It's Tuesday Treat Time!

Is Tuesday the new Friday?

Or is my alliterative addiction spilling over
onto the titles of other posts?

While I'd love it if we could get together for real treats on this out-like-a-lion Tuesday,

that's a piece of technology I have yet to figure out. (If any of you know the secret to this, please send a pie or perhaps some cookies to me as soon as possible -- whatever you have on hand will be just fine.)

Today's "Tuesday Treat" actually refers to the fact that I don't often post on Tuesdays. You may be going to Google Dictionary as we speak to check the definition of "treat," but I promise I'll try to make your visit worthwhile (without increasing your waistline).

I really just wanted to let you know that today I'm a guest blogger over here.

If you have a chance, come by and check it out. Michelle puts together a fun blog with all sorts of earth-friendly tips and tidbits, so I was pleased to be invited to contribute.

Now I wouldn't blame you at all if you're feeling misled at this point and beginning to wonder when the "treats" are coming.

So here is something delicious:


Yesterday I shared with you one of my fiber art heroes. Today I'll send you to check out my all-time blogging hero, Maira Kalman.

Her blog is everything a blog could ever aspire to: educational, intriguing, packed with great eye candy, witty, quirky, unbelievably creative . . . *sigh* . . . things mere mortals can only dream of.

Each post is a work of art to be savored again and again.

Ms. Kalman wrote one of my favorite books
(a published version of her blog),

which I've referred to on Small Works many times before. But I didn't realize until recently she had returned to blogging.


(Don't spend one more second here! Unless you have figured out how to send me baked goods, then please wait for them to upload completely before you click away . . . )


So . . . a Groundhog, a Lion and a Lamb walk into a bar . . .

You see, I'm good at writing the beginning of jokes -- just not so good at writing the middles. This one is about springtime in Minnesota, obviously, which already is a joke so I guess nobody needs to write it.

Peaceable Kingdom, 2004, 7.25" x 7.25", Collection of L.M. Boyd
Or today we could call it "Spring Still-Life with Pink Bird"

Okay . . . we do get a few really beautiful spring days. It's just that the joke is always on us, because they keep throwing winter back into the mix to keep us off balance.

I think I do have an end for my joke, however. It's something like "only an April Fool would expect anything different."

Therefore I'm keeping my shovel handy for the lion that's heading our way this week. Ick.

So in an attempt to cheer myself up after watching the 10pm weather report last night, I turned to one of my favorite old needlework books. I used to spend hours poring over my art books, but now they are mostly very dear friends that I haven't called in awhile.

Yesterday at dinner Russ and I were talking about excellence. It's something we discuss from time to time -- I don't remember how we got there yesterday, but Russ said something about the fact that it's kind of sad to be (like most of us in the world) pretty good at a bunch of things but not truly excellent at any one thing.

After I thought about it for a second, I said, "I guess the closest I come is that I'm really good at hand sewing."

(Of course most girls and women used to be really good at hand sewing, because they did it a lot. In today's world, however, I feel I can take extra pride in it.)

But truly excellent?

It's good to refresh your memory on some of your heroes from time to time, because it reminds you of what you want to be, what you ought to be striving for, and why you started the whole journey to begin with.

Sometimes show deadlines and sales figures dull my mind to the art, and that's when I might just as well be a sewing machine. Thank goodness the depressing weather forecast sent me to my bookcase looking for a mental boost.

Say hello to Rebecca Crompton.

The Magic Garden, 52cm x 52cm, 1934
(be sure to click on it to enlarge it!)

Ms. Crompton was a pioneer of of mixed-fabric techniques in England in the 1930's. She combined plain with patterned fabrics, incorporated lettering, texture, and raw edges (which horrified conventional embroiderers who criticized her work for being carelessly executed . . . . excuse me????!!!)

It was her freedom in mixing fabrics and techniques which led to artists taking an interest in embroidery as art.

Detail, The Magic Garden

This is one of my all-time favorite fiber images. To me, one of the (many) stunning things about it is its "soft busyness", which would look like a jumble if I tried to execute it. The blend of color and pattern and texture is so perfect that my eye fails to register its complexity at first glance.

When I look at the same picture in black and white,

I'm always amazed by the sharp tonal contrasts. Her use of superimposed stitching to combine shapes and patterned fabrics into such a seamless design -- stitch used neither to outline nor provide detail -- is remarkable.

Rebecca Crompton said:

"The creative worker should view a drawing as a painter would view a slight preliminary sketch, from which ideas can be devloped as the work progresses."

Which reminded me of a Picasso quote that I love:

"You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea."

Being a somewhat rigid person (no laughing, please), this working-freedom is the thing I would most like to develop. It's really hard for me. The creative unknown definitely tends to intimidate rather than liberate me.

Stitching a really fine seam is great.

