A Halloween hello . . .

Are you old enough to remember Betsy McCall?  I am.  And I used to love to cut her out carefully and mount her on the flimsy cardboard from nylon stocking packages (when Aunt Lillie was kind enough to let me tear her out of the magazine). 


So I invited her to stop by and wish you a 
Happy Small Works Halloween! 

Hope it's full of tricks and treats

and fun of just the right kind 
to put a smile on your pumpkin's face. 

Happy Halloween!


A Thursday thought . . .

I was driving in our neighborhood the other night when I noticed in the vehicle ahead of me there appeared to be so much entertainment going on, it seemed to be more family-room-on-wheels than transportation.  Why anyone would need to watch movies on their way to soccer practice is beyond me, but I'm probably just getting a little old and cranky about all this newfangled technology.  However, it got me thinking . . .

I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents as a child, and that meant many trips back and forth between their homes and ours, ranging anywhere from 40 to 90 minutes.  I loved being snuggled in the back seat, watching the lights pass along the freeway, squinting and un-squinting in an attempt to create as many visual effects as I could -- blur, focus . . . blur, focus . . . craning my neck to see the stars.

And in the daytime, I loved watching the stories whiz by -- the lake my dad thought was bottomless as a child (even though there were reeds growing in the middle), the spooky abandoned warehouse with the yawning black holes where the windows used to be, the point of the mountain where the storms were legendary and the driving often hazardous, the shimmering mirages on the asphalt that always mysteriously evaporated as we approached.

I invented worlds around all of these things, and relished the combination of familiarity and possibilities inherent in the passing landscape as we drove.

I was teaching myself to see -- training my brain to make something worth looking at by arranging and engaging with the images in my mind as they went by.

There was music in the car as well -- my family sang together a great deal, and when my parents weren't interested, we kids carried on with a wide ranging repertoire.  My brother (who is now a renowned musician and conductor) recently told me that almost everything he knows about harmony he learned while driving in the car with the family.  I remember one particularly long drive during which he and I figured out the 4 part harmony to "Sweet Adeline" and then sang it over and over, each trying to cover two parts by bouncing back and forth.  To this day, when I hear music, I hear the harmony.

So I couldn't help thinking, as I watched the van go by in the dark playing 2 (two!) different movies, about what those kids were missing out on.  Because I developed creative skills as a result of entertaining myself in the car that continue to serve me well in almost every area of my life.

What you're seeing on a screen is someone else's vision, and no matter how entertaining or engaging the images, their brain did the work to give them shape and meaning, not yours.  Sure, you can benefit from soaking it up, assigning it emotion or importance and thereby making it part of you, but --

the initial leap from idea to image will forever belong 
to the mind that created it.

And how can the brain be expected to make those kinds of connections if it is constantly spoon-fed ideas --  pre-digested and already executed by someone else?

One of my favorite little coffee table books is this one:

Faces, by Francois and Jean Robert

I love it because you need only spend a moment with its images 
and the way you see is transformed. 

And then you begin to wonder how you didn't see these things before.

Which in turn makes you wonder what else you're not seeing.

But then of course, you have to look. 
At things, not pictures of them.

First-hand seeing and thinking, 
not second-hand . . .

(p.s. Small Works is featured on Fairytale Treasury today -- 
a lovely blog with a lot to see.  A celebration of people's ideas 
made real through the magic alchemy of craft.  Please stop by!)



Tuesday Tale --



Looking in I see

how I came to be here

and a path that leads away

or is it back across a place

already traveled -- roads look alike

faces so familiar who can tell

whether you are peering

at a mirror or perhaps

a silvered map


This poem is a Magpie Tale.  
Write a little something about what you see, 
and then share it!



"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." --Pablo Picasso

Today is Picasso's birthday,
and since he is one of the most recognized figures in 20th century art,
it seemed completely appropriate that we should give him
a Small Works Birthday salute.

Pablo Picasso, 1962

One of the things I most admire about Picasso's art is 
that he seems to have tried just about everything.

Experimentation must have been an important component in his working style.  And so much of his work survives!  He was kind enough to leave us a substantial art trail, bits of work like breadcrumbs tracing his artistic evolution as he moved from medium to medium and style to style.

It is estimated that Picasso completed 50,000 works of art during his lifetime. No surprise then that he is quoted as saying, "Action is the foundational key to all success."

(Would he have been a blogger?  Probably not, if it kept him from producing work.  But his would have been a fascinating blog and I'd have been a follower.) 

When I realized that today was Picasso's birthday, 
I was for some reason immediately transported to third grade.

Third grade was a particularly difficult year for me.  My mother was recuperating from a serious and extended illness, and the world seemed an unpredictable place.  Although there should have been great comfort for me in her recovery, I was instead seized by the fear of a recurrence, and this uneasiness is the thing I most recall from that year.

So words became my solace and my consolation. That was the year in which I started to explore my love of language in depth, reading everything I could find and turning out reams of trite third-grade poetry. 

My teacher had a file of works by great artists, and when we had free time one of the approved activities was to take a picture from the file and use it as a prompt to write something.  This was almost always my activity of choice, and I spent many free periods happily becoming acquainted with not only great works of art but also my own love of rhyme and rhythm.

