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.

bed book peek – Mongolia (part 3)

This is Part 3 in a series about how I made the Mongolian scene for my new picture book MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. I’m thrilled to say that the book will be published very soon – in 10 days! Thank you for following along during the past few years, while I shared bits and pieces of the process. For a full list of posts, go to this page.

Update: 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. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

BEDTIME STITCHES Exhibition
And there’s more exciting news! Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches, the touring exhibition of original embroidered artwork for the book debuts at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit, MA. The exhibition will be there from Sept. 11 – Dec. 22, 2020. To ensure a safe and welcoming experience when you visit, please pre-register for timed entry. Masks will also be required. For those of you who live too far away to come see the show in person, the museum will be sharing the exhibition on their website as much as possible. To see other locations for Bedtime Stitches, go here.

Along with the illustrations, additional artworks will be on view, including two fairy houses, many of my wee folk dolls, Polly Doll, as well as composition books and objects from my home studio. Also included is a doll house I built in 1975 while in college and which I’ve spent the past few months renovating and redecorating (photo below). These additional artworks will only be on view at the Cahoon Museum show.

Doll house built in 1975, renovated in 2020

Now, back to the Mongolian scene. Part 1 and part 2 are about making the little yurt, sheep, plants, door and flag. This 3rd and last part is about the yurt’s cozy interior that appears in the cutaway.

In my research, I found photographs of families inside their yurts, sitting on beautiful carpets, always with a stove in the center. I noticed painted red furniture, so I made a little chest decorated with a chain-stitched locking key pattern.

To keep the felt straight and firm, I edged the pieces with wire, which is stitched over so you don’t see the shiny metal.

For the stove, I used black felt and various hooks and eyes that look like mini hardware.

As with the red chest, the different pieces are edged with wire to keep them firm. For the feet, I sewed on square clay beads. The stove pipe is made with acid free card board covered with felt.

I made a little tea kettle of wood and wire. The lid is a button with a seed bead knob sewn on top.

A little metallic acrylic paint makes it look authentic.

I made a little rug using brocade upholstery fabric as a base and chain stitched a bold pattern around the border.

The child has a painted wooden bead head and wire hands.

He only need one arm because most of his body will be hidden under the covers.

For the bed covering, I embellished a piece of printed cotton that must be at least 50 years old. In fact, every piece of fabric and felt used in all of the illustrations for this book came from my collection. That goes for all of the found objects as well.

I used red leather strapping to represent the painted red slats that hold up the walls. Lengths of leather are folded over and sewn together and then sewn in rows.

And lastly, I sewed glass and metal beads on top of the chest, just to make it look homey. I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes peek at making the Mongolian scene. For a full list of posts about My Bed, please refer to this page.

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 – Mongolia (part 2)

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This is Part 2 in a series about how I made the Mongolian spread for my new picture book. Photographs of my stitched bas-relief scenes will be printed in MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. Here are links to posts about making other illustrations for the book: South America, JapanNorth AfricaGhana, Russia, Scandinavia, North AmericaHollandIran, and Afghanistan. To see a list of all my books, click here.

Update: 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. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

Art Exhibition: An accompanying national tour of the original artwork reproduced in the book will debut at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit, Massachusetts from Sept. 11 – Dec. 19, 2020. Information about the exhibition is on this page.

Part 1 looks at the process of making the yurt or ger, sheep, and plants in the Mongolian scene. This Part 2 will focus on the creating the door.

My_Bed_Mongolia (1 of 1)-39When researching the yurts or gers in Mongolia, I was impressed with the bold and beautiful doors. They are made of wood panels painted with traditional geometric motifs in predominately primary colors. For my design, I referenced several doors I saw in photos, combining the squares and triangles to make a pattern I liked.
I don’t remember exactly how I transferred the design from paper to the felt, but it probably involved a ruler and eyeballing it with a chalk fabric pencil. The red basting stitches mark where panels will later be placed on top. I colored in the patterns with chain stitched rows of cotton flower thread. The yellow triangles are made with fly stitches.

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Stitching patterns like this is the closest I get to doing old-style embroidery. It feels as calming as coloring in between the lines in a coloring book. 

