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.

The stitching lady speaks!

Thank you to all of you who’ve already made the trek to see my show, Liberty and Justice, at the Cotuit Center for the Arts . If you haven’t been yet, there are just 2 more weeks to get yourself over there! They report great traffic, with many smiling faces seen on folks coming from the Upper Gallery. To read a review of the show from the Falmouth Enterprise, click here.

You are invited to come hear my talk on Sat., April 13th at 11 AM. I will give a peek behind the scenes at my working process (including making the film) and share what it’s like to shift from safe and secure subject matter to political art.

Liberty and Justice: The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor 
Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit, Massachusetts
March 2 – April 20, 2019
Artist Talk – “Sweet to Satirical”, Sat., April 13, 2019 at 11 AM

The exhibit will be in Cotuit until April 20th and then a portion (including the film) will go to Kennebunk, ME for The Art of Cute exhibit at the Brick Store Museum (May 1 – Aug. 31, 2019).


I’d also like to remind you that 4 large bas-relief embroidered pieces (Including Displaced, below) are in the Migration exhibit for 2 more weeks.

MIGRATION
Imago Foundation for the Arts, Warren, Rhode Island
March 14 – April 20, 2019 – 
Show Dates
IMAGO Gallery is located at 36 Market Street, Warren, RI 02885 – 401 245 3348 – Open Thurs 4 – 8; Fri and Sat 12 – 8; Sun 11 – 3 and by appointment. 

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/orInstagram.

Liberty and Justice exhibit in Cotuit

Last September, when my Liberty and Justice exhibit was cancelled at a local venue, due to its political content, 2 arts organizations immediately came to the rescue. The New England Quilt Museum quickly rearranged their exhibition space to accommodate an expanded version of the original concept, which they showed for 3 months last fall. It was their idea to add a section of my earlier work, which my husband Rob labeled “The Innocent Years”. Now, the Cotuit Center for the Arts on Cape Cod is hosting Liberty and Justice: The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor until April 20.

To read a review of the show from the Falmouth Enterprise, click here.

The Cotuit Center reports great traffic, with many smiling faces seen on folks coming from the Upper Gallery. They’ve also received applause for their willingness to host the show. A friend told me that she surprised and embarrassed herself by continually laughing out loud, while perusing the exhibit. It’s nice to hear this, because that’s how I imagined the response would be, way back when I first began planning the exhibit. The show has also triggered an emotional release in some viewers, like this woman who wrote to tell me, “I’m uplifted for the first time in three years. I burst into tears last night and realized your art helped me deal with my distress and dismay.”

A friend passed on this comment she received from an acquaintance named Zoe, who went to see the show on her recommendation – “The Mavor exhibit was so perfect and captivating! I’m so interested in the moment where she must have realized that her medium was perfect for what she wanted to say.” She and everyone else can find out on April 13th at 11 AM, when I give my Artist Talk.

For the Cotuit show, I’ve added more framed cartoons and early pieces, and I’ve set up 2 display cases with scenery and props used in the filming of the movie.
The exhibit includes the following:
18 enlarged photographs from the Wee Folk Players series of satirical cartoons (including the doll house set), 13 minute stop-motion animated film – Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free, Displays of 3-dimensional characters, props and scenery from the animated film, A collection of earlier work from “the innocent years” – embroidered bas-relief pieces, children’s book illustrations, Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion , Rabbitat and Birds of Beebe Woods.

Liberty and Justice: The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor
Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit, Massachusetts
March 2 – April 20, 2019
Artist Talk – “Sweet to Satirical”, Sat., April 13, 2019 at 11:00 AM

The exhibit is an opportunity to see a wide array of works by fiber artist and illustrator, Salley Mavor, who has recently added political satire to her repertoire. She uses small dolls as a metaphor for living in a safe controlled environment that has been taken over by outside political forces. The exhibit features a collection of photographs of scenes she created in a doll house and a stop-motion animated film, which satirize the Trump administration. The original dolls and props used in the film will also be on display. Although Ms. Mavor’s foray into political art is the centerpiece of the show, the exhibition also includes original embroidered children’s book illustrations and other artwork from earlier in her 40-year career. The inclusion of these pieces tracks the evolution of her artistic journey from “innocence” to tackling real world issues.

