About Salley Mavor

About Salley Mavor

“My earliest memories have to do with making things by hand and expressing myself through art. What I make today and how I do it, is a culmination of a life-long search to find ways of translating what I imagine into something real to share.”

A needle is my tool, thread is my medium and stitches are my marks. For over 40 years, I’ve created 3-dimensional hand-stitched artwork that ranges from precious to poignant to provocative. In addition to stand alone pieces, my work is applied in many ways, including children’s books, editorial illustration and stop-motion animation. All along my goal has been to share my vision in an intimate way, with a wider audience than is usually found in a gallery setting. 

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Where did this doll-infested needle and thread universe come from? It began at the height of the baby boom, in a family of introverts who were either making things or staring into space. You could say that we excelled at parallel play.

Later, while studying illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design, I rediscovered my childhood delight in sewing and creating miniature scenes.

Manipulating materials in my hands was so much more satisfying than rendering with a pencil or brush. Instead of trying to keep in step using traditional mediums, I discovered that with stitching, I could dance the fandango! I found that my hands would direct me in a compelling way and I could communicate ideas more clearly. For most of my career I have followed this path, creating sculptural scenes in bas-relief, much like miniature, shallow stage sets, with figures imposed on embellished fabric backgrounds.

I am interested in universal, playful narratives that reflect the society we live in today. I want to transcend the fiber medium by and of itself and make art that is valued for its message and emotional resonance as well as the materials and techniques I use.

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Some of my embroidered pieces are photographed and reproduced in children’s books, including the 2010 award-winning Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. My bestselling how-to book of doll projects, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures continues to inspire creativity. Personally autographed books, cards and posters with printed reproductions of my embroidered scenes are available in my Etsy Shop.

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My new work moves away from the land of innocence and into real world issues and current events. I strive to find the beauty within the struggle and strife, as in my 2016 piece Displaced.

After the 2016 presidential election, I formed a satirical wee folk drama troupe, The Wee Folk Players  (they’re a stitch). Also, my husband Rob Goldsborough and I made a short stop-motion animated film titled Liberty and Justice : A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free.

WGBH (1 of 1)

My solo exhibit Liberty and Justice, which was abruptly cancelled in 2018 at its original venue, due to its political content, was generously picked up by the New England Quilt Museum and the Cotuit Center for the Arts and portions were included in The Art of Cute at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine. You can watch my interview about the Liberty and Justice exhibit on WGBH TV and read the post Finding My Voice, which includes an excerpt of my talk about making art that is both precious and provocative.

My new book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in September 2020. You can see blog posts showing the book’s progress here. SALLEY MAVOR: Bedtime Stitches, an exhibition of the original bas-relief artwork for the book began touring the United Sates in Sept, 2020. The current schedule is here. Inquiries from museums are welcome – please contact me for information about hosting the show.

See how Salley Mavor made the illustrations for her new picture book, MY BED.

I live and work in my home studio on Cape Cod, in Falmouth, Massachusetts. For answers to frequently asked question, please go to the FAQ Page. Contact me via e-mail or write to P.O. Box 152, Woods Hole, MA 02543.

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  • Subscribe to this blog (top right column of Home Page).
  • Posters, cards and autographed books are available in my Etsy shop.
  • Contact me via e-mail or write to P.O. Box 152, Woods Hole, MA 02543
  • Visit my Facebook Page. Follow me on Instagram.

Rabbitat is a short documentary video about my work:

Interviews

Book trailer for Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures

Information

  • Posters, cards and autographed books are available in my  Etsy shop.
  • To see a list of all of my books, go to My Books.
  • Watch videos about my work: Videos Page
  • For info about upcoming exhibits, talks and book signings, visit the Events Page.
  • Frequently asked questions: FAQ Page

Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion (pictured below) is on semi permanent display at the Woods Hole Public Library. Posters of the piece are available in my Shop here.

