Just when you thought it was safe to look at the funny pages . . .

"What a good thing Adam had --
when he said a good thing,
he knew nobody had said it before."

Mark Twain

I've only had a few ideas in my little art career that I really, really loved -- a few that expressed how I truly felt or saw or dreamed for no other reason than that I felt or saw or dreamed.

(And I'm not going to divulge that list, although I'd be curious to know whether one can tell by looking at the work those ideas have produced.)

One of my pet ideas is my "Cactus-Head Lady" character. She's popped up in several pieces, only asking to be given a chance despite her prickles (because "she has a great personality for a cactus and needs very little water . . .")

And I need not explain why I like that particular character so much, because I won't delude myself by imagining that you don't already know why I like it.

So it was strange for me last week when my most personal little invention became the focus of one of my favorite comic strips:

"Pearls Before Swine," by Stephan Pastis

Stephan Pastis' "Cactus Person" appeared in several comic strip installments, and each time I felt a little sad.

It was like suddenly running into one of your children on the street, only to realize that it wasn't the one to which YOU had given birth, but instead was a strange duplicate of some kind.

Which would sort of make one wonder, "If I could have gotten my particular child some other way, why did I allow myself to be tricked into giving birth?"

Of course, when you think about it, the reason I so often enjoy Pearls Before Swine is that its creator and I think so much alike. Therefore, it should be no surprise when we have the same brilliant ideas, right? (He just gets paid a lot more for his brilliance than I do.)

I wrote a poem in high school from which I only remember one line, but I am reminded of it with some frequency:

The world is old --
There are a lot of similar people
walking around now. . .

Or perhaps T.S. Eliot said it better:

"All cases are unique and very similar to others."

Anyway, a good idea is a good idea.
And we're all entitled to it.

(Even though I thought of it first.)


The Party's Over . . . It's Time to Call it a Day

They've burst your pretty balloon
and taken the moon away.

It's time to wind up the masquerade.
Just make your mind up
the piper must be paid. . .

(But cheer up! Even though THAT party may be over,
the Pity Party's just getting started!)

Today when I stepped outside I said the same thing every single Minnesotan said:

Because we're such a naturally optimistic people, we never think the party will end. After being outside 5 minutes, the look changed to this:

Why were we, as an entire population, wearing looks of sadness, shock, disillusionment, and even despondency?

a) It was COLD.

b) It was hideously windy.

c) It was dark.

d) All of the above.

I have found that on multiple choice tests when there is the
"d) all of the above" option given, it is usually the choice I am
drawn to. Today's test would be no different.

So I'm just going to pull out my ubiquitous knit cap
(hello, little friend -- I cannot tell a lie -- I have not missed you!)
which I will wear for approximately the next 250+ days, and do my best Nat King Cole impersonation as I croon the rest of the song:

Now you must wake up,
All dreams must end.
Take off your make up.
The Party's Over.
It's all over my friend. . .


"Don't you know the meaning of propriety?"

Propriety, noun:
Conformity to established standards of behavior or manners, suitability, rightness or justice, see "etiquette."

Gold star
if you can
the reference.

omework assignment
if you can't:

And that's a really good homework assignment
for a Friday.
(You can thank me later.)

Fortunately, I
DO know the meaning of propriety, thanks to another treasure from Junk Bonanza!

While wandering the aisles, my friend Flannery and I happened upon a booth that was so full of wordy goodness, we could hardly believe our eyes.

Vintage word-related materials of all kinds!
Flash cards!
Old fortunes!
And these incredibly swell vocabulary cards:

I picked up a nice stack of them, because in my line of work you never know what you might need later.


I read a newspaper article last week that made me think. It was about how people used to be much more polite and well-mannered back when everybody smoked.

You would offer the person you were with (stranger or not) a cigarette. They would either politely decline, or accept the cigarette. Then you would offer to light it for them.

When's the last time you offered a stranger
on the subway one of your candy bars?

And further offered to remove the wrapper for them?

