My sister Anne’s exhibit at Highfield

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My sister, Anne Mavor is visiting from Portland, OR this week. She’s having a show of her beautiful encaustic paintings at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. The exhibit, Ancient Landscapes: A Spirit of Place will be on display until July 6th. She will also be giving a talk about her work on Sunday, June 1 at 1:30 pm. And look at the banner out front!

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Anne uses watercolors on a wax-translucent wall medium base, which makes her paintings look very different from other encaustic work. You can read more about her technique here.

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I love this photo of Anne painting with our Mom in Maine in 1962. This is such a typical scene. Mom was always creating artwork of all kinds.

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And this one of Anne with Dad in the mid 50’s.

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Anne’s paintings are of ancient sacred landscapes based on research photos taken by our father, James W. Mavor and herself. Several pieces in the exhibit at Highfield Hall are of local scenes from Falmouth and the Elizabeth Islands. I encourage you to go see this show–it’s stunning!

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She writes, “When I was 17, my family took a trip to the British Isles where we visited ancient stone and mounds built by Neolithic and Bronze age cultures 3,000-7,000 years ago.  My father was enthralled with these sites and their spiritual and astronomical meanings.  This interest became his full time passion for the next 40 years until his death in 2006.  His book Manitou: The Sacred Landscape of New England’s Native Civilization, brings together those years of research.

For my part, I never forgot the experience of walking through those sites. The stones were like groups of people meeting together and the mounds like large mammals hibernating. For the past two years, I have been painting images of those sites using my father’s research photos as inspiration.  It has become a form of collaboration through time, combining the creative efforts of the ancient people, my father’s passion, and filtered through my hands and eyes.”

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the best cheese straws in the world!

It’s time to bring food to this blog! Cheese straws are my favorite offering to bring to holiday gatherings. The recipe comes from my maternal grandmother’s family from Orangeburg , South Carolina.  The tradition has been passed down from mother to child for generations. There are cheese straws and then there are these cheese straws, which always get a lot of attention. I’m working on teaching my sons how to make cheese straws. They sure like to eat them! The trick is to use the sharpest cheddar cheese you can get and to roll them as thinly as possible.

My grandmother (2nd from left) with the Salley family, in about 1900.

Ingredients: 3 Cups flour, 2 tsp. seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s), 1 tsp. dried mustard, 1 cup butter, 8 oz. very sharp cheddar cheese. Start by mixing the flour, salt and dried mustard in a bowl.

Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, like you are making pie crust.

Grate the cheddar cheese and stir it in with the flour mixture.

Dribble ice water into the mixture and combine until it sticks together in a doughy consistency. Don’t let it get too soggy!

Divide into balls, wrap and refrigerate for a few hours.

Roll out the dough balls as thinly as possible and cut in strips with a pastry roller.

Spread the straws out on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. They may take longer to cook, so check them often and switch pans to different racks during baking time.

They don’t take long to cool, so immediately sample a few. Now, put them out and watch them disappear! They can be saved in a tin and make a great gift, too.

Mom’s look-a-like doll

When I visited my sister Anne this past spring, she brought out our mother’s look-a-like doll. Mom’s doll was made by our great-aunt, Alma Salley.

Here’s a picture of Mom with her father in the early 1930’s. Mom described him as a kind, gentle man and I love seeing photos of them together. We never knew him, as he died before his grandchildren were born.

 Anne and I remember receiving exquisite doll clothes made by Alma when we were young. We didn’t see our Salley relatives very often, as they all lived in South Carolina and we were in New England. This is an old painted photo of Alma, who was born in the 1880’s and lived through a lot of changes, well into her 90’s.

This photo shows my great grandparents and their five daughters. My grandmother, Louise (second from the left), was the only one who left the south. After 8 years of courting, she finally gave in and moved north to Rhode Island, to marry my grandfather. By that time, she was 35 and he was 45, old newly weds for their era, but common by today’s standards. The “Salley girls” were famous in Orangeburg, SC for their spirited independence and all five of them went on to graduate from college. Even though there weren’t any males to carry on the family surname, subsequent generations have several first named Salleys, like myself. We are descended from Henry Salley, who came to America along with a group of other French Huguenots who founded Orangeburg, South Carolina in the early 1700’s.  

