WHAT A RELIEF installation

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that my artwork runs the gamut from precious to poignant to provocative, making it hard to categorize. One thing is for certain, I love creating and sharing my vision with you, whether on social media, in books or in person! This summer, from now until Sept. 11th, there’s an opportunity to see over 150 of my bas-relief pieces and sculptural objects at the Brick Store Museum in the quintessential New England town of Kennebunk, Maine.

WHAT A RELIEF at the Brick Store Museum

The retrospective exhibition, WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor contains a large selection of my life’s work, showing everything from a folksy fairy world to full-frontal nudity (in the Garden of Eden). The exhibition spans over 40 years, from early in my career to the present day. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections fill multiple galleries on the Museum’s entire first floor. The show is laid out somewhat chronologically, so visitors can see the evolution of my style and techniques through the years..

Brick Store Museum block, Kennebunk, Maine

So what’s my connection to the Brick Store Museum? In 2019, my recent topical pieces, including Displaced and the animated film, Liberty and Justice were included in their exhibit “The Art of Cute”. The show, which was curated by the Illustration Institute, included a broad spectrum of art and products that could be considered “cute”, from endearing to edgy. My topical and political work were part of the Meta cute or “beyond” cute category. The museum received such rave reviews about my work that we immediately started planning a larger solo exhibit and here we are!

The Art of Cute at the Brick Store Museum in 2019

Curating a show of this size takes a lot of time and preparation. In addition to figuring out what to include, I’ve spent the past couple of years studying the museum’s floor plan and visualizing how my work could be organized in the galleries.

Since it is a retrospective exhibition, I needed to track down people who’d purchased my work decades ago. My records are spotty, so I don’t know where everything ended up, but I was able to contact several owners who live within a reasonable driving distance who were willing to loan their pictures for the duration of the exhibit. So, in the early spring, I personally picked up artwork from various locations around New England. It was wonderful to meet some owners for the first time and hear how much they’ve enjoyed living with the pieces for 25 to 40 years! After bringing them back home, I removed the artwork from their frames and cleaned the glass, as well as took digital photos. Keeping them protected under UV glass for all these years really made a difference because they were in excellent condition inside.

In addition to early work on loan, the exhibition includes more recent pieces that I’ve purposely not offered for sale, so that they are available to exhibit. One consequence of all this laborious hand stitching, is that it takes forever to accumulate enough work to have a solo show. For instance, I completed just 3 pieces in the past year and a half (Frosty Morning, Mossy Glen and Harvest Time), even though I spent every spare moment working on them. At this stage of my career, I feel that the value of my work lies in its ability to be shared publicly. So that means I’ll be holding onto my recent work for the time being. See a schedule of current and upcoming exhibitions here.

Two weeks ago, Rob and I stuffed a UHaul cargo van with crates and boxes filled with artwork and drove up to Maine to deliver everything to the Museum. We spent a few days helping the staff set up the show, which you can see in photos and videos further ahead in this post. We left before the installation was fully completed, so we’ll take more pictures when we go back for the opening event on June 25th.

WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor
Brick Store Museum
117 Main St., Kennebunk, Maine
June 7th thru Sept. 11th
Meet the Artist on June 25th, 1 to 3 PM

Once the artwork was unpacked, the museum staff got to work installing the show. Here’s Leanne Hayden, the collections and exhibition manager hanging Noah’s Ark and a group of ornaments over the mantelpiece in the first gallery. I made the ornaments about 10 years ago for the Family Trees event at the Concord Museum.

One wall in the center gallery features enlarged photographs of women from my piece, Cover Up. Their faces are blown up to about 12 times the size of the 1″ wooden bead doll heads. I like playing with scale, taking something tiny and making it huge. They certainly demand your attention when you walk into the room.

Cynthia Walker, the museum’s executive director, skillfully hung the prints on the wall with sticky Command strips.

I was so impressed by how quickly everything went up. While I set up sculptural items in display cases, Cynthia and Leanne measured and hung the framed pieces.

