Horn Book Cover

This is an edited and republished version of a post that was first written in 2012.

The Jan/Feb 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine is out, with my illustration on the cover. This issue has many wonderful articles and book reviews, including the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award speeches, which were delivered at the colloquium on Sept. 30th, 2011. As an award recipient for Pocketful of Posies, I had the honor of illustrating a cover for the magazine. You can find out more about my award here.

Read on to see the process of making the cover illustration, which I worked on for about 6 weeks this past summer. The original size of the scene is about 12″ wide and 18″ high. I first found a twisted vine to use as the central tree and made a sketch with the Horn Book logo and child characters. I then drilled holes on the vine where wire branches would go.  

To form the branches, I covered wire with felt and embroidered them to match the real vine/tree trunk. This coiled branch has thread-wrapped wire thorns attached.

The Horn Book logo was rendered in wire branches and found objects. For one of the O’s, I sawed the back of a walnut-shell, so that it would lay flat and not stick out too much.  The O in the word Horn is a nest-like acorn cap from an oak tree in Iowa and the B’s spiky acorn caps are from northern California.

For the background, a solid color looked too plain, so I stitched together scraps of naturally dyed wool felt to make a more interesting field for the action.

I made a little fairy to fit in the walnut-shell.

I didn’t want the characters to be animals, but children dressed in animal costumes. So, I made every effort to make them look like children by giving them bangs, ponytails, hands and shoes. These figures are made with similar techniques found in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

During the process, I changed some of the characters in the original sketch and substituted a boy in a dinosaur costume pulling an acorn cap wheeled wagon full of books.

I printed out the words on acetate, so that I’d be sure to leave enough room at the bottom edge. I then embroidered plants and leaves to the felt background.

This little child/mouse is getting red shoes.

The Horn Book staff suggested I include a reading child, so I made a felt book for the face-painted mouse.

All of the parts piled up as I worked. It’s a miracle nothing got lost!

It was really fun thinking up costumes to make for these kids. I wanted to create a scene of children immersed in imaginary play and story.

I added a sun to the upper left corner and embroidered a wavy chain-stitched border. Then, I sewed the felt background to a sheet of foam core board, pulling it flat and straight.

Then, I stitched the tree, characters and other props in place, right through the foam core board. After everything was in place, I took it to the photographer, so he could take its picture. After that, I removed it from the foam core board and remounted the felt background and all of the parts on a cloth-covered stretcher. It is now framed behind glass and was recently bought by a collector. It was a joy to work on this project with Lolly Robinson at the Horn Book Magazine! Having my illustration on the cover will be a great opportunity for many people to discover my work for the first time.

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Here I am with Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book.

116 thoughts on “Horn Book Cover

  1. Such extraordinary, magical, genius art. Congratulations on a life’s work well done.
    I would love to win this poster, and have so enjoyed your blog.

  2. ~ hi Salley,

    Thank you for sharing your work process with detailed photos.
    I loVe how the tree becomes the words for Horn Book. I can’t pick a favorite character, they are all wonderful.
    Embroidery on felt is a delight for the eyes to see. So glad you were asked to do this project.
    Shell ~

  3. Please enter my name for the poster i have a articel of yours when i first was introduced too your talent in Victoria Magazine years ago who would not want a poster their fantastic

  4. Please include my name in your Horn Book poster draw. I would love to visit the world you have created on the cover of this magazine!

  5. I was totally fascinated by the process of making this poster. I’d love to watch you work and talk with you as you do. Children’s books were always a love of mine. One of my favorite college courses was Children’s Literature. Now I spend lots of time reading to my grandchildren and loving every minute of the stories I read to them.

  6. Your work looks effortless as I page through the books. I always knew there was much more to it- especially since seeing the original art from Pocketful of Posies. Looking at the close-up process for the Horn Book cover makes me realize the incredible concentration, patience and talent it takes to do this work. To a New Year of continued good fortune. Pat Keogh

  7. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your process with us! I love that the kids are kids dressed up – just like mine do. Have a happy New Year and congrats on the book cover!

  8. Thanks again for sharing your process. It is so inspiring to see the stages of your work. All of the children are wonderful, but the dragon child is extra special and my favorite!

  9. What a wonderful legacy you are leaving to children with your beautiful and thoughtfully designed illustrations. I remember being keenly aware of the quality of the artwork in children’s books, so I know it has a deep and lasting impression on young readers. Thanks for sharing the details of how it’s done.

