"Like I always say, there's no 'I' in team. There's a 'me' though, if you jumble it up."

Thanks for that bit of wisdom, Dr. House. Without you we would all be suffering from a deplorable lack of humor that would probably have a terrible sounding name and would cause us to
bleed out of our eyes, or something worse.

Why a housecall from Dr. House today?

Because I will admit I've been something of a self-absorbed crank myself lately, i.e.:


Something like that.

I think it's actually my nerves that cause me to behave that way, because despite being relatively intelligent and also quite experienced, I'm an incredible chicken

when it comes to things like traveling across the country with hours-and-hours-and-hours of my blood sweat and tears boxed up and bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck,

to cast my pearls before the harsh world of the
post-economic-meltdown east coast.

Actually, I spend most of my time worrying about things like:

whether my lights will work,
whether my booth walls will fall over,
whether we can find Baltimore on a map

in time to set up the booth in the first place,
whether I'll look like an idiot for any number of reasons,
whether it will show that I haven't been sleeping very well
and I've been doing my grocery shopping at McDonald's.

Stuff like that.

But I do have a wonderful show staff.
Luckily Team Hinckley consists of more than just me.

There's also the stable, non-hysterical show hand who can drive the truck, do the heavy lifting, schmooze the customers, talk tough when sorting out disputes with the promoters, and still take me to a nice restaurant and talk me down at the end of the day.

All while taking business calls and occasionally meeting with clients who drop by from his real job. And I got him a smashing purple shirt for Christmas that is going to coordinate so beautifully with my work!

He also wears cowboy boots in my booth, which is a source of never-ending delight for me.

So we're going to load up and be off on Tuesday evening. This will be the first time the truck has been called into service as a show vehicle, but it's the first time we've needed to haul both the booth and the work to a far away show.

Our truck has roughly the same amenities as this vehicle, with a slightly less-smooth ride

I believe somewhere around La Crosse, WI we're going to rue the crank windows, single cupholder and radio-only ammenities package that came with the cheap car payment, but we'll have fun together anyway because we always do.

And my kiddies are coming from Vermont and Virginia! Not to mention my mother-in-law from Salt Lake City, my brother-and-sister-in-law from Connecticut and Russ' aunt and uncle from D.C., so there will be plenty of people at the roundup who are required to say nice things about my work and with whom I will be genuinely pleased to visit.

If you happen to be in the area, drop by the Baltimore convention center, booth 1119 and say "howdy"! It'll be the booth with the guy in cowboy boots and the chicken with the nervous laugh.

(And maybe I'll wear my cowboy boots, too.
For a kick-a## show.
And we're traveling there by pick-up truck, after all).

Now -- let's all wave our cowboy hats in the air and give the
Team Hinckley cheer together.

1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . .

Ed Larsen

Now that we've had the "YEEHAW!" scene, I guess there's nothing left to do but grab a couple of bags of licorice and a
whole lot of diet Coke . . .

and ride off into the sunset.

(or technically the sunrise, I suppose. Baltimore is east, isn't it?
Let's at least make sure we get started in the right direction . . .)

Small Works will return March 6 --
y'all come back now, ya' hear?


Yes, I'm doing it again. And it has nothing to do with laziness. Really. Nothing at all to do with it.

So what's up today that has nothing to do with laziness? (Because this is neither a picture of me
nor of Minnesota this week.)

Why, T.G.I.F.F.T. of course. . .

Because it's Friday!

And I have only just begun to extol the virtues of all my many favorites -- please indulge me -- it's been a long week.

There's nothing I love more than finding out about great things I never knew existed. It always panics me a bit, though, because it makes me wonder how many other millions of great things there are in the world that I don't know about, and probably never will.

Anyway, thank goodness I found out about this:

Seriously. Even if I, probably due in part to my advancing age (and therefore ebbing "hipness"), am the last person in America to find out about this show, I'm not going to be too embarrassed to put it front and center on this week's Friday Favorites. If you haven't laughed until you had tears running down your face at some point this week, then it's high time you should. I'm speechless.

And thanks to Luanne for the recommendation to check out this blog:


which is my favorite new internet discovery of the week. Whether or not you love cats, everyone loves Wales and besides stunning photography of one of the most magical places on earth, an enjoyably written blog is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. At least one (possibly more) of my daughters has expressed a desire to live in Wales, and despite it being far away, wouldn't it be the most lovely place to visit my grandchildren some day?

And now to my work -- I thought I'd highlight my second most favorite piece ever, in case anyone was wondering. About this time in the framing process, I also like to remind myself that things do eventually get finished around here.