Props and characters from the animated film Liberty and Justice.

In this video, I bring you around the room, pointing out what’s on display.

With her baby and dog looking on, Cynthia hung Bedtime Stitches. How impressive is that?

The Bedtime Stitches portion of the exhibit has been touring for the past 2 years and is scheduled at other locations around the US through 2024.

Video tour of Bedtime Stitches

It’s wonderful to hear that the exhibition is already attracting many visitors from near and far. I look forward to meeting some of you at the opening event on Sat., June 25th from 1 to 3 PM. And for those of you from very far away, we’ll take more photos and share them!

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Mossy Glen: Part 8 – wee folk

This is the 8th and final part of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen. All spring I’ve shared photos, videos and commentary about how I created the piece, from stitching moss to forming wire stems. I’ve saved the best for last – today’s post is about making the wee folk characters! 
Part 1 is all about stitching a moss-like texture, Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees, Part 3 is about the stone walls, Part 4 shows how I made the forsythia blossoms, Part 5 features wire and felt leaves, Part 6 is about chain-stitching leaves and Part 7 looks at the violets and berries.

Before delving into how I made the wee folk in Mossy Glen, I’d like to announce the opportunity to see a large selection of my work in person this summer. The exhibition, What a Relief, has been in the works for years and I’m happy to say that its doors are open to the public this week! For those of you who live too far away to come see the show, I’ll be sharing photos and videos of the exhibition in future posts.

WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor
June 7 – Sept. 11, 2022
Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, ME
Meet the Artist on June 25, 1 – 3 PM

This is the first major retrospective exhibition of my artwork, spanning over 40 years, from early on in my career to the present day. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections fill multiple galleries on the Museum’s entire first floor. The show is laid out somewhat chronologically, so visitors can see the evolution of my style and techniques through the years. Over 150 framed pieces and sculptural objects are on display, including the series of original illustrations from my most recent picture book, MY BED.

What a Relief, Brick Store Museum
What a Relief, Brick Store Museum

Wee Folk in Mossy Glen
Now, let’s turn our attention back to the characters frolicking in the Mossy Glen. I’m never sure who is going to appear in these landscapes. They just show up one by one and claim their spots. After many months building places for the wee folk to live, it feels satisfying to finally meet them and let them take over.

The figures are similar to the acorn-capped dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk, just smaller in scale. Instead of pipe cleaners, I made the armatures with 24 gauge jewelry wire. You have to wind a lot of thread around the wire to make the limbs look proportional and not too spindly. At least you don’t have to deal with pipe cleaner fuzzies poking out.

After wrapping the wire armature with either embroidery floss or tapestry yarn, I embellished the torso and arms with faux knitting. which is basically rows of chain stitching.

I first started experimenting with fake or faux knitting when I made Polly’s Irish sweater by embroidering patterns and textures on felt. I’m not very experienced with knitting or crocheting, so this seemed like a good solution.

Since then, I’ve left out the felt and stitched directly onto the thread wrapped bodies. It’s fussy for sure, but the clothing comes out looking the way I want it to.

Here’s a Stitch Minute video showing some of my faux knitting.

I know this fellow looks uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to hide what he endured for the sake of fashion.

I made this stroller out of wire, which I covered with embroidery floss. The wheels are beads. As usual, I was so absorbed in figuring out how to make it, that I didn’t think to take photos along the way. I’ll try better with the next scene.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this series about making Mossy Glen. Here’s a list of the different parts:
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)
Part 5 (wire and felt leaves)
Part 6 (chain stitched leaves)
Part 7 (violets and berries)

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Mossy Glen: Part 7 – Violets and Berries

In this Part 7 of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created violets and berry bushes. Part 1 is all about stitching a moss-like texture, Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees, Part 3 is about the stone walls, Part 4 shows how I made the forsythia blossoms, Part 5 features wire and felt leaves and Part 6 is about chain-stitching leaves.

winding wire stems with embroidery floss

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.


