About Salley Mavor

I make 3-dimensional fabric relief pictures that are photographed and used to illustrate children’s books. I sew together different materials to create fanciful scenes in relief, much like a miniature stage set, with figures imposed on an embellished fabric background. My work is decorative and detailed, full of patterns from nature and found objects, all sewn together by hand with a needle and thread.

Visual Storytelling

This summer, while organizing and hanging my retrospective exhibit at the Falmouth Art Center (Aug. 1- 31), I’ve thought about children’s picture books and reflected on the wonderful opportunity they present to visual artists. The story book structure provides a unique opening to the imagination, with both writers and artists doing their part to interpret and articulate the human experience into something tangible and accessible.

It’s a great responsibility to connect with children through picture books and create their first introduction to art. I want to show the reader something they can care about and attach to. Adults call attention to my labor-intensive and inventive approach to illustrating; children respond directly to the emotional gestalt of a story with pictures. I try to keep that in mind while I stitch and stitch, translating the images in my head into something real.

On Tuesday, August 15th at 7:00 pm, I will participate in the presentation ~ Meet Our Local Picture Book Creators at the Cataumet Schoolhouse , Cataumet, MA. The writer/illustrator team of Jim & Deb Bowen will also talk about their work.

For those of you from far away, I’ve taken some short video tours of my exhibit, Salley Mavor: 25 Years of Picture Books. More videos are at the end of this post. Reflections on the glass make it a challenge to photograph the framed artwork, but I think the videos help give a sense of the show.


VISUAL STORYTELLING

Lately, I’ve been describing myself as a visual storyteller because the term “illustrator” just doesn’t seem to fit anymore and adequately encompass what I do. All of my work is narrative, but not necessarily illustration. And as for terms to describe how I make things — I don’t even try to define it anymore. I make picture books, how-to books and stand alone fabric relief pieces like Displaced. There are also fairy houses, wee folk dolls and sculpture. This past year, political satire and stop-motion animation from the Wee Folk Players – They’re a Stitch were added to the mix. By the way, if you’re missing the Players, they are busy filming on location in the basement. My husband Rob and I are making progress with the animation and have made about 2 minutes into a 10 minute movie.

NEW BOOK
After taking 3 years to complete Pocketful of Posies (2010), I needed a break from the all consuming process of making a book, so I could be free to develop other ideas that have been tugging at me for a long time. I’m glad I spent the last few years experimenting with new subjects, but I’m happy to say that the picture book bug has returned. It’s too early to say much about the new project, but I can tell you that it’s about beds, has an international theme and will be published by HoughtonMifflin in 2020. I’m not sure how much if anything I can show, because this is the first time I’ve worked on a book while also keeping up a blog about my artwork. I figure it’s OK to show details of the process, but not the whole pieces. So, if you want a more frequent inside glimpse, please follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

S.America (1 of 1)-5

Here are a group of detail shots I took of some fabric relief originals in the show, while cleaning the frames and glass.

 

 

 

a backwards glance

Last year, it occurred to me that it’s been 25 years since my first children’s book, The Way Home was published. Reaching the quarter century mark seemed like a good excuse to gather a representational selection of original illustrations from my 10 books and display them together. So, I’ve been cleaning glass and spiffing up a number of framed pieces to show. Some of the illustrations are on loan from private collectors, some are ones I’ve kept and others will be for sale.

The exhibit, Salley Mavor: 25 Years of Picture Books, will be on display August 1 – 31, 2017 at the Falmouth Art Center, in their upstairs gallery. The opening reception is Friday, August 4th from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the first copies of The Way Home arrived in the mail. I remember bringing the book in to read to my son Ian’s kindergarten class. He claimed a spot on my lap, not sure if he liked the idea of sharing me with the other children. No sooner had I held up the book and started reading the opening lines, than he reached up and covered my mouth with his tiny hand. Usually quiet and undemanding, he sure knew how to get his point across! Fast forward to now — Ian is a talented artist in his own right, who will be working toward a Master’s degree in painting this fall. Here we are in 1991, setting up for the book party at the Woods Hole Library.

setting up for the book party, 1991

The retrospective exhibit at the Falmouth Art Center will include original fabric relief illustrations from the following list of titles. For reference, a copy of each book will be available to look at in the gallery. If you make a trip to Falmouth (on Cape Cod) to see the show, make sure to visit our wonderful book store, Eight Cousins, which has autographed copies of Pocketful of Posies and In the Heart. And while you’re in town, don’t miss the Storybook Fairy Houses Exhibit at Highfield Hall and the Fairy Family Raffle.

POCKETFUL OF POSIES: A TREASURY OF NURSERY RHYMES published by HoughtonMifflin, 2010, ISBN 978-0-618-73740-6, Order autographed copy from my Etsy shop. A complimentary copy of In the Heart is included with purchase.

WEE WILLIE WINKIE Board book published by Houghton Mifflin in 2006, ISBN 0-618-49640-8, Out of print.

HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE! Board book published by Houghton Mifflin 2005, ISBN 0-618-49638-6, Out of print.

MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB, Board book published by Houghton Mifflin 2005, ISBN 0-618-49637-8. Out of print.

JACK AND JILL, Out of print, Board book published by Houghton Mifflin in 2006, ISBN 0-618-49639-4. Out of print.

IN THE HEART written by Ann Turner, artwork by Salley Mavor, published by HarperCollins in 2001, ISBN 0-06-023730-9, Hardcover edition, out of print, Order autographed copies from Etsy Shop 

THE HOLLYHOCK WALL, Out of Print, written by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Salley Mavor, Hardcover edition published by Candlewick Press in 1999, ISBN 1-56402-902-6, Paperback edition published by Walker Books in 2000, ISBN 0-7445-7732-2.

YOU AND ME: POEMS OF FRIENDSHIP, Out of print, published by Orchard Books in 1997, ISBN 0-531-30045-5 Hardcover edition

MARY HAD  A LITTLE LAMB, Out of print, published by Orchard Books in 1995, ISBN 0-531-06875-7 Hardcover edition, ISBN 0-531-07165-0 Paperback edition.

COME TO MY PARTY, Out of Print, Published by MacMillan in 1993, ISBN 0-02-776147-9 Hardcover edition

THE WAY HOME, Out of print, published by MacMillan in 1991, ISBN 0-370-31 645-2 Hardcover edition, ISBN 0-689-71790-3 Aladdin Paperback edition, Read the 5-part story about making The Way Home here.

Fairy Family Raffle

The Fairies have persevered through our winter of discontent and are resilient enough to come out of hiding this summer. A family of 5 will appear on Cape Cod during the Storybook Fairy Houses display at Highfield Hall and Gardens, June 25 – Sept. 4, 2017. And by the end of summer they will go to live with the lucky winner of the FAIRY FAMILY RAFFLE. I do not normally sell one-of-a-kind dolls, so this is a rare opportunity to have a unique set of your own. Tickets ($5.00) may be purchased online here. After the winner is picked on Sept. 4th, the Fairies will fly to their new home anywhere in the world!

The winged and festively dressed family, which includes Mother, Father, brother, sister and baby have been patiently awaiting today’s coming out announcement. Knowing that things would get busy in the studio, I made the doll family way ahead of this year’s Fairy House exhibit. Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind of a time, so I’m sure glad that they were finished about a year ago.  All proceeds from the raffle will benefit Highfield Hall and Gardens.

This year’s family is similar to the one I made 2 years ago for the last Fairy House Exhibit in 2015, which you can see here. Patterns and directions to make the dolls are in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures.

Fairy houses have become an eagerly anticipated tradition at Highfield Hall and this year’s exhibit should be just as unique and varied as the previous displays. I had the pleasure of organizing and curating the first two exhibits in 2013 and 2015, with the understanding that those responsibilities would be passed on once the idea had been sufficiently launched.

Since I couldn’t spare a month to make a new house for this year’s exhibit, Grate Hall will be back for a second viewing, this time inside the museum. See the process of making it here.

This year’s exhibit, Storybook Fairy Houses is curated by museum staff. 25 builders chose a favorite children’s book that inspired their creation. I picked The Borrowers by Mary Norton. 

As a child, I devoured The Borrowers series, with its tales of little people living by their wits under the floor boards. I can still remember the book’s descriptions of making a bed out of a discarded match box and fashioning tables and chairs from wooden spools. The whole premise sparked my imagination then and still feeds into just about everything I make today, from my work in children’s book illustration to the creation of my wee folk world.

My fairy house, Grate Hall uses the same concept of reusing household items to make and furnish a small scale shelter. The cheese graters and whisk were saved when cleaning out a departed relative’s kitchen supplies and the single glove was found in a box of my grandmother’s lace memorabilia. Other parts include old door knob plates and a chandelier crystal. The overall structure is held together with wire that is covered with pieces of felt. Branches pruned from blueberry bushes cover the roof and the door is decorated with carved bone charms.  Using found objects is like editing a poem — it’s always challenging to decide what to include and what to leave out. Many very cool items were rejected in the process and they will just have to wait for another opportunity to shine.

The Fairy Family is on display at the museum and raffle tickets may be purchased on sight or online. The drawing will be on Sept. 4, 2017. This opportunity is open to all and the dolls will be mailed to the winner anywhere in the world.  All proceeds from the raffle will benefit Highfield Hall and Gardens.

Displaced going to Utah

Displaced, 24″ H x 22″ W, 2016

I am pleased to announce that my piece Displaced will be one of a variety of art quilts, fabric collages and embroideries in a national juried art quilt exhibition at the Southern Utah Museum of Art. The show, Pathfinders: New Territories will by on display June 30 – August 26, 2017

I have been touched by the heartfelt reaction to Displaced, which was first shared in photos and exhibits last year. Even though my piece is inspired by current world events, it could very well represent the universal and timeless plight of refugees throughout history. When I saw the show’s title, Pathfinders: New Territories listed in a call for entry, I knew I had to enter Displaced. The theme description on their prospectus defined pathfinders as any person, group, or idea that is visionary in nature and blazes new ground.

I hope that some of you will have the opportunity to see the show and view the piece in person this summer. To get a behind the scenes glimpse about making Displaced, please see this previous post.

18 x 24 Posters of Displaced are available from my Etsy Shop here.

Poster – Displaced

stop-motion in action

After months of preparation, we have begun animating! My husband Rob and I have wanted to try out this technique for years, but life just got in the way. Lately, the Wee Folk Players (They’re a Stitch) theater troupe has inspired us to bring these little characters to life through the magic of stop-motion animation. For the film, I’ve adapted and expanded a familiar cautionary tale to tell the story of our recent presidential election.

The learning curve is steep, but we are committed to working through the hurtles that are sure to come. A retired engineer, Rob’s technical expertise with photography and computers is integral to the success of the project. Animation is a marriage of art and science, so we are quite dependent on each other. We’re both detail oriented, so I hope we will have the kind of patience this process demands. It’s also fortunate that neither of us are big talkers, as chit chat would ruin our concentration. We got a little taste for animation while filming Mr. Pence Goes to Washington and want to bring our storytelling to a whole new level of professionalism.

First, I thought the whole thing through in my mind and mapped out the progression of the film on paper, scene by scene. The story board shows the overall plan, with rough illustrations and descriptions for each shot. There are 15 scenes, each with several shots, so we’ll be filming from 75 to 100 different camera angles.

I wanted the scenery to be adaptable and free-standing, so it can be rearranged in different setups. When making the tree leaves, I used thick thread and tried for a loose, playful effect.

I’ve been saving interesting vines for years to make trees like this.

With the exception of the hands, the characters’ heads and armatures are made the same way as the wee folk dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. Their heads are not glued to the neck, so they can swivel back and forth. Their pipe cleaner arms and legs move in different positions, too.

I used a variety of materials for the sets, including cardboard.

To decorate, I got out my stash of gems and jewels and discovered the joys of glitter glue.

For now, we’re not sure how long the filming will take or how many minutes the finished video will be. At 24 frames per second, progress is very slow. For each frame, I have to move the figures 1/16th of an inch! We’ve learned so much by practicing and feel ready to forge ahead. We laugh when we play back the scenes and see the characters move. We’re aiming for a dark comedy, full of cameo appearances. Now, we just have to stay focused and not rush the process. It has become clear that, in animation, diligence and methodical attention is rewarded.

It seemed like I came up with new ideas for props every day, like this balalaika for one of the cast members.

We set up a mini theater in the basement, with lights and a black cloth floor and backdrop. It figures that just as the weather gets warm, we a will be staked out underground. But we have toys to play with, including a new 3 ft. slider that allows you to pan a scene, one frame at a time. I love how the movement adds life to an otherwise static setup!

Another method we’re trying involves wire rigging that holds the figures upright. For research, we’ve looked at videos that show how professional animation studios do their work. Their sets and equipment are impressive and it’s intimidating to see the amount of people these productions employ. With just the two of us, it often feels like we’re in over our heads, but having only a pair of personalities to deal with can be an advantage.

Of course, my style is not slick and we want to feature the natural found objects and hand made quality of the scenery and characters. The project is both exciting and daunting, but we feel it is important to bring this story to life, one step at a time. I’m not sure how much I’ll show during the filming, since I don’t want to give everything away, but I may share photos from time to time on Instagram and Facebook. Wish us luck, as we enter the deep, dark forest!

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). And to find out about my post-election satire, please read  this interview.

Family Intervention

Inspired by this week’s White House meltdown, the Wee Folk Players (They’re a Stitch)  bring you this domestic tableau. For the impromptu skit, the leading man borrowed an appropriate period costume from wardrobe and the backstage crew quickly dressed the set with existing props.

As the saga unfolds, one burning question lingers — Will the family finally step in and save their loved one from himself? Perhaps there’s a chance he’ll listen, since they are the only ones he trusts with undying loyalty. Of course, he will kick and scream, but sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns. Please, if not on his behalf, then for the sake of the country (and the world)!

The Wee Folk Players (They’re a Stitch) formed after the 2016 election and have produced a string of episodes in the American Drama Series. To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). And to find out about Salley Mavor’s post-election satire, please read this interview.

Abraham’s Lament

The Wee Folk Players (They’re a Stitch) take a pause from high drama to bring you a present day interpretation of Abraham Lincoln’s frequently quoted and insightful words. Reflecting the pensive mood of this scene, the one man (and bird) show is staged with a minimal naturalistic set.

The makeup department used reference photos to create a likeness to Mr. Lincoln and the wardrobe mistress made their first stove pipe hat…

and the Tweeter-in-chief was appropriately cut down to size.

The Wee Folk Players (They’re a Stitch) formed after the 2016 election and have produced a string of episodes in the American Drama Series. To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). And to find out about Salley Mavor’s post-election satire, please read this interview.