Wednesday Writing.


I have put away his things --

the smile of an old man

gold and silver, worn down

yellow and dark spotted

white hair slicked and styled

well before my time

his forehead high with thought

age-crossed, kind

his expert hands a mystery

but I know them

rough and wrapped around

my own small one

 his suit of pockets just there

to hide my candy

these are the things I hold

my own pocket of thoughts

so sweet and still

with me, waiting for my reach


This poem is a Magpie Tale . . . a little late with this prompt, but there's still time to write your own!  Or at least check out the other wonderful offerings at www.magpietales.blogspot.com 



And now . . . Small Works (re)introduces a BIG WORD. . . . Because it's summer re-runs, remember?

It's Monday, so it must be time to hit the books, or the work table, or whatever Monday means for you. For me, it means laundry and groceries as well as kicking off a new week at Small Works . . . and . . . ahem . . . of course work.  So in the interest of fitting it all in, here's a re-run from a year or so ago that is one of my favorites:

Small Works introduces a BIG WORD.

That's right, school may be out but it's time to sharpen your pencils, because it's Small Works Vocabulary Day!

One of my favorite garage sale prizes ever is a tan leatherette tome of tremendous heft, "The Complete & Unabridged Little & Ives Webster Dictionary and Home Reference Library," copyright 1957.

I keep it on the bookshelf in my bedroom, mostly because -- with its faux-tooled leather and black and red accents -- it looks really cool there with my western stuff.

But also, of course, because I occasionally think big thoughts and it's handy to be able to look something up in such an authoritative volume when I need to.

Today's word, brought to us by "The Complete & Unabridged Little & Ives Webster Dictionary and Home Reference Library" is:

adj. fr. Gk muthopoi (os) 'myth making',
{muthos, see myth} & {poiein, see poet.}

Creating, tending to produce, myths:
mythopoeic faculty.

(There's also a variation, mythopoetic, but I find that one to be less impressive because it's more readily pronounceable. And what's the point of learning new words if you can't use them to impress your friends and neighbors?)

I stumbled upon this word while I was actually looking up the word

And I came to be looking up that word because I was standing in the kitchen baking my ubiquitous cupcakes, wracking my brain about a prickly embroidery/sewing glitch on a piece while simultaneously playing with some tricky wording for a blog sentence, when I was stuck by a sudden remembrance of my grandmothers.

One of my grandmothers was
a newspaper columnist and an embroiderer.

The other was a quilter and a cook.

And Aunt Lillie (3rd grandmother) was a creative,
slightly eccentric seller of goods.

And there I am in a nutshell.

I had to laugh at my own shock from the blinding flash of the obvious . . . that lightning bolt of connectedness to these figures that loom so large in my past and in my heart.

The gods that created me.

Hannah and I were walking the other day and I was reminiscing randomly about the fact that in the enormous and extraordinary house of my childhood (there have been many previous references but still no post, for which I apologize) we had rugs made from wig hair.

Rugs which we "groomed" by raking them with long-handled wooden rakes with sharp nails embedded in the ends.

(It sounds too fantastic to be true even as I type it. Here I'll offer, by way of very brief explanation, that my dad was basically the father of the modern synthetic wig. That's how I came to be born in Massachusetts. Think textile mills.)

And Hannah, trying to wrap her mind around the idea of a vast stretch of wig hair spanning the living room of that mythically-proportioned house, said,
"Weird. Mom, you really need to write a book."

And someone should.

But how would I remember everything?
(I often can't remember the end of the book I read last week.)

And would my memories be true?

And most importantly, would truth matter?
Because in the world of myth and poetry, 
the creation of the story to explain it all 
and the beauty of the telling are the art and the truth.

It's not about facts.

And my mythopoeic faculty
is almost certainly well-developed.

In her Introduction to Classical Mythology, Edith Hamilton explains:

"The myths as we have them are the creation of great poets . . . the tales of Greek mythology do not throw any clear light upon what early mankind was like."

But they have enlightened and informed so much that has come since, artistically and philosophically.

With the coming of Greek myth, the world became humanized, the universe rational.

And so in that funny, small kitchen moment I organized (and understood) my own world a little better --

I had an uncertain childhood, in many ways. A mother who was often ill, during a time when little explanation of such things was offered to children.