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To replicate the wood panels, I cut strips of felt and outlined them with blanket stitches. To make them firm, I edged the panels with wire, which I covered over with stitches.

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For the door’s hardware, I poured through my collection of hooks and eyes until I found some of the right scale.

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I sewed them in place back to back, so they looked like door hinges.

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In the research photos, I often saw red flags flying on poles near the doorways. To make mine, I cut the corner off of an old red hankie that had delicate white edging. I then finished off the other two sides. I added wire around the outside edge so that it could be bent to look like a flag flapping in the wind.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you will have noticed that besides fabric, thread and beads, wire is an essential component of my artwork. I use it as a structural framework to keep limp materials upright and to form free-standing shapes.

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Another feature of the doors is a hanging rope-like pull. To make one, I braided strands of pima cotton.

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Please stay tuned for Part 3 in this series, which will be about making the child and the interior of the Mongolian yurt or ger.

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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 – Mongolia (part 1)

With its release date a month away, review copies of my new picture book, My Bed are being sent out by the publisher. It’s been so long since my last children’s book (Pocketful of Posies 2010) that I forgot about the anticipation and excitement of reviews. So, I was taken off-guard when my editor announced that My Bed was given a Kirkus Star, which described the book as “Ingeniously illustrated”. With many thousands of new children’s books entering the marketplace each year, publishers, authors and illustrators rely on reviews to help make their books stand out in the crowd. And a quotable review can make all the difference in a book’s success.

In addition to gearing up for My Bed’s publication, I’m preparing for the US tour of the original fabric-relief art for the book. The exhibition will debut at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit, Massachusetts from Sept. 11 – Dec. 22, 2020. You’ll be glad to know that the museum is taking measures to make your visit safe by requiring face masks and scheduling time slots with a small number of visitors at a time. They will also be putting the show online for those of you from places too far away to visit.

Update: 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. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

In creating the illustrations for My Bed, I feel as if I’ve gotten to visit all the children in the places they live around the globe, even though I stayed home. Rebecca Bond wrote a narrative that celebrates our differences, while also bringing us together through the universal theme of children sleeping in their safe little beds.  It was my job to bring these children to life and create their varying environments. Here are links to posts about making illustrations for the book: South America,JapanNorth AfricaGhana, Russia, Scandinavia, North AmericaHollandIran, and Afghanistan. To see a list of all my books, click here.

In this post, I will focus on making the yurt or ger, sheep and plants for the scene set in Mongolia.

Way back in the beginning, I laid out the whole book and made sketches for each page. The scenes fill up 3/4 of a double page spread and the text will be printed on the remaining 1/4 page, which will be to the left of the decorative border. The vertical line over the door is there to mark where the fold or gutter will be located.

For reference, I looked at many photos of authentic Mongolian yurts or gers and decided to show a cutaway of both the outside and inside. I loved the bold and bright patterns on the doors. They sometimes paint designs on the white cloth cover, too.

The grazing sheep needed to be pretty small to fit the scale. I painted their faces on oval wooden beads and formed the rest of their bodies with wire. Then I wrapped the ears, legs and tails with fine wool yarn.

I covered the bodies with cotton batting and stitched French knots all over.

After sewing the yurt and sheep in place on the felt background, I added a few stitches to look like tufts of grass.

To help separate the foreground from the background, I made stems with wire and wrapped the leaves and branches with embroidery floss.

Please stay tuned for more parts in this series. Future posts will be about making the door, the child and the interior of the scene from Mongolia.

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

Library community art project

Center square of the Woods Hole Quilt 2007

Every summer, the Woods Hole Public Library sponsors a community art project, inviting patrons of all ages to create a work of art, working separately and using a common medium. In previous years, materials such as discarded books, retired chairs from a local restaurant, outdated nautical charts and even horseshoe crab shells where used. The completed works are then auctioned off for the benefit of the library. A few years ago, I made “Paige Turner” (pictured below) using pages from an old book that was going to be thrown out. And this year, I’m offering 3 items for the auction.