Because my mother is a marvelous personal historian, she had the foresight to save many things for us, and therefore quite a bit of my early writing survives.  And the piece that popped into my mind today came as a result of my pulling this picture from Mrs. Christensen's classroom file:

Three Musicians, Picasso, 1921

Three Musicians

Three funny looking men
Came walking through our town
With roses in their button holes
And hats upon their crown.

Big bow ties were peeking
From their funny, bulky coats,
And they all carried instruments
As big as boats . . . 

--smh, 1972

I won't subject you to the additional three stanzas, but I can't think of Picasso without thinking of his Three Musicians fondly as one of the breadcrumbs in my personal trail.

And he was, of course, absolutely right --
the problem IS how to remain an artist once one has grown up.  But that's a puzzle I continue to enjoy struggling to piece together, through my words and my stitches . . . and yes, even my blog.

Happy Birthday, 
Pablo . . .

(and thanks for the continued inspiration.)




Friday Farewell . . . with food.

They said on the news last night that the

is closing . . .

Most of the beautiful leaves that were 
on my trees Monday are now

as a result of the mighty

that came through this week. 

By the middle of next week, they said I'll need a heavy

First, all I could think was

But today, on this last 70 degree day in the most spectacular Minnesota October we've ever had, I sort of want to 

Instead, perhaps I'll just bake a 

to help

the blow.

My favorite cake at present is this one:

Sunshine-for-Susan Lemon Pound Cake

1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. softened butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon extract
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Use an electric mixer to blend together eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon juice.  Add dry ingredients and blend until smooth.  Add oil and mix well.

Bake for 45 minutes in a well-greased 9x5" loaf pan.

Make lemon icing by combining 1 generous cup powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. lemon extract, dash lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp. milk, beating until smooth.  Remove loaf from pan.  When almost cool, spread icing over the top (it will drip down the sides).  Slice when the icing has set and cake is completely cool.

It is so easy and absolutely delicious! (If you like the lemon pound cake at Starbucks, be prepared to have a little Starbucks in your own kitchen, because this is a great knock off.)

In fact, lemon-head-lady sez:

And if that's not an enthusiastic endorsement,  
I don't know what is!

Perhaps her delicious lemony tears in the cake will help me forget about my own salty salty ones as we bid goodbye to our fantastic fall . . . .

If not, I'll keep cutting myself pieces until it helps.

Hope your weekend is delicious!



Wednesday wander . . .

Sometimes everybody needs to play.

And since no one has raked my leaves into piles yet so I can jump in them,
I've had to content myself with playing in my studio.

So I've been making some silly little embellished drawings for my Etsy shop:

 Think., collage, 5x7", Susan M. Hinckley, 2010

Tweet., collage, 5x7", Susan M. Hinckley, 2010

A little quick drawing, a simple snip, 

a dab of glue and a stitch or two . . .

I enjoy my process-oriented work, and don't really mind that it can take a month for me to see a finished product.  But sometimes it just feels good to make something for a little instant gratification.  I also like revisiting my friends from time to time, even though I only stitch them once.

And it's a good exercise in imperfection for me, since an original drawing doesn't allow me the correction possibilities that a print does.  So when I get an "oops!" line, I have to figure out a way to live with it.

I have two or three more that I'm going to work on today.

I'm also doing some quick, 
fun blog posts for the new TAFA Etsy team blog. 

With such a wide variety of artists on the TAFA list, the blog will be a nice sampling of ideas and work across a wide spectrum.  Put it on your list to check in on once in awhile.

I'm going to 
head over now and 
start uploading my posts.  

See you there!



Come to my window . . .

These are the colors 
outside my studio today:

No artist could conjure a more lovely combination.  
And such a delicious blend of warm sun and slight briskness --
changing almost from second to second 
as the world hesitates here between two stops.
Close your eyes . . . can you feel it?
Perfectly autumn.


golden slant of light

bright-edged and ebbing

a wave through the last

leaves, a crisp goodbye

of color, a flutter

of wings away, whispered

and twirling as a lullaby

riding its October wind

to a contented rest


(Hope your Monday is beautiful as well.)



Magpie Fri . . . day.



Sometimes I want to see --
my eyes crystal balls
my world a fortune cookie
split wide and spilling its ribbons
of truth across my plate

See past the dark door
its slim beckoning finger of light
an arrow across my threshold
its eyes already accustomed
to the brightness of what comes

Look a crooked line
a periscope, a trick of time
taking the corners at a run
no blink, no flinch
my steady gaze
straight ahead and knowing
where I'll go next


This poem is a Magpie Tale.  I loved this prompt!
If it speaks to you as well, write your own and share it with the class.

I think it grabbed me because 
many things in my life seem precarious right now.  

Things always are, of course, 
only sometimes we see the edge of the cliff 
we walk along much more clearly.

