Elsie Marley goes to Concord

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I’m pleased to let you know that an original fabric relief illustration from Pocketful of Posies will be part of a special exhibit at the  Concord Museum in Concord, Massachusetts this fall and winter. My contribution is the double page spread of “Donkey, donkey old and gray” and “Elsie Marley, shes so fine, she won’t get up to feed the swine”. I thought this would be a good opportunity to revisit this piece and show some process photos about adding the border.

First, here are the particulars: Oct. 10 – May 3, 2015 ~ Good Night, Sleep Tight: Art from Children’s Literature will feature over twenty original illustrations from classic and contemporary children’s books woven around the themes of bedtime, dreams, and lullabies. My old friend and college mate Beth Krommes will also have an illustration from one of her wonderful books in the show.

I will also be signing books at  Author and Illustrator Day on Dec. 7th at the Concord Museum, Concord, MA. This event is held in conjunction with the annual exhibit, Family Trees: Celebration of Children’s Literature.

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After the illustrations were photographed for the book, I needed to make them presentable for their next life as framed works of art. I cut out pieces of felt to make a border and embroidered them with my initials and the date. Although it took 3 years to make all 51 pieces, I treated the collection as one work and dated each piece 2010, the book’s publication date. Then, I stitched the felt scene and border onto a stretched piece of upholstery fabric. And last, but not least, my husband Rob built wooden shadow box frames for all of them, which you can see here. See posts about making more of the borders here.

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“Picking Peas” repair job

"Picking Peas" fabric relief 1986

“Picking Peas” fabric relief 1986

Do you ever think about how your creations will hold up in the future? Recently, I learned a lesson in the importance of using quality, archival materials. Back in 1986, when I made “Picking Peas”, I didn’t think about those kind of things. I used wire that was the right thickness and was not concerned about what kind of metal it was. It’s my style to use materials I find around, instead of buying everything new. Over the years, using found materials has helped me explore new ways of working. Odd pieces of this and that have pushed me to make bolder design decisions that I would otherwise have made if I just used thread and cloth. But, I learned that if you want your artwork to last beyond a few years or even a generation, you should be more careful about what kind of materials you use.

This summer, I borrowed the “Picking Peas” for my show at Falmouth Museums on the Green. When I picked it up from its owner, I noticed that some pea vines were an orange brown color instead of green. The owner hadn’t noticed the change, but I could see that rust had reared its insidious head! It didn’t help that the piece had been hanging for almost 30 years in a house right on the ocean, with salt air flowing through every open window.

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It was clear that something had to be done before the corrosion spread further and parts started crumbling apart. I promised the owner that after the show was over, I would fix the damage before it was returned. This is my first experience with textile conservation, so I proceeded slowly and cautiously.  I worked on one section at a time, peeling the pea fence, one side at a time and removing the rusted wire vines. I decided to take the dry approach, and vacuumed away any fine particles.  Luckily, the background was made of dark upholstery fabric, which held up pretty well and camouflaged the stains a bit.

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I remade the vines, this time using copper jewelry wire and wrapped them with embroidery floss. I did my best to cover the rust stains.

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I added the glass peas and plastic leaf beads to the vines.

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This is how it looked after everything was put back together. You can hardy see the rust stains, which blend in with the brown background fabric. “Picking Peas” is now back with its owner, hanging just around the corner from a beautiful view of Vineyard Sound.

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beach scene from early on

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I made this beach scene In 1982 and haven’t seen it in all these years. Recently, I had the opportunity to borrow it from its owner, so that Rob could take a decent photograph. It’s funny how time and memory can play tricks. The old slide from 1982 was of such poor quality, that not much detail was visible. In my imagination, the piece had shrunk and the composition had changed. I was surprised to see that the piece actually measures 18″ W x 24″ H, utilizes a sewing machine and is mounted on a wooden board. Now-a-days, I hand stitch everything and attach the background fabric to a stretcher.

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During this time, I experimented with small figures, creating bodies with cloth covered wire. These 2″ sunbathers are made with some kind of shiny polyester fabric, something I would be hard pressed to use today. But, I think it gives the illusion of sun tan oiled skin. You can see how I tried to stitch fingers and toes, but they look more like paws.

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Back then, my designs were so much more graphic, with lots of open space. Now, I have a hard time keeping myself from filling in every inch. I’m inspired to find a happy balance somewhere in between. It’s helpful to revisit these pieces from early on, to notice the continuity, as well as changes that inform what I do today.

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“Then and Now” sampler

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Since so many of you live too far away to see my exhibit at Falmouth Museums on the Green, I thought I’d put together a chronological slide show of the artwork on display. Because I know that you like closeups, the photos are all cropped images, with lots of details to see. The exhibit includes a sampling of pieces I’ve made from the years 1985 to 2014. The most recent effort is “Wee Gathering”, a collection of dolls featured in my upcoming how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures: 120 Enchanting Dolls.

It would be wonderful to meet some of you at the museum this Saturday, July 19th from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. there will be some time to chat and mingle and then I’ll give a visual presentation about my work at around 1:30 or 2:00 pm. There’s still time to see the show. The exhibit, “Salley Mavor: Expressions in Stitches, Then and Now” will be on display until August 16th. Falmouth Museums on the Green is located on the village green in Falmouth, Massachusetts and is open Tues. ~ Fri. 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, Sat. 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and Monday 5:00 to 7:00 pm. The exhibit is free to the public.

