The Pleasure of Smalls


Some of the best words in the world are old and rarely used. Unless you’re lapidicolous (given to living under a rock), you know that language is labile (unstable and given to change). Shakespeare’s “forsooth” and great-Grandma’s “tussy mussy” have disappeared from common speech, along with other archaic, old-fashioned and fussy words that help to trace the contours of an old-fashioned and fussier world.

Sometimes such words were meant to conceal as much as they revealed.  Euphemisms, nice little words and phrases like “passed away”, “concrete overshoes” and “broad across the beam” always have served as a kind of verbal code for cautious or bashful conversationalists.  

One of my favorite euphemisms is the word “smalls”. Where I grew up, when it came time to hang laundry on the outdoor clothes line mothers would say to their daughters, “Be sure to hang the smalls on the inside lines”.   For speakers of both American and British English, “smalls” were underwear: the panties, bras and briefs not fit to display in public.  Hanging them on the inside lines where sheets and towels shielded them from view saved self-conscious children embarassment  and prevented nosy neighbors or passers-by from drawing conclusions about the owner of the “smalls” as they examined the lace, ribbon, patterns or color of the “unmentionables”. 


But for mothers and children of the time, “smalls” also had another, quite different meaning. Those other smalls were an eclectic assortment of remnants, baubles and bits usually found in boxes or tins at the back of a closet.  They were pretty things, frivolous things, things that could keep an engrossed child busy for hours as she pawed through them, sorting, selecting, re-arranging and admiring their glowing, intricate beauty.  Snippets of lace, broken strings of beads, buttons and rhinestones, tatted flowers, bits of embroidery floss ~ they were as compelling as they were tiny. 

Sometimes the women did re-use their lace to decorate lingerie. Just as often, it trimmed bed linens or Baptismal gowns. Tatted flowers went on doll clothes. Pearls, faceted glass beads and bits of jet were restrung into necklaces for dolls, or little girls.  Buttons served as coins in a million play transactions, and as for the rhinestones ~ rhinestones became diamonds, harsh as moonlight on snow, brilliant as the stars, jewels embedded into a thousand childhood dreams.

Accustomed as we are to a bigger-is-better mentality, we tend to discount not only the “smalls” of that simpler world, but “small”  in its every form. We equate small with insignificance. We assume small items to be less valuable, small plans unworthy of consideration and small events of little consequence.

In truth, we misunderstand the power of the small and the singular. Small treasures, distillations of beauty and elegance that fit into the palm of a hand as easily as sunlight lies across a meadow, are approachable rather than overwhelming. They speak with their own voice and teach their own lessons.  They reveal their truths with a certain intimacy, enduring over time in a way the larger gifts of life cannot.

My own fascination with all things small began with the gift of a small sterling box, tucked into the toe of a Christmas stocking. I received a new bicycle that same year as my “big” present, and was more than satisfied. But at the urging of my parents, I went back to the stocking and discovered the box buried beneath a clutch of candy canes, chocolate Santas and colored pencils. Less than an inch across, heavily embossed and set with glittering glass jewels, it was padded and lined with burgundy silk.  Hinged but without a clasp, it wasn’t suited to hold anything. It simply was.   

Eventually and to my grief, the box disappeared, washed away by the great tide of life. But it was only the first of an assortment of cherished smalls that have fallen into my life.  An elegant rhinestone bracelet, gold weights from Ghana, a bronze medicine pot, an intricately carved soapstone candle holder, a wooden fife, a pocket watch, a jangle of eight silver bracelets both bartered and bought – none of these treasures would fetch many dollars on the market, yet each is priceless. Exquisitely crafted, inherently beautiful, overlaid with the patina of memory and polished by decades of loving touch, they are my life, easily fitted into a suitcase or purse.

Just as our mothers and grandmothers hoarded their smalls, the lovely and fragile detritus of their lives, I continue to collect smalls, talismans and touchstones that help me remember what I have lived and the places from which I have come.  Others find themselves intrigued by the challenge of creating smalls – painters and writers, musicians and sculptors who by accident or design find themselves scaling things down in order to maximize impact.

