Revisiting Mary and her lamb

Today, I’d like to revisit the classic rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb, which I illustrated in 1995. The smaller board book version was published 10 years later. It’s hard to believe that 28 years have gone by since it first came out. The reality hits me, though, when I meet grownup people who remember the book from their childhood. Both versions are out of print, but you may be able to find used copies online.

Mary Had a Little Lamb remains one of my favorite projects and I’ve wanted to reuse the artwork from the book for some time. So, I’m happy to say that I just added 4 new note cards with images from the book to my Etsy Shop. There’s Mary and her lamb in the garden, in the barn, in the kitchen and in an apple orchard. The cards are available in 4 or 8 card samplers. Individual designs are also sold separately in packs of 4.

Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop..

All of the original 3-dimensional scenes I made for Mary Had a Little Lamb are in private collections. Fortunately, several owners are willing to loan them from time to time for exhibition purposes. Last summer, 8 pieces from the book were in my retrospective at the Brick Store Museum in Maine. And this coming fall, I hope to include a group of them in The Wee Words of Salley Mavor at the Southern Vermont Arts Center.

“Mary in the Garden” in a private home.

Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges, my former teacher from RISD, generously loans pieces from her art collection for exhibitions. Picking them up is also a good excuse to visit her in Providence, RI. By the way, take a look at her shelves full of Guatemalan huipils behind us!

Mary Had a Little Lamb – apple tree note card
Mary Had a Little Lamb – barn note card

When I borrow the pieces, I often remove the stretched artwork from its frame to clean the inside of the glass. Then, I can take close up photos, like this one of Mary and her lamb in the barn and others you can see below.

Mary Had a Little Lamb – garden note card

Back in the 90’s, I embroidered character’s faces on hand-me-down fabric from my grandmother. The cloth was originally an old woolen petticoat that had been laundered so many times that it became felted. It was the perfect weight to work with and had a sturdy and forgiving texture that put up with multiple stabbings from a needle and thread. Eventually, I used up all the fabric and could never find anything to replace it. By then, I’d begun painting faces on wooden beads and I really didn’t miss embroidering faces. Sometimes, I would spend all day ripping out the stitching and starting again to get the right facial expression.

In this close up you can probably tell that the strawberries are made from polymer clay. The basket is made of wire wrapped in embroidery floss.

Mary Had a Little Lamb – kitchen note card

The blue and white knitting in the mother’s lap was originally part of a sculpture of a knitter sitting on a couch that I made in about 1980, which you can see below. I figured that the doll didn’t need her knitting any more, so I stole it and gave it to Mary’s mother. I’ve never been much of knitter and this would save me having to make a new one. And besides, it was the perfect scale!

Practically everyone who sees this asks, “Did you actually knit this on those tiny knitting needles?” I suppose it’s possible to knit with tooth picks, but I’m not that neurotic. Remember, making art is all about creating illusions. I used real needles, the kind that are for knitting baby booties and such, and then replaced them with with tooth picks.

Enter my Etsy Shop here.
A note to my international followers – Due to the unreasonably high cost of shipping overseas, I now only take orders from the USA and Canada.

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3 thoughts on “Revisiting Mary and her lamb

  1. I really love this, especially the tiny knitting, and the story behind each figure. The Guatemalan fabrics complement the entire work. Thanks for sharing this!

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