PEOPLE: MJ Spiegel Feed


article about small equals in BurlingtonFree press


Liza Cowan of Burlington has opened a new store called Small Equals at the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery at 266 Pine. A portrait of her grandfather Modie Spiegel hangs on the wall next to her new keepsake card boxes at the grand opening on the first day of the Art Hop on Sept. 10.

Text and photo by Lynn Monty

"Pine Street Art Works closed and owner Liza Cowan has opened a new art space she named Small Equals.

"Small is fabulous," Cowan said. "Small equals big ideas. The footprint is small, the overhead is small."

For the past five years she's filled 2,000 square feet of a former factory building with the work of mid-career artists. The changing economy forced Cowan to narrow her focus. She's moved down the street to The S.P.A.C.E Gallery at 266 Pine St., behind Conant Metal & Light in the Soda Plant Building. This gallery is home to a dozen working artists studios and exhibition areas.

Cowan's new space is 90 square feet and features customized gift building in the form of her signature Keepsake Card Kits. She designs cards from her vintage ephemera collection (ephemera means old paper). Cowan uses advertising booklets for her stock dating back to the 1800s. "They come in a box of my design and the customer gets to mix and match what goes inside."

Almost everything sold at Small Equals was chosen to fit in the keepsake boxes. Items like magnets, wildflower seeds, tiny vintage storybooks, paper dolls, monopoly game pieces and even typewriter keys and watch faces are among the treasures to choose from, all hand-picked by Cowan. "My goal is to provide something really excellent that can be useful and that's semi-custom and that people can't find anywhere else," she said. "My customers came to rely on my taste and ability to pick great things and I'm happy to continue to do that for them."

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Here are some fun finds from a 1938 Spiegel Catalog.

Spiegel 1938 cotton blog
Love the little camera she's holding.

Spiegel 1938 stove blog

Spiegel 1938 boys outfit blog
There were no similar outfits for little girls. Hmmm, I wonder why.

Spiegel 1938 cover blog
The cover. The text says, "The best thing in life is a happy, comfortable, attractive home. When the day's work is done, it's our haven of peace and quiet, rest, pleasure and security."  What the text deletes is that the day's work for the wife is at home, working hard to provide that peace quiet etc.

Spiegel 1938 cover detail blog
Spiegel 1938 Cover, detail. At first I thought this was a peddler, which would be appropriate since my Spiegel relatives came to America and worked as peddlers, eventually starting the store that would become Spiegels. However, on closer inspection he seems to be an itinerant knife sharpener. His clothing style doesn't match the clothing style of the woman and girl, and the proportions of the people to the house are way out of  scale, so I suspect the whole image is rather fanciful.