“Liberty and Justice” in process

Screen shot from “Liberty and Justice” animation

In this new year, I thought it would be a good time to bring you up to date on the stop-motion animation my husband Rob and I have been working on for most of 2017. I introduced the project a while back in this blog post. Yes, we’re still inching ahead, spending every spare hour filming in the basement. We’ve recorded 8 minutes of a 10 to 12 minute video and hope to have the filming part finished later this winter. Then, there’s the soundtrack, which is especially important for a wordless story like ours. For that, we’re commissioning an original score and sound effects from musicians and sound artists.

The movie, Liberty and Justice, a political take-off of Hansel and Gretel, is a cautionary tale about what happens when a pair of lost citizens wander in search of a leader. So, when will it be finished? Honestly, we don’t know, but we’re estimating that it’ll be ready to show sometime in the summer of 2018. Don’t worry, I will announce any particulars about where it can be seen, once it’s completed.

To give an idea of our process, here’s a video made up of several filming sessions from last summer. Rob set up a separate camera to take time-lapse photos while we worked in the basement. It looks funny to see our actions sped up into hyper mode, when in reality our movements are painstakingly slow and deliberate. I’m animating figures, using wire rigs anchored to black blocks, which are visible to you behind the set. The monitor near where I’m sitting shows the camera view, so I can check how the scene looks on screen. You can barely see Rob with his magnifying headset behind the camera slider, as he turns on a flash light to see the measurement for each photo.

Keeping in mind that this post could be a spoiler, I’ve selected a group of still photos that don’t give away too much of the good parts. You will surely pick up on some of the themes, though. Most images show our animation stage during the last month or so. At this point in their journey, the characters (who’ve just been through a lot of challenges) enter a kind of candy land.

It was so much fun setting up the scenes, which had to be adjusted according to the camera angle and movements of each shot. How do you make water for animation stage? Shiny blue fabric, jumbo glitter and mini LED lights, of course. It looks so cool when the swans move along!

When starting the filming process all those months ago, we knew that stop-motion animation takes a long time. And we’ve since learned that it requires many forms of patience. Not only do we need the capacity to deal with all the fussy parts pertaining to animation, we have to be patient with each other. This is the first large joint artistic/technical venture we’ve undertaken in almost 40 years together. Even though we’re used to working solo most of the time, working side by side has been an overall positive experience. We’re both meticulous workers and neither of us has a problem  concentrating for long stretches of time. It’s not unusual to spend a 5 hr. stretch filming a 12 second scene. At 24 frames per sec., that’s 288 photographs, each taken separately, with camera motion and moving up to a dozen figures and props in between shots. Crazy? Yes, but it’s all worth it when you play back the movie and see the characters come to life!

I got carried away making props – searching for jelly beans, gum drops and small scale sugary treats to decorate with. As a rule, I don’t use hot glue because it’s messy and stringy, but in this case it was an effective solution. I like how actual candy with sparkling sugar crystals adds a realness to the fantasy world.

I lopped off the stems of mini sugar canes with a knife, saving the curved ends to build a border wall. Handling all of this sticky candy was so unappetizing that it felt toxic, like working in a sugar Super Fund site.

So far, no little critters have come out at night to nibble the edible set. This little campaign motorcade zooms along in the movie. I’m looking forward to hearing the sound effects!

It was a relief to get back to needle and thread for this sheep character.

He joined the brown and rainbow sheep for a cameo scene. I manipulated their heads, ears and tails during the filming process.

While doing the animation, I refer to a monitor (top, center) that projects the camera view. It’s tricky to move the bodies in small enough increments to make their movement look natural.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who take an interest in my work and read this blog, whether you’ve followed for years or just subscribed. Your support means a lot to me and it is an honor to connect with you and the world outside of my studio!

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

 

bed book in progress – Japan

Today, I’d like to give a little behind-the-scenes peek at a recently completed scene for my “bed book”. Over the next year, I will continue to work on illustrations for the book, which will feature sleeping places in different cultures around the world.

This double page spread has children sleeping on futons in a traditional Japanese interior. To represent a spare and ordered Japanese aesthetic, I deviated from my usual style, which tends to be busy and curvy. I can’t remember the last time I made so many straight lines and right angles!

The tatami (floor mat) is made with some 75 yr. old linen fabric from my grandmother. The texture and age stains make the floor covering look woven and worn. I loved figuring out what items to display in the tokonoma (alcove).

Here’s a video of stitching French knot blossoms on the ikebana (floral arrangement).

 

I researched Japanese buildings for this roof section…

and made a fence out of real bamboo shoots.

Outside, the cherry tree provided a welcome opportunity for curves and repetitious little stitches.

To make a bed covering, I found some blue cotton in my stash…

and embellished it with chain stitching.

Her pajamas also got some extra yellow thread accents.

The book, My Bed Rocks on the Water is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. To see a peek at an illustration set in South America click here.

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Self Portrait set to music

Self-Portrait detail, 2007

Eight years ago, I started this blog with the intention of sharing my creative life with the wider world. Back then, I couldn’t have predicted how the regular discipline of writing posts would help me form a personal narrative about my life as an artist. For me, this blog has become much more than a place to publish images of my artwork and show process photos. Over the years, I’ve developed a clearer understanding of why I do what I do, which is to communicate through making things. This platform offers an opportunity to articulate what I think and care about and I thank you for listening and following along!

Today, I am very excited to share a video of my Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion, which is set to music in chronological order. Like the dolls’ outfits in my embroidered piece, the sound track reflects my upbringing and personal taste. Some of what you see and hear may even overlap with your memories, especially if you were born in the 1950’s. I hope you enjoy the film – be prepared for a nostalgic experience! Please note that a complete list of songs will scroll by at the end of the video.

