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 In previous years, materials such as discarded books, retired chairs from a local restaurant, outdated nautical charts and even horseshoe crab shells where used.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!

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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: My Bed can now be pre-ordered in my shop here. The book’s release date is isn’t until Sept. 2020, but people have asked if they can 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!

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.

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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: 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!

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.

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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: 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!

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.

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The Red Chair

During the 80’s and 90’s, life was simpler. At least it seems that way, looking back. All I did was take care of my family and make art. That was before the internet, social media, Netflix and all the other ways of “connecting” and being entertained. So, I look back nostalgically at some of the artwork I made back then, like The Red Chair. It is one of the few pieces that I held onto from that period. I just couldn’t bring myself to sell it and it’s been hanging in my studio for 26 years.

From time to time, I’ve offered printed reproductions of The Red Chair in my shop, where they’ve been a favorite gift for new mothers. The cards have also been popular with breast feeding organizations, who’ve purchased them in bulk. Note Cards and Prints are again available in my shop.
Set of 4 Note Cards – $10.00 Buy here
8 x 10 Print – $15.00 Buy here

Back when I made the piece, my figures were flat in the back, in shallow relief (about 1 inch max). For the skin, I used an old woven wool petticoat of my grandmother’s (she was born in 1890). The cloth had been laundered so many times in hot water that it had felted to the point where you couldn’t see the weave. After painting the cloth with fabric paint, I’d embroider the faces. I had to rip out the stitching over and over, until their expressions came out the way I wanted. I used every last inch of that petticoat until it was all gone and I’ve never been able to find anything comparable. So many of the materials and found objects I’ve used over the years are one-of-a-kind, which forces me to adapt and tailor my approach to meet the needs of every new piece.

The chair was modeled after one in our living room that came from my (wool petticoat) grandmother. I changed the straight angular back into a rounded curve, which seemed to better reflect the subject matter. I sculpted the chair feet with Fimo dough. I used upholstery fabric for the chair, wallpaper (embellishment added), floor and carpet.
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If you’re wondering about the Buddha, it’s been treasured by my family for 4 generations, ever since my great-grandfather, James Mavor bought it from a missionary while visiting Russia in the late 1800’s.

Opportunity to Pre-order MY BED

My upcoming picture book My Bed is now available for pre-order in my shop here. It’s release date is isn’t until Oct., but people have asked if they can 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!

It’s been 10 years since Pocketful of Posies came out and for years I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever feel like doing another picture book. With such a labor intensive techniques, illustrating a book is a big commitment! I needed the freedom to make other kinds of art, which I’ve done. But, I missed being a part of the children’s book world, so here we are!

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.

just a few more weeks

Once Upon a Stitch, my retrospective exhibition of original embroidered picture book art will be at the Cape Cod Museum of Art for a few more weeks, until Sunday, January 26th. So, if you’ve been thinking about going to see it, act quickly. It’s been wonderful to have a place to send people, although it is limited to those who can make it to our beautiful peninsula.

For those of you from far away, here’s a brief video tour of the gallery.

A brief tour of “Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Stitch” at Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis MA

There’s also a scavenger hunt with lots of cards made up of different close-up details to find in the framed artwork.

Images in the scavenger hunt

Last Saturday, I talked about my work to a very nice group who nestled themselves into the gallery. After being introduced by Benton Jones, the museum’s Director of Art, I shared stories about growing up in a household where making things was as routine as brushing one’s teeth.

This was different that my usual slide presentation, in that I just talked off the cuff, making it more like a Show & Tell. I brought some things to show like my first book (mixed media, of course) which I made at around age 8. People often ask when I started making the kind of art I do. I have to say that I’ve been on this path my whole life. Manipulating materials in my hands has always been more satisfying that just drawing or painting. As a child, I felt that crayons were not enough and that my pictures weren’t finished until something real was glued, stapled or sewn to it.

My first book from about age 8

Most of the audience were women who share a love of stitching and sewing. There are a lot of us out there and we tend to gravitate toward each other. It was a pleasure to meet and share my work with such kindred spirits!

SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch
Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 26, 2020

Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA
Winter hours: Thursday 10am – 7pm,
Friday – Saturday 10 – 4, Sunday 12 – 4

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“More is more”

My retrospective exhibition of original picture book art, Once Upon a Stitch has been at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, MA. for 2 weeks now and I’m happy to hear that lots of visitors are specifically coming to see it. If you’re thinking of making the trip, please note that the museum’s winter hours are Thursday 10 am – 7 pm, Friday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm, Sunday 12 noon – 4 pm. The show runs until January 26 and I’ll be giving a Family Gallery Talk on Saturday January 4th, 1:00 – 2:00 pm.