One recent evening (while I was half-listening to the TV) Dr. House snarked, "Only a mother could do that much damage."

And I stopped to write it down, partly out of fear (because I am one) and partly out of understanding
(because of the years I didn't have one).

But my grandmothers were omnipresent.

And although they're gone, they are never far away --
inextricably woven into my thoughts, actions, beliefs and emotions.

Who created them?
Or have I?

So I stitch. And I write. And I bake.

Every day constructing the poetry to explain it all,
always searching for just the right words.

William Butler Yeats wrote:

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat . . .

I believe I'm working on a similar coat.



Here's a Small Works Tip you'll want to consider --

It's Friday!
And one of those rare days 
when it was worth a trip to the mailbox because . . .

My Moo cards have arrived!

Thanks to Mimi K. over at Doll for introducing me to MOO.com,
because their cards are  fun,   fun,  fun!

Each card is 1" by 2.75" . . .
wee little business cards that come with 100 different pictures per pack.  

Thanks to my tech guru, Chelsea 
for creating the backs of the cards 

and then spending time uploading and cropping the images,

  making each card just right! 

A fun little slice of work 
that hopefully makes the viewer want more . . .

Check out the site and order your own --

I think maybe we should 
reestablish the quaint tradition 
of leaving calling cards,
(Jane Austen supports this idea!)

because EVERYONE 
needs a pack to play with.

Happy Friday!  



Hooray for Summer . . . Reruns! Here's Wednesday's No. 1:

But this time I can add something to it, because I've obtained it in the ensuing year and a half.   I'm going to put it right here and then you can mentally insert it where you think it should go later:

My sister's first fabric picture

And now, from April 2009:

You never forget your first time . . . 
you'd like to forget, but it's still living in your drawer somewhere.

When I first met my mother-in-law, I was certain we didn't have a thing in the world in common. So I decided to take a quilting class, because she is a devoted quilter and I thought it might be a good way to increase our common ground.

She is this kind of quilter:

a true purist -- thousands of hours of experience, opinionated about quilting and very highly skilled, so I knew that I was going to need to confine myself to hand-stitching and traditional patterns and methods.

But that was okay because I was pretty lousy with a sewing machine and also felt I was art-impaired and wouldn't be able to come up with much on my own anyway (I was 18).

The first thing I did was get a "B" on my hand-stitching assignment in class, which didn't make me at all happy because I thought I'd done a splendid job.

It's kind of a miracle that I stayed with it, actually, because I really don't like to do things I'm not good at. It's a character flaw that I truly regret, but can't deny.

Alexander Smith said,

"A great man is the man who does something for the first time."

I'm not sure what that means.

Does it mean that the person who does something for the first time it's ever been done is great? Or does it mean that any person who tries something for the first time is great?

I'm going to vote for the second, because trying things for the first time is quite difficult for me.

There's the possibility of looking like a fool, for one thing.
And the possibility that I'll never be good at it no matter how hard I try, for another.

Like with dancing. Just the way it is.

But despite my embarrassment at not being very good to begin with, I stuck with stitching.

I quickly came to enjoy everything about it: the history, tradition, and connection I felt with other women, the close mentoring relationship with my mother in law, the process, the product. Everything.

After a few years, I took a 10 year folk art detour and left sewing behind. Then one day I came across the work of British applique artist Janet Bolton,

and I was completely mesmerized.

Beehive and Wild Cherries, Janet Bolton

I had missed working with fabric but didn't really miss traditional quilt patterns. Janet Bolton's pictures were something I saw as a divine combination of the narrative style I loved with the process and medium I missed.

Arcadia Taking Tea, Janet Bolton

My sister (also a maker) and I decided that on our summer vacation, we would try following Janet Bolton's directions to create fabric pictures. This was going to be hard for both of us because of a tendency toward perfectionism, and Janet is a champion (and master!) of the imperfect.

The exquisite, intentional, perfectly imperfect.

And that was exactly what I wanted in my pictures.

We both brought bags of fabric scraps to work with. We decided to try making our designs by cutting directly into the fabric -- no drawing allowed. Sort of like when artists draw with their wrong hand; we thought it might help counter our inclination for exactness.

