The art of imperfection.

Most people don't have to practice being imperfect . . .

Neither do I, of course.  I just have to practice living with it.
That's the real idea behind my new 365 Creativity Challenge.

You can find a link to it right in my sidebar . . .

While on vacation recently, I was giving my mother a hard time about her yard.  It is immaculate, as perfect as anything connected to the natural world can be.  As she describes it, she "just doesn't like her nature touching."  By which she means the leaves should stay on the trees, flower petals should not touch grass, etc. etc. And she has beautiful rose gardens, but I feel she is almost unable to enjoy them because every time there is a breeze, petals drop and then it doesn't look perfect anymore, and she worries until she has them picked up.

Nature is touching? 
This explains a lot about why
she once had my brother
rake the snow as a kid.
(There were berries and twigs on it.)

I compared it to someone who can't stand it when the gravy from their potatoes touches the peas on their plate.  She said it wasn't the same thing AT ALL  (one of us may be lovably nuts, btw).

Of course imperfection stands 
at the heart of art.
It is the desire to express the idea, but the inability to do it with absolute finality and precision, that drives the artist to continue to create.

Where there is perfection 
there is no story to tell.

-- Ben Okri

So the point of my practicing drawing is not to achieve the ability to draw with photo realism.

The point is to be able to draw well enough to tell the story I want to tell AND get comfortable enough in my own drawing skin to stop worrying about the unimportant parts and let the real parts just sing their imperfect song.

The only true happiness is to learn,
to advance, and to improve: 
which could not happen 
unless we had commenced 
with error, ignorance, and imperfection.

-- Albert Pike

I started with plenty of that last stuff -- we'll see if I can move on to true happiness with my drawing in just one year.  It's hard to know exactly what to hope for, I guess.

Not for practice to make perfect.

Perfection = game over

But I guess for imperfect to make happy.  

Yeah, I think that's it.   



Thank you for all the well-wishes, friends!  
It was a splendid birthday.

Now that the cake crumbs have settled, 
I guess it's time to move on 
to other business . . .



Excitement is building . . .




Since the big day is over, I'm pretty much back to the drudgery of my everyday life.  So I decided to make things easy and just throw the names into the dryer with a load of laundry . . .

(the actual process was only slightly more scientific, involving  a bowl and 15 slips of paper)


There's the buzzer now, 
so it sounds like the load is done!  
Hmmm . . . let's see . . .


No name here, but didn't Johnny's grass stains come out nicely!


 I don't see the name here either . . .
but Janey will be proud to wear this dress to the party!

And nothing on this shirt . . . but have you ever seen anything so WHITE??!

I don't see anything else in here . . . . 
hmmm . . . . 


Thank you, missing sock, 
for selecting the winner so splendidly!  

(and thank you, dryer, for finally surrendering my missing sock!)

Lynda, if you will email me your choice of print and your mailing address, 
I'll get your package in the mail lickety-split!

Thanks for playing, everyone . . . 
and I hope you have a wonderful weekend 
filled with everything BUT laundry! 

See you next time!



"All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much . . ." -- George Harrison


The last time I had Chinese food, which was a couple of weeks ago, this was the fortune I received in my cookie:

I guess you can see why I haven't had any Chinese food since then.

The question is, how did the fortune cookie gods know my birthday was coming?

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.

-- Jennifer Yane

Birthdays are one malady for which they have not found an acceptable cure -- there is a simple one, of course, but the side effects are so dire that we all not only welcome our birthdays every year but pretend we're happy to see them.


That's why I'm giving a party
complete with an array of cakes . . .

 This is one of 3 (three!) splendid desserts we have enjoyed chez Susan so far . . . yes, I said so far . . . and it arrived yesterday in the hands of one of my favorite 6 year old boys -- an old Sunday School student.

. . . and a Small Works 
Birthday Spectacular Blog Giveaway!

I won't ask you to sing for me. 

All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment 
in one of four places:

1) Here at Small Works

2) Email -- susanmhinckley@smallworksinwool.net

3) Convo at my Etsy shop 

4) On Facebook

The prize will be your choice  --
any print from my Etsy shop. 

