About Salley Mavor

About Salley Mavor

“I breathe life and emotion into an art form (embroidery) that is often perceived as purely decorative. What I make today and how I do it, is a culmination of a life-long search to find ways of translating what I feel and imagine into something real to share.”

Salley mavor

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.

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. 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 was abruptly cancelled in 2018 at its original venue due to its political content. The show 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 (salley at weefolkstudio.com) for information about hosting the show.

See how I made the illustrations for my new picture book, MY BED in this 8 minute documentary.

I live and work on Cape Cod, in Falmouth, Massachusetts. For answers to frequently asked question, please go to the FAQ Page. Contact me (salley at weefolkstudio.com) 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 (salley at weefolkstudio.com) 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

Ian and Liz’s Wedding Dolls

Before sharing the process of making wedding cake topper dolls for my son Ian and his new bride Liz, I want to remind you to sign up for a ZOOM Talk that I’ll be giving on August 25th at 2:PM (eastern time). “An Afternoon with Salley Mavor” will be hosted by the Brick Store Museum, where my retrospective exhibition is currently on view until Sept. 11. The Talk will be recorded so that those registrants unable to attend the live chat will receive the recorded version the next business day. I look forward to seeing your smiling faces, as I share the story of my life’s work, touching on where it came from, how it has evolved and why I do it. Have your questions ready! Please register HERE.

My first major retrospective exhibition, “WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor” is currently
at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine until Sept. 11, 2022

Now back to Ian and Liz, who are as adorable in real life as they are in doll form. Their wedding, which took place on July 23rd in New Haven, CT on what could have been the hottest day of the year, was a wonderful and joyous event. Rob and I are thrilled to welcome Liz into our family!

Ever since they announced their engagement a year ago, I’ve looked forward to making Ian and Liz a personalized set of wedding cake toppers. Over the years, I’ve made wedding dolls for close friends (see them HERE) and samples for a chapter in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk, but this is the first time in several decades that someone in our family has had a wedding to make them for!

I had a short window of time to work on them in late June and early July, after my exhibition in Maine was underway and when Ian and Liz could provide reference photos of their clothing, hair styles and other details. If you’ve made figures using the instructions in Felt Wee Folk, you’ll know that you start with the feet, so I couldn’t begin until I had photos of their shoes.

Ian chose a tartan tie (Buchanan from my mother’s side) that we bought for him on our last trip to Scotland. We have Scottish ancestors through many branches of the family, so there are a few different tartans to choose from, but those are never available in souvenir shops.

I matched the window pane weave of Ian’s suit with a stitched grid of embroidery floss and added a French knot boutonniere to the button stitched collar.

It’s been a while since I’ve made glasses, so I referred to my Cover Up poster to see how I twisted wire to form their shape.

Before painting his face, I asked Ian if he would be clean shaven or sport a beard on his wedding day. He carefully planned for a 3 day old scruff look, a favorite with millennials.

The bridal gown was so much fun to replicate in miniature. To get a womanly shape, I sewed a pair of boob beads onto the armature and then created the bodice with a combination of felt, embroidery floss and metallic thread.

The metallic thread was a pain to work with, but it did the job!

Liz sent photos of her hair in a low bun, which I copied.

To make the curly tendrils in front, I smeared glue on a few strands of floss and wound it around a piece of insulated wire until it dried.

When the dolls were finished, I moved onto their platform, which was an oval shaped piece of wood I found at Michael’s.

Planning ahead for when I would sew them in place, I drilled 4 holes (one for each foot) through the wood.

I cut out a piece of wool felt and chained stitched their wedding date in the space that would be in front of their feet. In the photo, the dolls aren’t sewn in place yet, just balanced there while I gauged the spacing.

I used a spider web technique to embroider ribbon roses, which I learned on YouTube.

It was a chance to use some of my collection of silk ribbon, which usually just sits in a basket looking pretty.

The dolls relaxed while I decorated their stand.

I glued a piece of felt to the bottom of the wooden platform and stitched the embellished felt top piece to it around the outside edge.

For a finishing touch and to add some visual weight, I sewed rows of braid and twisted red and green memory wire to the bottom edge of the stand. I had marked the location of the drill holes, so it was easy to anchor their feet with a few stitches using a long sewing needle.

In anticipation of the fact that the wedding couple would be placed on top of a frosted cake (it was carrot cake with cream cheese frosting), I stitched a layer of wax paper to the bottom to protect the felt. It was a good thing, because afterward the wax paper was a bit sticky when I ripped it off.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

  1. WHAT A RELIEF – first 6 weeks 13 Replies
  2. WHAT A RELIEF installation 9 Replies
  3. Mossy Glen: Part 8 – wee folk 6 Replies
  4. Mossy Glen: Part 7 – Violets and Berries 1 Reply
  5. Mossy Glen: Part 6 – stitched leaves 3 Replies
  6. Mossy Glen – part 5: Leaves 4 Replies
  7. Mossy Glen – part 4: forsythia 12 Replies
  8. Mossy Glen: Part 3 – stone walls 9 Replies
  9. Mossy Glen: Part 2 – Cherry Trees 10 Replies