New England Quilt Museum steps up

Yesterday, Rob and I went to see my exhibit, Liberty and Justice: The Satirical Art of Salley Mavor at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts. When the show was abruptly cancelled at another venue due to its political content, they swooped in to save the day! Since delivering the artwork a few weeks ago, this was the first chance we’ve had to go back and see how it all looks. I can tell you that their curator Pam Weeks (pictured in foreground) did a beautiful job arranging everything in the two galleries. One gallery contains a selection of framed photographs from the Wee Folk Players series, a monitor showing the 14 minute animated film on a loop and a display case full of the real dolls, props and scenery from the film.

NEQMdisplaycaseAcross the hall is a gallery showing my earlier bas-relief embroideries from what I call “The Innocent Years”, which includes a number of original children’s book illustrations.

Hush-a-bye-baby 2010

WGBH (1 of 1)While we were there, we happened to meet members of a Boston area museum club, who came specifically to see my show, which they heard about on the news. You can watch my interview on WGBH TV’s Open Studio program with Jared Bowen here.

The group was enthusiastic about both my political satire and earlier work, which they were not familiar with. One of them remarked that she especially liked the history lesson with authoritarian leaders at the end of the Liberty and Justice movie. I found her comment interesting, since that is the scene that has created the most fuss. I think it helps that the museum has presented my work in context, with signage explaining each part. Museum director, Nora Burchfield  told me that they have received no complaints about the exhibit. On the contrary, several visitors have made extra donations as a gesture of appreciation to the museum for having the bravery to show my new work.

In the photo below, I’ve just pointed out how the nursing mother in “The Red Chair”, until recently, was my most edgy piece.

The Red Chair 1994

The exhibit is up until Dec. 30, 2018, so I encourage you to make the trip to Lowell if you can. I know that some of you from far away have mentioned that you plan to go when you’re in the Boston area for work or family visits this fall. Next year, the exhibit will travel to the Cotuit Center for the Arts in Cotuit, Massachusetts, March 2 – April 20, 2019. Artist Talk – “Sweet to Satirical”, Sat., April 13, 2019 at 3:00 PM

The doll house I used as a set for the Wee Folk Players series is in the hallway between the two galleries. When I made the house 40 years ago, I remember noticing how the project consumed me night and day, which was in contrast to other people my age, who were focused on finding a mate.  Above it hangs my Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion.

The exhibit occupies 2 galleries and a hallway in between and includes the following:

  • 12 enlarged photographs from the Wee Folk Players series of satirical cartoons
  • 14 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
  • Doll house which was used as a set for the Wee Folk Players series
  • Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion
  • A collection of earlier work from ‘the innocent years”, including children’s book illustrations

Liberty and Justice: The Satirical Art of Salley Mavor
New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA
Sept. 26 – Dec. 30, 2018

Artist Talk – “Sweet to Satirical”, Sat., Nov. 17 at 1:00 PM
Salley Mavor will talk about her evolution as an artist, from portraying a safe and idyllic existence in children’s books to tackling real world political issues. Using examples of work from the past to the present, she will show her transition from sweet to satirical. This is an opportunity to take a behind the scenes peek at her creative process as she develops dolls, props and scenery for her Wee Folk Players theater troupe and stop-motion animation project, Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free. Ms. Mavor will discuss the response to her political work, its effect on her future artistic endeavors and she will address the censorship issues surrounding her exhibit.

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Liberty and Justice for all!

Wonderland Ex- Press

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA (Sept. 26 – Dec. 30, 2018), and the Cotuit Center for the Arts in Cotuit, MA (March 2 – April 20, 2019) for quickly stepping in to host my exhibit after it was abruptly cancelled at another venue due to its political content. Both organizations reached out early to express their interest and put their full support behind my project.