(Find out about the Woods Hole Village Quilt (2007) pictured above here)

Paige Turner from a previous Woods Hole Public Library community art project

This year’s project features cards from the library’s now decommissioned card catalog. Remember those little wooden drawers that recorded each book in the library, along with their Dewey decimal classification? While combing through the thousands of cards, a volunteer came across the ones made for the 2 books that Judy Richardson wrote and I illustrated. She gave the cards to Judy who asked me if we could participate in the project.

Judy had the idea of decorating the library cards and offering signed copies of our books, The Way Home and Come to My Party for the auction. So, I got out a needle and thread and embellished the cards with stitches and beads. Here we are in a 1991 promo picture for The Way Home, posing with Bella the elephant at the Barnstable County Fair and more recent photos. I wrote about making the pink dress I’m wearing here.

Judy was kind enough to dip into her safely guarded supply and offer our books for the auction.These hard cover books are out of print and very hard to find, especially unused and in perfect condition. Both of us signed the library cards and the title pages inside the books.

The card for Pocketful of Posies was also found, so I decorated it, too. The auction will go live on Sat. July 25th and run for 2 weeks. You can link to the auction from the library’s website here.

The Woods Hole Public Library is a treasured institution in our village. They’ve adapted to the Covid 19 restrictions and are serving patrons via an outside window. When I dropped off the books, a writer’s workshop was being held outside, with everyone sitting 6 ft. apart in a circle.

Since libraries have gone digital, those old oak drawers need to find new homes and sometimes you can find them for sale. I love my set, which was passed down many years ago from my biology professor grandfather, who used it to catalog his personal library of science books. Now, they hold boxes of beads. So, if you have lots of little things to keep organized and accessible, I recommend getting a set!

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: crocodile

Today, I’m happy to show how I made this crocodile, which will be used as a spot illustration in my upcoming picture book, MY BED. 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 Sept. 2020. A touring exhibition of my original embroidered artwork for the book will travel around the United States. Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches will debut at the Cahoon Museum Of American Art in Cotuit, MA from Sept. 11 to Dec. 22, 2020. The tour schedule is listed here.

Update: 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. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

For inspiration, I found this felt purse, which is a prototype for a kit I used to sell in the early 2000’s. The different animal kits came with plant dyed wool felt, thread, and beads for the eyes. The purse kits were mostly sold in catalogs and Waldorf School stores, along with my fairy kits.

Using its simple, stylized shape as a jumping off point, I drew sketches until I was happy with the overall pose and level of detail. I thought about how to translate the flat outline into a more 3-dimensional crocodile.

I bent a pipe cleaner and wrapped 2 front legs with tapestry weight wool yarn. I also located square green wooden beads for the crocodile’s eyes. They’ve been in my bead collection since the 70’s, when I made crocodile pins (see one at the end of this post).

I bent the pipe cleaner to form an outline of the animal’s basic shape and sewed on a backing of green felt.

At this point, I must have forgotten to take pictures, so we’ll have to skip the fussy part where I cover the front of the animal with felt. From the looks of it, I padded the inside of the body with extra layers of felt. My original plan was to put a haunch where the back legs go, but the one I made looked awkward, so I scrapped that idea and made 2 back legs to match the front ones. Then I sewed the beady eyes to the top and stitched rickrack along its back.

I did remember to take a picture of the back, which reveals an unsightly mishmash of stitches that hold the front piece tightly in place.

I formed the outline (or lips) of the mouth with wire and covered the shiny metal with embroidery floss. Then I “colored in” the mouth with an overlapping filler stitch.

Finishing touches included zigzag teeth, seed beads for nostrils and a fly stitched bumpy texture on the body.

The crocodile I made for the book is very much like pins I used to make over 40 years ago. As you can see, I’m reworking the same themes over and over!

To see other animals and illustrations I’ve made for the book, click here.

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.

Hand-painted wee folk faces

Recently, I’ve felt an urge to paint doll faces on wooden beads. Not just a few, but lots and lots of them. Like stitching, I find the repetitive process calming. This compulsion, or meditation practice, depending on how you look at it, has led to a new offering in my Etsy Shop.

Many of you who’ve made fairies and other wee folk dolls from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk, mention how frustrating it can be to paint the dolls’ faces. Now, with the option of buying painted doll heads, you can relax and concentrate on the stitching and wrapping part.