 

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Poster – Self Portrait

 

 

Recent Posts

Frosty Morning – part 6 (wee folk)

This 6th and final part in the Frosty Morning series is about making the wee folk characters who live in the winter landscape. All of the other stuff, the trees, the icy snow cover and the sparkling sky are just meant to set the stage for the little people to frolic in. While I worked on this piece, I thought about what the wee folk would look like and what they would be doing. Adding a narrative element with human (or animal) faces helps me fall in love with what I’m making. The scenery may be lovely, but without play actors, there is no story. And without that, what’s the point?

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. 

You can follow the progress of the other 3 seasons on Facebook and Instagram.

The full figures are about 2″ tall, with smaller ones peeking out of the holes in the shelters. To make them, I used the same basic techniques that I teach in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk, with some adjustments in the armature material and clothing.

I used wool tapestry yarn or mending wool to stitch and wrap their winter clothing. Whenever I share photos showing dolls wearing sweaters, people actually think I knit them! For something this small it’s much easier to create the allusion of knitting with rows of chain stitches. For other examples of faux knitted outfits, see Polly Doll‘s Irish knit sweater here and her Fair Isle vest here.

When making people, I always start by painting their faces on wooden beads. Then, after meeting them, I feel motivated to bring them to life.

I’ve been saving some really small acorn caps for just this kind of project.

Instead of pipe cleaners, which would be too bulky, I formed the body armature out of 24 gauge jewelry wire. The bead heads were glued to the wire neck at the very end, when the clothing was finished. I glued small pieces of felt onto the top of the bead heads, in a kind of Mohawk. Later, when I added yarn hair, the felt gave the threaded needle something to catch onto.

Miraculously, this old mending wool from my collection of deceased relatives’ ephemera escaped being eaten my moths. It was the perfect weight with which to stitch miniature clothing.

In this sequence of photos, you can see how I wrapped and stitched yarn around the wire arms and legs and then made a separate faux knitted coat to go on top. I completed the look with French knot buttons, striped leggings, wool hair, and a glued on acorn cap.

The group of little people grew and grew until there seemed to be the right amount.

The sled is made from a pod I found so long ago that I can’t remember where it came from. An image search identified it as a coming from a Foxglove tree.

With just a few stitches, I sewed the characters in place – pulling the sled, looking out from shelters and climbing along tree branches.

When all of the parts were finished, it was time to mount the piece.

I made a border frame by padding and covering a wooden stretcher with upholstery fabric. I then hand sewed the layered background fabrics to the back of the stretcher, making it as taught as possible. After that, I sewed the different landscape sections to the background surface, starting with the lace snow cover, stone wall and driftwood house and ending with the trees.

To help prop up the tree limbs, I sewed beads to the back and stitched them to the background fabric.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this close look at the process of making Frosty Morning. When the Spring scene is finished, I’ll write about it as well.

Part 1 shows how I made the tree trunks.
Part 2 gives a close look at how I formed and wrapped the wire tree branches. Part 3 is about constructing the rounded shelters.
Part 4 is about making the stone wall and the ice covered bush in front of it.
Part 5 is about adding sparkle to the scene.

Frosty Morning and the other 3 yet-to-be finished pieces in the 4 Seasons series will have their premiere showing in my retrospective exhibition next year.
What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor
June 3 – Sept. 11, 2022.
Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, ME

There will be more opportunities to see the 4 Seasons series in 2023. They will be included in the following exhibitions:
Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Stitch
Feb. 18 – June 4, 2023, Upcountry History Museum, Greenville, SC
Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches and Social Fabric
Fall 2023, Southern Vermont Arts Center, Manchester, VT

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

  1. Frosty Morning – part 5 (sparkles) 2 Replies
  2. Frosty Morning: part 4 (stone wall) 10 Replies
  3. Frosty Morning: part 3 (shelters) 2 Replies
  4. Frosty Morning: part 2 (branches) 9 Replies
  5. Frosty Morning: part 1 (trees) 7 Replies
  6. Frosty Morning 11 Replies
  7. Bed book peek: Pony 7 Replies
  8. The Way Home Giveaway 364 Replies
  9. Social Fabric exhibition in Greenville SC 15 Replies