Among the treasures my mother left me are some well-worn porcelain “flapper dolls”. She was born in 1925, so she must have played with them in the late 1920’s.
my mother, Mary Hartwell (Mavor), age 4
I can imagine my mother’s little girl hands grasping this doll, moving its arms up and down, and dressing and redressing its solid body until the paint wore off.
1920's flapper doll, 3" tall
Even these broken doll parts were saved for me to find 75 years after their useful toy life was over. They are in reserve, ready to contribute to some future piece of art. I cannot tell when or if a leg or arm section will ever be the “right” object to add and have to be careful not to let sentimentality guide my decisions.
porcelain doll parts
For now, it’s enough to have and enjoy my mother’s childhood treasures.
OK, it’s time for celebration! I just got word that my new book, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes has been put on the highly respected Horn Book Magazine’s Fanfare list of best children’s books of 2010. Martha Parravano, The Horn Book’s executive editor, said in an interview with 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast that my book “features scene after stunning scene created in embroidery – which sounds quite static, and yet the pictures are not only gorgeous but also full of life and movement and story.” I love this description because my main focus was to bring as much life and movement into this book as possible, given the limitations of the technique.
Posies has also been given a Platinum Best Book Award by the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio. Their web site says, “The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio is the only independent consumer review of children’s media.” Apparently the Oppenheims talk about children’s toys and books on programs like the Today Show, but living in a cocoon without TV for most of my adult life, I hadn’t heard of them. There is something special and symbolic about a seal. Maybe this isn’t a big deal, but I thought it was nice that such a mainstream group would even notice my book. Yeah!
Jumping Joan (detail from "Pocketful of Posies")
Shoo fly don't bother me from "Pocketful of Posies"
Reminder: Original illustration from Pocketful of Posies are on display in the children’s gallery at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, Mass. until Jan. 23rd, 2011. I will be giving a short talk about my work at 2:00pm at the museum on Sunday, Dec. 5th and signing copies of my book from 1:30-3:30.
detail from "Pocketful of Posies"
detail of fish mola
Molas are made by the Kuna women from the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. The geometric designs originated with body painting, then later the patterns were woven in cotton. About 150 years ago, the designs started being sewn using cloth bought from the European settlers of Panama.
Rabbit and Rooster with Umbrella Mola
detail of rooster with umbrella Mola
The Kuna women hand-sew mola panels for their blouses, using the technique of reverse appliqué. Here are some molas from my mother’s collection, which are more pictorial than some. The rooster holding an umbrella under his wing is quite an image! I like the way each picture is built up with lines of color, using layer upon layer of contrasting cloth, to make such dynamic works of art.
- Detail of Rabbit Mola
Detail of Fish Mola
Detail of Fish Mola