 

 

In mid-November 2009, the introductory Wee Folk Studio blog post featured my Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion. I made the self portrait for an invitational show 10 years ago in 2007. It shows a spiral of little dolls, one for each year, starting with my birth date and a baby in the center, up until age 52 when I made the piece. Each figure is dressed in an outfit I would have worn that year, taken from memories, family photos or my imagination. My husband Rob appears the year we were married and my sons, Peter and Ian, are included through the years when they were little and physically connected to me. Through the progression, you can see my hair gradually graying over time. The wool felt spiral is mounted on upholstery fabric, which I embellished with multicolored french knots. The tatting around the outside of the circle was made by my late grandmother over 100 years ago.

The original framed piece is on semi-permanent display at the Woods Hole Public Library, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

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MavorSelfPortraitblog

Self Portrait: a personal history of fashion, 2007

 

America First lady

For the past 6 months, my husband Rob and I have been making a film starring characters in the Wee Folk Players theater troupe. We’re working in stop-motion animation, where you basically take a series of photos, moving figures and/or objects in between shots, in itsy-bitsy amounts. When the photos are played in sequence at 24 frames per second, it appears like fluid motion. This process has got to be one of the most time-consuming art forms out there. In some ways, it takes the same patience and attention to detail that embroidery work requires, with the added bonus of seeing your creations move!

I’ve wanted to breath life into my figures through animation for a long time, but felt unprepared to take on the task, especially the technical parts. Now, with Rob’s help, I am able to advance my art into a new realm. We are very happy with how it’s coming out and hope to have a 10 minute film some time next spring. It will be a wordless story exploring our current and very unique political environment. At the very end of this post, there’s a peek at our animation stage, with the scene we’re currently filming.

I can’t show you much yet, but HAD to share this latest member of the cast, who will have a cameo appearance alongside the leading man. Thread extensions were useful for her tri-colored hair and I had fun with her spiked heels.

After her shoes were sewn in place, she and her sole sister Barbi commiserated about foot ailments.

This is one of the final fittings for her custom made suit.

Here she is, flashing her rock, while waiting to perform.

The animation stage is set up in the basement, with lights and a camera on a slider. The scene bollow is made with real candy, so everything is pretty sticky. To give you an idea of the time involved, we’re currently filming a 10 second shot that totals 240 photographs. There’a a lot of action with many moving parts and I’ve already had to start over 3 times because of bumping props during the process. One could think of it as 6 hours of wasted effort, but every time I redo it, I learn something new and the results are more nuanced. Tomorrow, I will try again, being extra careful to move only the parts that need animating!

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New book underway

Sometimes it’s unclear how much to share of one’s project while it’s in the works.  In this age of social media, I feel a pull to share images and post updates about what’s going on because it’s fun and exciting and it’s happening right now! It was simpler in the past, when I would work for years on a children’s book, knowing that the illustrations wouldn’t be seen until they were released in a printed book. My books are listed here.

There has got be an approach that lands somewhere between instantaneous sharing and holding back for years. The book is scheduled to come out in 2020, so I’d rather not wait until then. After some thought, I’ve decided to zero in on the details and show closeups. I figure it’s like not seeing the forest for the trees. Hopefully the publisher will agree that showing peeks behind the scenes is OK, too. I’ve tried to document different stages along the way, to give you an idea of my process, while retaining a bit of mystery about the finished project. So, be warned that this is a teaser.

The “new book” is an exploration of varied cultures from around the world. This South American scene shows children sleeping in hammocks.

I devised the hammocks from a basic wire structure, with blanket stitching that looks like weaving. There were several prototypes before I figured out how to make it look right.

The background has embroidered bushes, with thread covered wire branches.

The scene features a lush environment with lots of opportunity to make felt and wire leaves and flowers.

Over the next year, I will share details from other illustrations, documenting the process with photos. These were all taken with my cell phone camera. I hope that you enjoy the upcoming round the world tour!

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Ireland 2017: doorways

As promised, here is a series of “still life” photos taken on our recent trip to Ireland. Wherever we travel, the colors, textures and geometric patterns found in doorways and building facades seem to characterize the aesthetic culture of a place. I love how bold paint hues contrast with whitewash and stone in Ireland. The following pictures are from Clifden, the island of Inishbofin and Galway.

“The Way Home” found

I am pleased to announce that a carton full of my first book, The Way Home has been discovered in storage! This is good news for those of you who have been searching for a copy, only to come across old beat up ones, plastered with library stamps. Like most children’s books, The Way Home was only in print for a few years, so it is very hard to find. A limited number of copies are now available for purchase through my Etsy Shop. 

The Way Home was published by MacMillan in 1991 and helped pave the way for other three-dimensional illustrators in the children’s book publishing world. The disarmingly simple story of Savi the elephant is a favorite with young and old alike. The hard cover books are in pristine condition and will be autographed. Custom inscriptions are welcome. Full color illustrations, dust jacket, 32 pages, 8. 5″ x 10.25″.

To find out about how the author, Judy Richardson and I came to do a book together, read this 5 part story.

Judy and Salley with an elephant at the Barnstable County Fair, 1991

“A delightful romp through the jungle… Mavor’s creative, unique collage illustrations make this picture book distinctive. [They are] a combination of soft sculpture and embroidery… The variety of textures is a feast for the eye.” — Starred review, School Library Journal

“Mavor’s three-dimensional fabric collage pictures are charming… they beg to be touched by little fingers as the story unfolds.” — Booklist

Book – The Way Home