And Now . . . An Itty Blog Bit of Friday Foolishness.

"I think being funny is not anyone's first choice."
Woody Allen

I got to thinking about this quote the other day while watching George Michael on Arrested Development explain (yet again) that his girlfriend Ann is "really funny" . . .

and I can only assume that what Woody meant is "as opposed to being good looking."

But I think number one on my list would probably actually be smart (I know, spoken like a not-necessarily-good-looking person, right?)  I mean, I can stand not being the prettiest girl at the dance, but being the dumbest would just be excruciating.

Actually, given the amount of time I spend worrying about it (and in the interest of complete honesty), thin probably comes in ahead of good looking, too.

That's right --
1) smart
2) thin, and 
3) good looking.

Then funny.

But if I were rich, then I could buy some of those other things (see also: Oprah).  

So I guess the truly prudent list would probably look like this:

1) smart
2) rich
3) thin, and
4) good looking.

Then funny.

Of course, if I were THAT smart, I'd definitely care more about funny than about rich, thin or good looking.

Because funny automatically implies smart. . . 
In fact, smart is funny's required operating system. 

Funny is about making connections between ideas and events one step ahead of everyone around you.

And besides that, if you're REALLY REALLY funny then it can make you  REALLY REALLY rich and you can still buy all those other things!

(Even if you have to buy thin a couple of times, that's okay.  See also: Oprah) 

So, although I usually agree with Woody completely and admire both his wit and his intellect, I think he got this one wrong entirely.  Funny should be everyone's first choice.

As long as it's funny-ha-ha and not just funny/weird . . .

Oh dear!
I hope there's a place on the menu where we can specify which we'd like . . .

Or as Steven Wright said, 
"If you tell a joke in the forest, 
but nobody laughs, was it a joke?"

(Hope your Friday's fab!)


And now for something completely different:

If you're wondering what shows I might be doing this year, rest assured that here at Small Works,

we've been asking ourselves the same question . . . ?

For some reason, last year left me particularly tired -- not of SEWING, but rather of SHOWING.  So I decided a little break might be in order and therefore haven't committed to doing anything in the immediate future.  However, there are several shows later in the year about which I am hopeful, so I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, ZAPP and JAS continue to send me a barrage of  interesting opportunities for expanding my market.  For instance, I could apply to:

The Rochester (NY) Erotic Arts Festival:

a venue committed to "Celebrating sensuality, sexuality and eroticism in artistic expression."

These ladies are celebrating something in artistic expression.   But I have a hard time believing it's girdles.

In the call for entries, I am informed that:  "The Rochester Erotic Arts Festival is a tasteful yet enthralling event featuring an international erotic art exhibition, intriguing workshops, poetry contests, spicy entertainment, and living erotic art. . . . We are in search of high quality original works that are creative, erotic and thought-provoking. . . . (and thank goodness they added this restriction) . . .
Artists must be 18 and over."  

They did not specify whether one should ship the art in a plain brown wrapper.

(I LOVE poetry contests! Less sure about "living erotic art . . .")

Hannah immediately suggested that my work might lend itself to some (tasteful yet enthralling)
wool "boobies"

-- thank goodness I studied stump work --

to which I couldn't help adding that they would be positively charming with the addition of a strategically placed vintage button.

I know, Small Works is a family website.

I just thought one of YOU might want to enter, and therefore wanted to pass along the call
as a public service of sorts.

After all, there seems to be an uncanny amount of interest every time I post one of these:

Nudge, nudge.  Wink, wink.  
Know what I mean?

(Okay, okay . . . what if it WAS a cheap stunt to bump my stats?
We're a little bored here in MN in January.  Don't judge us.)


While we keep a man waiting, he reflects on our shortcomings . . . . . French proverb

If you're tired of hearing about Susan's new computer, raise your hand . . .

I have several things to say about that: 

1) I don't blame you.

2) Imagine how I feel after spending nearly 5 (FIVE!) hours on the phone with HP yesterday.

That doesn't count the hours of weekend time that my cute little tech supporter and I had already invested.

The bottom line is this:  I'm getting a new computer.  