But the ability to follow that seam (rather than the outline of drawing) as it winds away into uncharted territory would be a lot closer to true excellence.

I've still got a ways to go.
Or Grow.

Something to do
while we're waiting
for May.


And now, it's . . . (drumroll) . . . Finally Finished Friday!

Thank Goodness it's Finally Finished Friday, I should say!

By the way, what is F.F.F.?

Does it mean I'm finally finished whining about the weather?

Yes (temporarily.)

Does it mean we've polished off all four boxes of girl scout cookies I inadvertently ordered while we were supposed to be dieting?

Not quite (thank goodness -- more fun for Friday night diet vacation!)

Does it mean the Sunday NY Times Crossword is filled in at last?

Yes (but can I brag about that when it took me all week?)

Wait a minute . . . could it mean Susan has actually

Unbelieveable (but true.)

So without further ado:

Earth Hug.

Just a scan so it's a little shadowy, but considering how dimensional it is, it did pretty well. I can't believe I actually found a use for that incredibly ugly old wool-covered button that's been hanging around my button box since who-knows-when. I'd like to see the garment that thing came off of.

Well, proof that anything can start over and have a great new life if given a chance!
(Including the earth.)

And I'm very pleased with the way the random beaded border turned out -- when you see a real slide, you'll be able to appreciate it more.

So this goes out to my beautiful auburn-haired environmentalist daughter, and my marvelously cute and creative youngest daughter who drew the image that inspired it in the first place:

Take a bow.

And have a cookie . . . but you'd better hurry.


The Audacity of Hope, Indeed.

(See also nerve, spunk, grit, foolhardiness, impudence, impertinence and brashness.)

One of you warned me on Monday against burning my parka too early. Good advice because March is truly the cruelest month,
despite what T.S. Eliot says.

At least by April you're pretty sure you're going to live through it.

Anyway, for whatever reason I've been in a funk for a few days.

My thoughtful husband inquired about it last night,

so I've been thinking about possible reasons and have come up with several contributing factors.

There's been a lot of dieting and diet-talk going on around here for awhile now (thankfully you've mostly been spared, although I feel another diet post could be looming . . .)

I could be feeling gloomy because he seems to be going from this

to this

with very little trouble.

I was off to a good start,

but then there was Baltimore (darn that deli and its delicious melty ham-n-cheese subs slathered with that mayo with those mystery-bits-of-red-tastiness!!)
and then visiting Hannah,
and then the stress of coming home,
and now March . . . .

I'm only irritated because it appears to me that he's eating a lot of the same things I am, but he keeps having great weigh-ins.

Okay, I have been sneaking a few really stupid indulgences . . .

Ice cream on Cream of Wheat???!!

Perhaps I should try a new fitness routine

Sorry -- no footage available of her dancing her way to slimness

Or just cinch up my foundations a notch.

Or buy some foundations.

And I should mention that my husband always does his best to make me feel beautiful,

even when I'm acting a little ugly, or eating something equally stupid as ice cream on cereal.

I could be feeling gloomy because we did our taxes the other night and my husband didn't even want to tell me how much enormous profit my business DIDN'T make.

Who decided Americans should do taxes at this time of year, anyway?

(And besides . . . who really makes art for money?
Well, okay, money is both important and good but let's be honest --
I'd be making the stuff anyway.)

But regardless of the silly reasons for my crankiness,
he's truly a prince.

I fear I may have given you the wrong impression

when I told you the other day about his "blogging doesn't make money" dictum (see also authoritative pronouncement, decree or declaration).

So now I'm going to counter that
by telling you how he cheered me up.

First he said, "Let's get online and do something that might cheer you up!"

And then he promptly booked "Two Tickets to Paradise" . . .

We don't get to pack our bags and leave tonight (unfortunately)

but July is just around the corner, isn't it?

I certainly HOPE so.


Monday means more ideas about getting ideas? Good idea!

Well it's Monday, and we Minnesotans are in a splendid mood despite the rain because we enjoyed 2 days of 60 degree weather back-to-back this weekend!

So what, you say?

Well the last time that happened was October 11-12, FYI* and so it's cause not only for celebration but also for a statewide community bonfire in which we burn our parkas. When you've been sleeping, eating, bathing, and everything else wearing a parka for 5 months, there's nothing to do but burn it when you finally take it off.

*Yes, all Minnesotans can quote useless weather statistics for any occasion.

Once we get a few warm days, we never look back. The other morning it was 24 degrees, but I saw a man walking the dog in shorts and a T-shirt because he's a Minnesotan and once you've burned your parka, it's SPRING. (Actually, we tend to skip spring and move directly into summer. I'll probably be turning on the air conditioner next week.)

Of course all of the Friday talk about ideas gave me more ideas, so I figured I'd squeeze a little more from the topic before we walk away.