A wonderful example is the current exhibit showing at the West End Gallery in Corning, New York. Called “Little Gems”, it highlights the work of a variety of artists who may or may not work regularly in a smaller format.  Martin Poole, whose large, luminous landscapes I find particularly appealing, is showing a number of small portraits, including this exquisite 8″ x 6″ Profile.

Artist GC Myers, whose thoughtful and interesting Redtree Times I read regularly, has an extraordinary style that translates beautifully to smaller-sized works. Night Entreaty, shown below in actual size, is remarkable proof that strong lines and bold color don’t have to depend on a large canvas for their effect.

As interpreted by this pair of artists, small is neither prissy nor precious.  I suspect that, seen in person, their small canvases would do more effectively what they do well enough here: focus the eye, the attention and the heart in arresting and memorable ways.

Ribbons and lace, a scattering of beads. Sterling boxes gifted by love and silver bracelets discovered by chance.  Washes of paint and smudges of charcoal arranged by an artist’s hand  – each of these tiny treasures of life reminds in its own way that while bigger always is bigger, it isn’t necessarily better. In life as in art, even the small has its place. 

In the ages-long struggle against adversity, the smallest gesture counts.  In the midst of the world’s anonymous masses, the most insignificant and unnoticed person is worthy of infinite respect.  The most hidden event may alter the course of history forever, and the larger forces pulsing through society and occasionally raging through the natural world are not the only harbingers of beauty and truth.

In the midst of the blizzard, each single snowflake counts. In the midst of the flood, a single rock stands firm. In a forest of doubt the straight tree of truth still rises up, and in the midst of every flock flies the small and solitary singer, lilting its heart to the sky.

 Night Entreaty ~ G.C. Myers  Acrylic, 2″ x 4″ 

 Comments are welcome ~ to leave a comment, please click below
You may also be interested in Paul D’Ambrosio’s entry on American Folk Art miniatures,  and “Small“, a comment-free photo blog maintained by Ruth at Synch-ro-ni-zing.
Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 6:52 pm  Comments (21)  
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  1. Two comments for the price of one…

    Little pictures: My first and middle names are Richard Staigg. Richard Staigg was a rather famous painter of miniatures in the mid 1800s in Rhode Island. Some of his work is in the Boston Museum of Art.

    I think I was about nine years old when, on Christmas morning I spotted a HUGE wrapped box beside the Christmas tree. There was no name on it, but needless to say my greed was hoping it was actually supposed to be mine. All of the mundane gifts were unwrapped and the finally my parents told me the big box was for me. Yeah!!! I tore into it only to find a slightly smaller wrapped box which, inevitably led to a succession of smaller and smaller wrapped boxes until finally I was holding one that was about two inches square.


    When I opened THAT one all it contained was a a folded piece of paper. In 1951 the term, “BUMMER,” was still decades away from being coined, but it accurately captured my mood at the moment. I opened the note which read something like:

    “If you go out to the porch
    You will find something you might like.
    It might even be a ….!”

    “BIKE! BIKE! BIKE!” I screamed, and it was. A shiny, black three-speed Hoffmann. I was the only kid in the neighborhood with a multi-speed bike. Not a chance that I’d “put your eye out with it.”


    I first read your comment last night, and promptly was distracted by an exploration of your ancestor and his work. I have to smile – just as sailing finally taught me some of the geometry and algebra I missed in school, I’m learning a good bit I didn’t know about American history through your family connections.

