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Hi! It’s me Kate, and this month I have the pleasure of bringing y’all through the creative process of our new seasonal window display. The saying goes, “eyes are windows to the soul,” and our windows are—in many ways—a look into the soul of Noteworthy Paper & Press. In the years before I came to the retail team, I was beguiled by the windows even before entering Noteworthy’s wondrous realm of beautiful objects. 



Don't these tissue-paper clouds look as soft as a spring afternoon?

Our windows at Noteworthy often contain what could be described as an art installation, made of paper and other materials. I don't mean to brag, but they are stunning. So much so, they have interfered with traffic in the past—more on that later. When I talked about the design process with co-owner Amy Dolan, she admitted with good humor that our displays are now a significant part of our identity, though in the beginning it started off as an advertising opportunity too good to pass up. 

“It’s 25 feet of advertising space, roughly the size of a billboard. That’s really how we think of it. It creates visibility and intrigue, makes people stop and say, ‘Hey, what’s that! I want to go in there!’ Then it kinda turned into a beast of its own.” She laughs. “When we first started, the old location on Higgins Street had a ton of direct sunlight, so Taylor and I learned the hard way that putting paper products in the window will lead to bleaching and warping. So these windows needed to convey the message that we are a creative paper shop, in lieu of having our paper products in the window and being sun damaged. Soon we gained a reputation… and I’d like to say that Noteworthy really elevated the idea of window displays throughout downtown Missoula. The contest for best displays started around that time. We love doing it, but it does take a lot of time and intention.”


underwater christmas 2

Everyone pitched in on Underwater Christmas, one of our favorite landscapes to create!

It can be hard to imagine where one begins when confronted with a 144 square foot space and tasked both with representing what our store offers and sparking inspiration in the minds of potential customers. This spring, we all have been feeling the elastic quality of pandemic time. When each day feels so much like the last, weather is an anchor point in our experiences, a reassuring reminder that change does, in fact, occur as we turn around our sun. April showers still seem to bring the flowers of May. A soft and cheerful color palette does wonders to raise hopes.

“Obviously the season informs the window, so the seasonal element this time around is “April Showers Bring May Flowers,” but we wanted it to feel colorful and relevant,” Amy tells me one Friday as she takes time away from custom designs to answer my questions. “The idea is that the boxes are providing a grounding and rooting, and that the products are floral products that look like they are blossoming, with the ombre raindrops. The umbrellas we were able to repurpose. We reuse where we can. I put it together with the idea that we would be breaking it down and building it one piece at a time.”


image of window display plan

 Amy's schema for this year's Spring window, complete with a break down of amounts, and measurements. Accurate measurements are critical for visual consistency.

Amy uses Adobe Illustrator to design our windows ahead of time. Yes! We bring the same care and intention we turn toward our in-house wholesale and custom designs to our product displays. Illustrator is a great tool that allows Amy to ensure that the colors, textures, and composition work well, and that the design is to-scale, “to allow for the materials to be used efficiently.” The materials needed are all identified as specific parts of the composition, numbered in the amount needed, given measurements that will allow for consistency and ease of construction, then broken down into what Amy calls “manageable bites” that can be built by the retail team. This season, we had help from our Pressmaster Robin Graf, who die-cut our multicolor raindrops. Thanks for making it rain for us, Robin!

Each window involves a creative method Amy and Taylor have refined over the years, choosing materials and techniques that are both reliable for our purposes and relatable to our brand. As a result, we have art that serves a function and tells a story. Amy’s concept of paper-made showers bringing the “flowers” of our merchandise—raised on wooden blocks as if growing out of the ground—is intended to invite the passerby to remember that spring brings renewal. This is a good time to treat ourselves to something new that reminds one of fine craft and deliberate living.


Belanna and rain

To the left, Belanna strings some raindrops as local (famous) rainmaker Robin makes sure you all know we have a lot of fun here at Noteworthy. Thanks Robin! To the right: ombre rain chain station, so we can make sure all measurements are accurate!

Once the counts for the materials are set and the measurements calculated, then we on Team Retail come abuzz as maker-bees—folding, cutting, and attaching clouds and rain to fishing line for invisible installation. There is something soothing about using one’s hands to make a beautiful thing. It gives time for gentle focus and care. Paper is extremely versatile, as it can easily take a shape, but it can also fall in a particular way according to how the fiber is pressed into the sheets. The tissue paper we use for the clouds is pressed in such a way that it will take the form it is folded or creased into regardless of direction, and is so light it resists the droop of gravity. Perfect for clouds, and I know this because after constructing our window display, I feel like a bonafide paper cloud engineer. 

