Treasures (skating gnomes)

This special group of wooden gnomes came from my husband’s family. I love unpacking them at Christmas time because they look ready to jump out of the box, like northern European versions of Mexican jumping beans. 

They seem like they are skating or nervously hopping on one leg. They’re tiny, too, about 1 1/2 inches tall.

book signing at the Danforth

I met some really nice people at the book signing last Sunday at the Danforth Museum. There were 2 women from Utah, here in Boston on a business trip, who made the trek out to Framingham. I met another pair of women who have followed my work for years. One invited the other on a “surprise outing” and they ended up at my show! The children’s librarian from Framingham Public Library brought some wonderful dolls that she made using my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. One doll looked like a “little maid from school” in the Mikado. In the photo below, I’m signing a copy of Pocketful of Posies for Horn Book editor Martha Parravano (seated), whom I was delighted to meet for the first time.

Margaret Raymo, my editor at Houghton Mifflin came, too! This was the first time we’ve seen each other since “Posies” came out. We’ve been working on this book for 5 years, so it was great to celebrate together. I am grateful to Margaret for doing the opposite of micro-managing and trusting me fully. Margaret always said, “take as long as you need” and didn’t balk when told her I couldn’t finished the illustrations in time to make the original pub date of 2009.

Salley with Houghton Mifflin editor Margaret Raymo

The Danforth had art activities set up for children that day, including this fabric and found object collage workshop.

art day activities at the Danforth

I gave a short gallery talk about the artwork, explaining the process of illustrating a book and telling about how I made the pictures.

Children and their parents did a scavenger hunt for different animals and objects in the illustrations. They looked closely at the artwork and searched around and around the gallery, holding miniature magnifying glasses.

The exhibit will be on display in the children’s gallery at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA until January 23rd, 2011. The Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit will tour for 3 years.

Close-ups (couples)

News Flash! My interview with Jules at the Seven Impossible Things blog was posted today. Just a warning though– there are tons, I mean tons of pictures in the article!

This series of couples begins with a detail from Vineyard Family, which I made in 1985. During the 80’s I experimented with flattened dolls on embellished backgrounds and came up with the term fabric relief to describe what I was making. See other details from this scene here and here.


These gingerbread cookies are appliqued and embroidered on a wool felt balsam pillow. This project is in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.


And the dish ran away with the spoon in my board book version of Hey, Diddle, Diddle!  The dish is formed out of polymer play and cut with a scalloped edged biscuit cutter. The silver spoon is beat up and old, but he strikes the dish’s fancy.



This detail is from my 2007 piece, Self Portrait: a personal history of fashion. My husband, Rob joins me for the year we were married (1981) in the spiral of 52 dolls, which age from birth to 52. I made our full size wedding outfits in 1981, too. See a post about the Self Portrait here.


This detail from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes shows the last part of the Jack and Jill rhyme when a wounded Jack “went to bed to mend his head with vinegar and brown paper”.


Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive here.

Treasures: 1920’s flapper doll

Among the treasures my mother left me are some well-worn porcelain “flapper dolls”. She was born in 1925, so she must have played with them in the late 1920’s.

my mother, Mary Hartwell (Mavor), age 4

I can imagine my mother’s little girl hands grasping this doll, moving its arms up and down, and dressing and redressing its solid body until the paint wore off.

1920's flapper doll, 3" tall

Even these broken doll parts were saved for me to find 75 years after their useful toy life was over. They are in reserve, ready to contribute to some future piece of art. I cannot tell when or if a leg or arm section will ever be the “right” object to add and have to be careful not to let sentimentality guide my decisions.

porcelain doll parts

For now, it’s enough to have and enjoy my mother’s childhood treasures.

“Posies” makes Horn Book Fanfare!

OK, it’s time for celebration! I just got word that my new book, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes has been put on the highly respected Horn Book Magazine’s Fanfare list of best children’s books of 2010. Martha Parravano, The Horn Book’s executive editor, said in an interview with 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast  that my book “features scene after stunning scene created in embroidery – which sounds quite static, and yet the pictures are not only gorgeous but also full of life and movement and story.” I love this description because my main focus was to bring as much life and movement into this book as possible, given the limitations of the technique.

Posies has also been given a Platinum Best Book Award by the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio.  Their web site says, “The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio is the only independent consumer review of children’s media.”  Apparently the Oppenheims talk about children’s toys and books on programs like the Today Show, but living in a cocoon without TV for most of my adult life, I hadn’t heard of them. There is something special and symbolic about a seal. Maybe this isn’t a big deal, but I thought it was nice that such a mainstream group would even notice my book. Yeah!

Jumping Joan (detail from "Pocketful of Posies")

Shoo fly don't bother me from "Pocketful of Posies"

Reminder: Original illustration from Pocketful of Posies are on display in the children’s gallery at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, Mass. until Jan. 23rd, 2011. I will be giving a short talk about my work at 2:00pm at the museum on Sunday, Dec. 5th and signing copies of my book from 1:30-3:30.

detail from "Pocketful of Posies"

Inspiration: Molas

detail of fish mola

Molas are made by the Kuna women from the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. The geometric designs originated with body painting, then later the patterns were woven in cotton. About 150 years ago, the designs started being sewn using cloth bought from the European settlers of Panama.

Rabbit and Rooster with Umbrella Mola

detail of rooster with umbrella Mola

The Kuna women hand-sew mola panels for their blouses, using the technique of reverse appliqué. Here are some molas from my mother’s collection, which are more pictorial than some. The rooster holding an umbrella under his wing is quite an image!  I like the way each picture is built up with lines of color, using layer upon layer of contrasting cloth, to make such dynamic works of art.  

Detail of Rabbit Mola

Fish Mola

Detail of Fish Mola

Detail of Fish Mola