While I write this post, I’m in the midst of preparing for my upcoming retrospective exhibition in Kennebunk, Maine at the Brick Store Museum. Even though I’ve hardly picked up a needle and thread this spring, I’m still being creative, but in a different way. My approach to curating this show is similar to how I imagine and labor over my artwork. It’s all about taking a lot of small details and arranging them in a way that contributes to the story. The exhibition, What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor will tell the story of my evolution as an artist, from childhood to today. Just like my art, this exhibit will be very busy, with a ton of original 3-dimensional pieces to eye as closely as you like. As my husband Rob says, “With Salley’s art, more is more.”

Early work from the 80’s and 90’s on loan for the exhibition, What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor.

What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine, (June 7 – Sept. 11, 2022). I will be there on Sat., June 25th from 1 – 3 pm for a meet and greet and book-signing event.

The retrospective exhibition will feature a large selection of my artwork, spanning over 40 years, from early on to the present day. Over 100 pieces from my collection and rarely seen works on loan from private collections will fill walls a cases in multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor. Original picture book illustrations, including the entire series from my most recent book, MY BED will also be shown.

Now back to the patch of violets, which appear in the lower left foreground of Mossy Glen. I chose violets because I thought a dark leafed plant would bring some weight to the bottom of the composition. I also wanted something larger scale, to offset all of the itty bitty berries and leaves.

I constructed the leaves out of wool felt and wire and embroidered the veins.

You can see the process of making the leaves in this Stitch Minute video.

After sewing the leaves to the background fabric, I stitched flowers with silk ribbon.

I created stems with wire, silk ribbon and embroidery floss.

The silk ribbon was so fun to use that I couldn’t resist adding some “grass” to the bottom edge.

Scattered throughout Mossy Glen are berry bushes, which I make with wire, glass beads and embroidery floss.

You can see how I form wire and bead berry bushes in this Stitch Minute video.

Wire and glass bead berry bush

At this stage of the project, I picked out some upholstery fabric from my stash and used it to cover the stretcher frames. It hurts my brain to try to explain why and how it’s done, but the process involves cotton padding and lots of contorted hand sewing, kind of like upholstering a piece of furniture. In putting the covered stretcher on top, I’m basically freeing up an extra 1/2″ of depth that would normally be wasted behind the stretched fabric.

I then stapled the background fabric to the back of the covered stretcher and started assembling the pieces on top, inside the upholstered border frame.

Stay tuned for a final post about making the wee folk characters in Mossy Glen.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)
Part 5 (wire and felt leaves)
Part 6 (chain stitched leaves)

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Mossy Glen: Part 6 – stitched leaves

Before delving into Part 6 in the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, Id like to give you a preview of Harvest Time, the fall landscape that I just finished making. For the past 6 months, I’ve documented its progress on Facebook and/or Instagram and I look forward to later sharing photos and videos about making the scene on this blog, too.

Harvest Time in my studio

The fall scene shows a cutaway view, with a tree stump dwelling above ground and tunnel storage spaces underground. It took way longer to make than I’d planned, which may have to do with the insane amount of mossy French knots on the stump.

Stump Dwelling for Harvest Time

The 3 seasons I’ve completed so far, winter, spring and fall, will be included in this summer’s exhibition, What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine, (June 7 – Sept. 11, 2022). I will be there on Sat., June 25th from 1 – 3 pm for a meet and greet and book-signing. The retrospective exhibition will feature a large selection of my artwork, spanning over 40 years, from early on to the present day. Pieces from my collection and rarely seen works on loan from private collections will fill multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor. Original picture book illustrations, including the entire series from my most recent book, MY BED will also be shown.

Wee Folk Forager for Harvest Time

Now back to Mossy Glen – In this Part 6, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created the chain stitched leaves. Part 1 is all about stitching a moss-like texture, Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees, Part 3 is about the stone walls, Part 4 shows how I made the forsythia blossoms and Part 5 features wire and felt leaves.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

To rest the eye from all of the 3-dimensional busyness in this scene, I mixed in flat chain stitched designs. They’re also busy, but the overall effect is calmer. While I work on a piece, I’m constantly aware of how its composition, color, texture and depth direct the eye. Maybe that’s why I never get bored – there’s always something to consider about the next step in the process. I’m often asked if I listen to books on tape while stitching, as if it’s a mindless activity. There’s no way I could follow a story and give my artwork the attention it needs. There are too many decisions to make along the way!