It's a good news/bad news situation.  The new computer is the good news.  The estimated build date of February 5 is the bad news.  Because the old computer has taken up happy residence in Russ' lair, leaving my printer and scanner without a date to the dance. 

So please bear with me while you see posts populated with rerun illustrations, and more importantly, while we all experience a delay in my promised Etsy Escapades.

I can tell you that the prints of the embroideries are going to be splendid.  My oldest daughter saw the first one and said, "I want to reach out and touch it and then maybe EAT it!" which I thought was most certainly a compliment. 

Because who wants to eat wool?  (Except Cooper, but that's another story.  Well, several stories, unfortunately . . . )

And I'm also thinking pretty seriously about teaching an online class. But I believe "computer required" is implied in the very notion. So for now, I'll just keep scheming.

Sew Along With Susan, anyone?

Yes, there are new things in the wings at Small Works, but now we all have to play a little waiting game while I enjoy an extended farewell to my little old friend (and its miniature/prehistoric monitor, the HP vp15.)

What shall we do while we wait?

Or something more useful and responsible:

Or perhaps just this?

Yup.  That's the one.
(Should do wonders for the techno-crick I seem to have developed in my neck.)


"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

"Our chief weapon is surprise . . . surprise and fear . . . fear and surprise . . . our two weapons are fear and surprise . . . and ruthless efficiency . . ."   Monty Python

One of the things I HATE about technology is that it's so unpredictable. 

You fear it's going to malfunction, but when?
24 hours out of the box?

Not usually, unless you have my luck.  I'm back posting from the old computer for awhile until some technological ghostbuster can chase out the poltergeists that have taken up residence in my new computer.

At least  it's full of surprises:

Sometimes the mouse doesn't work, sometimes the sound doesn't work, sometimes the monitor doesn't work, sometimes the internet doesn't work, sometimes nothing works!

Oh well, that's the beauty of old friends, isn't it?  You can call them up (or boot them up) when you need them, and never miss a beat.  (Thank you, vintage HP.)

On the other hand, my scanner is of course hooked up to my new friend, and since we're on the outs right now, my illustration capabilities are a little limited. So I'm going to have to content myself with sharing old memories from my old friend.     

One of the things I LOVE about technology is that it's so unpredictable.

Who'd a thunk 20 years ago that we'd be doing all the things we now find to be so ho-hum? Who knows who we're going to reconnect with on any given day?  Who knows what outlandish tidbit will pop up on AOL when we fire it up to check our email in the morning?

The world is suddenly getting very small, 
and we're getting increasingly connected.  

One of my happiest surprises lately came in the form of a new friend.  Julia (who is Russian but now residing in Canada), featured my work in a long and lovely post on her blog that I was delighted to have stumbled upon last week.  After I figured out that the language was Russian, I figured out that Google translator could "fix" it for me (Julia has since sent me a much better translation, but I learned that Google translator could have tremendous entertainment applications!  In fact, it might be run by the same people who are in charge of closed captioning).

How absolutely wonderful 
to reach across the world 
and find a kindred spirit!  

The best kind of gift -- one that almost makes me want to forgive the technological glitches of the world as being worth it for the moments of technological goodness.

"Everything that is new or uncommon 
raises a pleasure in the imagination . . ."  
Joseph Addison

Like you, dear blog friends.
Mostly a mystery to me, but splendid just the same.

Bon weekend a tout le monde!



"It's such a good . . . feeling . . . to know you're alive -- It's such a happy feeling, you're growing inside . . . And when you wake up ready to say, 'I think I'll grow 12 inches today!' . . . "

From time to time, one senses 
that the current generation may have passed one by. 

Exhibit A:  My new computer monitor.  

Enormous and lovely, with such color as my old monitor could only dream of.

In fact, some of the grief I've been giving my photographer lately about my slides . . . well (gulp*) . . . sorry, Rik.  The new monitor has solved the washed out colors.

But the BIGNESS of the thing! Chelsea kindly (and patiently) explained to me that I could be working on three things in different windows while watching a Scrubs episode at the same time ("That's the point, Mom"). But what if it requires every bit of concentration I can muster just to accomplish the one task in the one window I'm working on?

I'm sure I'll get used to it in time
(in fact . . . don't even THINK about trying to take it away from me!)

