Frosty Morning: part 2 (branches)

Part 2 in the Frosty Morning series gives a close look at how I formed and wrapped the wire tree branches, from the inside out. Part 1 was about making the tree trunks.

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop.

I started experimenting with wire branches in the mid-80’s, while exploring new ways of adding dimension to my work. The trees in the winter scene below are an early example of the same basic technique I use today.

This piece from 1986, along with over 100 works spanning my 40 year career, will be included in next summer’s retrospective exhibition, WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor, May 3 – Sept. 11, 2022 at the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, ME. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections will fill multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor. A large selection of sculptures, bas-relief pieces and original picture book illustrations, including the scenes from my newest book, MY BED, will also be shown.

I use jewelry wire or copper filled insulated electrical wire to form tree branches.

As I described in part 1, the trunk and thicker limbs were covered in felt.

Then came the fiddly part, where I wrapped the wire branches in embroidery floss. I wound thread up and down several times, until the wire was no longer visible and the branches looked smooth and even. Using variegated thread gives the tree a more naturalistic look because nothing in real life is just one color.

Despite its apparent fussiness, the process of wrapping the wire is strangely calming. People often remark at how patient I am, which ironically makes me feel annoyed and impatient. I know it’s meant as a compliment, but doing this kind of work has nothing to do with patience. For me, stitching is a grounding daily practice that verges on obsession. Somehow, that feels different than patience. Watch this video and see what you think.

Sometimes I used the copper wire filling inside insulated electrical cables I found at the hardware store.

Part 3 in the series will be all about making these curious looking rounded shelters.

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9 thoughts on “Frosty Morning: part 2 (branches)

  1. Thank you for offering such detailed pictures and words. A wonderful work. One day, I’ll get up East and attend one of your shows. Meanwhile, I have your sharing! Lovely!

  2. Thank you for explaining so well about “patience”! I have found it quite odd, all my life, to have my patience praised, when “conquering impatience” is so very far from what is going on… Tenacity, persistence, extended attention to detail – perhaps – although even those words imply a doggedness of spirit overcoming an impatient desire for the job to be done, and over with! Whereas what is happening is closer to sinking into a settled easy contentment. Peace, tranquility.

    • Thank you, Ushashi, for putting into words my thoughts exactly. When writing the part about patience, I attempted to explain what’s going on with the same list of words, but erased them because it sounded too much like overcoming impatience, just as you describe.

  3. Salley, I noted you comment about patience. I used to be at loss as to what to say when people would see me stitching, knitting, painting, .. “Oh, I don’t have the patience for THAT.” Finally I realized the right reply: If you enjoy what you are doing, you don’t need patience. Well, I admit you sometimes need patience to get through tricky spots, but the joy in the work overcomes that. See the discussion on “gumption traps” in the book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Sally with no E

  4. I am familiar with Salley and I’m always in awe of her work. I follow her, but not her blog. Maybe I should pay more attention to her posts and sign up for her blog. I hadn’t seen this before, so thanks for sending it to me. Love to learn about how she does things, so this was great. Yes, can relate to her quote about daily stitching.

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