The Six Word story

Legend has it that sometime in the 1920s, in the bar at the Algonquin hotel in New York City, Ernest Hemingway bet his fellow drinkers that he could write a novel in six words. On a napkin he scribbled “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”, and promptly collected his winnings.

In reality there is much evidence that almost identical stories were written years before that, and little evidence that the Hemingway version came about due to an alcohol induced gamble, or even that he wrote it at all. But urban myth or not, it’s a great story (both the one about the baby shoes and the one about Hemingway) and the succinct simplicity of the concept speaks to me.

When I’m creating my art, especially when I'm combining magazine clippings with postage stamps, I am very conscious of how the stories behind the pieces evolve and become apparent to me. Changing something like the background, or using a different stamp, completely alters the story; and as I move the elements around and try different combinations, one of them just suddenly feels right, and the story feels written.

When I started my recent series of Petite Postage Portraits, smaller versions of work that I’d been doing for a while, I wanted each to have a written story on the back. Given that the art is made up of just three small components - a postage stamp, a magazine clipping, and a background - it struck me that a six word story was the perfect accompaniment to such a tiny piece of art.


Sian Robertson



View some of my Petite Postage Portraits in Postage Portraits or Recent Work, or view ones available for sale at Adam Peck Gallery