It certainly explains a lot about the 4 year olds I've been working with at church this year. 

I'm sure every one of them could juggle Dora, Sesame Street, and three video games on this thing at once while simultaneously eating a peanut butter sandwich.

Remember the brouhaha when Sesame Street came out because it was so loud and fast-paced and overstimulating?

Yeah, that was my generation.
More of a "Mister Rogers" world, I'm afraid.

I'm just going to zip up my cardigan and spend a little more time fiddling around on this gorgeous gadget . . . 

(an excuse to spend MORE time on the computer?

I'm not sure how Santa will feel about that . . .)


If it's Monday, it must be time to shut up and let someone else talk for a minute.

My husband rarely reads my blog.
He does get overcome by guilt now and then

and will tackle an entire month at a time, even though I assure him that I'm best taken in small doses (an unnecessary piece of advice, since he would certainly know this from living with me for 28 years).

In his defense, he is incredibly busy

and spends so much time on the computer at work that he hardly wishes to spend time on the one at home. And since I bombard him with every idea in my head at sometime or other, why should he have to boot up and slog through my blog for a replay?

My oldest daughter never looks at my blog either, and is occasionally embarrassed and apologetic about that fact, despite my offering complete absolution.   I'm certain she has heard every word I will ever think of to say.  Probably twice.

My middle daughter reads my ramblings dutifully and even leaves kind comments from time to time.  She and I are kindred spirits in our love of the personal essay, and both harbor the desire to be memoir writers when we grow up.
(One of us may still have a chance.)

My baby daughter read my blog while she was away at college, which I attribute to homesickness, and I was glad to be able to throw that lifeline. But now that she lives with me day in and day out, it would appear that she hears enough motherly blabbing in the natural course of things.

I only tell this you because for years I have postponed my career as a writer out of fear that I might offend important people in my life (about whom I must write).

I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the cast of characters, since I believe most of us would put many of the same people in our play.  But I suppose that it suddenly being 2010 (and finding myself to be 46 years old) should shock me into this realization:

time's-a-wastin' and perhaps I should stop postponing the things that are important to me.

After all, the aforementioned scientific evidence would suggest that, statistically speaking, there's a good chance most of the family might never read the things I write after all . . . right?

Anyway, I bumped into my youngest daughter in the kitchen last night as she was washing paint brushes and she told me of a conversation she'd had with her sister about "desire paths". And (lucky for me) she'd been inspired to write about them.

Desire paths?

Just the name makes me want 
to lace up my sneakers.

I was unfamiliar with the concept of "desire paths" (those places where people wear a path cutting across the grass, for instance)  but am now intrigued by the idea and will have to explore it further.

In the meantime, in hopes that some of the people close to me will find it a delightful reprieve if I cease blabbing for a moment . . . I'd like to share with you Hannah's musings about the idea, from her blog "I Paint My Own Reality."

The first Small Works Guest Blogger, I suppose.

Another good idea that I should explore further . . .

Desire Paths

Architecture does its best to plan for the many directions people want to travel. With sidewalks, hallways, walkways and many other features to ease the process of getting from place to place, architects subtly guide people through the paths of their own intentions. But unfortunately for those careful mathematicians, people do not always stick to the carefully kept path or sidewalk.

Desire paths. We have all seen and used them. When we cut across a lawn or round a square corner, we are creating a path: one not subject to the intentions of an architect but a path formed from our desire to get somewhere in a way design, or land, does not intend for us to go. 

Your homework now is to seek out the desire paths around you, to find them and appreciate just why they are there.

I have long believed in the notion that sidewalks are oppressive, but was never quite sure why I felt this way. Sure, sidewalks are easy, but is easy and accessible always best? Do I want to always follow the docile path created for me? No. I most certainly do not. I have a rebellious spirit in me, that distinctly dislikes being told where to go and what to do. This is sometimes to my detriment, but I have learned to embrace the good things this has given me. 

This independence has helped me form of my life my own desire path. I know where I want to go, and I know how I want to get there, and though it may feel like I am working against the current right now, I know that I am headed in the right direction.

And along my path, I will leave my many marks, because I want to be surrounded by more than a cement sidewalk. 