    And oh, my. The pleasure of the box-within-a-box-within-a-box trick. I’ve pulled it myself a time or two, but when you first experienced it as a kid, it was a bummer. And I’ll bet I know the look in your folks’ eyes that morning. It was something like the look in Ralphie’s dad’s eyes when he said, “What’s that over there? By the desk?” That’s still the best Christmas movie ever ;-)


  2. Linda,

    I visit various blogs and websites frequently. I find most of them by following links that others have placed in Twitter or Google Buzz. For most of them, I stop in briefly to check the content and then scan quickly for interesting nuggets. But I save your blog posts for either quiet time with coffee in the morning, or, as is the case right now, for savoring with a glass of wine.

    Your discussion in this post of small art and the impact of small gestures made me think of an effort underway here in Richmond, VA called The Real Small Art League.

    Here is their mission:
    “Real Small Art League is an ongoing effort to inspire random acts of artistic kindness and creative awareness. A growing number of artists make, post, document and give away tiny works in surprise locations. We believe a little work of art can go a long way.”

    I haven’t encountered any of the art they’ve left around the area yet, but hope to sometime.




    I enjoyed looking through the Real Small Art League’s site. Thanks so much for adding it here. Their efforts are a wonderful variation on the theme of random acts of kindness, and I do happen to believe in the premise: that discovering an unexpected bit of beauty or creativity can shift a personal world on its axis. In a way, I try to do the same thing. My hope always has been that people just surfing the net might come across my blog and say, “Whoa! What is this?” I’ve done it myself with other bloggers, and it always brings pleasure.

    I was especially interested to discover that one of their artists is right in my back yard; she lists Houston as home. These days, you just never know.

    Thanks so much for “savoring” ~ and I hope you find your personal bit of art soon!


  3. With your post, you have encouraged more to appreciate what’s small and to see through that small thing and be able to recognize how big its worth would be.

    I save little trinkets too, for crafting and designing projects. Somehow, I’m happy that I haven’t completely forgotten how big a small is.


    What a wonderful way to put it. We don’t see the small things themselves as much as we see through them to all of the memories they carry. I don’t look at my rhinestone bracelet and just see the sparkly stones, for example. When I look at it I see my grandfather, who gave it to me, the Christmas tree and living room of my childhood, and the party when I first wore it.

    I saw an identical bracelet in an antique shop a few months ago, with a $35 price tag. I wouldn’t sell mine for $35,000.

    Keep collecting your smalls – think how many memories you’ll have in a few years!


  4. I’m like the reader who settles down with a coffee or glass of wine. I let the kids fire up the x-box (yes, yes, I know) and come up to my office and peacefully catch up on your blog.

    You always make me think, or remind me of something long forgotten, or nod my head in agreement. No small thing.


    I love to think of my words being read in that office of yours ~ they like the view, too!

    This has been one of those posts that’s raised a lot of memories for folks. It’s amazing how many had mothers or grandmothers with button boxes! And everyone has their “smalls” – little, tangible bits of stuff that help to make memories real. That is a big thing.

    I wish I could find again a poem I clipped and carried for years. I remember nothing of it now but a few lines, especially one where the fellow says of Christmas gifts, “they help to make the season stay”. That’s what our smalls do ~ make all the seaons of our lives stay.


  5. Each single snowflake DOES count.

    This is a wonderful post — as you might expect, I’m a “smalls” person, too, treasuring things in my special box, saving bits and bobs to make other things with. Miniature books — that’s another! And coins. Not valuable coins — I’d lose those. No, just little coins or stamps or postcards from another time or place and…. well, you see, I could go on forever!

    The painting you showed — simply beautiful.

    And let me echo others who have said they save your posts for a quiet time. I do exactly the same thing — they are so rich, so beautifully written, I don’t want to whiz through them, but savor every word!


    First of all, thanks again for letting me use the photo of the wonderful pearls and lace. It’s perfect here, and perfection can be hard to come by!

    I’d forgotten about miniature books – and the coins. My dad was a coin collector and had one box where he tossed foreign coins of all sorts. They were like little passports into other worlds – I loved the ones made with holes in the middle. I could turn them into necklaces and bracelets myself.