(Perhaps someday I'll also show you my least favorite piece ever . . . that would probably be even more interesting, right?)

But the number two favorite spot definitely belongs to this piece:

Resistance is Futile, 2005, Collection of Wolfgang & Suzanne Sixl

There are a lot of things I like about this piece -- the central background has such a lovely mottled look, and the multi-colored border is from one of my mother's old dresses, which happens to be one of my favorite pieces of wool to work with -- wonderful colors, very thin but extremely tight weave. Pendleton, I believe. And yes, it was difficult to cut up a Pendleton dress. But sacrifices must be made for art, right?

This piece started out to be about the war between the sexes -- the boy and girl were going to be hurling some kind of insulting dialogue at each other, and then when I had them both on there and started to get the words going, suddenly and without warning my favorite little dog just sat up, wagged his tail and positively begged (demanded!) to be included.

Not to be outdone by a dog, my favorite mischievous feline popped into the frame next, but appears to still be looking around with suspicion, unsure of what she's doing there.

It's always fun for me when a piece takes me on a journey, refusing to follow any drawings, concepts, ideas or plans I may be trying to utilize in its creation. It reminds me of what art is about and why anyone would want to invest the time and love required in its creation.

If you can always see the end from the beginning, why bother to take the trip?

After I had named the piece, I found out that "resistance is futile" is a line that actually found its way into the popular lexicon as the result of a Star Trek episode. Who knew?

The family that purchased this piece bought it in hopes that they could appease their children with it and avoid having to get an actual pet. Good luck with that.

They also happen to be some of my most favorite people, so that means my two favorite pieces both found splendid foster homes, which helps me sleep so much better at night. Thank you!

And now, it being a February Friday, I thought I'd include a recipe for the easiest and most divine comfort food imaginable, which has literally sustained me through yet another Minnesota winter (I keep hiding the loaves in the back of the frige so my husband won't be appalled by the frequency with which I make it).

Because of my addictive tendencies, when I find something I like I tend to make it to death. This recipe enjoyed such status about 15 years ago, and after I burned out on it (as I inevitably do, part of my cycle) I didn't give it another thought until I made some homemade soup one day in October and needed just the thing to go with it. Thank goodness I was inspired to revisit this particular addiction.

Afraid of making bread? Don't think you have time?

Don't even waste your lame excuses on me, because this is seriously the easiest bread recipe in the world and is absolutely delicious, not to mention simply lovely toasted the next day.

Quick Mix Cheese Batter Bread
3 cups flour
1/2 cup grated cheese
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. quick-rise yeast
2 Tbsp. softened butter
1 1/4 cup hot water

Mix 2 1/4 cups flour and other dry ingredients in large bowl. Stir in butter and water. Add cheese. Mix in remaining 3/4 cup flour, stirring to make thick batter. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Turn batter into well-greased 1 1/2 qt. round casserole. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Remove from casserole; cool before slicing.

Well, I've given you entertainment, a new fix for your blog-reading addiction, art and also food. What else can I do for you on a Friday to help guarantee a perfect weekend?

I think my work here is finished.


Ubitquitous spots of multi-colored happiness that become increasingly pervasive during Framing Week.

Okay contestants, raise your hands if you know the answer (we don't have real signaling devices because this is only blog "Jeopardy").

Or I guess I mean the question . . .

What . . . are . . . polka dots?

Ding, ding! That's correct! And I'm not even going to make you feel a little dumb by correcting your pronunciation like Alex usually does. On the other hand, I can't give you any money for the right answer either.

Why polka dots?

Yes, that's the question we're pondering today on Small Works, because during framing week I get to the point where painting them is making me

-- I can't help it, I have to say it --


The short answer is, I have no idea whatsoever.

It's not because they're easy to paint. Sure, the little ones you make with paint dots from the end of a paintbrush handle are, but the big random ones that cavort across my frames are a freehanding nightmare.

I don't have unresolved "yearning to visit Minnie Mouse" issues either, because I've seen more than my share of all the Disney characters as a result of living in Florida and owning the annual pass.

And they are a source of never-ending frustration when they cause people to pause in front of my booth for a nano-second, take in the dots and then comment, "Oh, cute. For kids."
And then walk away in search of more adult entertainment
before I even have a chance to say "But . . ."

I guess I think they're just fun and happy. And they sometimes serve to add a layer of meaning to my work, for those times when there are not-necessarily-fun-and-happy undertones.