I chose a chicken because I had made so many of them in my painted wood-and-metal work, I thought I would be able to make a reasonably decent one without much trouble. But I guess that was really trying to hedge my bets against imperfection (read: cheating, and shooting myself in the foot as well), wasn't it?

Anyway, it didn't do much to help me.

Here's that first, funny fabric picture:

You can believe me when I tell you that there were no thunderbolts announcing that I had found my true calling. Lots of laughter with my sister (but also some secret crankiness because hers was so much better than mine!)

Which wasn't really a surprise I guess,
since she's always been better at most craft things than I am

but I thought that by attempting my signature (and popular!) chicken,
I'd be guaranteed at least a little success. Silly silly me.

Oh well, surprisingly, I still got a reward!

No, not a prize, but just a little glimmer of -- something -- that made me want to keep trying.

I revisited the chicken a couple of years ago in homage to that first fabric chicken.

Still Life with Chicken and Pom-Poms, 2007

You can see I've had to abandon my quest for Janet Bolton's exquisite imperfection. I tried it for awhile (anyone who owns one of my early pictures can attest to that).

The Blue Party Hat, Janet Bolton

And yes, I still pine for it. But I gotta' be me.
And I guess I like tidy.

W.C. Fields said, 
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it."

I hope I've learned that sometimes it's fine looking like a fool for a bit while you're working your way to something worthwhile.

Art = skill.

When you look it up in the dictionary, that's one of the first definitions you see.

But practice doesn't always make perfect.
And perfect doesn't always make art.

It's all a little confusing, isn't it?

So I suppose I'm just going to keep stitching.



"What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer . . ." Gertrude Jekyll

Well here we are, perched atop the hill of the seasonal rollercoaster on this day when the sun sheds her grace upon us most freely.  I'll park the car here, if you don't mind, and just enjoy the view . . . and the extra light . . . for a long moment before we plunge down the other side toward the winter solstice . . .

Ahhh  -- that feels good.

Summer at last.  Even in Minnesota we can't deny it -- it has come again.  Sure there's a little humidity, some mosquito bites, unsettling reports of tornadoes in unfortunate little towns, and nothing but reruns and second-string reality shows on TV, but what would summer be without these?  I like summer just the way it is.

But then I'm a person who loves reruns.  The older the better of course, but for the most part I find old shows to be like old friends and new shows to keep me a little on the edge of my seat, my finger on the button of the remote.

It's sort of like meeting new friends at a lunch where I order something small even though I want more or try to be on my best behavior while we all decide whether we like each other.  Old shows don't mind what I'm eating or wearing . . . we already know whether we want to be friends or not.

One of the oldies 
I've been enjoying lately is Bewitched

a childhood favorite that I like to describe as my "Nancy Drew of TV."  It was soothing to me as a child the same way N.D. was, and watching it as an adult, it's easy for me to understand some of the reasons why.  Because no matter how impossible the scrape Samantha manages to get herself into, she always manages to get herself out.  And it's not always through the use of witchcraft.

But her witchcraft -- and using it or not --  
is, of course, the crux of the show. 

 It complicates her relationships
and causes problems even as it could present solutions. 

Samantha could change everything, if she wanted to.  She could change the people she loves when they make her crazy, her surroundings when being a housewife is a little less than satisfying, her looks when she has a bad hair day (but let's admit it -- she never does) with a twitch of her smile.  But for the most part, she lets things proceed and tries to make herself at home in her circumstances.

There's something wonderful about the idea of being able to change things with a twitch or a rhyme, but it begs the question of whether or not we would change them if we could.

If you had asked me in junior high, 
I'm sure my answer would have been different:

Change my voice?  Duh.  Make me sound cooler.

Change my clothes?  That depends.  What's everyone wearing?

Change my body?  Puh-lease!  Start with my nose or my thighs or my hair, but just FIX IT.  Don't you know I want to look like HER?!

Change the people I love?  Of course.  My family mostly irritates me and no one lets me do what I want all the time.

If you asked me now, however, I'd have to think pretty carefully about anything I might change. . . 

Okay, my house might be cleaner (but would it feel like home?)  but when it comes to changing the characters in my life or my circumstances, I don't think I'd want to tweak them much at all. 