Here are some recent marks along my path:

Thanks for letting us follow you 
for a few steps, Hannah . . .

(and keep blazing your wonderful trail!) 


". . . and some days it's a good day to have breakfast . . ."

The beginning of that Sherman Alexie line is actually quite dire and while I'm usually the first to celebrate Sherman in all his shades, today we'll focus on the back half of the quote because (happily) today turned out to be a good day to have breakfast.

If you ask my dad how he is on any given day, he is likely to respond with, "Well, I'm here, aren't I?" Or some derivative of that idea. And with the unimaginable hardship that's being endured in some parts of the world this week, it's pretty easy to feel thankful for the true basics. 

Isn't it nice how some days it feels

just glorious to be in the most 
usual of circumstances?

The aforementioned breakfast got things off on the right foot, because Lindsay and I decided to indulge our shared devotion to McDonald's breakfast sandwiches, so the day was good
from the get go.

It's amazing what eggs and processed breakfast meats can do for a person, especially when placed between halves of a biscuit that leaves your fingers greasy even before you've fully unwrapped it. And an excuse to have diet Coke for breakfast?


Ahhh . . . Friday food.

Then not long after we returned home,
the postman arrived with this:

They're getting rare, my friends,
but I still find them from time to time and this is a honey!

(I also received my new insoles for my running shoes in the mail, but fitness talk is banned on Fridays.  That's part of what makes Fridays prime McDonald's territory.)

And as I type I can hear the banging of pots and pans downstairs, as my son-in-law continues his exploration of the wonders of yeast breads.  Today's installment:  Caramel Pecan Rolls. He'll be glad when school resumes next week, but the rest of the family might feel a bit let down by the return of the baking drought.

Last week he made me look great by happening to bake bread on the afternoon some acquaintances were stopping by for a meeting.

For one brief moment, I seemed like THAT KIND OF WOMAN! You can't buy publicity like that.  (We'll keep him.)

And to put the cherry atop it all, the weatherman says we may reach 32 degrees tomorrow for the first time since before Christmas.


To a Minnesotan, 32 degrees in January means shirtsleeves.  Plain and simple.  And a non-life-threatening outdoor run, of course. (But we won't talk about that today.  Runs are Saturday talk.)

And today is Friday.  Happy, happy day.

Some days happiness is just
a lot of little things
you find in your pocket. 



If you are technophobic, is there an app for that?

I'm resistant to change.

I believe Mr. Monk summed it up with his very old rule:


Something like that, anyway.  So when one of my children was discussing their TV angst with me while wrestling with the myriad technological choices inherent in a fifty-two inch purchasing decision, I had to kindly point out that they were probably barking up the wrong tree.

The TV in my studio, from which I consume approximately 96.2% of my daily television diet, has a whopping 13" diagonal screen (in glorious color!) and recently celebrated a birthday a few notches ahead of my college junior.

In fact, when we were so rudely forced to get satellite as a result of the digital switch last year, the technician scored extra points for creativity, stripping the cables down to the wires so he could rig some kind of connection to the thing that would work.

I was just glad he was old enough to recognize it as a television set -- a younger technician would probably have scratched his head and said, "Dude."

It's the Zenith Space Commander 400!  Remote control TV tuning with silent sound!

But I'm really telling you this because my beautiful new custom computer, with which Santa so kindly surprised me, is still sitting in boxes on the floor while I'm writing this post on a computer that was only invented and sold because the HP-by-phone computer salesman recognized my husband's voice as belonging to someone who:

a) was calling from a landline, and

b) absolutely would not know better no matter
what they tried to sell him.

Easy mark.

This computer is so slow, in fact, that when my son-in-law had to borrow my scanner the other day, he explained to me gently that my computer "doesn't work."

Of course it WORKS, dear.

I've built my life around the thing. I'm almost as attached to it as I am to my 4 year old cell phone that only makes phone calls.

Besides -- using s-l-o-w and/or malfunctioning, outdated technological devices builds character.  I think next I'm going to loan him my sewing machine.

And here's a question that could be 
beneficial for us all to consider: 

was George Jetson really any better off 

than Fred Flintstone? 