They're the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

I hope they help my pieces work on several levels. It's not that I'm against selling my art for kids. Who doesn't want art for a child's room that they won't grow out of and that will give them something to think about once they're old enough to see past the bright colors and dots?

At my last Chicago show, one of my friends (who is a great cheerleader for me) said he really wanted to see my work
get a little edgier.

"Susan Unplugged", so to speak.

It could happen -- I'd like to do it, since I spend half my life
reigning myself in, in one form or another
(which is what grownups do, I know).
But even at my most "unplugged" I'm pretty sure
there would be polka dots.

Because even at my most sour
-- no surprise here --
I'm addicted to sugar.

And then there's my favorite poem ever. And that's reason enough for all the spots in the world. It's by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and thank goodness it has saved me from ever having to write my own ode,
"In Praise of Polka-Dots," and therefore has also saved you from having to read it.

His exquisite words elevate spots to the level I want my dots to function on -- enhancing the beauty and meaning of whatever they touch.

You have my undying gratitude, Gerard.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is art.


So . . . a Fine Artist, a Folk Artist, and a Fiber Artist walk into a bar . . .

Some art-comedian should take that line and run with it, because there's a wealth of material there somewhere.

I can imagine just such a joke being told by Rob Reiner's character in this movie:

We've been having a little Woody Allen Filmfest at our house, which is a good thing to do in Minnesota in February. It takes your mind off other things. And one of the first films in the lineup was Bullets Over Broadway. It's full of such wonderful conversations about the nature of art, who is an artist and who isn't, what art is and what it's not, and its importance or lack thereof.

As in most of Woody's films, just when the quick-streaming dialogue seems to have delivered the sum total of universal human truth, there's the flash of non sequitur that makes you say, "huh?" Watching it is just like eating something that's full of really complex flavors you can't quite identify but that also tastes sort of like your favorite comfort food.

Best of all, in this particular film the artist turns out not to be an artist after all. And the uneducated thug turns out to be an artist who is actually willing to give his life for his art, when it comes down to it.

All of this comes up because we were at a lovely dinner party the other night with some friends who also invited their neighbors. We met and exchanged the usual pleasantries -- jobs, kids, Minnesota in February, etc., when it came out that his (the other guest's) novel had just come out.


So our hostess ran to get her copy so we could see it. Seriously -- a hefty hardcover volume by a real publisher with actual reviews on the dust jacket and stuff like that. And it required a lot of restraint to not say, "Wow -- congratulations!" immediately followed by a less enthusiastic, "You're living my dream."

It certainly shot holes in the premise I've based my life on thus far, that there's no point trying to be a writer because the chances of a regular person having their novel published are roughly the same as winning the lottery, and therefore it's really not a very smart investment.

And of course I was reminded of the scene from Broadcast News in which William Hurt says, "What do you do when your real life actually surpasses your dream life?"

and Albert Brooks answers, "Keep it to yourself."

A few minutes later, he (The Writer) asked me "if I considered myself to be an artist?"

Now that's a really big question for a first date, so I reeled under the weight of it for a moment before I started to answer, "I guess I consider myself to be a Folk Artist." But I never really got to give an explanation as to why I would designate myself as such. There is actually quite a lengthy and well-constructed one, now that you mention it, which has nothing to do with my "charmingly-naive style" but everything to do with my journey as a self-taught artist. Or whatever we call it.

In hindsight, I think the best dinner-party answer (and the one I plan to use should the situation ever arise again) would be, "it's complicated."

I do have a collection of artist-name-tags, which might help clarify things, but I'm not in the habit of wearing them to dinner parties.

I suppose I could have handed him one of my very first business cards,

printed way back when I was just beginning to peddle my wares in a few little shops and was still quite unsure as to

"whether I was or whether I wasn't,"

and certainly "whether or not it was."

I guess we've made progress in 20 years, going from "almost art" to "it's complicated." That's something, right?

My graduate-of-prestigious-art-school daughter once told me that she and all her friends lovingly refer to art school as "fantasy camp."

This made me laugh, of course, and I immediately assumed it was because they're all now drowning under mountains of student debt and un- or under-employed, but they could all draw unbelieveably swell pictures on demand, if only someone would demand it.

She later explained to me that my assumption was wrong. "The reason we call it fantasy camp," she said, "is that at art school you could take your pants off and hang them on the wall. And someone would stop and ask you what you were doing, and why, and what you were trying to say, and what the motivation was behind the concept, and then they would actually listen with interest for half an hour while you answered the question."

