Once Upon a Thread

henna handWM One thing leads to the next and before you know it, you have enough pictures and information to fill a blog post. It all started with the photo above, which was meant to show my henna decorated hand that was done at the local arts festival last weekend. The doll heads scattered on the table are from another long term project, which I’ll write about in the future.

When Rob took the picture, I was sewing letters on left over paintings from Waldorf School projects. The words are part of a new title image for my slide talk, Once Upon a Thread. I really enjoy giving lectures about my work to quilt and embroidery groups, as well as the general public. The next scheduled talk will be during the opening event for my exhibit at Museums on the Green in Falmouth, Massachusetts. “Tea at the Museum” is from 1:00 – 3:00 pm on Sat., July 19th.

OnceUponaThreadshoot This is a teaser of sorts,  because the dolls in the scene are some of the models in my upcoming book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures (Spring 2015), the long-awaited follow-up to Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects. Rob took the photo of them holding up the stitched signs, like a group at a rally. I’ll use the photo in my power point show and Facebook cover banner.

This summer, there will be an opportunity to see many more of the new dolls up close and personal. My talented and ever helpful husband, Rob is also building a special display case that will hold dozens of new characters. The case full of dolls will be included in my exhibit, Salley Mavor: Expressions in Stitches, Then and Now, at Museums on the Green, July 4 – August 16, 2014. I hope that many of you will come see the show. It will be chock full of work from the past and present! Once Upon a ThreadWM

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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Studio report, spring 2014

Studio-HDR3blog I thought I’d take a break from showing my Cuba pictures (more coming) and report on what’s been happening in the studio. Not long ago, I noticed the early evening light streaming in from the windows on the west side. This is the only time of year that it looks this way. The sun’s position was low and shone through the still bare trees. I asked my husband Rob to quickly take a photo, which he did.

You’ll have to imagine what the rest of the room looks like right now, because I’m in the process of working on projects that are secret or just not ready to show yet. I’m making three sets of wedding cake dolls as gifts for friends who are getting married this summer. Of course, I want them to be a surprise, so they’ll be shown after the weddings.

And, I’m excited about making a large sculpture for the Portals and Passageways outdoor exhibit  at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA this summer (June 29 – Sept 7, 2014). Working on this large piece has been very different for me and we’ve taken photos and videos along the way. I’ll show them after my sculpture is installed in June. Update: See how my sculpture, Hither and Yon was made here.

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I’m happy to report that my sister, Anne Mavor is also having an exhibit at Highfield!  Ancient Landscapes: The Spirit of Place will feature paintings from her Mounds and Stones series, which was inspired by our late father, James W. Mavor, Jr., an astro-archaeologist who traveled the world documenting the connections between the land and sky at ancient sacred sites.

Soon, I’ll be gathering some of my older pieces, which will be borrowed from their owners for the upcoming exhibit, Salley Mavor: Expressions in Stitches: Then and Now, at Museums on the Green in Falmouth, MA (July 4 – Aug. 16, 2014). Historical needlework that I picked out from the museum’s collection will be shown alongside my contemporary embroidered artwork. I’m really looking forward to working with the curator and figuring out how to display some of the historical items.

More goings on:
Pocketful of Posies Exhibit
Cotuit Library, Cotuit, MA until May 27th. My talk is on May 2 @ 6:00 pm.
Lexington Public Library, Lexington, Kentucky (July 5 – Aug. 17, 2014).

Profile in Cape Cod Magazine

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I am happy to show pictures from a story about my work that has just come out in the March issue of Cape Cod Magazine. Last week, a woman showed me her copy, after I gave a lecture down Cape to the Bayberry Quilters. She had the magazine because there’s an article about her roller derby club in the same issue, which I think is pretty cool. A couple of women from my Zumba class this morning mentioned seeing the article, so I tried again and found some copies at the drug store. The photographer, Dan Cutrona took the photos in my studio last fall when I was working on doll projects and setting up scenes for the revision of Felt Wee Folk. I think he did a good job of capturing the essence of my artwork and work place.

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hunkered down in my studio

Rob and I are spending every spare moment in my studio, taking photographs for the revised edition of Felt Wee Folk. We need hundreds of pictures for the new book and we’re making good progress! There’s barely enough room for all of light stands, wires and equipment. The light box creates an even, pleasing light, so once it was set up, we spent a few days taking overhead shots of the dolls and step-by-step samples. I just started writing the new chapters and directions, which I find requires a different kind of discipline than stitching. So, if I don’t post for a while, I may be absorbed into the world of words, telling instead of showing.

IMG_8330 We have another, larger light box that is good for the scenes. We’ve been taking pictures of the dolls all grouped together in a crowd, thinking that it would make a good book cover photo. Rob raised the tripod up really high to get the right angle. I wish you could see their little faces all looking up and waving, but that’ll have to wait until the book comes out in 2015.

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another scene from Felt Wee Folk 2

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With the cold of winter upon us, it’s been easy to get into the spirit of my next scene for the 2nd edition of Felt Wee Folk, which will be published in 2015. The set-up includes a snowy hillside and an icy pond made of paraffin. I built the hill with chicken wire and wood. Then, I covered it with old-fashioned fluffy “snow” fabric that drapes in a convincing snow-like manner. I sprinkled on a product called Buffalo Snow Flurries, which looks like plastic bag material chewed up into really small pieces. It falls and glitters like snow, but feels nasty and gets over everything. I added old fake pine trees that my husband’s family had and some real bayberry branches that look like miniature trees.

