create your own wee world

Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures (2015)

One of the most rewarding parts of writing my book, Felt Wee Folk is hearing from fans who’ve wholeheartedly thrown themselves into the wee world. They don’t just make dolls using the patterns and directions from the book. They lovingly create characters who act out narratives in a very personal way. When the first edition of the book came out almost 18 years ago, I hoped that once people became comfortable with the process, they would start incorporating their own ideas. And I’m happy to say that this has happened! Today, I will share words and photos from two people who’ve been inspired by the book. One is a college student and the other is recently retired.

Mary R. Black is an 18-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan who wrote to say how much enjoyment she has gotten out of making the dolls from the book. She and her sister have been immersed in the wee world for a long time and it was an important part of their childhood. I just love Mary’s unabashed enthusiasm! (At her age, I was still hiding my penchant for dolls and miniatures.) She says, “I also make fairies, but when I started to see how you made normal dolls, I made dolls for my dollhouse too! They are in some ways more fun to make than fairies because of their variety and accessories, don’t you think?”

Mary goes on to say, “I also have started a little fun project at my college by setting up a fairy house at the base of a tree. I have received so many comments on how it brightens up people’s day, which is exactly what I wanted! But one day, to my surprise and extreme pleasure, I found a little gnome store on the other side of the tree!! I was so excited that my project inspired others to be creative too.”

She wrote back to update me with the news that her little character, Aspen had gotten engaged and married to Cypress. By the way, it looks like the happy couple’s hats are acorn caps from a Burr Oak tree.

Thank you Mary Black, for bringing your delightful imaginings to life and sharing them with your friends and us!

I’d also like to show you what Jane Walster from Chehalis, Washington has been doing in her first year of retirement. She writes, “I have been combining your lovely wee folk designs with additional ideas from Karina Schaapman’s Mouse Mansions.” Look at this comfy rustic living room she’s created for her dolls!

If you haven’t seen Karina’s books, you should check them out. And if you’re in Amsterdam, go visit The Mouse Mansion shop and studio, where you can see all of her amazing scenes on display. Friends have told me that seeing them in person is a wonderful experience.

Jean also sent a photo of her version of the Harvest Folk scene in Felt Wee Folk.

I like how the sheep came out, which I assume are based on the one she saw in a post earlier this year (shown left). It’s an animal icon from my upcoming picture book, My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. You can see the post about making the sheep here.

She writes, “Liberty and Justice is such a brave and creative way to share your artistic talent. I love how you combined the personal and political with a big dose of humor. Your work fills me with hope that as I hone my skills, I will discover my own unique artistic style.”
Thank you for sharing your wee world, Jean!

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Behind the Glass – part 2

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

In this second post in the series Behind the Glass, I’ll show close-up photos of a double page spread reproduced in Hey Diddle, Diddle! (2005) and 2 illustrations from You and Me: Poems of Friendship (1997). You can see part 1 in the series here. These loaned pieces were temporarily removed from their frames in preparation for my upcoming exhibition, making it possible to get up close and take photos from different angles. I’m enjoying seeing the characters again and remembering making them all those years ago.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

The retrospective exhibition, Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Thread will be at the Cape Cod Museum of Art Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 16, 2020. It will include original illustrations from my picture books, from the first (The Way Home,1991) to the latest (Pocketful of Posies 2010).  Between the borrowed ones and others that I’ve kept, there will be lots of original pieces on display, with a dozen titles represented. This show will be an opportunity for visitors to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person and also view pieces from private collections that are rarely shown in public.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

Yes, that’s a real silver spoon, a tiny one meant to go with a salt seller. The plate was cut out of Fimo clay with a cookie cutter. After hardening it in the oven, I painted the face and dish pattern.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005
Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

The next set of images show closeups of 2 spreads from You and Me: Poems of Friendship (1997). One illustrates the poem Sidewalks, which describes different ways of showing oneself and interacting on a public sidewalk.

Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997

The last piece in this post is from the poem Snow. I hadn’t seen it for over 20 years and was happy to take it out of its frame and get up close with a camera. The owner seemed reluctant to part with it for a few months, but the timing ended up being convenient for her, since she’s selling her house and moving into a new place. I told her that it would be returned in better shape with sparkling clean glass.

SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997

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Behind the Glass – part 1

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An original embroidered illustration from “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in a private collection.

This is the first post in a series that will show what my artwork looks like Behind the Glass. I’ve had to accept that UV glass is a necessary barrier that protects my embroidery from dust, bugs, light, and probing fingers. But, since these loaned pieces were temporarily removed from their frames in preparation for my upcoming exhibition, I was able to get up close to take photos from different angles.

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

For the past few weeks, I’ve been gathering my embroidered artwork from local collectors who are generously loaning their pieces for my upcoming exhibition, Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Thread at the Cape Cod Museum of Art (Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 16, 2020). The retrospective exhibition will include original illustrations from my picture books, from the first (The Way Home,1991) to the latest (Pocketful of Posies, 2010).  Between the borrowed ones and others that I’ve kept, there will be lots of original pieces on display, with a dozen titles represented. This show will be an opportunity for visitors to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person and also view pieces from private collections that are rarely shown in public.

Close-up photos of illustrations for my first 3 books are shown in this post: The Way Home (1991), Come to My Party (1993) and Mary Had a Little lamb (1995).

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Luckily, many of the collectors who bought pieces in the early days live nearby, so it’s fairly easy to round up enough work to display. At this point, I should have 4 spreads from Mary Had a Little Lamb, the most that have been together for over 20 years.

People ask how I can sell my originals, because of the amount of work that goes into them. The simple answer is – it’s not hard to let them go. For me the joy comes from making more than having. It’s good to spread them around! There are practical considerations as well. Selling originals is how I’m paid for my work, since book royalties aren’t much. I also need to clear space to fill with new art, both physically and mentally. That said, I’ve kept pieces that have a special meaning and I’m holding onto some of my newer pieces, so that they are available to exhibit. The original illustrations for my upcoming picture book, My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World will eventually be offered for sale, after the touring exhibition, Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches.

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

Judy Richardson loaned me her 2 pieces, one from each of the 2 books she wrote and I illustrated: The Way Home and Come to My Party. Read the series of posts about our adventures in children’s book publishing here.

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The Way Home

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Come to My Party

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The Way Home

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Studio goings-on

After being almost exclusively in making-mode for the past few years, I now wake up every morning with a different agenda. Besides paying attention to my husband Rob and having lunch with friends, I’m photographing my work, organizing exhibitions, and preparing lectures. Making art is one thing, but if you want to share it with the world, you have to figure out ways get it out there. It’s a different creative exercise that not all artists can or want to take on. Although I would rather be stitching right now, I know that doing the promotional part is worth it down the road.

Before showing what’s happening in my studio, I’d first like to invite those of you in the Boston area to an Artist Talk I’ll be giving in Watertown, MA. It’ll be at the Quilters’ Connection, on Thursday, October 24, 2019 at 7:00 PM at St. James Armenian Church, 465 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown, MA. $10.00 guest fee for non Quilters’ Connection members.

I will share the joys and challenges of making art that ranges from precious to poignant to provocative, as well as explain where this doll-infested needle and thread universe comes from. I’ll also bring along some original pieces, including Birds of Beebe Woods (pictured left) and books to sell. I look forward to meeting you!

Over the past few weeks, Rob and I have been photographing a lot of older artwork. My pieces are displayed in cherry wood shadow-box frames that Rob makes. Glass protects the bas-relief embroidery from dust, bugs and curious fingers.

The process includes removing each piece from its frame, taking its picture and then putting it back in the frame. So, why didn’t we take photos before framing them behind glass? It’s a long story involving deadlines, a broken wrist, and consequently being behind schedule. So, here we are, doing the job years later. Many of these pieces will be part of a solo exhibition this coming winter at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.

The family-friendly exhibition, SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch, will feature a wide selection of original embroidered artwork from my 25 year career illustrating children’s books. You can see them here. Several pieces will be on loan from private collections. These are rarely seen by anyone other than the owner’s friends and family. This is a unique opportunity to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person.
SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch
Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 26, 2020
Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA
Opening Reception: Friday, Dec. 13 – 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm ~ Artist Galley Talk at 4:00 pm

To photograph the art, we set up the equipment in the spare room, with a light box to minimize harsh shadows. The room’s sky light affected the light balance, so we covered it with another defuser. The camera was propped up on a tripod, facing straight down. To counteract the weight of the heavy camera lens, we hung a bag of stones at the other end of the extension pole. When I asked why the camera had to be so far above the art, Rob told me that the long 100 mm focal lens maintains the correct perspective. I’m glad that he understands this stuff!

For closeup shots, we lowered the camera.

The closeup photos will be used for a treasure hunt for kids (and adults) that I’m putting together for the Once Upon a Thread exhibition.

An advantage of taking high resolution close-up is that the photo quality isn’t lost when they are blown up big. For the exhibition, I’m playing with scale by juxtaposing extra large details with my miniature artwork.

This week, we had a storm and the power was off for 3 days. So, instead of working at the computer, I settled in near a window and stitched, like a character in a Jane Austen novel. Although I’m glad to have electricity back, so that I can write and publish this post, I’m missing the simple pleasure of making things by hand by the light of the sun. That and a cup of tea is my idea of heaven!

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baby banner for Xavier

Since delivering the artwork for my upcoming book, My Bed to the publisher, I’ve had time to catch up on overdue gifts. Like this baby banner for Xavier, the newest member of a family of dear friends. He is now a toddler, and I hope the banner is something he won’t ever outgrow.

I make banners for friends and family that commemorate special events like weddings and births. You can see others I’ve made by scrolling through the archives here. They all feature 2 of my favorite things; embroidery and handwriting. When I form letters in wire, I think back to that day in 3rd grade in the Woods Hole School, when Mrs. Cleveland called each student up to her desk, one at a time, to show us how to write out our names in cursive handwriting. I was transfixed, watching her make a line of loops and bumps that magically spelled my name, without lifting her pencil off the paper.

I use floral wire to make the letters, because it’s covered with green thread that provides a non-slippery surface to wrap embroidery floss on top of.

I usually use variegated floss to wrap the wire, which can look like stripes on the 2nd pass. The wire ends are bent over and wrapped, so that no raw ends are hanging out. It’s similar to the technique I use to make doll limbs in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk.

Out of my stash, I selected bone beads to make a decorative separator between the names and birth date.

And what better than a bead to dot the i.

A little chain stitch never hurt, either.

Writing out the letters in wire sometimes follows a different path than actual handwriting, especially for b’s.

Over the years, I’ve adapted my handwriting on paper as well as wire to a personal style that’s part cursive and part block letters.

I went through my collection of driftwood, picked out a bumpy piece, and cut it to the right length with a saw.

Many years ago, I bought these beach stones with drilled holes. I use them sparingly on special projects.

This shows how I sew the wrapped lettering to the felt banner piece.

For a hanging cord, I braided pima cotton made by Caron.

I have lots of Wee Folk Studio labels left over from when I made felt purse kits, so I sewed one to the back of the banner.

I attached the cord to the wood bar with knots and stitched it to the banner at the top corners.

This banner will soon hang on Xavier’s bedroom door. Welcome to the world little Xavy and congratulations to his parents, Mark and Cal!

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Self Portrait poster is back

I am happy to announce that a newly designed poster of Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion is available in my Etsy Shop. When the first edition sold out a few years ago, I thought that would be it. But, this piece continues to resonate with a lot of people and I regularly receive requests to reprint the poster. So, here it is, back by popular demand!

Self Portrait – 18″ x 24″ Poster

The 18″ x 24″ high quality reproduction is off-set printed on extra thick gloss cover 100 lb. paper. The poster will be rolled and shipped in a heavy duty mailing tube. As with most items in my shop, shipping is FREE within the United States.

Salley with her Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion in the Woods Hole Public Library

Here I am in 2007 at the Woods Hole Public Library, where the framed original bas-relief embroidered sculpture is on semi-permanent display. The Self Portrait is a time-line of my life from birth to age 52, with a spiral of dolls dressed in outfits I would have worn each year. When choosing the fashions, I relied on family photographs and personal recollections. Since the clothes are so tiny (the dolls range from 1″ to 3″), I had to embroider felt or find fabrics with prints that fit their small scale.

As well as clothing memories, we all have a personal soundtrack that goes with different times in our lives. This video is a nostalgic tour through fashion and music that my husband Rob and I put together. At the end, there’s a list of the music.

 

I’m glad to once again offer the Self Portrait in the poster section of my Etsy Shop. These affordable reproductions are the next best thing to seeing the original embroidered pieces. A customer just wrote a 5 star review about the Birds of Beebe Woods poster, saying “Absolutely excellent photo quality. Love it!”


For those of you in the Boston area, I will be speaking in Watertown in October. This event is open to the public, with a $10.00 guest fee for non-members of the Quilters’ Connection. I hope to meet you there!

  • Salley Mavor will give a lecture about her art at Quilters’ Connection
  • Date: Thursday, October 24, 2019
  • Location: St. James Armenian Church, 465 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown, MA
  • Time: Doors open at 6:00 PM, meeting starts at 7:00 PM.
  • $10.00 guest fee for non Quilters’ Connection members

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

shifting focus

This past summer, I emerged from an intense 3 year stitching marathon just in time to put in a garden. The plot had laid fallow for a few years, while I grew art instead. I was so happy to dig in the dirt again! Maybe it was good to rest the soil for a while because I don’t remember it producing such a generous bounty before!

I also made the switch from total making mode to marketing mode, where I let the world know that my art exists. This internal/external dynamic isn’t new for me and I actually like both parts, but I find that it requires a major shift in mindset. Sure, I can write blog posts periodically and fill orders from my Etsy Shop while also being immersed in creating artwork, but some “public relations” tasks use a different part of my brain and call for all of my attention. And my approach is careful and methodical, just like my stitching, so it takes a lot of time and effort!

Making art is so much easier than writing about it, so I have to set aside time to concentrate on giving interviews, setting up future exhibitions and generally promoting my work. I try to think of these activities as creative undertakings, too. They can be crafted and honed into something that reflects who I am and what I think. It just feels more like work than making art does. Here are a couple of results:

  • Interview with Create Whimsy, which you can see here. I describe my journey as an artist and share thoughts about the challenges of making art in the face of long standing attitudes that needlework is just a woman’s hobby, with lots of accompanying photos.
  • Guest writer on C&T Publishing‘s blog, which you can see here. In addition to announcing C&T’s new Felt Wee Folk playing cards, I introduce my traveling companion, Polly Doll to a whole different audience.

I’ve mainly concentrated on writing and sending out proposals for the upcoming touring exhibition, Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stories, which will be shown in museums around the country for several years. The exhibition will be a unique opportunity to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of the original sculptural embroideries from my next picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World (Houghton Mifflin, Sept. 2020). To find out more about the exhibition and to see the schedule, visit this page. New locations will be added as they are confirmed.

The switch from one mindset to the other didn’t happen all at once. Between the Bed Book project and the escapades of the Wee Folk Players, I’ve been in making mode for more than 3 years straight. When the book’s illustrations were delivered to the publisher, I started the transition by paying more attention to my husband Rob and cleaning my studio.

Besides putting all the materials away in boxes and baskets, I completely cleared my nature and ephemera table, dusting and washing each object before returning it to it’s place among the other treasures. I took some delight in thinking of how horrified Maria Kondo would be by my cluttered aesthetic sense! I know that she says, “Keep what gives you joy.”, but it all gives me joy!

I also reorganized some things I made long ago – these pins, for example. You can read their story here.

The other day, this 40 year old cat pin was spied out in public. I didn’t keep many of these, so it’s nice to capture them in photos whenever possible.

I’ve also had time to meet other artists like Jodi Colella, who was in the area for her exhibition at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA, which is on display until Oct. 31, 2019. Jodi is an innovative mixed media artist who uses many different methods and materials in her work. Her beautifully evocative Unidentified Woman series is part of the 3 person show, Look This Way. She uses a process where she crops and enlarges old tintype photographs, then prints them on aluminum and embellishes with needle and thread. We had a great time chatting in my studio about making art with a clear vision that pushes the boundaries of needlework. We could have talked for a long time and I hope that we can get together in the future!

Soon, I will get back into making mode, threading my needle and diving into a new project. I’m not exactly sure what it will be, but several ideas are swirling around in my head.

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