The exhibit is located upstairs, with the wall facing the balcony dedicated to the sweet section of the show. By far, the favorite in this group is Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion , which a lot of people can relate to.

The politically satirical portion is shown in 2 side spaces. One has the Liberty and Justice film and display cases full of the real dolls, props and scenery used in the film-making process. The other side has the photographic “cartoons” and the doll-house stage set.

For the show, I matted and framed 18 enlarged photographs of the Wee Folk Players cartoons, which were produced in the first 6 months after the election.

Michelle Law, the center’s gallery manager, was incredibly helpful and a delight to work with during the installation.

The doll house, which I made in art school over 40 years ago is also on display. It served as a stage for the Wee Folk Players in many of the scenarios we photographed.

I hope that those of you who live within a manageable distance of Cape Cod can make a trip to see the show, which runs until April 20 at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit, Massachusetts. I will give a talk about the evolution of my art from “Sweet to Satirical” on Sat., April 13th at 11 AM.

Next, a portion of this exhibit will be included in The Art of Cute, which takes a serious look at a powerful aesthetic that is often not taken seriously. Some of my topical and political work will be displayed in the Meta Cute or “beyond” cute category. This part of the exhibit explores how cute, combined with other aesthetics, can create meaningful art that is ironic, disturbing, political, joyous humorous and provocative.
THE ART OF CUTE 
Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, Maine
May 1- August 31, 2019
Curated and produced by the Illustration Institute

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.

Migration exhibit

Friday night was the opening reception for MIGRATION at the Imago Gallery in Warren RI. The curated exhibit includes a wide array of art on the subject of migration, refugees and displaced peoples. The amazing sculptor, Harriet Diamond and I are the featured artists in the show. I really enjoyed meeting her and look forward to our gallery talk on Sunday, March 24 at 1:00 PM. Harriet and I will begin with short visual presentations about our art and then we’ll have a conversation with each other and the audience. The show will be up until April 20th, so I hope that those of you from Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts can get over there to see it. IMAGO Gallery hours: Thursday 4-8 | Friday and Saturday 12-8 | Sunday 11-3

Harriet and I chatted about the many facets of our art that we share – we both make sculpture, use small doll-like figures, present narratives that tell the human story and portray a range of social scenarios from the everyday to topical subjects. Please scroll down to see photos of her powerful and ambitious project. Four of my bas-relief embroidered pieces are on display: Face Time, Cover Up, Whiskers and Displaced.

Artist Harriet Diamond’s work “Driven From Their Homes,” is a hybrid installation sculpture and illusionistic scene that chronicles the horrors of the Syrian War and diaspora. As Diamond notes, the work “depicts an episodic journey of refugee people fleeing from the terrible destruction of their home city” to an unknown future.  Each figure struggles to cope, to grieve, to endure.  “It is a dark scene, but it’s also roiling with life.”  Because of the size and scope of this piece, viewers will be surrounded by the scenes as they unfold.  All human emotions, from fear to desolation, from courage to heroism, are etched in the faces of these victims of war.  It is the artist’s fervent hope that by telling this story the “terrible truth of war” will become “more present and real to us.”

I am blown away by the power of “Driven From Their Home”. There is so much to take in. The figures are constructed of clay and the building structures are styrofoam slabs painted to look like concrete. She has set up this installation in several locations, piecing together the many parts like a puzzle.

If you make the trip to see the show, please know that there’s a great little eatery next door – Eli’s Kitchen. Here are the dates of the show and talk:

MIGRATION
Imago Foundation for the Arts, Warren, Rhode Island
March 14 – April 20, 2019 –
Show Dates
Sunday, March 24 @ 1:00 PM – Artist Talk with featured artists Harriet Diamond and Salley Mavor.
IMAGO Gallery is located at 36 Market Street, Warren, RI 02885 – 401 245 3348 – Open Thurs 4 – 8; Fri and Sat 12 – 8; Sun 11 – 3 and by appointment.