That's one of the reasons I love my old magazines. They were produced during a time when everyone knew the meaning of propriety.

Sure, there were problems. Plenty of them.

We were just much better at hiding the problems.

Which some days I think wasn't all bad.


Hooray for Fall!

Are you convinced? Let me make the font bigger . . .

Hooray for Fall!

Still not buying it? I don't blame you. But it's not as if I'm asking you to believe I said this:

Here at Small Works we don't wait eagerly for the Autumnal Equinox, planning a day of special observances or celebrations. (You may have already gathered that, if you and I have ever met.)

But never underestimate the power
of a great junk sale to transform lives
and improve moods!

Because Junk Bonanza (previous post) yielded
a special treat for all of us, one which could
put an end forever to my complaining about Fall . . .

But before we unveil it,
allow me a moment for an editorial response . . .

Whenever I have complained about Fall in the past, I have been immediately bombarded with disappointment mail (disappointment mail is much kinder than hate mail, but still gets its point across) from the multitude of Fall lovers out there.

I feel it important to clarify at this time that I do not actually hate Fall per se, but rather am discomfited by what the coming of Fall represents . . . descending darkness. There are those of us in the world who rely on the sun for that extra boost that gets us (and keeps us) out of bed every day. And when the sun diminishes, the desire to be a functioning person fades as well.

Yes, leaves are beautiful. Yes, Halloween is fun (and tasty). Yes, Fall means the Winter Holidays are just a hop, skip and jump away (a realization which is a mixed bag in and of itself, but we will save that for future discussion.)

So if you do not suffer from a variety of sun-related psychiatric challenges, and if you are not staring down the barrel of yet another Winter in Minnesota, and if you do not have to be ready for a show in Chicago even before you're ready for Christmas, please do not be disappointed in my less-than-enthusiastic welcoming of Fall. Just click merrily away to play in the leaf piles and meet me again when my Fall rant is over. Thank you.

And now . . . a new book!
Acquired just in the life-saving nick of time
courtesy of Junk Bonanza:

Please note that I am aware that today is not September 23, but the book is not aware.

Good things to eat are, I admit, one of the great things about Fall! And in Hinckleyville one of our favorite autumn treats is this:

Marvelous Molasses Cookies

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves (if desired)
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup molasses

Cream shortening, sugar, molasses and egg. Add dry ingredients. Roll dough in balls, roll balls in sugar. Bake 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Which reminds me -- certain fiber artists ESPECIALLY have work to do . . . so I guess I'd better get to it.

But rest assured that we'll be celebrating a full calendar of Fall Holidays together this year, my friends (including, but not limited to, Fire Prevention Week and Book Week!)

Breathless with excitement? Me too.

Sorry about your reluctance to embrace Fall? Me too, sort of.

So let's hear it again . . . this time with feeling:

Hip, Hip Hooray for Fall!


Tee Hee! Silly Me!

How naive can a blogger be?

I thought I could keep it up forever . . .
long, thoughtful posts punctuated with delightful vintage illustrations three times per week.

But alas, life seems to have caught up with me,
and I have experienced a

Small Works Slowdown!

My sincerest apologies, dear readers. Because I am entering my extremely busy fall work season, I can no longer guarantee a strict schedule --

but I have plenty of ideas in the pipeline
and will post as regularly as I can.

If I could just figure out how to get paid to do it, I'd probably drop everything else and prattle endlessly at the keyboard 24/7 (so I suppose it's a good thing no one has made me such an offer).

Today, the Small Works question du jour is this:

If the Cartwrights needed some swell new furnishings to spruce up The Ponderosa, where would they hitch up a wagon and head?

To Junk Bonanza, of course!

I had never been to Junk Bonanza, so Friday I decided it was high time to head over myself and see what all the hoopla was about. (Junk Bonanza is one of the biggest shows in the country. But I have been on a strict, mandatory "junk diet" for about 5 years now and therefore going to such a show was a little like sending an alcoholic into a saloon in search of refreshment after a cattle drive.)

But . . . Yeehaw!