All joking aside, the displays always offer a chance to stretch our skills and learn new things. This season, Amy took on the construction of the boxes, sanded to the soft and clean presentation you see as you stand in front of our shop. After 14 years, Amy and Taylor have taken the challenges presented by past displays and built those lessons into better methods. Amy has some fond and hilarious memories of Noteworthy’s most famous—and perhaps infamous—window displays:

“One of my early favorites were these 10-foot-tall flowers. We made about 10 of them, I think? Green-stemmed, self-supporting, with giant yellow blossoms on the top. They were huge. It was early days, and it really put us on the map as far as what people could expect from us and the store."


early flowers

 An early great: our giant flowers. Thankfully no giant bees visited the shop that year.


"Another favorite was Underwater Christmas. It was amazing, and maybe my all-time most favorite because it was truly a team effort. Everyone came to that project with an amazing addition. It just evolved way beyond what we initially envisioned." 


underwater christmas

We know you wanted to see some extra underwater Christmas, because the visuals are themselves a treasure chest of gifts!


Of course, not all of the projects had predictable results:

“One season, we had a giant lady form, she was huge, and wearing a massive gown made out of envelopes,” Amy recalls. Many of you reading this might remember this stunning lass, if not for her envelope dress, but the sparkling forest she lived in. 

“The trees were made out of shards of glass. We really got into it. It was really cool when it was done, but it took forever, and we were—y’know—crushing glass, and we didn’t have enough, and… we used up a lot of energy. And we got complaints about how it was blinding drivers trying to cross the bridge! So, we learned some lessons about considerations one would never even think of. They only help you get better in the future.”

When Amy recounts these projects, the joy and excitement really comes through. Our windows are a passion project for her, and she is most happy when they are a truly collaborative effort. A perfect example is our most recent Holiday window.

 “It was a true feat, that I feel particularly proud of.” Amy relates, “Not only was it incredibly difficult to implement the concept, but it also had a huge community component. It has been a goal of mine for many years to have a display with a lot of community representation.” 


christmas 2020It gets so dark in the winter, and we kept our lights on in part to shed a little light with our message of hope last holiday season.


The difficulty lay in making a display out of 2 x 2 inch tags that would cover a 144 square foot display. The tags held messages from members of the community. 

“We had kids from Franklin Elementary School, we asked people who came into the shop, we asked all our social media followers to complete the following statements: “What brings me joy is ____” and “My holiday wish is___.” The answers were written on individual tags, and those tags were taped to the window to create larger visuals—one was a shooting star, and the other was the word JOY.” 

This design proved to be incredibly time-consuming on the back end, because the design needed to account for how many tags to use per window, and each tag was a particular color and so needed to be numbered by row and column for consistency, then taped in straight lines, one tag at a time. 


close up christmas window

Hundreds of messages from the many hearts of our community.


“That was a particular win for me because I had no idea if it was going to work,” Amy says, “But reading the 800 tags in the window, what the community was able to share publicly through the concept felt really important because it was at a time when not many of us could be together sharing in person.”

Art is a valuable part of whatever we put our minds to, from paper rain in carefully arranged colors to the type of pen we choose to write to the mothers in our lives this upcoming Mother’s Day. The time and energy is always worth it, if it inspires people to take the time to pay attention to detail and tell each other how much they matter. We at Noteworthy wish you some extra slowness and creativity this spring—to notice the art in your lives, wherever and however you can make it. Take care. 


Kate R. Morris is a playwright happy to have returned home to Missoula after a year abroad in Mexico. Her plays and performances have been hosted or produced in Chicago, Raleigh, New Orleans, and here in Missoula. Her most recent writing can be read in Funny Looking Dog Quarterly, and the Garden City Beast. When Kate isn’t writing her own work, she is working to help others with their writing through teaching, coaching, and consultation. In her free time, she’s usually in the woods or on a lake or river. Kate loves working at Noteworthy because it makes the act of writing feel special, and she gets to be nerdy about things she loves like pens, paper, and communication.