To see my current schedule of exhibits and talks, click here.

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

3 upcoming exhibits

Displaced

This spring, there will be three opportunities to see my work up close and personal in New England. I wish all of you could see the real thing in 3D, because it’s a totally different experience than looking at photos online or in books. With that in mind, inquiries from curators and venues in other parts of the country are always welcome! (Contact me here.)

For these three shows, I was specifically invited to exhibit my new topical and political work. That feels affirming, since breaking out of my comfort zone to tackle real world issues has been unsettling at times. And I’m excited that my work is being recognized outside of the fiber art world. I think that in order for fiber art to be taken seriously in the larger art world, it needs to hold its own when viewed side-by-side with other kinds of art. Opportunities to do this are limited, so I’m thankful for the chance to exhibit my work along with a variety of mediums, sometimes as the only fiber artist. That is also the case in the illustration world, where the majority are painters or computer artists. In this broader context, I am viewed as a visual communicator who just happens to use a needle and thread to say something. But one can’t ignore the unique visceral connection to techniques and materials that fiber art offers. I know that stitching is an integral part of my experience of making art, as well as how others perceive it. How one makes art is an important part of the symbiotic relationship between message and medium. In a simple sense, the creative process comes down to individual marks or gestures that add up to something whole, whether it be with brush strokes, body moves, musical notes, typed letters or stitches.


Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion

THE EXHIBITS
Liberty and Justice; The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor is moving back home to Cape Cod after its successful run at the New England Quilt Museum. My work will also be shown in two curated thematic exhibits – Migration in Warren, RI and The Art of Cute in Kennebunk, ME.

The amazing sculptor, Harriet Diamond and I are featured artists in Migration, a show about migration, refugees and displaced peoples. The Art of Cute takes a serious look at a powerful aesthetic that is often not taken seriously. My works will be examples of how how cute, combined with other aesthetics, can create meaningful art that is ironic, disturbing, political, joyous, humorous and provocative.


LIBERTY and JUSTICE:
The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor

Props and characters from “Liberty and Justice” animation

Liberty and Justice: The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor
Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit, Massachusetts
March 2 – April 20, 2019, Opening Reception – Mar. 2, 5 – 7 PM
Artist Talk – “Sweet to Satirical”, Sat., April 13, 2019 at 11:00 AM

The exhibit is an opportunity to see a wide array of works by fiber artist and illustrator, Salley Mavor, who has recently added political satire to her repertoire. She uses small dolls as a metaphor for living in a safe controlled environment that has been taken over by outside political forces. The exhibit features a collection of photographs of scenes she created in a doll house and a stop-motion animated film, which satirize the Trump administration. The original dolls and props used in the film will also be on display. Although Ms. Mavor’s foray into political art is the centerpiece of the show, the exhibition also includes original embroidered children’s book illustrations and other artwork from earlier in her 40-year career. The inclusion of these pieces tracks the evolution of her artistic journey from “innocence” to tackling real world issues.

The exhibit will include the following:
18 enlarged photographs from the Wee Folk Players series of satirical cartoons (including the doll house set), 13 minute stop-motion animated film – Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free, Display of 3-dimensional characters, props and scenery from the animated film, A collection of earlier work from “the innocent years” – children’s book illustrations, Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion , Rabbitat and Birds of Beebe Woods.


MIGRATION

Cover Up

MIGRATION
Imago Foundation for the Arts, Warren, Rhode Island
March 14 – April 21, 2019 –
Show Dates
Friday, March 15th @ 6:00 PM – Opening Reception
Sunday, March 24 @ 1:00 PM – Artist Talk with featured artists Harriet Diamond and Salley Mavor.

Sculptor Harriet Diamond and Salley Mavor are the featured artists in this group exhibit about migration, refugees and displaced peoples. Four of Mavor’s bas-relief embroidered pieces will be on display – DisplacedWhiskersCover Up and Face Time.

Whiskers

THE ART OF CUTE

Fireside Tweet

THE ART OF CUTE
Brickstore Museum, Kennebunk, Maine
May 1- August 31, 2019
Curated and produced by the Illustration Institute

The Art Of Cute takes a serious look at a powerful aesthetic that is often not taken seriously. The exhibit is organized into three sections: Normative Cute, Applied Cute and Meta Cute and will explore why we are drawn to that which is cute and how its impact is felt in life, in design and in art.

A selection of Salley Mavor’s topical and political work will be displayed in the Meta Cute or “beyond” cute category. This part of the exhibit explores how cute, combined with other aesthetics, can create meaningful art that is ironic, disturbing, political, joyous humorous and provocative.

Still from “Liberty and Justice” animation
Displaced

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

Bed Book Peek: North America (part 3)

In this Part 3, I will describe making all the miscellaneous elements in the children’s bedroom. Part 1 was about the little girl and her bed and Part 2 showed the baby, the crib and the dog.

The scene will be included in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: 
Holland, South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth Africa and Iran.
To see a list of all my books, click here

Besides making the figures, my favorite part of creating an illustration is filling the artwork with elements that help develop the characters and tell their story. Most of the spreads in this book show the children’s environment both inside and out. In this one, the wholly interior scene was an opportunity to indulge my passion for miniatures, from the wall paper to the lampshade. Making objects in relief is a lot different than rendering mini replicas of furniture for a doll house, though. Since the maximum depth I have to work with is 1 inch, everything is pretty flat and is made to look more sculptural than it really is.

The lampshade is embroidered felt, with wire stitched to the top and bottom rims for structure. I added dangling seed beads to give it some personality. As you can see, the shade is just half a circle, with the flat back sewn to the wall. The lamp is a miniature turned wooden pot that I sawed in half and painted.

Even the kid’s drawings on the wall are embroidered on felt. Chain stitching is my go-to method for forming lines.

This is the first time I’ve made a basket with silk ribbon. In the past, I’ve woven them with thread wrapped wire, like the egg basket in Pocketful of Posies. Like the lampshade, it’s made in relief (about 1/2″), with a flat back. I really like the silk ribbon made by Silk Road Fibers. I used it other scenes for this book, including the palm fronds in North Africa.

I made blocks to fill the toy basket by coloring square wooden beads with different colored magic markers. It’s important to find parts with holes, so you can sew them in place. Just like with painting doll heads, I strung them on a pipe cleaner for support.

Then, I sewed the basket to the background fabric.

Through the window, you can see a thread wrapped tree branch. It’s inside a balsa wood box that I sewed in back, behind the background fabric. I’ve used this method in other scenes where I want to show receding depth. It’s a way to make use of the hidden space inside the stretcher.

This little toy car reminded me of the pins I used to make.

I may have reached my mini limit with this purple bear.

I hope you enjoyed taking an inside look at making this scene for My Bed.
Part 1 is about the little girl and her bed and Part 2 shows the baby, the crib and the dog.

I am happy to announce that the original illustrations for the book will tour the country after the book is published in the fall of 2020. The Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit and other venues will follow. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a traveling exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than looking at reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. You can help bring the show to a place near you by reaching out to your local venues and telling them about this opportunity. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country! 

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

Bed book peek – North America (part 2)

In part 1, we were introduced to this little girl in her cozy bed and quilt. In this part 2, I will describe how I made her baby sibling sleeping in a crib and her pet dog lying on a rug. Part 3 will come next, with photos of all the miscellaneous elements in the bedroom.

The scene will be included in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book:
Holland, South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth Africa and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

I am happy to announce that the original illustrations for the book will tour the country after the book is published in the fall of 2020. The Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit and other venues will follow. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a traveling exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than looking at reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. You can help bring the show to a place near you by reaching out to your local venues and telling them about this opportunity. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country! 

When making the baby’s head, I was faced with the dilemma of how to deal with the bead hole on top. Normally, when making a doll from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk, the hole is covered with hair or a hat. But in this case I wanted to paint on the hair. So, I glued a small scrap of black felt inside the whole, which blended in with the painted bead surface.

I must say that it felt strange to lay the baby face up, instead of on their stomach, which is what I did in the 80’s with my kids. But, that’s what you’re supposed to do now for their safety. This is just one example of the kind of things that come up when you illustrate a children’s book.

The head, foot and bottom of the crib are made of wood, but the sides are formed with wire, wrapped in embroidery floss. I love using wire for detailed touches because it’s cooperative and strong at the same time. I’d say, when you can’t figure out how to get something to hold its shape, use wire. I use non tarnish beading wire in a variety of gauges and Soft Flex wire for straight lines or wide curves.

I made a black and white mobile-like contraption from beads and wire to hang over the crib. Have you noticed the black and white products for newborns? The reason is that that the sharp contrast of black and white is easier for them to see when their vision is still blurry. So much for pastels.

Now, let’s look at the dog making process. If you follow the other posts about animals for the book, you’ll see that I use pipe cleaners to form their basic shapes. I wrapped the dog’s legs with wool tapestry yarn, so the color and texture would blend with its wool felt body.

For my illustrations, I make all of the parts in shallow relief – characters, animals, furniture, architecture, foliage and everything. After the parts are made separately, they are arranged and sewn to a background fabric. For photographic and framing purposes, nothing should stick up more than an inch from the surface. With that in mind, this dog was made to lay flat on a rug. It didn’t have to be able to stand up or have its back viewed.

I then covered the legs and formed the body and tail with felt.

Looking at this photo, it’s hard to see how the dog’s head was attached to the rest of the body. There is a seam at the neck, but I smoothed the felt fibers a bit with a needle, to cover the stitching. The finishing touch was a stitched fur texture on its body and ears.

Then I stitched a circular felt rug for the dog to sleep on.

After the dog was sewn in place, I added a knotted rope chewy toy, made with beads and perle cotton. Please stay tuned for part 3, which will conclude the series and show all of the miscellaneous elements in the bedroom.

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

Bed book peek: North America (part 1)

This illustration features a little girl and her doll, tucked in and cozy under a quilt. She’s looking at a book in bed, in her bedroom, someplace in North America. The scene will be included in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book:
Holland, South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth Africa and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

I’m steadily making progress on the book, with the intention of meeting the deadline in a few months. This kind of work can’t be sped up and just takes the time it takes, kind of like children growing up. It’s important that my art have a handmade quality that shows that a real human being labored over it. If I can’t be in my studio, I stitch during every possible moment – in the car (in the passenger seat) and while waiting for appointments. Of course, I sleep, cook dinner, go to exercise class and occasionally pay attention to my husband. Winter is speeding by too fast, but then I’ve come to the age where it seems like my life is going by in a blur. There’s no such thing as boredom.

The quilt is embroidered with pastel colored cotton flower thread on wool felt. I chain stitched the squares from the outside in, around and around, like a Greek key pattern.

I’ve been using the chain stitch a lot in this book, as a way to fill in areas. After the squares were finished, I noticed that they needed more definition, so I outlined them with a darker purple and rose color.

I made the girl’s body out of pipe cleaners and her head from a wooden bead, using the same basic doll-making techniques that are in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

Her doll has the tiniest wood bead head that I could find.

The book she’s holding is felt, edged with blanket stitch and wire to give it form. Otherwise it would be too floppy. I built the bed’s head and foot board of wood, gluing the parts together.

Her room has furnishings, too, such as this chest of drawers.

And there’s wall paper, which I decorated by stitching a vertical leafy vine on gold striped upholstery fabric.

This is the first in a 3 part series about making the scene. There are many more elements to show, which you can get a glimpse of in the photo below. Please stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for the book. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication in the fall of 2020. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a touring exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than seeing reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country!

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