I will keep the giveaway open until Friday morning, 
when I will announce the winner!

(And you may all have a piece of my cake, of course.)

Until then . . . Party on! 

p.s.  Okay -- here is number 1 from the new 365 challenge.  

We can all hope I'm going to improve 
(and I promise not to share them all with you!)



"The enthusiastic, to those who are not, are always something of a trial." -- Alban Goodier

It seems I somehow sort of missed spring this year.  I was so busy complaining on my computer about winter that I forgot to go outside and check out what was actually happening. 

Going on vacation forced me to do a little de-winterizing, however, and with my toenails finally painted, I have begun fraternizing with my sandals again.  It's amazing how there are some friends you can pick right up with, even after a long winter, and hardly miss a beat.

On loan from the amazing sketchbook of Hannah F. Hinckley, 2011

Of course, the optimists in MN were wearing their shorts/sandals while they took down their Christmas decorations.  True story.  I saw it on my own street.

But I guess I tend to live on the glass-half-empty side of the street.  I'm more likely to wear my parka on the morning of the day I almost die of heat stroke on a sweltering afternoon run.  Then I can complain about the cold and the heat IN ONE DAY.

The power of accurate observation is commonly called 
cynicism by those who have not got it.

-- George Bernard Shaw

Yes, I'm a definite cynic and even a curmudgeon, by some standards. Fast on my way to becoming a grumpy old person.

Therefore it is some kind of anomaly 
that I was actually a cheerleader in Jr. High.  

Rare footage of young Susan  in a strangely upbeat role

To this day I have no idea what would have possessed me to become involved in such a thing:  sickly-cheerful, smiley, uber-social, LOUD.  Actually, it would not surprise me to undergo hypnosis and discover in my regression that my motivations were really subversive --

destroy the cheerleading squad 
from the INSIDE . . .

I once wrote a poem that contained this line:

Suppose I were to tell you all the things
you do not see in me now

It's amazing sometimes to stop and think of 
where we have been, 
what we have been capable of, 
what could still be possible, 
and why we make the choices we do.

I like to be good at things, for instance.  Or I don't like to do them.  It's one of my main character flaws.  It has kept me from doing many worthwhile things.  It continues to hamper me in important areas. That's why my Creativity 365 challenge for this year has been so darn hard to kick off.

Yeah, it's the "do a drawing a day" thing.  I know we've talked about it.  Ad nauseum.

So here it goes: 
I am going to start on my birthday (that's Wednesday) and every day for the next year (starting Wednesday, which is my birthday) I'm going to do a little drawing of some kind.

Maybe I'll start an on-going little comic strip?  Maybe I'll repeat the ubiquitous kitty I drew to entertain my young children 365 times ? . . . I don't know.  But one year from Wednesday (when it will again be my birthday!) I hope I will be able to pronounce myself cured of this particular bit of foolishness and ready to complain about something else. (Hannah bought me a nice moleskine to commemorate the event, but I believe I'll start with a pile of scratch paper, if you don't mind.)

Oh yes . . . and did I mention it's my birthday on Wednesday?

I figure it's been awhile since the last Small Works Birthday Spectacular, so if you'll stop by Wednesday, I'll announce a blog giveaway at my birthday party!  And we can have cake together.  Which probably means I'll eat cake while sitting at my computer.

In front of you, but you won't mind because you won't see me, right?  
Which means I can have at least TWO pieces.

In the meantime, I'll try to poke my head outside and check out the lovely late spring action that is going on around here.  Maybe I can find something easy to draw.  Like a  tulip:

(Can that count as number one?)



Here's the post where I try to be happy about being home from vacation.

Coming home gracefully is not my best talent.  My mother is particularly gifted at it, but then she also has Christmas cleaned up by noon on Christmas day with the tree bare and set neatly by the curb.  Different people have different gifts . . .

I am much more likely to still be wallowing in Christmas on January 3 and wondering not only why I own so much stuff but why on earth we thought we needed to buy more . . . but I digress.