Today, I will talk about my experience with the New England Quilt Museum. When their curator Pam Weeks and director Nora Burchfield called to inquire about hosting my exhibit, I was feeling sad and unsure of my show’s future prospects. But by the end of our laugh-filled conversation, we had come up with a plan. They decided to revise their exhibition schedule to accommodate the Liberty and Justice show and over the next few days, we worked out the logistics, even expanding the show to include some of my earlier work, as a basis of comparison with what I’m doing now. I learned that the museum had recently taken the bold step of being the premiere venue for the Threads of Resistance traveling exhibit, which came about in reaction to the presidential election. Nora Burchfield says, “We are no strangers to controversy here. It comes with running a museum that serves as a mouthpiece for women’s voices.”

Movie still from “Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free”

My show, which opened last week, has gotten a lot of press attention due to the controversy surrounding it and the museum is expecting many visitors, from both the local Boston area and out of town. It will be on display until the end of the year and I hope that some you from near and far can fit a trip to Lowell into your schedule. To watch my interview about the exhibit on WGBH TV’s Open Studio, click here.

Liberty and Justice: The Satirical Art of Salley Mavor
New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA
Sept. 26 – Dec. 30, 2018
Artist Talk – “Sweet to Satirical”, Sat., Nov. 17 at 1:00 PM

Artist Statement:
Almost immediately after the 2016 election, I started imagining ironic scenarios with new dolls that resembled famous political figures. Creating the characters and “playing doll house” was a cathartic experience where I felt in control, even as chaos ensued nationally. The works in this exhibit include a selection of photographs from the WEE FOLK PLAYERS series from 2017.  There is also a 14 minute stop-motion animated film, Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free.

Original dolls and props from both the film and the Wee Folk Players series are on display in a glass case. And you can see the doll house I made over 40 years ago, that served as a stage set for the Wee Folk Players.

NEW ADDITIONS – the museum has expanded the original exhibit to include a gallery full of sculptural embroideries that represent the mid-period of my career, when the bulk of my work reflected a bucolic and comforting existence. This collection, from what I call “the innocent years”, serves as a contrast to my recent foray into political satire, illustrating my evolution as an artist.

The exhibit occupies 2 galleries and a hallway in between and includes the following:

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Costuming despots and innocents

If you’ve watched Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free, you’ve seen the history lesson near the end with morphing costumes of iconic authoritarian figures through time. Later in this post, I’ll show process photos of some of the costumes. But first, I want to say a little something about the Woods Hole Film Festival, where our film had its film festival premiere last week.

Thank you to all of you who came out to see Liberty and Justice! The sold out crowd sat through over an hour of serious, heavy and powerful short films, in sweltering conditions, before our movie came on. It was an endurance test, for sure! The sense of relief was palpable when the Wee Folk Studio animated logo appeared, with cheering loud enough to drown out the sound effects. Other than showing the movie to friends at our house, we had not yet experienced a live audience’s reaction in a theater setting. As the story unfolded, there were bursts of laughter, even at some of the more subtle jokes. Rob and I whispered to each other, “They got it!”. It was fun to hear giggles and gasps of recognition at the various characters as they played their parts. We came away feeling that the year we spent filming in the basement was worth it and that we are very honored to be a part of such a prestigious film festival right in our home town. My favorite comments were that it was “fun and deliciously weird” and “the darkest cute movie I’ve ever seen.” 

I am also excited to announce that our film received an Audience Award for best animated short at the festival awards party last night. Rob and I almost didn’t go because it was past my bedtime, the music would be too loud, etc. But, I’m glad we pushed past my old lady complaints and went anyway!

And now the costumes. Let’s start with the innocent protagonists, Liberty and Justice, who are modeled after Hansel and Gretel. With a few exceptions like their hands and feet, their bodies are made the same way as the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

This is the title set, where I animated Liberty dropping bread crumbs (stone cut oatmeal) in the shape of letters. The dolls’ wire armatures help articulate movements with tiny bends and adjustments. Their heads are loose, so they can swivel back and forth on their pipe cleaner necks.

LibertyandJustice (1 of 1)-2

It was very helpful to refer to the monitor during filming, so I could see the camera view. At 24 frames per second, I moved the figures about a 16th of an inch or less for every shot.