So I've decided that what it comes down to, this "being an artist or not being one", must be:

your ability to really sell your
"why-I-hung-up-my-pants" speech.

And I'm not sure where I stand on that ability spectrum -- somewhere between almost and complicated, I guess.

It reminds me of the old Peanuts bit where Charlie Brown and the others are looking at clouds and someone sees things about man's existential dilemma or some other nonsense and Charlie Brown says, "Oh, I was about to say I see a ducky and a bunny." Something like that.

So then (back to the dinner party) someone said, "Well, Susan writes a blog", and we discussed that for a second after which I immediately remembered our poor friend, Pig:

and it didn't really make me feel better to be able to say, "Yes, I'm Susan and I publish my poetry on my blog. Then I write reviews about me by me."

You can see what I mean, right?

Anyway, I am genuinely looking forward to reading a real and hefty novel written by a regular person that I just had dinner with and to whom I could potentially have explained whether or not I consider myself to be an artist. At our next dinner party I'm hoping to have "book club" with the author.

And I guess there must be an artist of some kind somewhere around here, because it's
Small Works Framing Week!

And I know just the thought of framing week is making my kids homesick.

Because framing week means frames in various stages of construction spread over every possible surface in both the kitchen and family rooms, accompanied by a fine layer of sawdust and punctuated with varnish fumes and paint splatter.

And for heaven's sake don't try to cook or eat anything in the kitchen during framing week! What's wrong with you?!!

ca. 1950 -- happier times before children were forced to endure the neglect of a mother's Framing Week

Framing week also usually means Mom's getting a little stressed, because where there are frames there's sure to be a show somewhere nearby.

And where there's a show, wouldn't it follow that there is probably art?

I believe we've established that nobody's sure whether or not there's art, but I can tell you that this week if I were a drinker, you would probably find me in a bar. With all the other maybe-artists.


It's time for the Small Works Class Valentine's Day Party!

I hope someone brought cupcakes!

Well it must be time to open up the Small Works Valentine box and see what's inside (it's a shoe box covered in white paper with pink and red construction paper hearts stuck on it and a slit cut in the top -- pretty much like every year):

Here's something interesting . . . . a piece of advice gleaned just this week . . . .

Never say the words "chest pain" while you are in a doctor's office.

They'll have you hooked up to an EKG, send you halfway across town for a chest x-ray and then send you traipsing across the other half for a stress test faster than you can say but-I'm-really-busy-getting-ready-for-Baltimore. They don't care -- chest + pain are the two deadliest (by which I mean time-killing) words you can say. And they don't care that the pain is on the RIGHT side, or that you're completely sure it's something residual from the monstrous cold you endured for half of January, because (here's the kicker) and I quote: "Chest pain in a FORTY FIVE YEAR OLD WOMAN could be serious." Thanks for the reminder.

Fact is, when I went to the doctor because my chest hurt I wasn't really even thinking of THAT type of chest pain. Now I'm in "utter brain chaos," but I suppose that could be normal in a WOMAN OF MY AGE.

Let's see what else we have in here . . . . Oooooh . . . Vintage Valentines!

They just don't make 'em like they used to, do they? I scoped out the Hannah Montana and High School Musical Valentines at my local Target store and didn't see a single thing that would make my heart go pitty-pat when I peeked in my Valentine box.

But these:

Now that's more like it.

Let's see . . . did anyone leave me candy in here, perhaps?


That's okay -- I'll buy my own; it guarantees I'll get what I want.

But there is a really great Valentine's Day memory in here . . .

Every year when I'd decorate the ol' Valentine box and take it to school, I of course secretly hoped some boy would deposit something so marvelously romantic,

preferably with lots of lace and handmade,
preferably so large that he had to take the lid off the box to
get it in, and

preferably in view of the entire class so that everyone would know just exactly the depth of his affection for me . . .

that I was invariably disappointed by the same-old-same-old cards and suckers and pink boxes of conversation hearts. It was all nice, of course, and fun, but I was certain that somewhere in the world, other girls were having a much more romantically fulfilling holiday than the class party I was enjoying.

Until 5th grade . . .

I lifted the lid -- I don't know how he got it in there, it was garishly big (and a little crumpled from being squished in a shoe box, now that I think of it),
a heart made of yellow construction paper (I don't think his mom expected her son to be making valentines and therefore didn't have red or pink on hand)
with 4 (yes, FOUR!) large doilies stuck on the back.

I looked around slyly trying to determine whether everyone had gotten large yellow valentines. No??!!