I chain stitched the leaf shapes with cotton flower thread. Its matte finish is different from the glossy sheen of cotton embroidery floss, which I used to wrap the wire stem. DMC flower thread is no longer available, but if you’re interested, Dutch Treat Designs has some of the discontinued thread in stock. 

Watch how I chain stitched around and around the leaf shape with gradated colors in this Stitch Minute video.

Stitch Minute – chain stitching leaves

Sometimes I mark lines on the felt with a chalk pencil or basting, but mostly I eyeball the designs. Here’s another Stitch Minute video, showing the smaller chain stitched leaves.

Stitch Minute – chain stitching leaves

I also made ferns with strung together fly stitches.

To make the ferns pop, I underlined one side with a darker shade of green.

To see me stitching the ferns, including a fiddle head, watch this Stitch Minute video.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on other plants, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)
Part 5 (felt and wire leaves)

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Mossy Glen – part 5: Leaves

In this Part 5 of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created the leaves. Part 1 is all about stitching a moss-like texture, Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees, Part 3 is about the stone walls and Part 4 shows how I made the forsythia blossoms.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

Spring is the season when nature shows its most attractive side, when every new leaf and bud is a delight to behold. The undergrowth is neat and tidy, with manageable mossy lawns and tiny plants just starting to emerge in the miniature landscape. It’s when I go scouting for places to photograph my wee folk characters outside, like Polly’s Washing Day, which is a note card in my shop here.

Polly’s Washing Day note card

When planning out Mossy Glen, I pictured hillsides in different shades of light green, punctuated with 3-dimensional leaves.

I made separate leaves with wool felt and wire, which you can watch in this Stitch Minute Video.

Stitch Minute – Leaf

I made branches of wire wrapped with embroidery floss, which I embellished with glass seed beads.

To add more stability to the larger leaves, I made the center vein with wire. All of the wire is covered with thread to hide the shiny metal.

I made long skinny leaves to go around the pond.

Even though the leaves had wire all around the outside edges and along the center veins, they weren’t rigid enough to keep them airborne and separate from the background pond fabric. So, I sewed blue tube beads to the undersides of the leaves, giving them the needed lift. Then, I sewed the beads to the pond fabric.

I also made bushes with felt leaves, wire branches and bead berries.

You can see the process of making the bush is this Stitch Minute Video.

Stitch Minute – Bush

This bush was one of the last parts I made for the scene and when it was finished, I eagerly sewed it in place. But every time I looked at the completed piece, I felt that something was off with the color and contrast of the bush. It blended in with the background and didn’t stand out enough. So, I did what I’ve done many other times when I’m not satisfied with how something looks, I snipped the thread holding the bush in place and figured out how to improve it.

In this case, I brightened the leaf edges with yellow thread, which created a vibrant striped effect. I also outlined the leaf veins with light green to heighten the contrast. It was fussy work because the threads kept getting caught on the branches and beads. But, in the end I was happy with the results, which is all that mattered.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on other plants, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Mossy Glen – part 4: forsythia

In this Part 4 of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, I share photos and commentary about how I created the sweeping forsythia bush that arches above the hillside. Part 1 is all about stitching a moss-like texture, Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees and Part 3 is about how I incorporated stone walls into the scene.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

Before we escape into Mossy Glen’s land of innocence, I want to acknowledge what’s happening in the real world. The shocking and merciless attack on Ukraine by the Russian military is just too horrible to ignore. At times like this, I find it helpful to channel my distress into art. In this case, I already had images to work with. All I had to do was rearrange the photos and present them in context. So, this past week, on International Women’s Day, I posted the following image in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. The response on Facebook and Instagram was immediate and heartfelt, so I’m sharing it here as well. The group of portraits, featuring a Ukrainian in a traditional folk costume in the center, are some of the 48 women from around the world in my 2016 piece, Cover Up, which you can see and read about here.