I might change my work habits -- and here I could use a little witchcraft, please -- to help me get twice as much done on any given day. Especially between now and August.  Mother Nature has offered to cooperate by providing me with plenty of extra daylight, but it seems I'm going to have to do my part as well.

So I guess Small Works is going to enter a little 
summer rerun season of its own . . .  

I'll still pop in with the occasional Magpie Tale (or perhaps even a Terrific Tidbit too good to save), but I think I'll mostly be digging through the archives and posting some things you might have missed.

If the reruns make you change the channel, I'll understand.  If they feel like old friends, I'll be delighted to share them again.  But please come back in August to see my new work before I leave for San Francisco, won't you?

And enjoy your summer, whatever that means for you.  Read a good book (and don't forget to stop in over at Small Works Happy Thought!), toast a marshmallow, enjoy fresh tomatoes, but be sure to soak up all the sun you can and stash some for later so we can pull it out in February and enjoy it together.

See you in August!



And now . . . a Menacing Magpie (for some Friday fun.)




the mind shrieks
a blunt jab or sharper
stabbing sound
the drag of a knife
across a china plate
smooth edged, waiting
to slice what's there
familiar dread
the idea of how the cut
will feel, bleed


A Friday Magpie Tale -- ready to give it a try?
Write your own! 
Then visit Magpie Tales to see 
where others' creativity has taken them.

*    *    *    *    *

When I first saw this photo prompt, I didn't think I'd be able to come up with a thing.  But then I recalled a conversation I had with my sister last week while we were playing cards.  I had suddenly remembered my grandfather's knife and when I asked, she of course remembered it as well.

I've always been a legendary 'fraidy cat --

At night we would play cards or dominoes and Grandpa would often bring his knife to the table to cut himself a piece of fruit.  It was a small paring knife, black handled and cruelly sharp.  Well used, he handled it like an old friend.  When he would rest it across his plate I  had a hard time keeping my eyes off the dark sliver and on my hand -- something about the worn shape of the blade demanded my attention.

Although I never for a moment feared my grandfather, 
his knife struck me as just the thing to do something nasty in a scary movie.

(But like I said in the beginning, I was
an easily frightened little thing with a BIG imagination.)

Here's wishing you a 

FREE, and 

(that has nothing whatsoever to do with fear)


Signed, sealed . . . but not yet delivered.

Anyone can do any amount of work, 
provided it isn't the work he is 
supposed to be doing at the moment.

Robert Benchley

So what have I been doing this week?

Working on pieces for San Francisco, yes, but working mostly on this:

My hubcap for the Landfill Art Project is finished!  At last!

It gave me all kinds of grief, actually.  The center came together quite easily, but every step beyond that was difficult.

First, I decided to add the random border that would protrude a bit from the recessed center.
I added that and was pleased.

I had gessoed the hubcap in preparation for decoupaging music in the center,
but I decided decoupage was just not the look I was going for.

Then I painted the hubcap black, intending to paint the large center like one of my frames.
Didn't like how that looked at all.

So I painted the hubcap yellow, thinking that some color would fix the problem.
Ick and double ick.

So then I hit on the idea of the stitched center, originally intending clouds instead of dots.
Hated the clouds.  So I went for dots instead.  Fine.

But the stitched center looked AWFUL on the yellow hubcap.   Hmmm.  Back to black.  And I still wanted to do some decorative painting, so it seemed only natural to add a black and white check around the outside.  Halfway through that, yuck . . . so I went back to the idea of decoupage music.


Some projects are just a little less cooperative than others.  But I'm pleased with the finished product, and think it captures both the spirit of the project and the feel of my work nicely.  Now to get the darn thing in the mail . . . and get back to my REAL work.  Except that I've got a couple of outstanding orders screaming for my attention.

Hmmm . . . any chance of another vacation?!


A Tuesday Tale . . .



a story, sharp and waiting

for spilling

its clutch of memory

lift it and look

the dustless circle sits

carefully, a destination

self contained

collected amid relics

and retired, left

forgotten on the shelf

                                                                                                            -- smh

This little poem is today's
Magpie Tale --
You should write your own!
(and please remember to share it with the class . . . )



I survived I-35 . . . Can I have a treat?