Hand-painted wooden doll heads and acorn cap hats

It all started while tidying up my studio, when I found myself confronted by baskets brimming with acorn caps and bags full of wooden beads. I used to collect acorn caps by the thousands when my fairy kit business was going strong in the early 2000’s. It was always a rush every Fall to harvest enough of the right size and type to fit the different bead head sizes. Even though I stopped making kits years ago, I haven’t broken the habit of scanning the ground under oak trees and picking up acorn caps. Just because they could be the perfect size and shape to top off some little character. So, I figured that I’d paint wooden doll heads to sell along with the caps.

Some of you were introduced to my work through the kits, which I made for 10 years from 1998 – 2008. They were mostly available through catalogs and Waldorf School stores.

Bud & Ivy Kit

As I culled through piles of acorn caps, separating them by size and quality, I had flashbacks to the time of my life when every spare moment was devoted to designing, sourcing materials, mass-producing and marketing these kits. The memory gave me pause to think about what I was getting into.

So, before deciding to mass-produce painted heads again, I convinced myself that this time was different. I told myself that I’ll just paint heads until I don’t want to anymore or when the acorn caps are used up.

Wee Folk Studio Kits 1998 – 2008

Actually, designing and figuring out directions for the kits gave me the experience and ability to write my how-to book Felt Wee Folk. In the 17 years since the first edition came out, many of you’ve written to say how much pleasure you’ve gotten out of making these little dolls. You also mention how habit forming they can be, so maybe the book should come with a warning! I love seeing and hearing about how you’ve adapted the patterns to personalize your own wee worlds. It was always my intention to introduce projects that encouraged imaginative exploration and I’m happy that you are doing just that!

In addition to the Felt Wee Folk book, flower petal skirts & wings and wool fleece fairy hair, my Etsy shop now has hand-painted wooden doll heads for sale.

hand painted wooden doll heads and acorn cap hats

Wooden bead doll heads with hand-painted faces and fitted acorn cap hats are available in my Etsy shop. A range of skin tones are grouped together in different size assortments of 12mm, 14mm and 16mm beads.

I just restocked the shop with packs of flower petals, which you can watch me assemble in this time lapse video.

I’m also selling naturally dyed wool fleece fairy hair, which was left over from the kit making days.

Wool Fleece Fairy Hair

Blueberry Blossom Fairy was one of the most popular kits. She still lives on as a note card in my shop. I hope that you find these supplies useful. As for other wee folk necessities, such as wool felt, I recommend A Child’s Dream, which has a great selection.

Blueberry Blossom Fairy Note Card

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: Ghana (part 4)

This is Part 4 in a series of posts about making the bas-relief scene set in the West African country of Ghana. A photograph of the piece will be reproduced in my upcoming picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. An accompanying US tour of the original artwork used to illustrate the book will begin in the fall of 2020. Information about the exhibition is on this page.

Part 1 shows the process of making the smaller house and background figure.
Part 2 is about making the child and his house in the foreground.
Part 3 shows how I made the shade tree and the bird.

Update: My Bed can now be pre-ordered in my shop here. The book’s release date is in Sept. 2020 and people have asked if they can pre-order autographed copies ahead. So, if you put your order in now, I’ll have a better idea of how many copies to get. The book will be shipped to you as soon as it arrives!

The book is 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 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Sept. 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth America, ScandinaviaHolland and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

This post shows how I made the leaves, plants and woven fence. It completes the 4 part series about stitching and constructing the many parts in the Ghanaian illustration. Since the shade tree is a prominent feature of the scene (and the text), I wanted to make it as 3-dimensional as possible. Sometimes I embroider leaves to a background fabric, but this tree would stand alone as a separate object. That meant that each individual leaf had to be cut of felt, stitched around the outside and edged with wire. At the time, I didn’t pay attention to how many, but out of curiosity, I just counted 89 leaves.

I grouped them in branches of 3, 4 and 5 leaves and added fly stitches to look like veins.

The clusters accumulated on my work table over the course of a few days.