  10. It made me pause to realize that there are actually people who will be seeing your incredible and beautiful work for the first time!! I feel sorry that they’ve been deprived yet excited for them to discover your incredibly rich body of work!!!

    I love when you show what goes on behind the scenes!! Your attention to detail and playful spirit are inspiring!!

    And, I envy the collector who has your work!!! 🙂

  11. Beautiful work, Salley. Your color choices are wonderful and the characters adorable.

    I have your Pocketful of Posies book and will add this Horn Book magazine to my growing Mavor collection.

  12. It all looks so, so real. . .a carefree world to live in. I have Pocketful of Posies and Wee Folk Felt, but when I get these posts, you make it look so easy. Maybe I’ll try again. .

  13. Dear Sally,
    Whenever I look at your work, I have to tilt my head to the side, seems to put me in a whimsical mood and enjoy every little person and the things all around.
    Thanks for sharing your work with us.

  14. I love your work and enjoy looking at all the little details. So creative and beautiful. I gave my granddaughter Pocket Full of Posies for Christmas and anticipate spending time with her looking at all the lovely pictures.

  15. Salley as always your work is incredible and inspiring. I have a copy of most of your books and like to bring them in to my handwork classes for the children to enjoy. I would love to have a large poster to keep in the classroom all the time! I am enjoying all of your posts! Those doors in Turkey made me want to get some paint and jazz up my studio door. Happy Holidays TinQ

  16. Oh I just love when you show works in progress – this cover is amazing! I know they were beyond thrilled with it. If I don’t win a poster, I’m going to order one as well as the magazine!

  17. Love seeing another one of your fantastic labors of love…this is truly amazing. I love all of the objects from nature which you included in your design. I do want to get a copy of the Horn Book, which I used to love to ready when I was still teaching. So glad that you now have your very own cover design, which adds even more charm to the Horn Book’s terrific publication. Thanks for the many photos of your wonder-filled cover!

  18. Salley, I think this project is one of your most imaginative yet! I love that you decided to put children in animal costumes instead of just animals, so that the children can relate more easily to the characters in the books they read. What a great idea, and masterfully executed as well.

  19. i ADORE these pictures , they inspire me . My fingers aren’t very nimble and although i have your” wee folk ” book ( which i bought in France )i cant do what you do . They are just so beautiful . i can just sit and look at these pictures for ages ,

  20. Thank you for sharing the process with so many detailed photos. Incorporating nature into your works is so wonderful and sets it apart. I don’t think these characters could possibly be cuter if they tried! What a beautiful cover you created! (Particularly love the lamb.) Must get a copy of this book for sure. Happy new year!

  21. What a magical rendering of fabric and literature. I was recently introduced to your artwork and am totally enamored. Always an admirer of stumpwork, this has all those elements and more. My books Wee Felt Folk and Pocketful of Posies arrived on Christmas Eve, an early present to myself. I am looking forward to trying my hand at creating some little people, creatures, and scenery of my own. Thank you for sharing your wonderful imagination!

  22. Sally,
    I love looking at the detail of the work you do. I would also love to see pictures of your work space, I just can’t imagine how you might organize all of the different materials you use. Please include me in the drawing for your poster.

  23. Ooh la la a lovely poster! My toddler son & I were in the tiny Brattleboro, VT art museum a few months back and loved the show of your work. We had already fallen deeply in love with your books, so fabulous, so full of wonder. As we walk through the woods every day we think of your work at times – of what you might do with that branch or that leaf. As my son grows we will try our hand at such work ourselves. May 2012 be full of great finds and much joy.

  24. this would look so cute in my grandaughters room. i am in awe of you and would love, love this poster. it is a lot of work to do this and so cute. i have one of your books and i one day want to make these darling characters.

  25. I have lost count of the number of copies of your children’s books that I have given to children and to adults. Adults are as delighted with your fiber art illustrations as the children are. I personally never tire of your designs. Your use of found objects, natural materials, and embroidery provides pleasure for the reader and inspiration for the needleworker. Thank you for your unique contributions to the fiber art world.

  26. This Horn Book cover is the first I have experienced your work, but I am definitely going to look you up for my little niece! I think she will love the look of your art.

    I would love the poster for her room!