    Your comment’s a good reminder of another aspect of these “smalls”. Even the most ordinary and unremarkable bits and bobs can be turned by the right hand (like yours!) into new treasures. The days of “crafts” being limited to popsicle sticks and dried beans are over, thank goodness!

    A teensy confession here. I kept one of your journals – the one with William Morris paper, the cameo and lace edging – for myself, but I haven’t written a thing in it. It’s so gorgeous I hate to “spoil” it. But I think I’ll go ahead and start using it, for notes, anyway. I like the computer for “real” writing, but ideas and drafts are all over the place – remember the sandpaper story? I’ll just start filling up the journal, and we’ll see if those nice covers make a difference!


  6. How sweet and fun and lovely written!

    In Swedish we have a much less elegant and sweet word for that kind of small treasures. Our word even suggests that it is items with no value of any kind. How wrong isn’t that?

    Unless, we simply call them “memories”.


    That’s exactly what they are – memories and windows into memories. I have a lovely pin and earrings of my mother’s – pretty, colorful stones and a nice shape. When I pick them up, I remember her dressing table, the color of her bedroom, the dress she wore the first New Year’s eve party after my dad gave her the jewelry for Christmas. I can smell her perfume (does anyone remember “White Shoulders”?) and feel the texture of the chenille bedspread I was sitting on. That’s worth a lot.

    And even the “odds and ends” of life have value. They connect us to the past – a past where people understood that saving useful bits of life was a good thing.


  7. Thanks, Linda, for nudging my own memories into view, of childhood fascinations with stones, sparkly things in general, richly color-swirled glass (or agate) marbles. I have some of my grandmothers’ embroidered handkerchiefs, which women gave as small gifts to each other in her day. And beads – collections of many colors for stringing (some day). Your writing is rich with your own gift of memory, and it opens up the doors of memory for others as well.

    Mary Ellen,

    I’d forgotten the marbles! They were as good for sorting, turning over and admiring as the buttons. And the handkerchiefs had their own box, of course, lightly scented with rose or lavender.

    Your reference to the handkerchiefs makes me curious ~ did the women embroider them or were they always purchased? I remember the little beauties with their tiny stitches and scalloped edges and lace, but don’t remember ever seeing someone actually working on one. They embroidered everything else in sight. Maybe the hankies were special because they were “store-bought”.

    Your comment about the women giving the handkerchiefs as small gifts to one another seems poignant to me. Part of the pleasure of remembering those times is the pleasure of remembering a life where all the small gifts, given and received, knit people and communities together. It was a kinder and gentler time in many ways, and today there are moments when I fear we risk losing those qualities all together. It makes the remembering even more mportant.


  8. The Oscars has just shown us that small ($11 million production) can win over the BIG ($230 million)… and I’m excited that time and time again, such a truth does repeat itself. That’s why I always cheer for the deserving underdog, the modest production, and well-crafted excellence regardless of size.

    Allow me to quote from my post “Why We Read Jane Austen”:

    “Austen once referred to her own writing as the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour. In response, screenwriter and director Amy Heckerling, who has adapted Emma into the movie Clueless, compares Austen’s writing to a Vermeer painting: Sometimes the finest brushes paint the biggest truths.

    Your post has confirmed this precious notion.


    I do love that quotation from Heckerling. It’s an important truth, perfectly expressed. The best thing about it is that it can be “scaled down” to apply even to situations far less grand. I remember one of the first times I picked up a paintbrush. I used watercolors to paint some driveway gravel red, yellow and blue, and then gave the painted rocks to my mom. We both remember it as the first time I gave a gift I’d “made” myself. At the time, I might as well have produced The Girl with the Pearl Earring.

    It’s a wonderful example of what photographer Chase Jarvis calls his “create, share, sustain” paradigm for creativity. At age four or five I wasn’t able to sustain myself, of course, but the create and share parts came easily. The fact that the budget for most of my productions came in under a dollar made no difference at all.


  9. My correction of the reported production costs: $15 million vs. $237 million.

    BTW, Linda, have you noticed anything different in the header of RE?

