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 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.

My work is decorative and detailed, full of patterns and found objects, all bound together with stitching. 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 from the book will tour the United Sates beginning in Sept, 2020. The current schedule is here. Inquiries from museums are welcome – please contact me for information about hosting the show.

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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Originals for sale: Please contact me for a list of available artwork. The pieces are displayed under Plexiglas in custom-made cherry wood shadowbox frames. Prices range from $2,500 to $6,500.

  • 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

Bed book peek: giraffe

Shall we start the year with something cute to counteract the fact that everything in the world seems to be spiraling out of control? Good, now that we agree on a diversion, I will show how I made the giraffe for my new book, My Bed.


Signed copies of My Bed can ordered in my shop here. 40 pages, 9″ x 9″, words by Rebecca Bond, pictures by Salley Mavor, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Bedtime Stitches, an exhibition of the original artwork for the book is travelling to museums around the country. See the tour schedule here.


I’d originally picked a giraffe to go with the illustration set in Africa. But, then we narrowed it down to the country of Ghana, which doesn’t have giraffes. I started researching other possible animals to go along with the scene. Fortunately, sat next to man from Ghana in a restaurant, who told me about wild life in his home country, including crocodiles. So, I switched to a crocodile instead. My ignorance about the African continent almost caused a gaffe similar to what Delta Airlines went through when they chose an image of a giraffe to represent Ghana in a tweet about the World Cup in 2014!

I was able to use the giraffe on another page, though. It appears with the other animal icons on the end-papers and as a spot illustration on the text panel in the second to last spread in the book, which isn’t set in any particular part of the world.

To start, I drew a simple sketch of a giraffe and bent a pipe cleaner to form the legs. Then I wrapped them with embroidery floss, using the same techniques I teach in my how-to book of doll projects, Felt Wee Folk.

From there, I built up the body and neck with felt and more thread wrapping.

While studying photos of giraffes. I noticed that their spots are made up of a complex combination of shapes and patterns, that fit together like paving stones on a garden path.

I used chain stitching to make the spots, which has become my favorite way of filling in areas. I sewed the spot covered piece of felt to the giraffe’s body and neck. I covered the back with a mishmash of stitches, which stretched across to hold the front piece tightly in place. There was no need to make the back look pretty. After all, art is an illusion.

To make the mane, I sewed a length of wire along the giraffe’s neck and wrapped it with thread.Then, I blanket stitched a few rows of “hair” along the wire mane.

It took several attempts to make the giraffe’s head, which had a combination of funny looking, yet endearing features. Not only do giraffes have horns and long ears, they have prominent eyes, an oddly shaped nose and a smiling mouth. That all had to be reduced to a few stitches, beads and wire.

For the tail, I sewed on a looped section of wire, which I wrapped with thread.

When I sewed on the head, it actually looked like a giraffe!

If you’d like to see posts about making the other animal icons for the book, please follow the links below:
Animals – Rooster, Camel, Parrot, Elephant, Goldfish, Cat, Duck, Sheep, Rabbit, Cow, Crocodile

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.

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