Ojai doorways 2011

Last week, two friends and I went on our yearly trek to a spa in Ojai, California. In addition to providing lots of exercise and healthful food, The Oaks Spa is located in a wonderfully idyllic town with photogenic little houses in the surrounding neighborhood. I found these doorways particularly appealing.  See last year’s Ojai houses here and  here.

Closeups (baskets)

I love baskets and have included all kinds in my artwork since the beginning, like this Easter basket crayon drawing from my childhood.

crayon drawing, age 7

The elephant mother in my first picture book, The Way Home (1991), needed a way to carry bananas, so I made tiny (1/2″) wire baskets, wound in embroidery floss. Read my story about the making of The Way Home here.


Here is Mary, from Mary Had a Little Lamb, holding a basket of clay strawberries. This basket is also made with thread wrapped wire, but a little bigger at 1 1/4″. Real stones are glued in the garden.


This egg basket appears in Pocketful of Posies, in the illustration for the rhyme, Higgety, pickety, my black hen. It’s made by coiling and wrapping wire with embroidery floss. You can see glimpses of the green florist wire through the thread. I can’t for the life of me remember how I did the pattern on the top and bottom.  The original is about 2 inches long and filled with 1/2 inch wooden eggs.


Also from Pocketful of Posies, Daffy Down Dilly’s 3/4″ basket is made the same way.


This detail from Jerry Hall is enlarged quite a bit, with the original basket being less than 1″.


book giveaway at Living Crafts

Jerry Hall, he is so small, from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Living Crafts blog is holding a giveaway for 2 of my books, Felt Wee Folk and Pocketful of Posies. The deadline to leave a comment is April 17th, 2011. Details are at the end of the interview, My Life My Craft: SALLEY MAVOR here.

Also, I’ve recently written a story for C&T Publishing’s blog about the symbiotic relationship between my how-to book and my children’s books here.

more Rabbitat

For the past 4 months, I’ve been working on Rabbitat, a large (24″ x 30″) fabric relief piece. It started as a simple driftwood house, then I added a rabbit topiary and over time it grew into a lush rabbit habitat. I’m not showing much yet, just peeks now and then, because I want to show it later, when it’s finished. Here are some detailed shots of some rabbit characters.

A team of local filmmakers are gathering material for a short 5 min. film (see film here) about my work and specifically this piece. You can see an earlier post about Rabbitat here.

We want to show a time-lapse of Rabbitat being put together, so filmmaker Daniel Cojanu locked the camera and tripod in place with duct tape. He took a series of photos, one for each bush, tree, rabbit, or felt background piece that I added, until it was all put together.

Here are some parts laid out and ready to be set in place for the time-lapse photo shoot. Now that we’re finished with that, I can sew everything to the stretched upholstery fabric background and Rabbitat will be complete!

We want music in the film, so I asked local musicians Jan, Tom and Lisa to play some traditional Irish and Scottish tunes. We chose bouncy, rabbit-like music for them to play. I’ve known Jan since childhood and she is incredibly talented on the recorder, pennywhistle and concertina.

Elise and Daniel recorded them in my studio and what a treat to hear them play! Making this film has been so much fun and I can’t wait to see what they put together. We’re planning on having the film ready to show this summer at the Woods Hole Public Library. They’ve been kind enough to organize a reception to celebrate my Golden Kite Award for Pocketful of Posies on July 10th, from 5 to 7pm. Original illustrations will be displayed during the event and I’ll give a short talk. I hope that some of you can come. I’ll also figure out a way for everyone to see the film online. Stay tuned!

visit to RISD illustration class

Recently, my friend Holly Berry and I have been doing projects with an illustration class at the Rhode island School of Design taught by our former teacher, Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges. Holly is a successful illustrator and printmaker who has a wonderful style (see her website here). She brought in a load of supplies for the students to mess around with. The whole point of our visits was to help bring back a sense of play to the student’s art making experience.  I’ll show what I did with the class later in this post.

Illustrator Holly Berry

Holly introduced a way of decorating paper with a paste and paint mixture. The tables were set up with work stations like a Kindergarten class.

Holly provided all kinds of tools for making patterns, including rubber combs and textured rollers.

This is a fun way to loosen up and focus on color and textures without thinking too much about the finished product. The class will later use their decorated paper in a collage assignment.

This students really seemed to love the experience of getting messy with such basic materials.

On another day, I brought in baskets of materials for the class to construct a character. There were pipe cleaners, wooden beads, wool fleece, wool felt scraps, embroidery floss and acorn caps to work with.

I gave a short demonstration on forming a basic armature for a figure, like in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. I told them that I didn’t want them to follow instructions on making a doll just like mine, but to play around and come up with their own designs.

One student bent a pipe cleaner into an animal shape and started wrapping it with wool fleece.

She then devised a way to attach an acorn cap carrier to its back.

Holly and Judy Sue’s hair looked like the fleece we were working with.

After about an hour of quiet concentration, the class made some really creative and fun characters, including this bunny rabbit. For the students, I think these hands-on projects were a welcome diversion from critiques and a reminder of why they make art.

Closeups (shoes)

JUST POSTED! Read my interview at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Blog here.

The shoes in this series of closeups are made of leather or  felt, with a wooden one at the end. Mother and Child (1983) is from my transitional period, when I was moving from sculpture in the round to a bas relief format, which I later named fabric relief sculpture.

Mother and Child, 1983

In Jumping Girl (1985), I strove to bring a sense of movement to the figure. That’s a piece of Chinese embroidery sewn onto the bottom.

Jumping Girl, 1985

This shows off the girl’s shoes from my picture book “In the Heart” (2001). The leather came with the checked pattern stamped onto it and there was barely enough to make all of her shoes in the book.

detail from “In the Heart”, 2001

Jill’s felt shoes are about 3/4″ long.

detail from “Jack and Jill”, 2006

I made this shoe for the rhyme, One, Two, buckle my shoe in Pocketful of Posies. It’s modeled after those cute mary jane style chinese shoes. While I was working on it, I noticed that my watch band had the perfect sized buckle, so I took off my watch, cut off the buckle and added it to the illustration.

detail from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

This wooden shoe sign is hanging over the cobbler’s shop in the picture for the rhyme, Cobbler, cobbler, mend my shoe, which is also in Pocketful of Posies. I used a jig saw to cut out the shoe and made the cobbler’s work apron from leather.

detail from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010