Athena Scalzi

Small Business Saturday: Figberrytea + Bonus Interview With the Artist!

Athena ScalziIt’s been a long time since I’ve done a Small Business Saturday post, but today we are changing that! And we are kicking off our return of this series with what is undoubtedly one of my new favorite artists, Figberrytea!

I mention this every time I do one of these posts, but I’m going to do it again before we get started, just so everything is crystal clear. These posts feature small businesses that I have purchased items from, and liked the items I’ve gotten so much that I felt the need to share with you all. I was not sent any items for free, nor do I gain anything by posting these, I just want to promote small businesses and encourage you all to find new shops and lovely artists to support!

So, I first discovered Figberrytea on Instagram, and thought, “wow, those are some extremely cute designs, I simply must have some stickers of them”. And so I placed a small Etsy order back in March. Just a couple sticker sheets and a few mini prints.

I picked these three stickers sheets because I love food stickers, especially desserts, and I couldn’t decide which one to get so I just got all three. I couldn’t resist, look at their adorable faces! I would say, out of the three, I have a soft spot for lemon desserts, so that sheet is probably my favorite.

I ended up having the same problem with the mini prints, I couldn’t choose just one! I had to obtain the whole set. Thankfully, both her stickers and mini prints are super affordable. I love all the prints so much, but if I had to pick a favorite of the five, it might be the strawberry one.

I was so pleased with my order, I knew I had to place another one the next time the shop updated. And so I did, and I got so many amazing things:

One thing I especially love about ordering from Figberrytea is how each order is packaged so nicely! There’s a letter with your name written so prettily on it, and is sealed with cute stickers or washi tape. It feels so much more personal than buying from a big company or store.

In this order, I got a set of Cookie Bear stickers, an orange sticker sheet, a peach sticker sheet, an ice cream mini print, and a jam mini print (the cake stickers were lil’ freebies).

Out of this order, my favorite would have to be the ice cream print, as it is my favorite food in the world, and the way Figberrytea draws the perfect scoops on the cones is chefs kiss.

A couple weeks ago, there was another shop update, so of course I had to grab all the new stuff! This was my third and (so far) final order from Figberrytea:

I am SO obsessed with the new items! Every time I think she can’t make anything cuter than what she’s already made, she does it! Everything just keeps getting cuter, and my collection keeps getting bigger.

Since I loved the ice cream print so much, I ended up getting the taiyaki sticker sheet, along with the kakigori sticker sheet. I had never heard of kakigori before buying these stickers, but I have wanted to try taiyaki for the past decade, and never gotten the chance. I hope if I do try it someday, it’s as good looking as Figberrytea makes it look!

I also got two super cute “squeeze the day” stickers, because I couldn’t decide if I liked the orange juice or lemonade one better. They’re both so charming in their own ways. As a huge crepe fan, especially sweet crepes, I knew I couldn’t leave out the “oh, crepe!” sticker.

As for the cake sheet, I decided to keep all the big ones in my sticker book for my collection, and use all the little cakes in birthday cards for friends. I’m generous, but not generous enough to give up the big cakes.

And can we talk about how that rice cooker sticker on the pink sheet is the single cutest rice cooker I have ever seen in my life?! I wish the one we had looked like that!

Anyways, those are all the wonderful items I have received from Figberrytea! I reached out after my last order and asked if I could feature her on here, and she said yes! I wanted to make this post different from my other Small Business Saturday ones, though, so I decided to include a mini interview. So read on to get to know Annie, the artist behind the most adorable stickers in the world!


1. When did you get into art?

I’ve always loved drawing growing up, but I would say that 2016 was when I really started investing time into improving my art skills. I actually painted food illustrations in watercolor exclusively from 2016 to 2019. In 2020 I started dabbling in gouache and began the “figberrytea” style before getting an iPad at the end of 2020!

2. What’s your favorite part of creating art?

My favorite part has to be the final steps where I get to add paper textures and little details like sparkles or random doodles. Unlike when I painted in watercolor, I almost never prepare a sketch so my drawings are usually a mess until the very end!

3. Did you always want to be an artist?

When I was in elementary school my dream was actually to design stationery and open my own stationery shop! That dream kind of went away as school and work came into play but I like to think that I’m fulfilling my childhood dreams now!

4. What made you decide to start selling your art?

As a supporter of small businesses myself, there’s always been that little idea of “wow it would be so cool if I could do something like that.” While the idea lingered, I’m a worrier by nature so I honestly never thought I would sell my own art! Last year I realized I was never going to feel ready or completely prepared! I remember waking up one morning and thinking, “I want to make cute stuff and I’m just going to do it and it’s not the end of the world if nobody buys it! At least I tried!”