  27. I would absolutely love a poster, to share with the kids in my library! It was fascinating to read about how you make these beautiful scenes.

  28. Thank you so much for this detailed, beautifully illustrated post about the process you used to create The Horn Book cover. I am amazed at time that goes into your creations and the love made visible by the finished piece. We are so fortunate to have an artist such as you in our midst.

  29. Ms. Mavor,

    I add my thanks for your generousity in sharing this behind-the-scenes look at how you make your art. I’m using in my children’s literature class, and many of my students share my enthusiasm for the illustrations.

    For over 20 years I’ve created an annual felt ornament to give as gifts; I spent the fall months this year studying your work trying to figure out how create a version of what you do. It’s been great fun. I’m still sewing, as I have not completed as many as I want to give yet.

    I’m a subscriber and am really looking forward to seeing the cover up-close.

  30. Salley –

    It would be n honor to display this beautiful poster alongside your books at Bunch of Grapes, here on the Vineyard.

    Congratulations on the success (SO well-deserved) of Pocketful of Posies!

  31. I love the felt background, the acorns from Iowa and California and the teeny felt book. Actually, love the whole thing!

  32. Watching your creative process unfold was as wondrous as seeing the finished work. The soft nature theme, the wee children in costume, and the overall feeling of a work of art painstakingly made by loving hands makes your cover for Horn Magazine one of the loveliest I have ever seen. Thank you for sharing your artistic journey.

  33. I loved seeing the steps you used to make these lovely figures. The costumes are brilliant, I’d wear them in a heartbeat. Thanks for sharing your art!

  34. I adore your work and can spend hours examining your fine stitching! I am a needle worker who is a child development professor by day- and I’d love to hang your poster in one of my classrooms for our students.

  35. What an whimsical and inspiring cover. I used to work in a gallery and we had a Children’s Illustrator Show with so many beautiful pieces of artwork, this would have fit right in. Thank you for the art and for showing some of what it took to accomplish it.

  36. your artwork is amazing, it is so beautiful with the colors you choose and the varied textures, and all so meticulously crafted. thanks for the detailed photos of your process, michelle

  37. Yes only this : what a craftmanship ( right word ? ) such a beauties and thanks for sharing. Now we can see a little how you work.

  38. Sally, your work is just beautiful! I make bendy dolls for my girls from your book that I have. My girls adore them! Thank you for sharing your process! Just divine!!!

  39. It was marvelous to finally meet you at the Lowell Quilt Show with my friends. Having seen your Horn Book cover with its intriguing and ingenious design and characters, I would love to have a poster. Love your blog.

  40. Magical work Sally.
    I have just purchased your beautifully illustrated book to use with my Prep – grade 2’s this year in literature lessons.

  41. Oh, I love this! That would look amazing in my mom’s classroom! It’s so nice of you to work so hard on that amazing poster and then give it away to a lucky fan! Thank you!

  42. What a delightful journey through your creative process – my mind was racing and remembering days as a kid making fun projects. I have decided to be a kid again – THANK YOU!

  43. Hi Ms. Mavor,
    I absolutely love your work and I loved seeing The Horn Book cover come to life. Thank you so very much for sharing.

    Have you ever thought of making a calendar with your artwork??
    I would love that!
    Thank you,

  44. Hello Salley- I will order some posters for local public school libraries and my walls as well! . I love sharing the images with my niece and hope other children have taken to stitchery as well as Lexi has! Have a great new year. Sue Lockwood

  45. I have been a fan of your work for years! You have inspired me more than you could ever imagine, and I am so thankful for your lovely gift of creativity. I

  46. I was not familiar with your work until the Horn Book issue came out .
    One of my volunteers said “You have to get this poster for the library!” So, I,m asking that you share your incredible work with the children and parents of Bar Harbor, ME .

  47. HA the pile of compliments is HUGE , Salley …. and rightly so !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    LOVE love love love to see the making of !!!!
    THANKS ! (you always brighten up my day (evening) 🙂

  48. You have an amazing gift ! 🙂

    I saw this once before, and I come back when I can…

    I would have loved your poster…. your is incredible

    Thank you for sharing with us
    Take Care…You Matter…

  49. One of the things I love about your posts is that you show that your sketch and the final product are different, but equally wonderful. Sometimes I get frustrated when what I develop doesn’t look at all like what I thought it would. You make me think that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but part of the process of creation.

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