    Arti ~

    Ah, what’s four million among friends? And now that you mention it, I do think I see a new tagline. I can’t for the life of me remember what you had before, but I like this. It reminds me of the ripples left by the mallards outside my window. Sometimes I don’t see the ducks, but I see their “tracks”!


  10. Oh I do love ‘smalls’, probably why I have spent so much time in thrift and charity shops :-) But I never realised that the term smalls refered to other things apart from ‘underwear’.

    Carol ~

    Some of the funniest stories of my life are rooted in not understanding what certain words meant – but I’ll not spoil the stories by telling the words! It’s enough to say that language can be very, very different in regions of our country.

    Thift and charity shops are wonderful. The old saying about one person’s trash being another’s treasure really takes on life in such places. My mom’s number one regret about growing old is that she doesn’t have the stamina for day-long tramps through such places!


  11. Linda,
    We seem to have become a culture that requires the big and wide and shiny. Subtlety and small is too often overlooked.

    I’ve long noticed that my grandchildren love the small toys they can hold in their little hands. They will ignore the larger and more expensive toys, preferring to walk around all day clutching a tiny “weird and wonderful.” My son was the same way. He loved Weebles. It’s funny how often this recognition of the value of small is lost as years go by.

    And to steal from Jeanie, “Each single snowflake DOES count.”


    Being without grandchildren leaves great gaps in my life – but now I know what Weebles are!

    There’s just something about small objects that attracts, especially for children. Add simple shapes, like the Weebles, and you’ve got a sure winner. Smaller and simpler is the way my life is going, for sure. Maybe its age. Perhaps we cross some mysterious meridian and begin to lose our acquisitive and competitive urges. I don’t know. But things that used to be commonplace among my friends have disappeared: large-scale entertaining, “big” vacations, multiples of everything. Some of it is economics, but it’s more a desire to live with things we can “get our hands around”.


  12. “…lilting its heart to the sky.” I love a good strong (and circular) ending to a piece. This entry flowed so beautifully that I was carried on its tide, thinking at the same time of some of the “smalls” in my life and my family’s. There’s magic in them – the magic of memory and of the senses (esp touch and visual) and the magic in the way our heart is engaged by certain smalls.

    Lovely. And the paintings are a wonderful addition.

    Makes me think of Jeanie’s (marmelade gypsy) ATC cards, too, miniature pieces of art she creates and trades.
    Hey, and happy spring, too!
    more later–


    I love a cicular ending too, and strive for it as best I’m able. I’ve always thought T.S. Eliot provided some of the best guidance for writers in “Little Gidding”, where he says,

    “We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.”

    Start with a subject, explore it, and come back to the starting point with new understanding or a different perspective. Easy. Right? Right…….

    And isn’t spring the season of smalls? The first blooms, the first bird, tiny leaves budding out on the trees. Hmmmm… It’s going to be a beautiful weekend. Maybe it’s time for me to do a photo essay!


  13. I love the small paintings-so sweet, and I like the idea that you could carry a masterpiece around in your pocket. Personally, I collect little boxes, like the silver one you once had. I have dozens, like largest about 4″x6″, the smallest about 1″ round. They are made of wood, porcelain, brass, and even plastic (a tea container from a company who shares my name, although unrelated). Most of them are worthless, although the Limoges and Delft ones might be worth a little. Growing up I stored my small treasured in them, and some of them are still full of buttons, beads, & foreign coins!

    I agree that these small things are apt to be overlooked and underappreciated. There is just something special about their smallness and delicacy, I think.

    On another note, I love your blog. It feels like “real” writing, something that can’t be said of most blogs including (usually) my own! Very refreshing, and reminds me to continue aspiring towards excellence rather than settling for mediocre writing of my own.