It was a wonderful vacation!  

There was quite a bit of this:

Southern Utah's Snow Canyon, one of my favorite spots on earth

My trusty hiking companion, far ahead of me as always and wishing I weren't such a sissy

as well as plenty of splendid Mexican food, visits with dear old friends, and precious time spent with family seldom seen.

There's something quite restorative about sitting down to a plate of pancakes the size of one's head with a friend one has known since kindergarten . . . there's just not a lot about yourself you need to explain to that kind of friend.

And that is worth more than any sightseeing, exciting destinations, or even the best souvenirs money can buy.

So now that I think about it, 
I guess the vacation was simply perfect.  

Today?  Less so.  But that's okay. We need the every-days to help us better appreciate the extraordinary ones.

One of the best things about my trip was getting to see  some of the fruits of the 365 creativity challenge I threw out last year! 

My sister Lisa decided to make a card every day for one year.  Her initial thought was that it would help her use up the tons of paper/trims/ephemera she has accumulated over the years for no particular purpose.  Instead, I think she accumulated much, much more than she started with.

It takes stuff to make stuff, right?
(A motto I live by.)

And her cards were a delight to see!

Her challenge was much more difficult than my Happy Thought -- she actually had to travel with card-making supplies.  But she never missed a day, and sitting in the room with her, surrounded by all that creativity and determination and PLAIN OLD DELIGHTFUL STUFF was absolutely worth a dreaded flight in and out of  Las Vegas.  (And I think I'm guaranteed a pretty great card for every holiday for the rest of my life!  Just sayin'.)

My sister Lisa, basking in the well-deserved satisfaction of her 365 pieces of creativity

She's already on to the next challenge, which is practicing the piano for 30 minutes a day for a year.  Of course that meant practicing at my parents' house while we were all there . . . it was a bit of a flashback to the many years of childhood I spent wondering why on earth my sister had the drive to practice at 6am while I was trying to sleep.  (Love you, Lis!)

An inspiration all the same, and it made me realize that if I can't keep up with her when I'm the one who threw out the challenge to begin with, then I should be ashamed of myself.  So I'm starting Monday.

But first: 
returning phone calls, 
working out . . . .

Welcome home, Susan!!!

Good to be here.



Anatomy of a Frame.

I get asked a lot of questions about my work, 
but one of the most common is:
"Susan, how do you frame/mat/mount your pieces?" 

So I decided we'd take those issues one at a time, and took some photos during my last framing adventure so that I could show you why I complain so much during framing week (as well as give you an idea how you could do it yourself, if you were looking for a fiber art framing solution).

Don't worry -- I'll try to make this tutorial fast and fun . . . and NO TEST!

Today we will look at the actual frames:

My frames begin life as a simple, blank wood frame with a plain profile, and are made from either 2" or 3" stock, depending on which I think will work best for the specific piece.  One of the things I take into account is the necessary depth of the frame, because the 3" frames end up deeper than the 2".  (I also consider whether or not I will want dots.  If there are going to be dots, the 3" is always the choice.)

I make my frames quite over-sized, to allow a lot of room for the piece to "breathe" visually -- I want to enhance the piece and give it some graphic punch on the wall, not compete with it.  My main intent is to get the viewers' attention, and then I hope that the minutiae of the piece will draw them in and hold them long enough to appreciate its subtler aspects.

My pieces require quite a bit of depth to frame -- at least 1".  My frames begin with 1/2" rabbet, and then I add depth to the back.  This also allows the piece to "float" on the wall, a look I like.

4 pieces of wood are cut to fit the back opening exactly, then nailed and glued in place. I use quite a slim piece for the 2" frames, heavier for the 3".  Corner braces are added to increase stability -- my pieces can be quite heavy.

After the back is built, the frame is sanded.  The front joints are filled with an epoxy wood-filler, perfect for getting high inadvertently or clearing the kitchen of pesky family members (actually, a plea for help sanding has usually already cleared them from the house at this point.)

