz Rathke's online business Biz a Biz on CafePress.com. Also available on the website are items specific for pissed-off grandpas, kids and dogs.
"When Liz first suggested the slogan I wasn't sure if I wanted to be known as being 'pissed off,'" says Nancy, "but she created the persona, and I'm glad to fill the role, because I am pissed off by this whole mess."
In addition to having her photo appear all over the web, Nancy Rathke has started posting her opinions on the Huffington Post and currently has over 120 followers.
One wouldn't expect to be able to purchase T-shirts at Charley's Chocolates, 122 State St., but that's become the hub of sales for the red "Wisconsin 14" shirts. Designed to look like a state highway sign, they honor the 14 Democratic senators who fled the state to Illinois. The design is by Gavin Langhammer, a member of the Charley's Chocolates family and son of building owner Harold Langhammer. The shirts are union-made and have been rapid sellers. Scott Zeitler from Charley's Chocolates says that thousands of the shirts have sold.
As a result of the T-shirts, Charley's Chocolates became a hub of the protests, where people came to share what was going on. Zeitler recalls the day that the line for T-shirts stretched out the door and down the block. "Customers were pulling the T-shirts on over their winter coats. It became the uniform of solidarity."
Then there's the woman who, while attending a Blackhawks hockey game in Chicago, saw another spectator in the restroom wearing a Wisconsin 14 shirt. She inquired where the woman bought the shirt and ended up stopping at Charley's Chocolates on her way from Chicago to Minneapolis to buy five T-shirts and some chocolates. Sen. Jon Erpenbach has visited the shop, and a shirt was sent to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.
"It's never been about the business or the money," Zeitler says. "It's about people looking for some respite and a place to tell their stories."
Ten percent of the T-shirt sales goes to the Fighting 14 support fund. In addition to several styles available in the shop, the iconic WIS 14 road-sign design can be purchased online at wis14.com.
Wearing your beliefs on your lapel will not only convey what's on your mind, but help to fund youth arts organizations in Madison. Sisters Laura and Sachi Komai own Anthology, 218 State St., and have pushed the right buttons to get the protesters' attention. "When we opened the shop three years ago, I wanted to get a button machine. It's become so much fun that now we let the public make their own," Laura explains.
The slogan that started the button craze at Anthology was "State workers are sexy." Over 9,000 buttons sold between Feb. 18 and April 4, featuring slogans such as "'Naked Power Grab' only sounds like fun," "Keep Calm and Protest On," "Wisconsin Forward" and many others. Customers can make their own buttons for $1. "We've been inspired by people who come in with their signs," says Laura Komai." She mentions that it's hard to keep up with the demand. "Each week we order supplies, and it barely lasts."
Twenty percent of sales are donated to youth arts organizations, including the Bayview Community Center Artsbridge, the Lussier Community Education Center, the Claire Audrey Roberts Scholarship Fund of the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art Cart. "It's been wonderful to be able to write a year's worth of checks to the organizations just over the past six weeks," Laura adds.