In Solidarity with Ukraine

Forsythia
One of the first signs of spring around here, besides snowdrops and daffodils are the telltale splashes of yellow forsythia bushes. They’re only noticeable for a few weeks, before leafing out and blending in with every other nondescript mass of leggy branches along the roadside. When forsythia are in full blossom, though, they are an important marker of the changing season.

Once I decided to make a forsythia bush, I had to figure out how to construct the different parts. The wire branches would be straightforward, but the flowers needed a new approach. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to replicate them perfectly, so I thought of ways to give the impression of delicate blossoms.

After experimenting with different threads and yarns and finding the flowers too droopy and clumsy, I tried silk ribbon. The petals perked right up and held their shape!

The process of forming the flowers was quite fussy. It’s much easier to show than tell how, so here’s a Stitch Minute video to give you the basics.

Forsythia

The silk ribbon I used is from Silk Road Fibers. They have a ton of different colors.

I filled the wire branches with about 100 flowers and buds.

Then I wrapped brown embroidery floss around the branches, covering the messy wire stems.

The stems were still a bit bumpy, so I wrapped more layers with 2 or 3 strands of floss, until they were smooth like this.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on the leaves, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Mossy Glen: Part 3 – stone walls

In this Part 3 of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, I share photos and commentary about how I incorporated stone walls into the scene. Part 1 is all about making moss and Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees.

Why did I use real stones instead of making them with felt, as I did for Frosty Morning, (which you can see here)? I’ve asked myself the same question and have no clear answer, besides a feeling that real stones somehow balanced out and matched the realness of the wooden doorways.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

I first time I used real stones in my artwork was in 1995 for the picture book, Mary had a Little Lamb. I can remember sitting on the beach, sifting through the sand for small flat stones to use in the garden scene. When it came time to glue them to the background fabric, I was a nervous wreck, afraid of dropping glue in the wrong place by mistake and ruining all my work.

This time, I found more stones than sand to sift through at the beach.

Woodneck Beach, Falmouth, MA

I came home with a varied selection of stones, ranging in size from 1/2″ to 1 1/4″. They needed to be thin so they wouldn’t be too heavy and flat on the back so the glue would have a surface to adhere to.

As I played around with their arrangement, I decided to add a mossy felt section to the composition, which I embellished with silk ribbon. This ribbon is made by Silk Road Fibers.

One downside of using glue is that once you’ve cemented something in place, that’s where it stays. I’d rather have the flexibility to move parts around, so I glued stones to individual pieces of felt. That way, I could make adjustments as I built the wall. It’s a lot easier to rip out a bunch of stitches than move a glued object.
Aleene’s makes a variety of fabric embellishing adhesives that all work well. Do I use hot glue? No, because it’s stringy, messy, shoddy looking and I don’t trust its holding capabilities.

Once the stones and their felt backings were sewn in place, I covered the felt and filled in the cracks with a gazillion french knots, making a carpet of moss.

As with the moss in other parts of the Mossy Glen (that you can see here), I combined different shades of green embroidery floss to give it a naturalistic appearance.

As I stitched french knots around the stones, I realized that the mossy wall was too plain and would look better with something growing in front of it.

So, I formed a vine out of wire, silk ribbon and embroidery floss. Even though I documented the process with photos, it’s hard to remember exactly how I made it. All I know is that the silk ribbon loopy leaves came first and then I covered the wire and ribbon with embroidery floss. In my head, can hear my mother’s voice saying that the floss covered a multitude of sins.

I sewed the vine in place in the spaces between the stones.

I expanded the Mossy Glen neighborhood to include another stony bank with 2 more doorways.

This time, I glued the stones directly to the background fabric because I was more confident about their placement.

When I stitched around the stones, I left some room between the knots, so the blue green felt showed through. Again, I thought the hillside was too plain, so I stitched a few plants with silk ribbon.