    Maman A Droit,

    And isn’t there something about collections that’s special, too? When “collection” and “small” are combined, it’s almost irresistable. I’ve done a little china collecting over past years, and there’s nothing I love like my demitasse cups and saucers, or the brush vases from chamber sets. And of course collections of smalls are more practical, just in terms of space!

    I love your idea – the masterpiece in the pocket. I wonder if the people who used to carry pocketwatches used to feel that way about them? Some are so beautifully engraved they truly are little masterpieces, like pieces of scrimshaw.

    I am appreciative beyond words for your comment about my blog. When I began, I knew I wanted to accomplish at least two things. One was to use the blog as a platform for writing ~ whatever that meant. The other was to be as honest and personal as possible – not in the sense of making the writing always about me, but letting my personal convictions inform my writing.

    Now that I think about it, those two concerns are two paths toward a single, overarching goal: “real” writing. That you’ve even used the phrase tells me I’ve taken at least a step or two down that path. Thank you.


  14. There are so many (small) thoughts bouncing around my head right now, I don’t know which to set down. It will suffice to say that I identified with a lot of this (button box, tatting), was fascinated by much of it & followed your links, and agree with all of it. So many quotes, but perhaps Mother Teresa’s most famous is best: “We can do no great things–only small things with great love.”

    Except, of course, for you, who do great things each time you set words to paper–or screen.


    You can take the girl out of the Midwest, but…. Every time I bump up against the word “great”, I want to run right back to Lake Woebegone, home of Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery. Some people misunderstand and assume that in Lake Woebegone reserved and self-deprecating are characteristics of the Lutherans, but it’s more than that. It’s essence of Minnesota, and some of it ran downhill into Iowa, where I apparently stepped into the stream ;-)

    I’ve dallied responding to this because I’ve been pondering it a lot. My provisional conclusion is that what I create is usually pretty good. Sometimes it’s pretty darned good. But “great” is what happens while my back is turned. I come back later and look and think, “Darn! Where did that some from?” The last paragraph of this piece is like that ~ it wrote just like it sits.

    So thanks for your wonderful, supportive words. And thanks for hanging around through the “pretty good” while we wait to see when “great” will show up again!


  15. Linda–The idea of smalls works in photography, too. Though I sometimes like my big, sweeping landscape photos (here in Kansas that’s the kind we take to match the vistas), I often find myself preferring those smaller images that capture ordinary objects with the extraneous removed. The focus is drawn to the heart of the matter, the core, the foundation. As in life, we tend to overlook the small in favor of the large. Funny how that is. Loved your thoughts as always.


    I was just sitting here thinking back over The Vernal Equinox project, and it’s amazing to me how many of those smaller images I can envision: the clothesline, the doors and windows, the boards with the snow drifting through them, the cairn with the rabbit on and near it. Even one of the loveliest vistas – the recent one with the green field – is seen through the frame of the open door. It gives it a kind of human scale, and I suspect that’s part of the appeal of “small”.

    It’s no doubt a personal quirk, but when I see those wonderful vistas, whether sunflower fields or the New Mexico desert, I may admire them, or be astonished by them, or feel intimidated by them, but for me they aren’t memorable in the same way.

    Great to have you stop by. Glad you enjoyed the read!


  16. In a book by Bruce Chatwin or a biography on him I ran across a reference to a display case for “Smalls”. There was a Germanic sounding name for this item which I’m still searching for – maybe you know.

    We stayed in London with friends a year or so back and I spent some time inspecting the contents of a wall hung simple black shelf/box:
    One compartment had a couple of shell casings from WW ll, another held (among other things), a tiny metal elephant my grand-daughter had pilfered from the British Museum gift shop the year before.


    I don’t know the name for those wall-hung boxes, but there were quite common in US country homes, and perhaps elsewhere. I have a friend who uses one to display shells, and another who displays an assortment of tiny boxes, all smaller than one-inch in diameter. They’re just lovely.

    One of the great advantages of all things small is that they’re more easily transported in the event of a hurricane evacuation. It’s time to pack the “memento bag” again, as hurricane season is nearly here. It’s interesting to see how the contents get winnowed and changed from year to year.