It took 2 trips in my Subaru Outback to transport the more than 50 bubble wrapped frames to the museum. That doesn’t count the dozens of wee folk characters I brought along to set up in a display case. At first, the curator was skeptical that everything would fit, but after explaining how I envisioned the layout, with clusters of double hung frames, he relaxed. The museum’s very able crew ended up filling the gallery walls with what could be a record number of pieces!. After everything was hung, my husband Rob looked around and said, “You must understand, with Salley’s art, more is more.”

The first thing you see when entering the gallery is a grid full of of prints showing enlarged animal faces and other characters staring at you. They are blown up details from pieces in the exhibition, which includes a wide selection of original hand-stitched children’s book illustrations I’ve made over the past 300 years. Oh, I mean 30 years!

I set up the figures from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures on and around a Dala horse and cart elevated on top of 2 wooden cigar boxes.

Four original illustrations from Mary Had a Little Lamb are on loan from collectors. It’s the largest reunion they’ve had since the book was published in 1995.

Most of my books are represented in the show, with groupings of pieces from either my own collection or ones that are borrowed from their owners.

A rather plain concrete pole in the middle of the gallery called out for some kind of embellishment, so, I lace-bombed it with doilies. To make it, I cut a length of green felt to the right circumference and machine stitched lace and doilies to it. I pinned the seam and stitched it in place on site. Like a lot of textile geeks, I have a collection of misc. old lacy things and it feels good to finally use them for something.

The opening was well attended by many people who knew of my work, as well as others who were seeing it for the first time. I got to watch people’s reactions to seeing the originals, which is a totally different experience than looking at the pages of a printed book. I can honestly say that without exception, everyone was smiling. In the photo below, a man is telling me that he just came from visiting New York and that my show was more impressive than anything he saw at MoMA. As you can see, I was flabbergasted!

There’s a scavenger hunt with about 20 cards, each one showing 4 different close-up images that you can look for in the artwork. This game is certainly not just for children!

The exhibition is an opportunity to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my work.

I was happy that my friend and picture book collaborator, Judy Richardson came to the opening. Here we are in 1991, having our publicity photo taken with Bella the elephant at the Barnstable County Fair.

And that’s Judy and her husband Phil at the show, looking at the originals from “The Way Home“, which she wrote and I illustrated.

I hope that many of you can make the trip down the quaint and historic Old King’s Highway (Rt. 6A) to Dennis, Massachusetts to see the show!

Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 26, 2020
Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA
Winter hours: Thursday 10am – 7pm,
Friday – Saturday 10 – 4, Sunday 12 – 4
Family Gallery Talk with Salley Mavor –
Saturday January 4th, 1:00 – 2:00 pm

To keep up with new posts, 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.

Once Upon a Stitch exhibition

Video

Once_Upon_a_Stitch_Invite-1


You are invited to come see an exhibition of my artwork at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, MA. This is a chance to take in the fine detail and 3-dimensional quality of my original sculptural embroideries that are reproduced in children’s books.

SALLEY MAVOR – Once Upon a Stitch
Cape Cod Museum of Art
December 12, 2019 – January 26, 2020

Winter hours: Thursday 10am – 7pm, Friday – Saturday 10 – 4, Sunday 12 – 4

Family Gallery Talk – Saturday, Jan. 4th, 1:00 – 2:00 pm

A wide array of picture book illustrations spanning 2 decades of my career will be on display, including favorites from The Way Home (1991), Mary Had a Little Lamb (1995) and the award-winning, Pocketful of Posies(2010). Several pieces are on loan from private collections, making this an opportunity to see work that is rarely shown in public. The exhibition and accompanying scavenger hunt are sure to appeal to families and anyone with a penchant for miniatures and/or needlework.

studio_framing-1-8

I’ve been preparing for the show all Fall, gathering enough pieces to represent every book I’ve published from 1991. That meant contacting people who’ve bought original artwork, some as far back as the 90’s. I’m grateful for their willingness to loan their pieces for the duration of the show. While they were in my studio, I cleaned up the glass and frames, so they will be sparkling clean. Also, Rob took some digital photographs of the art, including detail shots really close-up.

scavenger_hunt-1
Once Upon a Stitch Scavenger Hunt

I’m using the photos for the scavenger hunt and large printed images, which will be hung in the gallery along with my embroidered originals. I just love playing with scale!

blowups-1
blowups-1-2
Large format prints of details from my books.