Dr. Michael and Adele Salley and their daughters, circa 1900

 

Anne & Dennis wedding dolls

On my recent trip to visit my sister and her husband in Oregon, I took pictures of their wedding dolls. I made them for Anne and Dennis when they married in July, 1988.

In typical Mavor fashion, the wedding was an eclectic blend of cultures and styles. It would be out of character if any of us had a conventional wedding! Anne wore a dress from Afghanistan, with a Swedish crown of candles. (She spent a college year in Sweden.) Dennis wore a Polish outfit in a nod to his family heritage.

The dolls are about 6 inches tall and I think they were displayed on top of the wedding cake.

The candles on her head-dress are tube beads.

The hat, shoes and boots were made of real leather.

I remember enjoying adding the decorations to their clothing. It was fun to revisit the dolls after 24 years!

Turkish Dolls

I’m guessing that these 12″ dolls are Turkish, or I might be influenced by my recent visit there. (Emily just commented that she has one like the woman from Morocco.) They’re from my grandmother’s collection, which she accumulated in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I don’t remember her telling me about a trip to Turkey, but I know she traveled all over the world with her sisters after she was widowed in her early 60’s.  As a child, I would gaze up at her souvenir dolls, which lived on high shelves in her living room, out of reach of young fingers.

Now, they are mostly packed away in boxes or crowded into my studio display cases.  

The curious thing about these dolls is their hair. What’s with the blondish copper color? They look like Scandinavians dressed up in Ottoman costumes.

The dolls’ faces are sculpted with stockinette and painted. I find the man’s “fake snow” turban a bit bizarre, too. They certainly have a lot of character, but I find these more humorous than beautiful.

still animating, slowly

My husband and I have been spending the winter learning about stop motion animation. Rob and I have been doing numerous tests, which are painstakingly slow. The patience required is a different kind than what it takes to stitch a field of French knots. You have to pay attention all the time and not zone out. The more we become familiar with the process, the more we feel like we are just scratching the surface.

We’re trying out the equipment on my fabric relief Self Portrait: a personal history of fashion (see it here), which I brought home from the show that just ended at the Brattleboro Museum.  We are making an animation by rotating the piece on a lazy-susan, taking a series of close-up photos from overhead as we turn the picture incrementally. When we’re finished filming (I can’t say when), my Self Portrait will be returned to its semi-permanent home at the Woods Hole Public Library.

We’ve set up a work area in the basement. Rob is a retired engineer who loves the challenge of figuring out the technical stuff. He used to design camera equipment for remote under-water vehicles, so I’m lucky to have his expertise.

It’s hard to say when we’ll have something to show for our efforts. Right now we’re just playing, figuring out how to animate my artwork. While Rob is reviewing our new camera and learning the computer program, I’m making characters and sets for another film we’ll eventually make. As the weather gets warmer, it will be hard to stay in the basement, though. We’re taking the long view with this project–it looks like we’ll work off and on for at least a year before we have a finished film to share. Hopefully, our patience will be rewarded.

Treasures – Shirley Temple doll

my mom, Mary Louise Hartwell, about 1930

I saw the new movie, The Artist (see the trailer here) the other night and walked out of the theater thinking about tap dancing, which is featured at the very end. That got me thinking about my mother’s life as a girl during the movie’s time period (late 1920’s-early 30’s). She took tap dancing lessons and I still have her Bell Tone taps, which I sewed into this little hanging I made years ago. It’s a forerunner to the wedding banners I’ve been making lately, which you can see here.

My Mom was one of the lucky girls of her generation to have a Shirley Temple doll, which I now have. The doll has been stored in her original wardrobe trunk all these years.

Shirley Temple was discovered at the age of 3 and became a hugely popular movie star when “Talkies” began to replace silent films in Hollywood in the 1930’s.

 It looks like my Mom peeled off most of the stickers, but here’s one that’s mostly left.

I found Shirley inside, along with a closet and card board drawers full of clothes.

She looks in pretty good shape. I remember seeing the doll as a child, but thankfully, she was kept away from our grubby fingers.

The pile of clothes includes some home-made ones as well as some outfits with “genuine” Shirley Temple tags.

This doll is a treasure to cherish. I’m glad to have this memory of my mother and times past.