    I had to chuckle at your grand-daughter’s elephant. More memories than usual associated with that one, I’m sure.


  17. Linda:
    Well I made a number of these “wall hung boxes” and gave them to the kids. One visitor noticed one of them and called it a “Shadow Box”.
    One lady friend of ours keeps a light house up the coast and has collected beach glass for years. When we visited last year she was newly ensconced in the Lightkeeper’s residence and really needed a spice rack so I put one together from found driftwood. We melded her collection of beach glass and my fascination with wood and I sent her a small package of sticks shaped to snap together into a grid. She put sheet lexan on both sides and selected particular pieces to fill the compartments. I suppose (she sent pictures but my computer crashed and they are gone) this little display may still sit in the window of that cottage.

    That grand daughter’s 11th birthday last night. I did not give her anything but a hug because I made her a star shaped shadow Box last christmas and I have two more grand kids for whom I need to make boxes .


    How did I miss your comment here? My inattentiveness or a little glitchiness, obviously. In any event, I loved your reminder of shadow boxes. Several of my friends who collect miniatures have the wall-hung boxes, too. I always love looking at the tiny treasures.

    We don’t have sea glass or beach glass here on any regular basis. Now and then in the winter you can find a piece or two – but our shelling isn’t very good either. I’ve been told it has to do with the contours of the seabed, and the fact that with such a long, shallow expanse of land under the water, things get “caught” well off shore.

    If your friend were to stop keeping that lighthouse, I’d be more than willing to put my name on the list for a replacement!


  18. “Yesterday´s smalls are today´s inchies”, as you wrote on my “inchies” post. In a sense yes, but I think there is more to the meaning of smalls. Reading your wonderful blog and your visitors´comments, I realize it involves our memories of people, places, objects that were precious in many ways.

    I tried to find a word in French to describe these smalls of various origins : “bimbeloterie”, maybe ? small trinkets, odds and ends that were important for personal reasons. I have found boxes of various sorts of smalls in my family. A very touching one was an small cardboard box belonging to one of my grandmothers. Inside I discovered a rainbow of threads, narrow reels whose colours no longer exist nowadays or that had faded over the years. Most of them had been used and I wondered on what material, for what purpose ?

    I really enjoy reading you, Linda, for this talent you have to bring back images and emotions. Merci.


    How kind of you to come by. And look at the wonderful word you brought with you: “bimbeloterie”. Some words seem French to their core, and this is one. Just the sound of it reminds me of thimbles – another kind of “small” collected and treasured by women over the years.

    And your mention of thread reminds me of a lovely, tiny painting of a spool of thread I had tucked in my files to use in this post. It didn’t seem to fit the post, but I’ll add it here as a reminder of how beautiful our materials are in their own way. (And I’ll track down the artist later this evening.)

    Stitching, weaving, embroidering – cloth and memories, and sometimes both at once.

    C’est moi qui vous remercie.


  19. What a beautiful, inspiring post! I have many small treasures but have never thought of putting them all in one place.


    I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – and thank you for the kindness of a comment.

    I hope you look at some of your “smalls” with new eyes, and that your enjoyment of them is increased!


  20. I recall visiting our National Gallery long ago where works of the Group of Seven were displayed, many of which are huge canvasses. If one searched, the small field paintings could also be found. A comparison of the small with the studio works was amazing, for they captured, I recall, more of the colours, forms and essence of the artists vision; they were more alive!

    • Rick,

      I’d not heard of the Group of Seven. I found some footage in the CBC digital archives and enjoyed it tremendously. Some of the work reminds me of that of Geoge Catlin, who documented so much of the American West in the company of Lewis & Clark.

      Your mention of the field paintings’ relationship to the larger canvases reminds me of the first time I saw a Van Gogh pen and ink study for one of his famous canvases – “Starry NIght”. I still prefer the study.


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