Then I joined the small branches to the larger branches of the tree (which I described in Part 3) and wrapped embroidery floss around the thick and thin wire.

The trick is to get a seamless transition between the felt and wire branches. Wire provides the flexibility to bend and arrange the branches this way and that, to evenly fill the gaps and overlap the leaves.

i also made felt plants with long thin leaves. For extra stability, I stitched wire both around the outside edge and down the center vein.

For the hanging plant, I made wire stems and attached glass bead leaves.

The planter is an acorn cap. I sewed the plant and 3 pieces of wire to a circle of brown felt. I rarely use glue, but figured it was the best choice for holding the felt/wire/plant inside the acorn cap.

I found a plant hook of the right size in my hook & eye collection, which has really come in handy for this book project.

I cut a piece of felt for the fence and stitched 2 rows of wire to the top edge to keep it from being too floppy. I found some small flat pieces of wood in my stash of misc. parts and sewed them to the felt. Then, I stitched silk ribbon in a diagonal square pattern to make it look like it was woven with plant fibers.

I hope that you enjoyed this series about making the Ghanaian scene. Over the past year or so, I’ve written about most of the illustrations in the book, but there are a few more to go. My Bed’s release date of Sept. 8th, 2020 is just around the corner! If you’d like to pre-order autographed copies, please go to my shop. To see a complete list of the “bed book peek” blog entries, please go 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.

bed book peek – Ghana (part 3)

This is Part 3 in a series of posts about how I made the stitched bas-relief scene set in the West African country of Ghana. A photograph of the piece will be reproduced in my upcoming picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. An accompanying US tour of the original artwork used to illustrate the book will begin in the fall of 2020. Information about the exhibition is on this page.

Part 1 shows the process of making the smaller house and figure in the background and Part 2 is about making the child and his house in the foreground.

The book is 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 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Sept. 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth America, ScandinaviaHolland and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

Update: 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. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

In this part, I’ll show how I made the shade tree and the bird. Please bear with me while I try to explain ways of working that don’t easily fit into a logical sequence. These are techniques I’ve figured out intuitively over many decades of manipulating materials in my hands and I will do my best to translate into words what my hands have taught me.

In the beginning, I made thumbnail sketches of all of the pages in the book and enlarged them to full size. I used the drawing of the Ghanaian scene to trace and cut out a template of the tree.

Using the template, I traced and cut the trunk shape out of acid-free mat board. Over the years, I’ve gotten more diligent about using archival materials that won’t deteriorate or stain over time. You can read how I learned my lesson in this post about repairing an older piece.

To give the mat board a stitch-friendly surface, I glued layers of thin quilt batting to the front and back of the mat board. That way, there was something to catch the needle onto. I built up the thickness of the trunk by sewing tapered layers of felt to the top.

To make thinner branches, I sewed insulated electrical wire to the top where the trunk divides into 3 sections. I covered the tree trunk and thicker branches with brown felt, using a gazillion stitches on the back to pull it tight around the front.

I stitched a zigzag bark texture to the front with variegated pima cotton (Watercolours by Caron). To make the knot in the tree, I cut out a donut shaped piece of felt and blanket stitched it to the trunk.

To make leaves, I cut out pieces of felt and edged them with blanket stitches. Then, I stitched jewelry wire around the outside edges and formed stems by twisting wire.

I attached clumps of 3 or 4 leaves to the tree branches by winding the thin jewelry wire around the thicker insulated electrical wire.

Then, I wrapped the thick and thin wire with embroidery floss, covering the bumps and lumps until it looked smooth.

The original sketch didn’t include a bird, but after watching the scene come together, I decided to add a third blue focal point to catch the eye. The other 2 are the boy’s blue shorts and the blue skirt worn by the woman in the doorway. They stand out in contrast with the overall orange, brown and green color palette. I researched birds in West Africa and found a spectacular bird called the splendid glossy-starling.

For the bird’s head, I painted a wooden bead blue and formed a beak out of jewelry wire, which I wrapped with embroidery floss. Then I stuck the wire through the bead hole and used the extra length of wire to make the bird’s feet.

I made the bird’s body out of felt and added a wire tail. This starling is really glossy, so I stitched some bling with purple metallic thread on its tail and underbelly.