There was a tragic story in the paper yesterday about a runner who hopped over a cement barricade and fell to his death.  He was the victim of an optical illusion -- it appeared that the trail continued on the other side, but that was another part of the trail.  He could not see the gap with the 25 foot drop.  When his mother dropped him off for his run, he said, "Let me out here.  I know where I am."

I know where I am, too.  

And the trick is to keep running, because running is the only way forward.
But there are times when I wonder what I can't see.

Run, Susan, run,  
but mind the gap. 



We now return to our regularly scheduled program.


If you've spent much time around Small Works, 
you may remember that I'm technologically challenged.  
Basically, that means that anything invented after about 1950 hates me.

But I'm pleased to report that, after no fewer than 7 attempts, we finally managed to get cable TV in our house yesterday!  What's so hard about getting cable, you may ask?  That's what we wondered.

But scarier than switching from dish to cable was letting them also switch our internet service.  It took us quite awhile to get any kind of truly functional internet in this house, and when something ain't broke, it's hard to want to fix it.  So yesterday was spent (almost 7 hours!) with the installers sweating and muttering as they crawled over every inch of the house while I held my breath.

And this morning . . . my internet worked!  I'm truly humbled and grateful.  

(Of course, the best thing that could probably happen to me would be for my internet to go on the blink for a few weeks to boost my productivity, but thank goodness my procrastinating habits are safe for another day.)

I wish I could get that 
team of cable wizards 
to take a peek 
inside my head 
and do a little tweaking.  

I'm having a terrible time finishing the piece I'm working on!  Sometimes it feels like my decider is broken, but with this piece it just feels like my whole creator is broken. 

Nothing looks right somehow --

Ideas that seemed to be inspired at the outset are turning out to be less wonderful than I hoped.
I suppose that my normal "Fall Fog" has settled in nice and thick and right on schedule, even though we're enjoying the sunniest and most beautiful October on record.  So I think I'm just going to have to call it finished and move on.

I'm trying all my normal fall coping skills -- 
but if two pans of apple crisp haven't helped, should I really press on with a third?  

I've also been indulging in my favorite medicinal caramel apples on a regular basis.  In fact, I bought two this morning.  I cut into the first one -- rotten on the inside.  Not to be deterred by such a small setback, I cut into the second one -- it was bad inside too!  

Was there an intended message?  Who knows. 

But I'm happy to report that 
the rottenness of the apple in no way
affects the delicious integrity of the caramel.  

Yeah, I ate the caramel off. 

Go ahead and judge me.  It's fall. 
And I'm trying to finish a really finicky piece.  

We all do what 
we have to do to survive.




Small Works is experiencing 
technical difficulties --


Please stand by.



Fantastic Fall Friday . . .

82 degrees in Minnesota in October? 
Are you kidding?

Toxic sludge oozing into the Danube River?

The second headline is even more unbelievable than the first, 
but also unfortunately true.

How long are we planning 
to blindly stumble along 
engaging in business as usual?

Come on, people.  

We need this world to last at least a few more years . . . 
I have more things I want to make, and a lot more green chile I want to eat.  

Not to mention my children 
and grandchildren (and yours).  

Looks like I picked a good week to start work on another Mother Nature piece.  

I did this one several years ago and I continue to get inquiries about it, 
so I thought it was time to revisit that theme.

And Mother Nature agrees with me -- 

I think she's a little irritated with us this week, and rightfully so.  
Especially on a day when  Minnesota is ablaze 
with the kind of autumn glory we're never guaranteed in this part of the world.  


I'd say she's outdone herself on our behalf. 

How about we show her 
a little love for a change, huh?

(Lecture over . . . please go outside and play.  And Happy Friday!)


Worky Wednesday . . .


But not the good kind of Wednesday (art-worky) . . . 
the dusty kind of Wednesday:  house-worky!  

Cleaning out closets and vacuuming up cobwebs--
Spring Cleaning, to be exact. 

You say I'm too late for Spring Cleaning?  
So I don't get to feel self righteous  . . . 
or even good about myself?  



Well, I could have felt good about myself if I'd made something cool like this while I was packing up those bags for Goodwill:

Corriette Schoenaerts, South America, 2005, Lambda print, 32.25 x 39.5 in.

 Corriette Schoenaerts, Europe, 2005, Lambda print, 48 x 31.5 in

I adore these pictures!  I think they're just amazing. 

In fact, that boot tickles me pink. 
I'm always delighted to see how smart other people are -- 
don't they think of the darnedest things?

That's how I feel about many of the artists in this book:

The Map as Art, Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography, by Katharine Harmon

It's full of maps and map-related art as varied as the world itself.

Next time I clean out my junk drawer, 
I think I'd enjoy it more if I do something like this with the contents:

Vik Muniz, WWW, 2008, 107 x 71 in., from the series Pictures of Junk

I wish I were almost anywhere else 
in the world today . . .

but alas, I've made this mess and now I have to 
stay right here and deal with it.

But you can't stop me from daydreaming.

(Can you think of anything I could make out of dog hair?  
 17 discarded purses?  
9 almost empty rolls of wrapping paper?  
A shopping bag of cardboard scraps?
8 phone books?
A warped saucepan, perhaps?) 

Blog Widget by LinkWithin