LibertyWM-29

And now for the despots.  After researching various kings and dictators, I picked ones with clearly identifiable uniforms, mannerisms and ruthless reputations. Researching and making their costumes was a liberating experience, as I confronted and engaged with these iconic strongmen. There’s something satisfying and even subversive about having bad guys cut down to size. We loom large over them, as they are exposed and held captive in miniature scale and for a moment, their power is diminished. I’m sure you can guess who some of these are. Please see the rolling credits at the end of the movie for a list of characters in order of appearance.

LibertyandJustice (1 of 1)-21LibertyandJustice (1 of 1)-22LibertyandJustice (1 of 1)-23LibertyandJustice (1 of 1)-19LibertyandJusticecostume (1 of 1)-2LibertyandJustice (1 of 1)-25LibertyandJustice (1 of 1)-24LibertyandJustice (1 of 1)-26LibertyandJustice (1 of 1)-6

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Liberty and Justice film festival debut

We are proud to announce that Liberty and Justice will be in the 27th Woods Hole Film Festival! The festival takes place July 28 – Aug. 4, 2018 in various venues in the village and surrounding area.

Our film will be shown in Shorts: Break Away on Monday, July 30th at 5:30 pm in the Old Fire House. The program includes a selection of 8 short films having to do with the pursuit of freedom. To see the program and purchase tickets in advance, please go here. If you are planning to attend any of the festival events, I recommend getting tickets ahead of time, as they routinely sell out. Rob and I will be at our screening on July 30th, as well as Matthias Bossi from Stellwagen Symphonette, who produced the movie sound track. We hope to see some of you locals there in support of our home grown effort. There will be an opportunity to vote for Audience Awards, too!

Of course, most of you who follow this blog live far, far away and won’t be able to see the film on the big screen. The next best thing is to view it on your computer or home screen from this page. I know that a lot of you have already watched the movie and shared it with your family and friends. Thank you for helping to spread it around!  After the summer film festival season, I will put Liberty and Justice on YouTube and Vimeo, so it can be more readily shared around the world.

I’ve entered the film in a number of festivals and am waiting for the results. The process is kind of overwhelming because I have no idea which festivals are worth taking a chance with. There are the obvious ones that focus on animation and most festivals have an animation category. But, the competition is fierce! There are websites that make it easy to submit your movie to hundreds of festivals around the world. So easy that it’s as tempting as online betting. With a simple click, you can easily spend a fortune in entry fees, with a slim chance of being accepted. So, I’m trying to be very selective about which festivals to try.

During the year-long filming process, I took a whole bunch of photos of the sets and characters, both on and off stage. Here are most of the cast, waiting backstage.

This shows the wire rig we used to make the Twitter bird fly. While animating, I referred to the monitor in the background for guidance. Rob drew a notched line on the computer to indicate the bird’s flight pattern and speed.

For the candy-land scene filmed from above, we screwed the camera to an extension arm that was attached to the elevated slider.

Rob checked the focus on the monitor constantly by zooming in on the faces. That’s wax paper taped to the wooden stand, which we used to soften the light.

For the last part of the movie we needed a rotating set, so Rob and I devised a system that could move incrementally. I arranged the scenery on a wooden platform, which was placed on top of a lazy susan. Then, we could revolve the whole set, filming one frame at a time, using a marked wire for reference.

Each phase of the project, from story boarding, to making and animating the characters and props, to the final editing was a true adventure!

Other posts about the Liberty and Justice animation project include “Liberty and Justice” in processAll that GlittersAmerica First Ladystop-motion in actionAnimated Film Logo. and Liberty and Justice – the movie! In this interview, I reflect on my foray into political satire and describe how speaking out through art has affected my work and life.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

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, costuming despots and innocents and Animated Film Logo. In this Interview on WGBH TV, 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. 

Liberty and Justice was shown in the Woods Hole Film Festival in July 2018 and won the Audience Award for short animation.

I hope that you enjoy the movie! It can also be viewed and readily shared on YouTube here.


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Animated Movie Logo

UPDATE: Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free is now available to watch here and on YouTube.

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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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.

UPDATE: The 13 min. movie can be viewed and readily shared on YouTube here.

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…

To keep up with new posts, please 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.