I'm back from my adventure, having added two new states to my list:  Missouri and Arkansas.  My family spent a delightful week in Branson, MO, eating barbecue and stomping our feet to corny country music.  We also took a field trip one day to Eureka Springs, AR, a quaint ol' town chock full of shops and galleries, for some retail therapy.

It was wonderful to catch up with everyone and the scenery was just beautiful!  I wish I could have tucked a few blooming trees into my suitcase to set them up where I can see them every day . . . but unfortunately, MN is in a different zone
(read: universe)
when it comes to those kinds of things.

Deadlines looming as they are, it was supposed to be a working vacation (by which I mean a vacation on which I put in at least a couple of stitches!) but for some reason I . . . ummm . . . forgot how to thread my needle when I returned to my hotel room each night, so I remain woefully behind.

The idea is that two big pieces are going to be finished in time for San Francisco,

and since I seem to work best (or, to be quite honest, work only) under pressure,
I'm sure I'll get them done with seconds to spare.

One thing I didn't forget for even a second:  
The Molar-Numbing Nightmare 
coming at me tomorrow morning, 

 Open wide, Susie -- this won't hurt a bit!  
And you can have a sticker!!

a little exploratory surgery conducted right next door to my gag reflex which will involve, among other things, stitches.  And while I'm usually a big fan of stitching in all its myriad forms, decorative-dental-embroidery is an art form for which I have not developed much appreciation . . .

Oh well, it can't be worse than I've imagined it will be, right?  



Anyway, it's the endodontist who should be worried, since she'll be the one directly in the line of fire of my finely-tuned gag reflex.

And I'm sure I'll survive . . . 

I've done hard things before . . .

after all . . .

I drove myself to-and-from Missouri, didn't I?
 (and you didn 't think I could do it.)




Friday Farewell . . . but first:



I will tell the truth no matter

how heavy or strange

mouth frozen open

face locked

lips too stiff to whisper

tell you all with few

words, spare

but brim and slant

pressed by the weight

of what you want to hear.


This poem is a magpie tale.
Please write your own!
And visit Magpie Tales for some
interesting weekend reading . . .

And now, here's a secret I've been keeping:

Is it that I hate to drive?  No, everyone knows that.

Is it that I have never been to Missouri?  Could be, but who would care?

Is it that I have to drive to Missouri 
BY MYSELF this weekend?

Maybe, but that would be unthinkable.  Ludicrous.  Wait . . . .

REALLY?!  Whatever for?

That's what I keep asking myself. (er . . . I mean . . . family reunion). 

But Small Works will return (positive thinking!) 
after I have driven myself back home from Missouri, June 14.  
Just in time for dental surgery. Yippee!

Be good while I'm gone! 

I'll be keeping an eye from over at 



Wednesday's Terrific Tidbit Number . . . whatever-number-we're-on.

As with most things in life, there are good and bad things about having artist children.  The bad things include difficulties finding art-related jobs (and/or paying art-related student loans) but the good things certainly outweigh these pesky negative details.

Case in point -- 
The gift Russ and I received from Lindsay at our joint birthday barbecue last weekend.

Dyed-in-the-wool westerners that we are, 
Russ has always loved goofy jackalopes 
and has long had one hanging in his office:

So Lindsay created a new Jackalope for us using india ink
on rag paper . . .

Jackalope, Lindsay Hinckley, 2010

This jackalope is particularly awesome because it is actually a portrait of her beloved beagle Jack, who is currently filling in for a grandchild, at least until Lindsay finishes her Master of Teaching degree (see difficulty finding art-related jobs, above). 

Jack is a good grandson, for the most part, and dutifully finds Grandma to beg for a cookie as soon as he sets paw in the house but never forces me to change diapers, watch Dora on TV or sleep with him when he is scared.  On the other hand, I never get to change his diapers, watch Dora or snuggle in bed with him. 

But we LOVE our new Jackalope and will frame it and display it proudly! 

And we LOVE our artist children.
(Keep the great gifts coming . . . in fact, Hannah, 
where's that painting of Cooper you started/promised me?!)

We'll see if public shaming is an effective tool 
in the age of social networking.  
I'll keep you posted . . .

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