5. What’s your favorite piece that’s for sale?

I would have to say that my Retro Cakes sticker sheet is my favorite item on sale for the moment. I love seeing all the colors of the cakes and I think they look so fun together!


So, if you like Annie’s style, consider following her on Instagram, or checking out her Etsy shop! I highly recommend buying from her, as her products are sure to brighten your day!


Personal History of Music

A Personal History of Music, Day 11: “Ray of Light,” by Madonna

For nearly all Gen-Xers, there are three artists who can reasonably be said to have been universal experiences, i.e., they were in the soundtrack to your life whether you went out of your way to listen to them or not: Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna. They were everywhere, the musical air that one breathed, there in the malls, in the schools, on MTV and radio. Even if you dove deep into heavy metal, goth or rap to escape their presence, sooner or later they were there, leaving you flabbergasted that, somehow, they found you. I’m not saying they were necessarily your favorite musicians (although they certainly were the favorite musicians of a great number of our contemporaries), or even that you liked them. I’m saying that no matter where you went, there they were.

In the fullness of time, it’s come as a little bit of a surprise to me that of this universal Gen-Xer triumvirate, it’s Madonna that I ended gravitating toward the most. I think if most people had to guess which “team” I was on of these three artists, they’d probably pick Prince. He was the most obviously restlessly creative of the three, who did his own genius thing however he chose and didn’t care if you liked it or not. This is clearly in line with who I would like to think I am as an artist and how I run my creative life — not a genius, and not on Prince’s level (who is), but happy to do my own thing without regard to anyone else’s preferences. Michael Jackson was a monstrous talent with a chip on his shoulder; it’s no secret that he was so incensed that his Off The Wall album was (relatively) overlooked at the Grammys that he designed Thriller to Win Everything, Everywhere, All the Time — and it did, carrying off eight Grammys, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year, for starters.

Madonna had the stubbornness of Prince and the drive of Michael Jackson, and added something of her own to the mix — a reinventiveness that proved critical to her longevity. Prince would always do his own thing, and Jackson could always make the world look at him. Madonna knew that for her, fame was something more of a moving target, and that she had to keep shapeshifting to keep the spotlight on her. She went from spangled club kid to seductress to chanteuse, and so on, every step made to remind us all that we haven’t seen all of who Madonna was or could be. At every step of Madonna’s career she dropped essential music: “Lucky Star,” “Like a Virgin,” “Like a Prayer,” “Express Yourself,” “Vogue.” Every step a hit, as it were. Ultimately I think that’s why I gravitated toward her as a fan: with every step, I heard a new side of her.

For me, the biggest step of her career, and the one she and I intersected best at, was the album Ray of Light. In 1998 I was used to the idea of Madonna reinventing herself on a regular basis, but I still wasn’t expecting this particular reinvention, which leaned heavily into the more ambient and dub sides of electronica. This was an album in many ways closer to, say, U.F.Orb than Like a Virgin. It wasn’t a repudiation of what Madonna had done before — Madonna doesn’t work that way, as far as I can tell — it was her saying that what she had done didn’t need to be immediately revisited. It freed her up to do and be something else.

And in “Ray of Light,” the song, that thing she was freed up to be was… joyful, in a way her music hadn’t expressed before, or at least, I hadn’t heard before. It’s not that she hadn’t done giddy or effervescent pop in her career to that point — “True Blue” and “Cherish” come to mind — bit to make a food comparison, those are bon-bons of pop songs, and “Ray of Light” is full meal, from vibe to instrumentation to lyrics. Madonna has made the point that Ray of Light was the first album from her after she had become a mother, and part of the goal of the album was to incorporate some of the changes in perspective that event and others had placed in her life.

I don’t want to say Ray of Light is Madonna’s first “adult” album, because that’s belittling to adult life experience minus children. I will say that the album came out when I and Krissy were expecting our own child, and the song “Ray of Light” then and now captured some of what I felt as we were waiting for Athena to arrive, and immediately after she did: A wonderful wrenching of the world, a feeling of happy potential, everything upended in the best way possible. It was music for a new era, for Madonna, and for me.

Madonna hasn’t stopped doing her thing, and of the Gen-Xer universal triumvirate, she’s the one that’s still with us, now in the Grande Dame phase of her career, putting out albums and singles that still chart. She doesn’t have to — it seems likely that Madonna will be remembered as long as anyone in pop music ever was — but I like that she does. She’s still reinventing herself. I like hearing where she goes next.

— JS

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