I realized after I wrote about it that I may have made getting ideas sound a little loftier than it, in reality, usually is
(if you can make a Barney Fife quote sound lofty . . . ?)
so I decided I'd better get a little more specific about it

and tell the entire truth,
so to speak.

If you don't think too hard about it, it's probably easy to guess the origins of this piece, for instance:

Persons of Interest, 2006, Collection of J. Greening

That's right!

I was exercising on the elliptical (sweating like a pig) when suddenly The Brady Bunch came on TV. And if you couple that with my years as a professional viewer of Sesame Street

you can easily see how "Persons of Interest" was born.

There. That sort of took the magic out of it, didn't it?

And then there are occasional cases of flat-out stealing ideas, which everyone does whether intentionally or not,

because you don't have to read or listen to music or look at art for long to realize that most of the really great ideas have already been floating around for awhile.

So when a "Flax Art & Design" catalog came to my house a dozen years or so ago

and I tore out the picture on the cover and put it in my file because I liked it,

I shouldn't have been surprised to find that the little character years later morphed into my flower-pot-head ladies.

I added the "grow" idea of course, and made it a woman and stitched it out of wool, but the catalog image must have definitely planted the seed.

Fact is, I save a whole lot of things I see that I like and put them in files or on the frige or on my bulletin boards just hoping that a little bit of wonderfulness will happen to rub off on my creations.

But if we had to think up everything from scratch, we wouldn't get a whole lot done, would we?

I mean a scratch cake is great when you have time, but thank goodness for cake mixes because they taste great and they're easy and economical too.

As L.K. Hanson illustrated so delightfully and W.H. Auden said so eloquently:

And if you want to make good things, you have to make a lot of things. And if you want to make a lot of things, you have to have a lot of ideas.

And the way to have a lot of good ideas is to have a lot of all kinds of ideas and then throw the not-so-good ones away.

So feel free to beg, borrow and steal. Take someone else's idea and stretch it in your own new direction.

(I don't think the Brady Bunch will even mind
when they find out what I've done.)


It's Fun! It's New! It's Friday F.A.Q!

But first . . . I have to put a little post script on Wednesday's offering and share the latest message Ms. Universe has sent my way, this time via a horoscope writer who I generally find to be the worst horoscope writer the universe has on staff at present.

However, I thought this one seemed just like she was posting a comment:

That's as nice as some of the comments I got from my blog friends! (Shame on all of you for encouraging an addict.)

My husband and I share the same horoscope, so some days we decide it's intended for him and some days it's for me -- I get dibs on this one (he might try to take it but I licked it already).

And now, on to something

I'm taking a break from Friday Favorites to bring you Friday F.A.Q.
(luckily I was able to maintain a similar alliterative standard)

When you show your art work (as many of you undoubtedly know), you get asked a lot of questions.

Some are ignorant:

(How much for the frame without the little stitched-thingy?)

And some seem too stupid to deserve an answer:

(What is this? Is this photography?)

Yes, someone actually turned and asked me that after they had studied my work for a few minutes. Now that's just scary.

But some make me say, "Good Question!"

(Do you consider yourself to be an artist?)

and then I go home and think about it and sometimes write about it here.

Perhaps the most frequently asked F.A.Q. I have received over the years is this:

Where do you get your ideas?

Well that is a good question.

And I'm actually going to let Barney Fife answer it -- I don't usually call on Barney when he raises his hand in my class because if you've watched much Andy Griffith you know he's not terribly bright, mainly just the class clown -- but Barney opened his mouth on my TV the other night and this perfect answer just popped right out:

I'm a trained noticer.

I've been known to ask people how they don't get ideas, because ideas seem to pester me constantly, usually when I'm trying to sleep or too busy doing something else to act on them.

For years I was pestered by word combinations and sounds. Now I get visual images as well, but it's definitely all the result of

a whole lot of this

and a whole lot of that

And I find that when you collect a lot of looking-and-listening-ingredients and you put them all on the back burner at a continuous slow boil (you have to stir and taste and keep adding things all the time, of course) you get ideas. But it's definitely a cultivated habit.

A half-baked idea is okay as long as it's in the oven.

And you have to be interested in cooking.

For instance, if you happen to have the right pot boiling, you're prepared to appreciate it when someone like Barney Fife says something brilliant.

I'll send you off with a stanza from a poem about seeds that I wrote a long time ago:

An idea is a seed
that you grow in your head,
You can change it to grow
something different instead.
You can let it grow wild
or keep it quite small,
If you want you can keep it
from growing at all . . .

And a quote from Woody Allen:

"Right now it's only a notion, but I think I can get the money to make it into a concept, and later turn it into an idea."

Or just give it a little water and see if anything sprouts.

Grow on.
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