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Expressions in Stitches, Then and Now

ThenandNow9This past week, I helped install my show at  Falmouth Museums on the Green. The photos below give a behind the scenes look at the process of hanging my framed artwork along with historical needlework and other interesting objects from the museum’s collection. Salley Mavor: Expressions in Stitches, Then and Now  opens today and closes on August 16th. I will be giving a presentation about my work at the “Tea at the Museum” on Saturday, July 19th, 1:00 -3:00 pm. The museum hours are Tuesday ~ Friday 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, Saturday 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and Monday evening 5:00 to 7:00 pm.

If you want to find out which pieces are in the show, refer to the list at the end of this post. Each title is linked to an image or blog post about it. Many works are on loan from their owners and haven’t been seen publicly since they were purchased decades ago.

ThenandNow4To see how the arrangement would look, the curator, Amanda Wastrom cut out paper templates in the dimensions of each frame, which we taped to the wall. We wanted a lively arrangement and played around with the spacing until we were happy with the flow. ThenandNow5One great thing about the paper technique, besides being able to see how the different sizes look overall, is that you can pin point exactly where to nail the picture hanger, right through the paper. We hung some of the textiles from the museums collection using a clever method that involves sticking a metal washer to the wall and using a magnet to hold the items in place. ThenandNow1Amanda and I started planning the exhibit a year ago, when she came up with the brilliant idea of juxtaposing my artwork with historic items that never seem to make it out of the basement archives. We met several times over the winter and looked through boxes full of tissue wrapped treasures. Of course, I was attracted to the textiles, but we also put aside other objects that fit in with the theme. I mounted a collection of old eye glasses and leather doll shoes to hang along side my pieces.

Here’s Amanda peeling back the wall title.

ThenandNow6My husband Rob came by to help install the display case he made for the wee folk characters from my new book (not pictured).ThenandNow7ThenandNow2I really like the way it came out and I hope that many of you who live relatively nearby will make the trip to see the show. Thank you Amanda, Erica, Sue and Rob for your help bringing it all together!ThenandNow8

The exhibit includes 19 fabric relief pieces, made from 1985 to the present. Click the title links to see images of the artwork. The only one without a link is “A Wee Gathering”, which is a case full of sample dolls from my upcoming how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures. Since the book isn’t yet published (spring 2015), you’ll have to come see the wee folk in person!

Noah’s Ark (1986); Feeding Chickens (1985); Picking Peas (1986); Mary Had a Little Lamb (1995); Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion (2007); Rabbitat (2011); Birds of Beebe Woods (2012); Walking the Dog (2005); Winter Scene (1986); Rana is Born (1991); Pocketful of Posies book cover (2010); Hush-a-bye-baby, page 56 from Pocketful of Posies (2010); Baa, Baa Black Sheep, page 8 from Pocketful of Posies (2010); Jerry Hall, page 23 from Pocketful of Posies (2010); “Rain, rain, go away”/”There was an old woman”/”Rain on the green grass“, pages 32/33 from Pocketful of Posies (2010); “Humpty Dumpty”/”Peter Piper”/ Two little dicky birds”, pages 48/49 from Pocketful of Posies (2010); The Red Chair (1994); Slow Work, Fine Work (2012); A Wee Gathering (2014).

Borrowing from the past

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I’ve been contacting people who own pieces that I’ve made over the past 30 years and asking to borrow artwork for my upcoming exhibit, Salley Mavor: Expressions in Stitches, Then and Now at Museums on the Green in Falmouth. Most of the fabric reliefs are from local collections, so it’s been relatively easy to arrange pickup. And I’ve enjoyed visiting the people who were early supporters of my work in the 80′s and 90′s. It’s been long enough that some pieces have been passed down to the next generation. I’m grateful to the owners for loaning the work, as many of them have never been exhibited publicly. It will be a kind of retrospective show, which covers the transition from my early work to what I’m making now. The exhibit will also include items I’ve selected from the museums archives–stuff that stuck my fancy and seems to go.

Since this may be the only chance, I’ve been removing some pieces from their frames and Rob is taking digital photos. Looking at them closely has brought back memories of the years when I made them. I’m amazed that I was so productive during the 80′s, especially with young children around. In a way, life wasn’t as complicated. We stayed home a lot and I spent every spare moment focusing on my artwork.  I found a wonderful neighbor who ran a home daycare and I worked every evening after the kids went to bed. There were less distractions; we had no TV or computer. Remembering this time makes me nostalgic for a simpler life. I bet almost every person reading this post feels the same. So much for my wistful musings–I’m going to put on my thimble and pick up my needle and thread and get to work!

I hope that many of you will be able to see this show. I will be writing more about it and posting more pictures in the next few weeks. Here are the particulars:
July 4 – August 16, 2014 ~ Salley Mavor: Expressions in Stitches, Then and Now Falmouth Museums on the Green, Falmouth, MA. Historical needlework from the museum’s collection will be exhibited alongside the contemporary embroidered artwork of Salley Mavor.  Sat., July 19th - “Tea at the Museum” and Artist Talk – 1:00 -3:00 pm.

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Mothers

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On this Mother’s Day, I’d like to share some of my artwork that depict mothers. The domestic scene above is an illustration from Mary Had a Little Lamb. And the one below shows the kitchen in my book, In the Heart. 

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This detail from my Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion, covers the years when my children were very young and physically attached to me.

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I made this “Old Mother Hubbard” ornament for the Family Trees Exhibit in Concord, MA.

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And finally, here’s The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, from my book Pocketful of Posies which peels away the sugar coating of motherhood.

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