After sewing the bird’s wire feet to a thick branch on the tree, I could almost hear it sing!

Please stay tuned for Part 4, which will cover how I made the plants and woven fence.

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 – Ghana (part 2)

This is Part 2 in a series of posts about how I made the stitched bas-relief scene set in the West African country of Ghana. The piece will be reproduced in my upcoming picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World.

Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth AfricaNorth AmericaScandinavia and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

Update: 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. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

In Part 1, I showed the process of making the house and the small figure in the background. Now, I will concentrate on the house and child in the foreground.

Way back in the beginning, after my sketches were approved by Houghton Mifflin’s editorial team and before I started working on the finished scenes, I made heads of all of the children who would inhabit the pages of the book. I wanted to meet the children before embarking on what I knew would be at least a 2 year commitment. After falling in love with them, it didn’t matter how long it would take to make the places they call home.

Except for the fingers and toes, the children’s bodies are basically made the same way as the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. I painted their faces on wooden beads and made wigs by gluing on a piece of felt to the crown of the head, which acts as a needle friendly surface to sew on thread hair.

I dressed the Ghanaian boy in cotton shorts and a shirt.

He needed a woven sleeping mat, so I blanket stitched rows of “weaving’ on a piece of felt with variegated pima cotton thread.

To help make it look like the boy is inside the porch, I built a 1/2″ deep box out of balsa wood that I covered with felt. I’ve also used this method in other scenes for the book to create more depth, such as the inside of the house boat in the scene from Holland. It takes advantage of the space inside the stretcher, behind the background fabric. The box is inserted in a hole cut out of the stretched fabric. Objects recede (about 1/2″), as well as protrude (about 3/4′), making the piece more spatially dynamic.

To replicate the stone and mud texture on the house, I appliqued pieces of felt with blanket stitches. For extra structure, the window frame is outlined with wire.

I also chain-stitched spirals to look like stones in the wall and sewed a row of over-lapping bone bead shingles to the roof.

I stitched silk ribbon on felt to create the texture of a straw roof for the porch.

I made a mud and stone wall out of felt to go along the back of the property.

This photo gives an idea of how the box in the porch area recedes.

In future posts, I will show the process of making plants, the shade tree, the bird, and other parts of the scene.

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 – Ghana (part 1)

This is the first in a series of posts that will show how I made another illustration for my upcoming picture book, My Bed. The scene is set in Ghana, in the sub-region of West Africa. By the time I worked on this one, I’d gotten into the habit of taking photos of almost every little step along the way. So, I have a lot of material to share, which is divided into several categories that I’ll write about over the next few weeks.

Update: 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. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth AfricaNorth America, Scandinavia and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

As with all of the scenes in the book, I started by searching online for photos of buildings and living areas in the region. I took this information and drew a series of thumbnail sketches, working out a composition that focused on a child in their particular environment.

Today, I will show how I made the house that’s off to the side, with a small figure of a woman in the doorway. I selected wool felt from my stash, keeping in mind an overall palette of warm earth tones, complimented with blues and greens. (For questions about felt, please read this post.) It’s actually my favorite color combo, which I chose for my studio walls and window trim.

Even though the house is pieced together in a flat pattern, I wanted to create a sense of inside and outside, so I cut out the side window and door. I sewed wire around the edges to make a structural framework for the otherwise limp felt, adding a crisp outline that helps define its shape.

For the roof, I colored some vintage cotton ricrac with a brown magic marker.

To make the ricrac look more 3-dimensional, I outlined the bottom edge with a darker brown marker. Then, I stitched the ricrac rows in place at the pointed tops, which naturally raised up the bottom part, creating a bit of a shadow.

The window frame is first edged with blanket stitch and then outlined with wire.

I added a subtle zigzag pattern to the window and door frames.

I made a 1 3/4″ figure to stand in the doorway. Her traditional head-wrap is made with silk ribbon that I stitched in place. Throughout the book, children are the featured characters, with very few adults lurking in the background, depicted in tiny scale.

In future posts, I will show the process of making the child resting on a woven mat, the shade tree and other parts of the scene.

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.