Any additional imperfections/nail holes are filled with regular wood filler.  The frame is thoroughly sanded when dry.

Two coats of black gesso are applied to the frame, front and back.  I find gesso to be the great equalizer -- it is the magic elixir of the paint world and turns whatever it touches into a perfectly paint-worthy surface.

When thoroughly dry, the frame is sanded again. Then two coats of black paint are applied to the back of the frame.

Now the fun begins (and sometimes the swearing).   I figure out what color the frame should be, taking into account all kinds of things besides the colors in the piece.  Where would someone be likely to hang it?  Will it play nicely with the other work in my booth?  Would I have a giant bubble-gum pink frame in my house?  These are the kinds of questions that are weighed at this stage.

I thin the paint a bit and use a large brush to cover the frame with a wash of color.  I want a little of the black to show through, but two coats are usually required to achieve a finish that is even enough.

Note: If I want additional colors to peek through, base coats of each color I want are applied.  An ordinary household candle is rubbed over the surface where I want the color to show.  After the frame is painted, it is sanded and the paint lifts off everywhere there is wax, exposing the additional colors.

Next I decide what decorative element will be applied.  If it's dots or checks, it's freehand.  These are usually tone-on-tone with the color of the frame.  Again, I am hoping to enhance but not compete.

Sometimes I use a stencil or stamp to apply a design randomly to the surface.  During this particular framing session, both frames fell into the stencil category.  I inherited a lot of interesting stencils from my years of working for magazines (and guard them jealously. Woe unto the child who borrows them and lets paint dry all over them . . . HANNAH.)

After the design has dried, the edges of the frame are painted black.  I do this by running a small foam brush along the sides, making a sharp edge . . . which doesn't show well here because the frame is charcoal.  But you can see how much it floats above the surface of the counter.

Finally, the frame is sanded with fine grade sandpaper, revealing a bit of the black underneath and helping the pattern seem a bit more organic and less like it is just laying on top.

Now the finishing!  This stage is fraught with peril . . . tears have been shed, my friends, when the polyurethane gods have been unkind.  It seems that there are many things that can affect the quality of your final finish, and I have neither identified nor mastered that list of variables.  So I'd recommend you take a DEEP BREATH (because you're going to be holding it for two days) and then get a NEW foam brush and a can of Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane.  STIR WELL WELL WELL.

Pour a little into a dish and begin brushing it on.  There may be tiny bubbles, but these will resolve themselves as the finish settles.

Follow the directions on the can as to dry time -- this next step is a killer (gulp!) but necessary -- and when the first coat is dry, SAND THE ENTIRE FRAME with fine (400) grade sandpaper.  It will look AWFUL.

You will wail, "WHAT HAVE I DONE??!!"  You will vow never to sand in between coats again (but you will.) Carefully remove all sanding dust (I use a lightly damp cloth) and apply a second coat in the same manner.  When the frame is thoroughly dry, go over it with a little 0000 steel wool and a buffing cloth to remove any streaks that may have appeared (these are pesky on black especially).

This is a tool I absolutely cannot live without.  I would save it from my burning house.

After the piece is in the frame, use a brad driver to insert brads.

Hardware and hanging wire and a signed and dated label . . . and VOILA!

See? You, too, can do it . . . but would you want to?  Some days it's a valid question.  But the best things in life often require a few steps and a bit of patience.  (And those things usually end up being worth it.)

We'll tackle mounting/matting at a future date.

Now . . . Any questions?

When am I coming back from vacation?

Oops!  Did I forget to mention vacation?  Yes, the entire staff at Small Works (that's me) is flying to my beloved red rock desert for a week of ill-timed (because I'm going to miss the only week of my blossoming trees in MN) sunshine and overeating.

If you miss me, you can look at any of my previous posts about fear of flying, how much I love the desert, our inability to escape our genes, how beautiful my crab apple trees are  for a split second per year, or guacamole.  That should cover just about everything.

Small Works will return May 19, but there will be smart people here every day with an inspirational quote just for you.  

XO one and all!  
Miss you already!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin