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.

Liberty and Justice – the movie!

LIBERTY and JUSTICE: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free

What happens when a pair of lost citizens wander in the deep dark woods in search of a new leader? In this satirical take-off of the traditional folk tale, “Hansel and Gretel, the wordless story follows protagonists Liberty and Justice as they negotiate the challenges of today’s unique political landscape, while being shadowed by a persistent Twitter bird. The 13 min. movie is at the end of this post.

The film features an ensemble of old and new cast members from the Wee Folk Players theater troupe, who formed soon after the 2016 election. Other posts about the Liberty and Justice animation project include “Liberty and Justice” in process, All that Glitters, America First Ladystop-motion in action and Animated Film Logo. In this interview, I reflect on my foray into political satire and describe how speaking out through art has affected my work and life.

After about a year filming in the basement, where our animation stage is set up, my husband Rob Goldsborough and I are thrilled to share the fruits of our labor! It’s the first large joint artistic/technical venture we’ve undertaken in almost 40 years together. We used stop-motion animation to create the narrative, spending countless hours manipulating and photographing the characters and props so that they appear to move on their own when the series of frames is played in fast sequence.

We each had our field of expertise – I made all of the dolls and scenery and did the animating, while Rob contributed his talents in photography, lighting, computers and editing. Rob, a retired engineer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has had a life-long interest in photography and film-making. He and I have wanted to bring my wee folk characters to life through animation for many years – we just needed a compelling reason to jump in.

For a framework, I drew a basic story board that grew and developed over time. Every night at dinner, we discussed ideas for different camera angles and how we were going to film the next shot. What was supposed to be a fun summer adventure, ended up becoming a big part of our lives for a whole year! The more we learned, the more invested we became in the project. Luckily, we are both detail oriented and not very chatty, so spending hours on end in silent concentration, filming what would become 5 to 20 sec. scenes was not a problem. I calculated that at 24 frames per second, our 13 min. 32 sec. animation is made up of almost 20,000 individual photographs. Even though the project was incredibly time consuming, we loved working this way and would like to make more animated films in the future. But right now, I have to get back to working on a new children’s book, which you can see progressing here.

A highlight of the project has been finding and working with the musicians who produced the original score for the movie. Rob and I filmed about 100 silent scenes, knowing all along that music and sound effects would be an integral part of the finished film. Through friends, we were lucky to connect with Matthias and Carlaa local Woods Hole couple who specialize in this kind of work. I mean, what are the chances of us living just a few miles from each other in a small town on Cape Cod?

We are thrilled with what they’ve created for the soundtrack! They took our movie and ran with it, blending together many layers and styles into a carpet of sound that propels the story along, creating the right mood for each scene. Their sound production company, Stellwagen Symphonette, creates evocative instrumental music for radio, film and computer games. Drummer and pianist Matthias Bossi, violinist Carla Kihlsted and guitarist and engineer Jon Evans bring together many years of experience writing, performing and recording music. If you listen to NPR, you’ve heard their music embedded in stories from time to time. Their clients include This American Life, The Moth Radio Hour, Atlantic Public Media, Transom.org and Frontline Dispatch. 

We hope you enjoy watching the movie!

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Animated Movie Logo

Wee Folk Studio now has its very own movie logo! Rob and I filmed it to put at the beginning of our soon to be released short film, Liberty and Justice. The movie is very close to being finished and we plan to put it online in a week or so. In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to go behind the scenes and show the process of making this logo. The sound effects you hear are just a tiny hint of Stellwagen Symphonette’s fantastic musical score for the finished movie!

To start, I made a mini me…

and painted a sign…

with colored pencil decorations.

I stitched foliage for the tree.

Luckily, I already had a little house from another project that was abandoned years ago. I found a gnarly piece of wood to hold up the sign.

I’m still a reluctant hot glue user, but it worked well to mount the sign.

To animate the growing flowers, I needed different sizes, from single stems to bunches with multiple blossoms.

We filmed the scene on the all black stage in the basement.

This LED lamp came from a dollhouse supply company.

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Bed Book peek – parrot and sheep

Today, I am excited to share a couple of animals, which will be used as spot illustrations in my new book. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.

In addition to creating full page illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that will appear on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals  relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene.

These little animals bring back memories of the late 70’s, when I made a line of fabric pins. Of course, what I’m making today is much more intricate, but they are similar in size and concept.

This green parrot goes with the South American scene .

After doing photo research and drawing a simple parrot shape, I cut out pieces of felt and began embroidering feathers.

I formed the outline of the parrot’s beak with wire. Its eye is a glass seed bead, set inside a cut out hole.

I wrapped the beak with embroidery floss.

Then I added bird’s feet made of floss wrapped wire.

The sheep will go with the scene set in Afghanistan. In my research, I found pictures of local breeds with particularly long faces and ears.

The sheep’s legs are made with a pipe cleaner, using the same basic technique that used for the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. It’s face is embroidered wool felt, with seed bead eyes.

Luckily, I had some wool yarn of the right natural shade for the fleece. It was fun to make a tangled mess of french knots.

Then, I sewed on it’s ears, hiding the ends on the top with wool yarn. I’ll be sharing more animals (and scenes) as the book progresses. 

Here are links to posts about other illustrations I’ve finished for the book: AfghanistanSouth America, Japan and India.

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Bed book peek – Afghanistan (part 2)

Children, bedding, slippers and an ottoman take center stage in this 2nd part of the series about making an illustration of an a scene set in Afghanistan for my new picture book. To see how the carpet was made, click here for Part 1. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world was written by Rebecca Bond. It will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.

When creating characters, I start with painting faces on bead heads. Based on past experience, I think painting their features is more nuanced and emotive than anything I can achieve with stitches and fabric. It works best to paint a bunch and pick out the ones I like, kind of like an audition. Then I add hair, using the same wig-making technique shown in the new edition of my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures

To check the scale of this slumbering pair, I positioned them on the layout sketch and then the actual rug.

For a miniature quilt, I stitched and embellished a piece of printed blue fabric.

It took awhile sorting through piles and piles of fabric to find some that were not only appropriate and compatible, but also distinctive enough to contrast with the rug.

These green pajamas are made from a silk remnant.

For this coverlet, I gave up on finding a print that I liked and added embroidery to a simple grey and white print.

I made mattresses and pillows and put the children to bed.

Afghanistan (1 of 1)-2It was so fun making these wee slippers to place by the bedside.

There was also some mini upholstery to do, with this little ottoman.

Each of the illustrations has its own patterned strip, which will be used in the book design phase of the project. To keep it rigid and straight, I stitched Soft Flex beading wire along the edge. It feels good to have finished this one and I’m excited to move on to the next scene, which will be from a very different part of the world.

Here are links to posts about other illustrations I’ve finished for the book: South America, Japan and India.

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.


Bed Book peek – Afghanistan (part 1)

As soon as we finished filming scenes for our animated film, Liberty and Justice and handed it over to the musicians, I resumed work on my children’s book. It feels strange and wonderful to be engaged with only one project and a non-political one at that! But, it’s also like snuggling into bed and pulling up the covers, knowing that they’ll be yanked off come summer, when the movie is out.

I’m illustrating a story written by Rebecca Bond, which is a tour around the world that focuses on where children sleep. It will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts about other illustrations I’ve finished for the book: South America, Japan and India.

This scene, set in Afghanistan, has a pair of children sleeping on a family made rug, which features prominently in the verse. While researching carpets from the region, a photo of one with birds and trees caught my eye, so I adapted it to fit on the page. I don’t usually use color in my layouts, but in this case, I filled in the sketch with red and blue pencils to see what it looked like. Luckily, My son Ian had given me a gift of yarn he dyed for a class project – blue indigo and red rose madder

Along with the indigo and rose madder dyed yarn, I added other colors of tapestry wool. I chose a piece of dark upholstery fabric for the background, figuring that little bits of fabric would be visible around the stitches and a dark color would show off the colors better than a light fabric. The black and dark red pattern would add a richness and I could draw the rug’s patterns with white chalk, which would fade away with handling. 

I honestly don’t know what one would call this kind of embroidery. It’s just a lot of seed stitches crammed together, making a stipple effect. I wanted to give the impression of a woven rug, without actually using a grid format. Perfectly straight lines would look odd when everything else in the book is a bit wobbly.

This was the perfect project to work on in winter, staying warm in front of the wood stove.

As you can see, I don’t use an embroidery hoop. I usually work with fabric pieces that are too small or thick (like felt) to fit in a hoop, so I don’t even think about using one. I also prefer working with a pliable piece instead of a taught drum. That way you can make the needle go in and out in one stitch, instead of separate down and up moves.

It’s hard to estimate how long it took to stitch the rug, because I worked on it off and on for a month or so, between filming sessions, in waiting rooms and sitting in the passenger seat while traveling. It was closest to filling in a coloring book that I’ve experienced since childhood, but there were times when I couldn’t just follow the pattern and had to adjust the design to fit into the page dimensions.

I love how the unevenly dyed yarn gives a variegated appearance, like you see in authentic rugs.

The best part is the texture of the closely stitched surface, which feels like a real woven carpet. The process of making it was soothing and calming, for sure.

It’s important to keep in mind that this rug is part of an illustration that will have characters and bedding on top of it. Yes, it can be valued alone, as a textile, but that’s not sufficient enough for me. My hunger for a narrative compels me to add other elements. I liken it to the difference between a garment draped on a hanger and that same piece of clothing worn on a person who is alive in the world.

Here, you can see the 3/4 page layout inside the frame. The vertical green wire indicates where the gutter, or page fold will be located. And the two blank areas are sleeping spots for the children, who will be the subject of Part 2.

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All that glitters

We’re forging ahead with our stop-motion animation project and can see the end in sight! In our movie, Liberty and Justice, the protagonists (aka Hansel and Gretel) have many encounters as they wander through today’s political landscape in search of a leader. The arch of the story is loosely structured around the fairy tale, with references to the 2016 presidential election. Previous posts about the project include America First Lady, Liberty and Justice in Progress and Stop-motion in action.

This post focuses on glittery stage sets and props that we used in a variety of scenes. There’s nothing like a shiny object to get one’s attention. That and sugary sweet stuff, which I recently showed in this post.

My husband Rob and I have spent the past 10 months working on the movie in our basement studio, where the stage, lighting and photo equipment are set up. Yes, it’s taken us that long to make a short (under 15 minutes) animated film. Stop-motion animation requires a lot of time and patience, but it is worth it in the end, when you see the characters and scenes come to life. We hope to have our part finished soon, so that it can be passed on to the musicians, who will compose and record the sound track. So, you may ask, when and where can I see the completed film? Honestly, we’ve been so busy filming scenes that we haven’t had time to plan its launch into the world. I’ll be sure to announce the release — maybe in the spring or early summer.

Building the house was especially fun because I could break into my supply of shiny, glitzy bits and pieces that have been standing by, waiting for a project like this. And I also discovered the joys and challenges of glitter glue.

In order to create the illusion of distance in some setups, we needed a smaller scale house. So, I made a replica out of a block of plywood and foam core.

And what would a cozy cottage be without a gold encrusted door mat? I picked some felt that looked like jute and wrote out the welcome message in chain stitched metallic thread.

This photo is taken from the animator’s view of the set and off to the side is a monitor that shows what the camera sees. It’s helpful to look at the screen while I’m animating and play back the character’s movements.

This part of the story required gold foliage. I almost went blind combing the isles of Michael’s, looking through all the gilded Christmas decorations!

I could have made real gingerbread men, but decided to paint pre-cut wooden ones instead.

Since I normally sew everything, it’s a refreshing to work with paper, wood and paint for a change. But, in the end, I always come back to my soul mates, needle and thread.

As usual, you’re left hanging, wondering what Liberty and Justice will find in the gold house…

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In the Heart

detail from page 16, “In the Heart”

In the Heart 2001

On this Valentines Day, I thought it would be fun to show some details from my 2001 picture book In the Heart. Even though it isn’t a valentine story, the poetry (written by Ann Turner) expresses what is in the heart of a child’s day from morning until bedtime.

I chose this project because the words offered an open-ended view into a world full of belonging and wholeness. And the heart theme was too much to resist! Every page is an I Spy game, with hearts hidden throughout, in the kitchen, the yard, the classroom and in the night’s sky.

from “In the Heart” 2001

I used wood and old lacy pieces to decorate the interior scenes. The background fabric is dyed with a spray bottle.

In the heart

detail from “In the Heart” 2001

from “In the Heart” 2001

In the Heart, 2001

The father’s sweater used to be one of my favorite socks. The little fox in this night scene is 1″ from nose to tail.

detail from the book, “In the Heart”, 2001

The book ends with these words:
“and comes back to me–
deep in the pillow,
deep in the bed,
deep in the heart of the house.”

In the Heart

Of course, this and my other books are not just for kids and can be enjoyed by all ages. Autographed copies of In the Heart are available from my Etsy Shop.

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In the Heart 2001