It was
more fun
than Hoss
and Little Joe
could ever
hope to find
in Virginia City
on a Saturday Night!

My dear old friend Pam is a dealer, so I headed directly to her booth to say "hello".

I designed Pam's card years ago, and was surprised and delighted to see
that she is still using it.

She immediately rewarded me with a stack of
1940's-50's New Yorker Magazines.

Pam and I have been junking together
for many years. . .

I particularly love this 20 year old picture, in which we are divvying up a garage sale coat to split the fabric. What you don't see in the picture is that the packers/movers are at my house preparing us for a move to Chicago. I instructed them to pack this room last, so Pam and I could hole up and pretend the whole thing wasn't happening. We spent the morning doing important things like digging through boxes of old fabric and cutting coats in half, then trying them on and taking pictures.

Through the years we've managed to junk our way through Seattle, Florida, and much of the Midwest. Pam is positively GIFTED when it comes to finding treasures amid the trash.

Eventually, when both our houses were bursting at the seams, Pam went on to become an antiques dealer, and I went on to pursue art.

(Thank goodness I'm still allowed to buy vintage magazines!)

Even though I chose the art biz rather than the antiques biz,

I don't think I'll ever stop using vintage embellishments and components in my work. Because I absolutely love digging through the world's detritus, imagining both the
past lives and the possibilities.

Like old stuff, old friends are best and Pam always comes to my shows, flying to get there if she has to. So I likewise sacrifice, carefully emptying my wallet beforehand and putting on my blinders, and then going (kicking and screaming, of course) to events like
Junk Bonanza.

It's a real arm-twister.

I did manage to come away with a few small treasures, only one of which was a true no-no: a sunny yellow McCoy pot, mint condition, which I justified by immediately presenting it to Hannah and wishing her a Happy Birthday (in October . . .)

I'm proud to say, however, that I didn't buy 3 New Mexico state plates to add to my state plate collection.

And I think that shows growth.

(p.s. Vintage state plates are more fun than growth. Just sayin'. . .)


Just direct your feet . . . to the sunny side of the street . . .

It's finally summer in Minnesota!
We have heat!
We have humidity!
We have mosquito bites!

The kinds of things we can only dream of
most of the year.

But it's September . . .
where were the 80 degree temps in August?

It just goes to show that Minnesota weather is like a box of chocolates is like life, or something like that. You never know what you're gonna get. But if you were a weatherman, Minnesota is the Whitman's Sampler you'd want to be eating, because you'd always have something to talk about.

Charles Kuralt said,

"This is a place where you can
hear fall coming for miles."

I don't know where, specifically, Charles was standing when he said that, but it may as well have been here. Because Minnesotans can indeed hear fall coming for miles. I personally can see it for months. I start actively looking for the changes sometime in June, for that certain "something" to hint that the end is near.

A touch dramatic? Absolutely.
It's only one of my faults . . .ahem . . . charms.

But winter is only one of the "loomers"
keeping me up at night lately.

As soon as the "ember" months roll around (i.e. Sept-ember) I know that it's almost showtime -- time to turn my work loose on the world once again and see what the world says in response.

And there's so much to do!

I'm having a little trouble staying focused on any one thing long enough to feel like I'm making progress. And then there's the usual September onslaught of ideas.

Any time I have a million things I need to do,
the ideas come down like rain.

I imagine this is what kids with A.D.D. feel like.
And every raindrop looks like an interesting idea worth pursuing!

(Don't worry -- I'm well aware that in the big picture, my problems don't amount to a hill of beans. I hope we know each other well enough to engage in some good-natured complaining from time to time. It helps me relax.)

Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis


It's all good.

(Yes, even fall . . . even work and its accompanying anxiety)

So now that I've reminded myself how grateful I am,
how lucky that no one has STEPPED on me
(metaphorically or otherwise),
I think I'll just go outside

and take an extra walk in this beautiful and unusually warm September sunshine.

We've got to enjoy every minute while it lasts!

(Oops! Sorry . . . that just slipped out . . .)

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