As I embellished around the stones, I periodically checked the positioning of the moss covered wooden doorways, to make sure that they fit OK.

Here’s a photo showing the back of the hillside, with a green felt strip along the top edge. It’s kind of like piping without a cord filler inside.

I added the green strip along the top of the mound to create a space for blades of grass. In contrast to the myriad of greens, I used bright warm colors to stitch the grass.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on the forsythia bush, leaves, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 4 (forsythia)

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Mossy Glen: Part 2 – Cherry Trees

Flowering trees in the spring are glorious, aren’t they? Maybe we appreciate them because their showy display is so brief. In this Part 2 of the series about making Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created the cherry trees that sit atop the hillside, off in the distance.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

The pink tinted trees against the blue sky remind me of the blossoming apple trees in this book jacket illustration for my 1995 book, Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Mary Had a Little lamb 1995

Of course, apple and cherry trees are shaped differently and their flowers aren’t the same shade of pink. I also constructed them differently – the apple trees are embroidered directly onto cotton velveteen, whereas the cherry trees in Mossy Glen are made with a combination of wrapped wire and embroidery on wool felt.

I also made the cherry trees as separate objects that could be shifted around. That way, I could adjust their position according to how the surrounding parts came out. Over the years, I’ve found that keeping an open-ended playful element in my process is more and more important. The idea of following a set pattern or grid, without much wiggle room, such as in knitting, cross-stitching or weaving makes me feel trapped and constrained, without room to breath.

I formed the tree shapes with wire, using a finer gauge for the smaller branches. The loops on the ends were big enough to sew a needle and thread through.

I wrapped the branches with embroidery floss and covered the trunk with wool felt, which I embellished with vertical rows of chain stitching. This Stitch Minute video shows how I wrapped the wire and stitched the blossoms with french knots.

Stitch Minute – wire tree

This was the first time I can remember creating a tree with its own section of sky attached. Luckily, I had some pale blue felt that was almost the same shade as the cotton velveteen background sky.

After sewing the wire tree to the felt, I embroidered a few extra branches to fill in the gaps and added pink blossoms with french knots.

I made a patch of sorts, by cutting the felt around the contours of the treetop. At this point, I’d figured out where to put the trees, so it was okay to decorate the surrounding area. Watch this Stitch Minute video to see how I stitched some little bushes onto the velveteen background.

Stitch Minute – bushes

In the future, I’ll give a closer look at how I made the foliage on the hillside that’s positioned below and in front of the cherry trees.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on the stone walls, forsythia bush, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Bedtime Stitches opens in Lincoln, NE and other news

First off, I’d like to welcome the influx of new subscribers, who’ve recently discovered my work through The Quilt Show. I hope that you enjoy exploring my needle and thread universe that you don’t get too lost in the archives!
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Today’s post includes an exhibition announcement with a virtual gallery tour, a zoom interview hosted by Niisha HandCrafted from Dubai, UAE and a preview of the fall landscape in my 4 seasons series.

Southeastern New England took the brunt of last weekend’s blizzard, but miraculously we didn’t lose power. Sunday was both a gross and fine motor skills kind of day, with shoveling outside and stitching inside in front of the wood-stove. Gotta have a balance of physical exertion and fiddly handwork or weird things start to happen!

I’m working on the fall landscape (autumn for some of you) in my 4 seasons series. As you can see, this scene will have a moss-covered habitat for the wee folk that is surrounded by chain-stitched vegetation. There’s still a lot more to do, but if I can complete it by spring, this yet-to-be-named piece will join Mossy Glen and Frosty Morning in my retrospective show at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, ME this summer (June 3 – Sept. 11, 2022).

Bedtime Stitches Touring Exhibition
The International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska is hosting Bedtime Stitches through April 9, 2022. Even if you live too far away and can’t see the show in person, you can have a virtual gallery tour on their web page here.

The Bedtime Stitches exhibition is a unique opportunity for the public to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my actual hand-stitched artwork, which was photographed and printed in the book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World.