He had composed a verse (a verse! for me! that he wrote himself!) and written each line in a different color ink from one of those tri-color ballpoint pens. And the "he" in the story was Mr. Cool of the 5th grade Himself, the one with THE hair and those cheeks that got so adorably red sometimes that the entire class swooned . . .

Would you like to know what it said?
Because of course I still remember.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
You're the most stubborn person in the world,
But I still like you.

You see mostly our romance had thus far been limited to arguing about stupid things, like what the lyrics to "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree" really said, and other important issues of our time.*

*For the record, I was right on that particular issue.

And I was so utterly breathless about the whole episode, I forgot to even be offended by the poem. It was, without a doubt, the best Valentine's Day class party ever . . .

until I grew up and met my Real Valentine,

who would probably tell you that I AM indeed the most stubborn person in the world, but writes nicer things on my cards. And this year we're spending our 29th Valentine's Day together, not doing much besides just being in love with each other.
Try fitting THAT in a shoebox.

Wishing you all a Valentine's Day filled with hearts
-- not the EKG kind --
and something truly sweet in your Valentine's box!

(Go ahead and buy it for yourself. Satisfaction guaranteed.)


Small Works Presents a Public Service Announcement:

"There is nothing in the world I wouldn't do for him, and there is nothing in the world he wouldn't do for me . . . we spend our lives doing nothing for each other." -- Bing Crosby (about Bob Hope)

Well now that's a little sad (funny, but sad), don't you think?

But it feels quite true today for me. It's one of my dearest friend's birthdays, which should be cause for a great lunch and some good laughs. But when I saw her (just for a moment!) at Christmas I said, "Let's get together for lunch. Soon. DEFINITELY BEFORE YOUR BIRTHDAY!" And we both laughed at the ridiculousness of the thought that we wouldn't see each other until mid February. And here it is, February 11.

She started a new job as a flight attendant this year, and I'm just consumed with small-working, so we don't see each other much anymore. Because it's her birthday today, I'll take the blame.

But there was a time when we spent every afternoon together, crafting while the babies napped, planning what to fix for dinner, talking about every topic under the sun and not really appreciating the tremendous gift we had -- time to spend every afternoon together.

Mary Engelbreit -- one of my favorites

Things change and life goes faster and faster, doesn't it? So I'm going to leave a birthday message on her machine today and promise we'll see each other DEFINITELY BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY!

(In May).

She is an antique dealer and has given me many lovely little framed mottoes over the years -- this is the first and still perhaps my favorite:

Friends are wonderful but friendship is work and I guess sometimes it seems like there's just too much work and not enough day. But I suppose I need to remind myself that it's the best sort of work, isn't it?

I guess the public service announcement is this:

"It's February 11. Do you know where your friends are?"

I'd better go make a phone call.


It's February 8 . . . Mark your calendars!

Everybody's talking about something . . .

and it isn't what's for dinner,

or the weather,

or the miracles of modern stain removal,

or the economy,

or the latest technological advances,

or the unbelievable antics of their adorable cats,

or what they did over the weekend,

or even Jessica Simpson's weight gain,

it's . . .



it . . .


But they're so small! Why would people be talking about needles?

I know, right?

Because it's February 8, and thanks to Marjorie, I recently learned that it's the Japanese festival of "hari-kuyo" -- literally translated as "needle memorial service."

Basically hari-kuyo is a religious festival born out of an enormous respect for daily objects, particularly objects of work, and is thought to be hundreds of years old. If a needle broke, the seamstress would save it until February 8, when it would be taken to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple where they would lay their needles to rest in something soft like tofu, make offerings of thanks for the service of their tools throughout the year, and pray for improved sewing skills and fewer broken needles in the year to come.

Burial with full honors for broken needles and bent pins!

I think it's amazing, because without needles, where would all the women be who devoted untold hours of their lives to making things like this

very old hand-pieced quilt block

for their families' warmth and comfort,

vintage dish-towel

vintage dish-towel

vintage dish-towel

the beautification of their homes,

vintage hot pad

and perhaps most importantly, their own sanity?

How do you think I came to be a needleworker?

I stayed home raising three children, of course.

So without needles, my life would be very different. Because learning to use a needle is the place I started. There would be no Small Works, no quilts, no life in crafts at all. And there would probably be a lot of bald patches where I would have torn my hair out over the years. I'm not sure what I'd be doing now, but I would have missed out on a whole lot of soul-feeding in a lot of tiny stitches.

Next time I break a needle, I'm going to show increased respect.
(or at least not swear.)
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