new page added-FAQ

Salley finishing “Rabbitat”, May 2011

The same questions keep coming up about my work,  so I’m adding a page of Frequently Asked Questions. Things like, “Do you use a sewing machine?”or “Will you write another how-to book?” or “May I make and sell dolls from your book, Felt Wee Folk?” I’ve already written about most of the issues on this blog, but I can’t expect everyone to spend hours combing through all 233 posts.

See the FAQ page here.

weekend in Muscatine, Iowa

I spent the weekend in Muscatine, Iowa, giving a doll making workshop and attending the reception for the Pocketful of Posies Exhibit at the Muscatine Art Center.

The 50 original fabric relief  illustrations fit perfectly in the museum’s modern exhibit space, which is an addition built onto an old mansion. The lighting was so well done that it looked as if there was no glass protecting the artwork. Thank you to Katy, Barb and to the other staff at the museum who made the show look so good! My artwork will be on display until June 19th.

In Saturday’s workshop, we spent all day wrapping pipe cleaners and sewing little felt clothes for our dolls.

Everyone made at least 2 figures, with fairies being the most popular.

In the past, I’ve learned that my students get stressed over painting the faces, so I brought bead heads that I had painted ahead. That way we had more time to sew. 

This well dressed little guy is being fitted with shoes. We had a great time working and chatting together. Marcella found out about the workshop on this blog and drove all the way from Wisconsin to make dolls with us! Sorry, but there are no more workshops planned.

At the reception on Sunday, I met Elaine and her 2 daughters, who came the longest distance–from Texas! She saw on this blog that the Iowa location was probably going to be the closest to her, so she planned a trip around coming here. This home schooling, children’s book loving family also toured several  Little House on the Prairie sites in the midwest, including ones in Wisconsin and S. Dakota. Impressive!

Closeups (barns)

Houses are my favorites, but I also love to add barns my scenes. This first one is a detail from Picking Peas, which I made in 1986. I  used the sewing machine to applique the door and window, but hand embroidered leaves along the ribbon tree branches. See the full fabric relief picture on this post.

detail from "Picking Peas" 1986

These barns are on the title page of the first edition of Mary Had a Little Lamb from 1995. At this point, I sewed everything by hand and no longer used a sewing machine. The “snow” is an old linen table-cloth.

detail from "Mary Had a Little Lamb" 1995

Jump ahead 9 years to this illustration from the 2006 board book, Jack and Jill. I’m using wool felt, so the look is softer and more fuzzy.

detail from “Jack and Jill” 2006

The last two barns are from Pocketful of PosiesThe roof is a piece of bark and the door is driftwood.

detail from "Pocketful of Posies" 2010

This barn from the Mary Had a Little Lamb rhyme makes use of hook and eye parts. The lamb is about 1/2″ long.

detail from Pocketful of Posies" 2010

Rabbitat – part 1 (driftwood house)

After working all winter long, I’ve finally finished Rabbitat! It’s large, compared to my book illustrations, measuring 24″ x 30″ , with a depth of 1 1/2″. I’m waiting for professional photographs of the finished piece, so for now I’ll just show pictures I’ve taken during the process. It’s got lots of parts, which I’ll be showing in several posts. This piece was unlike my book illustrations, which have to meet size and subject specifications and are planned out ahead. I let this project evolve by itself and just followed where it led.

To start, here are some drawings from my sketch book. My first ideas include a vine-covered house, which could be a topiary. A bunny showed up, too.

Then, the house became a structure made of driftwood pieces, with a rabbit topiary outside. I didn’t know who’d be living inside yet.

I combed through all of my driftwood and selected pieces which I could see as a roof and side beams and a doorway.

And carved them in spots, so that they fit together and lay down as flat as possible. I don’t know how the little chair appeared in this picture. Some of you may recognize it from another scene–the Driftwood Clan in my book, Felt Wee Folk.

I drilled holes at the joints and glued wire pins into the holes. That way the parts are held together, but the wire joints keeps the structure flexible. I don’t know if this description is clear, but I essentially use wire in place of dowel pins because I don’t want the joints to break while I’m manipulating and working on the house. I’m always adjusting things until the last-minute, so the joints need to be somewhat bendable.

I decorated the house walls with an embroidered chain-stitched vine pattern on felt. The green mossy patches have lots and lots of french knots.

At this point, I’d decided that rabbits live in the house, so I made a father and son to sit on the bench outside.

I told my husband Rob that I was making a habitat for rabbits and he immediately said, “Oh, it’s a Rabbitat!”

Continued at Rabbitat – part 2 (topiary)

See the Rabbitat film here.

See all of the Rabbitat posts here.

Berry Family dolls

I brought the Berry Family outside for an airing. They’re a bit moth-eaten–a downside to working with wool. For the last couple of winters, I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing all of my felt and felt clothed dolls outside when the temperature dips below freezing, hoping to kill any moths.

I made the mother, father (4″ tall) and baby members of the Berry Family in 2005, as a Ltd. edition of 25. They are based on the patterns from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.  All of my Ltd. edition dolls are currently sold out and I won’t be making any more.

The Berry Family, Ltd. edition 2005

doll making supplies sent off

I sent a box of doll making supplies to Iowa today. Instead of worrying about losing my luggage during the flight changes and being without the necessary workshop materials, I decided to mail them instead.

I can easily replace missing clothes, but I wouldn’t be able to buy these materials at short notice, especially my precious plant dyed wool felt. There’s pipe cleaners, embroidery floss, wool fleece and acorn caps, too. Everything you’ll need to make the little dolls from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

I’ll be using these supplies in a doll making workshop on Saturday, May 21st at the Muscatine Art Center in Muscatine, Iowa. Please contact the center if you’d like to come. I’ve already painted some doll heads, so we can spend as much time as possible constructing the figures and sewing their clothes. I’ll take pictures of our creations and show them to you!

SCBWI summer conference

I’ve heard from some people who want to know if I’ll be attending the summer conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, so I thought I’d better write and announce that, yes, I’ll be there! When SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver called to tell me that Pocketful of Posies had won the Golden Kite award for illustration, she invited me to come out to LA for the awards ceremony. She also asked if I’d give a workshop at the conference, so I agreed to both.

detail from "Pocketful of Posies" 2010

The event is held in Los Angeles, California, August 5 th, 6th and 7th. I’ve never been to one of the large SCBWI conferences, just the small regional New England ones. The summer (in LA) and winter (in NY) conferences are large affairs, with tons of workshops, talks and portfolio reviews given by editors, art directors, agents, writers and illustrators in the children’s book field. I tell anyone who’s serious about writing or illustrating for children to become a member and attend these conferences. This is the place for wannabes and published authors to mingle and network, as well as get a realistic idea of what’s involved in creating children’s books in today’s market.

I’m not sure when I’ll be arriving in LA, but I know I will be there on Sunday, Aug, 7th to give a workshop, The Joys and Challenges of Dimensional Illustration, from 10:45 – 11:45 am. Then I’ll be giving my acceptance speech at the 2011 Golden Kite Awards Luncheon. Later, from 5:15 – 7pm, I’ll be signing books with the rest of the faculty. It would be great to see some blog followers that day! To find out about the conference and see the whole schedule of events, go here. You can also read an interview I did on SCBWI’s blog here.