Russia

The collection of artwork takes the viewer on an international journey, showing where children sleep in varying cultures and living environments around the world. Along with the framed embroidered pieces, interpretive boards give a background peek at my process. See where the show is going for the next few years on the exhibitions page.

View the virtual gallery tour here.

Bedtime Stitches at the International Quilt Museum
Bedtime Stitches at the International Quilt Museum
Bedtime Stitches at the International Quilt Museum

Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.

Visitors to the exhibition, as well as those of you at home with a copy of My Bed, can hunt for details in the artwork using the downloadable sheet below.

And finally, I want to share a zoom interview I did with Niisha HandCrafted from Dubai, UAE, which can be seen on her Facebook page. If you’re interested in learning about my artwork, where it came from and why I do it, this interview is for you. Prompted by Niisha’s insightful questions, I blab on for over an hour about all kinds of things – how I got started and grew as an artist, what I think about “slow stitching”, as well as offer advice for people who want to build a creative life of their own.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Mossy Glen: Part 1 (moss)

Wouldn’t it be nice to step out your front door onto a mossy carpet every morning?  In this Part 1 of the series about making Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created just that for the wee folk who live there.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

I always start a project with an image in my head. In this case it included a forsythia bush overhanging a neighborhood made up of stone walls and doorways nestled into moss covered mounds. I drew a thumbnail sketch of the basic composition and printed it out in full scale using Block Posters. Over the 5 months working on Mossy Glen, I used the enlarged drawing as a general guide, not as an exact template.

Faux Moss
About 10 years ago, I fell in love with stitching moss while making my piece Rabbitat, which you can learn about in this film.

Rabbitat 2011

I can’t believe it’s taken so long to get back into embroidering moss. The simple idea of stitching multiple French knots side by side to form a naturalistic ground cover isn’t a new concept, but it reached a heightened level of obsession with Mossy Glen. It’s one of those repetitive activities that has you totally mesmerized.

Out of curiosity, I calculated that each square inch of faux moss contains an average of 144 knots, depending on the thickness of the thread, number of strands and the density of the stitches. That means that Mossy Glen is covered with several thousand knots.

If you follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram, you’ve gotten a preview of the process of making Mossy Glen. Last summer I shared photos and videos of whatever part I was working on that particular day. One constant question was, “How do you stitch on wood?” Back then, I was immersed in the act of creating and didn’t want to switch on the explaining part of my brain. Now, I’m ready to talk about it.

So, how do I stitch onto wood? It helps to think of art is an illusion, that the goal is to make the viewer perceive something in a way that suspends disbelief, like magic. The thing is, people who make stuff are super curious and aren’t satisfied until they can make sense of how something is done.

Here’s the simple rundown – 1. find interesting pieces of wood, 2. glue pieces of felt to the wood, 3. stitch onto the felt. As long as there is something to catch a needle with, you can make stitches. I usually shy away from using glue because it’s messy and unpredictable, but decided to try it for this purpose. Aleene’s glue makes a variety of fabric embellishing adhesives that all work well. Do I use hot glue? No, because it’s stringy, messy, shoddy looking and I don’t trust its holding capabilities.

French knots/Colonial knots
It’s been pointed out by people who know such things, that I’m actually making a Colonial knot, not a French knot. It has something to do with the twist at the end. Being self-taught, I’ve never paid attention to the names of different stitches or doing them the “right” way. I just use the basics in combinations that work for me. Here’s a Stitch Minute video that shows how I stitched the knots.

Stitch Minute – Moss

Thread
To make the moss, I used all kinds of thread, from silk to cotton floss, depending on what kind of look I was after. The naturalistic appearance comes from combining different shades of green in groups of 3 or 4 strands. I used these threads: DMC cotton floss, Vineyard Silks and Watercolours by Caron,

This 2 minute video gives a further glimpse into my process.

Stitching Moss with Salley Mavor

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Future parts in the series will focus on the stone walls, the cherry trees, the forsythia bush, the embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram