The Way Home (part 4)

 Continued from The Way Home (part 3)

I added the little bird character late in the design phase. Savi seemed so alone on the beach after her mother leaves and I thought she needed an escort of sorts. Cecelia Yung, the art director, liked the addition and wrote, “About the bird: maybe he can be her “guardian angel”-someone who hovers protectively so that she’s never truly alone. He would be a comforting presence for the child who worries when Savi is alone in the dark. Maybe he can make his appearance when Savi’s mother leaves?”

sketches of birds for “The Way Home”

The Way Home, page 18

A few months before the artwork was due, I faced the inevitable and admitted that I would not be able to make the one year deadline. I called Cecilia and told her that I needed more time. She was understanding enough to extend the publication date another 6 months.

The Way Home, page 20

 Through the fall and winter, I added the finishing touches, stitching blades of grass and hand sewing the floss edge around the border sections.

sketch of pages 16/17

The Way Home, pages 16/17

I was particularly fussy about the shadows, which were made up of different colored stitches. I kept thinking of something my teacher, Mahler Ryder had said years earlier at RISD, that shadows are not black, but are made up of colors.

The Way Home, pages 16/17 detail

I was saving the book jacket illustration for last and imagined how it would look while I stitched the other pages. I took a mental inventory of what materials would be needed and was shocked to discover I’d forgotten about the sky fabric. I had used every last inch of Peter’s overalls on the inside artwork. I had none left for the cover illustration, the most important of all! This was a drawback of working with unconventional materials. If I worked in watercolor, this would never happen!

sketch of cover illustration for “The Way Home”

I had dealt with insufficient supplies before. I would have to find something similar, but the weave and shade were unique to an older line of Osh Gosh clothing. before I could work myself into a tizzy, the same fabric literally walked into view.

Molly’s pants back

My friend, Terry came over with her 2-year old daughter, Molly, who was wearing a pair of jeans made out of the same light blue fabric! Terry is a seamstress and fabric lover, so she was not at all surprised when I asked her if I could have Molly’s pants when she outgrew them, which appeared to be imminent. I’ve kept the pants and when I hold them up at talks, they always get a reaction from both young and old audiences.

in my studio finishing the illustrations for “The Way Home”

The extra 6 months made it possible for me to finish by the new  deadline in the Spring of ’90. I packed up the illustrations and shipped them to New York. After the editors at MacMillan had a chance to look them over, Cecilia drove the artwork over to Gamma One in the city. Gamma One has a “painting with light” system that works well for textured work. During the minutes-long exposure time, light moves slowly back and forth, helping to define the dimensionality of the art. The 8 x 10 color transparencies were then color corrected to match my original art.

The Way Home, page 32

Cecilia suggested we put an explanation of my technique on the last page.

It reads,

“The original pictures for this book were made in fabric relief. This art form includes many techniques, including applique, embroidery, wrapping, dyeing, and soft sculpture. The background fabric was dyed and then sewed together. Three-dimensional pieces were made from a variety of materials, including covered and stuffed cardboard shapes, wrapped wire, found objects, and fabric. Details were embroidered onto the shapes and background and then the three-dimensional shapes were sewn into place. All stitching was done by hand.”

To be continued in The Way Home (part 5). 

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14 thoughts on “The Way Home (part 4)

  1. Hi Salley, I absolutely love your posts! Wish they would reprint THE WAY HOME! What a treat it is to see your early artwork and your process. Your life and art seem to be magical! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this–

  2. I’m really enjoying your story of how the book came together. It’s so interesting about the special photography for texture…I always marvel at the detail you can see on your fabric art.

  3. When I was preparing my portfolio to get into art school, I included several fashion illustrations along with attached swatches of fabric.
    Most of the swatches were obtained by carefully snipping a postage stamp size fabric sample from the inside hems of some of my and my unsuspecting sister’sdresses and skirts hanging in our shared closet. 😉
    (I think the statute of limitations must have passed by now, if my sisterwants to bring charges)

    Enjoying your ongoing tale of this book.

  4. I am finding your story of The Way Home’s creation truly fascinating! I truly enjoy your fabric art (being a fiber person with similar skills, I appreciate the work, time and love that went into every picture:). I have also written books (nonfiction – using a computer and sewing my samples/illustrations) and am amazed at how gentle and supportive your editor was — what a wonderful situation for an artist to fall into! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    🙂 Linda

  5. That was really fortunate that the pants came visiting. It could have been quite troublesome to find a good match. (Those Osh Kosh clothes were so nice back then–sturdy!)

    Remember buying The Way Home for a birthday gift and not wanting to give it away. After reading your story, it has even more meaning now. I will be sad to see the story of The Way home end. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  6. Salley – your comment about shadows found a ‘home’ with me. A watercolor instructor once told me the same thing and I have never seen a shadow the same way since. I would love to see the book – but cannot even imagine the hours of enjoyment there would be to actually see each original page. Great posts!

  7. Dear Salley,
    Thanks for writing me and alerting me to your blog–I had forgotten to stop by here—it’s been a long time! I’ve throughly enjoyed myself this morning combing through all your entries. I’m especially impressed at how you’ve documented your process along the way by looking back and reflecting on how you got to where you are now. So great that you saved all these things to show us. It’s like reading a book!
    I feel pretty good that I own a piece of original artwork from one of your books as well as the Christmas Pillow!!!
    So Sorry to hear about your hand–wow! Hope all heals well in a short time. We need you back stitching away!
    I’m about to start working on a new book myself for publication in 2012–finally got back in the saddle after seven long years!
    So interesting to hear your stories about publishers, and RISD adventures! I can relate!
    Take care and I’ll be sure to stop by again! It’s good reading here!

  8. I have LOVED reading these posts! Your illustrations are so magical and to see and read about the process has been so fascinating.I gave a copy of” Mary had a Little Lamb “to a young friend expecting her first baby recently and she was every bit as enchanted I’ve been by your work. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  9. I think you should write a book about writing a book ! What an amazing process. As a book lover I don’t know that I have put alot of thought into what happens BEFORE the book is in my hands. This series is an awesome bit of insite !!! Kids and all : ). Yet another great read !!! Have a Great Friday , Patty

  10. I, too, enjoyed the addition of the little bird and the ideas behind that addition. While the emotional appeal is strong, there’s also the design element that beckons the young reader’s eye to “treasure hunt” for the little bird throughout the various illustrations.

    I don’t have near the level of skills needed for such a project, either in sewing or composition/design, but I’ve often thought it would be fun to do a children’s book about a flock of guinea fowl. They come with built-in polka dots, so fabric collage would be the perfect medium!

  11. Wonderful series of posts… people have no idea how involved it is to illustrate a book. Of course, using fabric adds another whole level of complexity. Not many books have been illustrated with fabric.

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