We’ve moved the photography operation into my studio and used a light box for the first time. With flood lights shining on the outside of its white walls, a softly lit space is created inside. Rob set up his computer on my ironing board and monitored the shots.

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The dolls in the scene are skiing, skating, sledding, tobogganing and making a snow man. Even Jack Frost makes an appearance!

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dollhouse decorated for Holidays at Highfield

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My circa 1975 dollhouse is getting spruced up for the holidays. I was asked to bring it over to Highfield Hall and have it on display during their 10 day Holidays at Highfield event (Nov. 29 – Dec. 8, 2013). It’s been a while since the house has been out in public, so I thought I’d fix it up for the occasion. I added some green shutters and trim and decorated the plain pink triangle under the roof with a painted foliage design.

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I made this dollhouse one summer vacation, between years in art school. Following a plan in a book, I cut the wood pieces and constructed it in my father’s workshop in our basement. I can remember being so engrossed in the project that would lie in bed at night thinking about how I would decorate the rooms. I remember feeling guilty, because I thought I should be focused on finding a boy friend, instead of dreaming about a dollhouse! Years later, I’m still dreaming about making art.

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It was so much fun to make back then and it’s still fun to work on now. The doll house family is new–they will be included in my new version of Felt Wee Folk. As I’ve written before, I can’t show detailed photos of the dolls until 2015, when the book is published and my designs are protected by registered copyrights.

I’ve added evergreen garlands and Christmas lights to the house and the Small family is busy decorating their tree, cooking and wrapping presents. To keep little (and big) hands away, the rooms will be covered with Plexiglas. To see more decorations and who’s come to visit, scroll down to the end of this post.

My Pocketful of Posies tree (see a post about it here) will also be on display during the 10 day event. I hope that some of you will be able to join the festivities at Highfield this season! 

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Studio peek-a-boo

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I just wanted to show that I am indeed working in my studio these days, a lot. Every day, if I can manage it. I’m so tempted to show what I’m making in detail, because it’s exciting and fun, but that will have to wait until 2015, when my updated version of Felt Wee Folk will be published. With design pirating in the news (see Mimi Kirchner’s post about the Cody Foster situation here), I have to be more protective of my ideas, so I’m showing pictures with the dolls at a good arms length. The book’s deadline is only a few months away and I have so much to do before then! There are more new projects to make, rewriting and adding more directions, constructing scenes for photographing finished dolls, as well as getting good photos. Phew! I’m getting nervous, just typing these words.

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I recently put together a set to display a group of new dolls for the book. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what’s involved. As you can see, the domed hill top is an upside down wooden bowl, which is raised up with blocks of wood and covered with pieces of green felt. I brought the whole scene outside to have it’s photo taken. We had a short window of time to do the photography. The day before had been so windy that chairs were knocked over on our patio. Yesterday’s calm, cloud filled sky gave us even light, so I rushed to set everything up. It took about an hour to cover the hillside with moss and position the dolls.

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I propped up a foam core board with felt attached for the background sky. Rob took photos of the scene.

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Here are some more photos taken at a respectable distance. I’m reusing the precious moss in several scenes. As long as I keep working at this pace, I’ll get the book done in time.

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photo shoot in the studio

CCMagphoto2A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting photographer Dan Cutrona. He was sent over to my studio by Cape Cod Magazine, which will have an article about my work in March 2014. I’m not sure which issue, but I’ll announce it this blog and Facebook. Dan knows how to put you at ease and we had a great time trying out different ways of showing me at work. I dressed a little nicer than usual and even wore jewelry and lip gloss. Rob took these pictures while Dan was setting up the lights and clicking away on his camera.CCMagphoto3For the occasion,  I borrowed my Self Portrait from its semi-permanent home at the Woods Hole Public Library and hung it on the wall above my work table. Other than that, I didn’t rearrange or clean up my studio, since I wanted it to be showed in its naturally cluttered state. When the magazine issue comes out, I’ll announce it (hopefully with a link) on this blog. CCMagphoto1

doll house play

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Yesterday, I witnessed the sight of real children playing with my doll house! Some friends came over to my studio with their grandchildren, who immediately engaged with the dolls and miniatures in and around the house. You may wonder why I find this so remarkable, especially since I constructed and decorated it almost 40 years ago. For most of those years, the house has been packed away or displayed behind glass. My sons weren’t interested in playing with it, so I offered to have it shown in the children’s room at the Falmouth Public Library. It stood there for several years in a case near the check out desk, out of reach of children’s hands. When the library was renovated and didn’t have a space for the house, I took it back and it has since been gathering dust in a corner of my studio.

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I loved watching the children manipulate and position the dolls with their small hands.

The house has been out on my center table lately, because I’ve been fixing it up for a photo shoot of some projects that will be in the 2nd edition of Felt Wee Folk (2015 release date). I’m also sprucing it up for display at the Holidays at Highfield event later this year at Highfield Hall in Falmouth. The 10 day event will feature a tree decorated with Pocketful of Posies ornaments that I made for the Family Trees exhibit at the Concord Museum last year (see posts here).

Nov. 29 ~ Dec. 8, 2013, Original embroidered artwork, a tree full of ornaments and a doll house all handmade by Salley Mavor will be on display at The Holidays at HighfieldHighfield Hall, Falmouth, MA. Open daily 12 pm ~ 4 pm

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