But someday soon, I'm going to get somebody to help me unpack my shiny new beast and then I'll begin the arduous task (with the support of the geek squad, so conveniently living in my basement) of transferring ALL my artwork and illustrations and vintage nonsense from the now-vintage computer to the modern one.

The very idea is giving me the shakes.
I think I'll go watch a Bonanza re-run.

Hoss and Little Joe listen while Adam explains the transition to digital TV.


". . . book shops and libraries . . . those literary counterparts to the opium den . . ." Phillip Adams

I've told you before:
I'm a magazine junkie, 
and I wasn't exaggerating. 

Not. One. Bit. 

I am, in fact, the type of junkie who knows on what day of the month magazines are released and hangs around the periodical aisle, inventing a need for ketchup or kleenex in order to justify a trip to the grocery store at just the right time.  (Now Russ is having an "aha!" moment as he reviews 29 years of my grocery patterns . . .)

Actually, that's "Vintage Susan." 
"Modern Susan" subscribes.

So when I moved to o-l-d magazines, it was just a natural extension of a preexisting addiction. And since I already had a collecting addiction, an all-things-vintage addiction, and a definite nostalgia for certain eras (the 1930's, for instance) it's amazing it took as long as it did for me to become completely hooked.

But I realized sometime last fall that my vintage mags were taking over my studio in a way that had become work prohibitive.  So I began wracking my brain for some way to corral them that would cater to their delicate natures (old paper is fragile!  and can be smelly, but we forgive those we love for smelling) yet leave them accessible for illustrating my blog and sourcing text for my pieces.

As part of my January clean up, I finally hit upon the perfect solution (after a series of near-misses) and am delighted with the result.

No more piles of magazines 
on the studio floor!

Plenty of new room for piles 
of other things!

And I also sorted my ENORMOUS floor piles of current magazines into files, ready to be transported to my new studio which will have ever-so-much more shelf space.

That being done, I felt the weight of 2 Barnes & Noble gift cards burning a hole in my pocket and decided to go hang out at the newsstand for a bit and peruse some of the publications I don't regularly purchase to see if there was anything NEW and anything at all that I desperately NEEDED.

But the surprising answer to both questions was: No.

Nothing new, and perhaps even more surprising, nothing I needed.

For years I devoured every decorating and craft and art magazine wondering why nothing I did ever looked as SOMETHING as the things the magazine people did -- wondering why my projects just didn't have that "je ne sais quoi" that landed them in the magazines in the first place.

This is the kind of magazine feature that can induce an existential dilemma

And I yearned to be able to make things that looked like their things.

Actually, even when I spent 8 years being the person who did make the magazine projects, I wondered why my own art didn't ever measure up to the things the featured ARTISTS made.  (Which is just an illustration of how warped the yardsticks with which we measure ourselves can be, but that's another post . . .)

Perusing the books and mags at B&N there were plenty of things I thought were cool, and I did catch myself a few times thinking "why don't any of my pieces look like that?" and there was even a brief second where I thought of trying something that would look like one of the pieces, but the inclination faded quickly.

Because it seemed that with each page I turned,

the sea of sameness grew.  

I suppose many people make things that look alike for the same reasons many people dress alike --

no need to detail those reasons here, but it makes sense that in magazines for fashion or for making, similar rules would apply.  So I shouldn't have been surprised.

The surprise was how glad I felt that my work DOESN'T really look like any of those things.  
Glad for the first time! 
Seriously. Took long enough. 

Granted, I don't get featured in all the magazines either. Oh well.

Just like marching to my own fashion drummer in junior high didn't make me popular, creating my own kind of work puts me out of the mainstream a bit, I suppose.

It's the same with this blog.
Initially, I wanted it to be like all the other lovely art blogs out there.

Ed. note:  The problem seems to be that most Small Works posts have a nasty habit of "plumping when I cook them."  

But it has recently begun to dawn on me that I'm just not a regular art blogger (for one thing, I can't use a camera -- but that's another post, as well . . .)

So I shan't hold my breath waiting for the folks at "Artful Blogging" to come knocking.


Luckily there were enough people in school who overlooked my weird clothes that I didn't have to spend every day in the lunchroom by myself.

And by the way . . . thanks for stopping by.

(What's in your lunchbox? Want half a sandwich?)

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