An advantage of taking high resolution close-ups is that the photo quality isn’t lost when they are blown up big. I’ve been asked if these large prints are for sale. Unfortunately because of contractual agreements with publishers, I cannot sell reproductions of these images. But, I can use them to compliment and expand exhibitions!

I hope that those of you in the area will make it down Old King’s Highway (route 6A) to the Cape Cod Museum of Art to see the show!

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Judy Sue in miniature

I don’t know why it’s taken so long, but I finally made a miniature version of my friend/teacher/agent Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges. We met over 40 years ago at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she still teaches illustration. Judy Sue has guided countless art students, urging them to follow their own path. And I feel lucky to be one of them. All those years ago, when she saw me sitting in her class, stitching pea pod pins, she said, “For goodness sake, do this for your assignments!” Up until then, I’d been under the impression that illustration was only painting and drawing and had kept my interest in crafts separate. With her encouragement, I started incorporating 3-dimensional elements and sewing into my work. Instead of trying to keep in step using traditional mediums, I discovered that with stitching, I could dance the fandango! So, the least I can do is make her a little Judy Sue doll!

April Prince, Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges and Salley Mavor

For doll-making inspiration, I found this photo from a few years a ago, when Judy Sue and April Prince, who work together in the boutique agency Studio Goodwin Sturges, came for a visit. Of course, the Judy Sue doll would have to be dressed in a huipil, which is the most distinguishing feature of her wardrobe.

(Huipil [ˈwipil] (from the Nahuatl word huīpīlli [wiːˈpiːlːi]) is the most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico to Central America.)

She has quite a collection of huipils, which all came from a friend who lives in Guatemala. She stores them folded up in shelves. It was surprising to see some of of my illustrations from the ’90’s hanging on the adjacent wall, because I’d forgotten that she had them!

I stopped by Judy Sue’s place last week to pick up a piece from “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, that she’s loaning for my upcoming retrospective exhibition, Once Upon a Thread, which will be at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 26, 2020. GALLERY TALK: December 13, 2019 – 4:00 – 5:30 pm. RECEPTION: December 13, 2019 – 5:30 – 7:00 pm. FAMILY GALLERY TALK: January 4, 2020 – 1:00 – 2:00 pm

Pages 8/9, Mary Had a little Lamb, 1995

Now that you have some background information, let’s move on to making the doll. I made the pipe cleaner body the same as the 4″ sturdy doll in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures. Then I painted her face on a wooden bead and glued on a felt wig.

I embroidered the felt huipil with flower thread, which is thicker than 1 strand of floss.

Toward the end, I outlined some shapes with 1 strand of violet colored floss.

Judy Sue also likes to wear bold and colorful jewelry, so I made her a seed bead necklace.

Her hair is made with hand-dyed fingering weight Merino wool that I recently bought from Flying Finn Yarns.

Here’s the real-life Judy Sue, with her wee folk replica. Thank you Judy Sue, for your generous spirit and for instilling a belief in the trans-formative power of art to so many!

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Behind the Glass – part 2

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

In this second post in the series Behind the Glass, I’ll show close-up photos of a double page spread reproduced in Hey Diddle, Diddle! (2005) and 2 illustrations from You and Me: Poems of Friendship (1997). You can see part 1 in the series here. These loaned pieces were temporarily removed from their frames in preparation for my upcoming exhibition, making it possible to get up close and take photos from different angles. I’m enjoying seeing the characters again and remembering making them all those years ago.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

The retrospective exhibition, Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Thread will be at the Cape Cod Museum of Art Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 16, 2020. It will include original illustrations from my picture books, from the first (The Way Home,1991) to the latest (Pocketful of Posies 2010).  Between the borrowed ones and others that I’ve kept, there will be lots of original pieces on display, with a dozen titles represented. This show will be an opportunity for visitors to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person and also view pieces from private collections that are rarely shown in public.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

Yes, that’s a real silver spoon, a tiny one meant to go with a salt seller. The plate was cut out of Fimo clay with a cookie cutter. After hardening it in the oven, I painted the face and dish pattern.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005
Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

The next set of images show closeups of 2 spreads from You and Me: Poems of Friendship (1997). One illustrates the poem Sidewalks, which describes different ways of showing oneself and interacting on a public sidewalk.

Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997

The last piece in this post is from the poem Snow. I hadn’t seen it for over 20 years and was happy to take it out of its frame and get up close with a camera. The owner seemed reluctant to part with it for a few months, but the timing ended up being convenient for her, since she’s selling her house and moving into a new place. I told her that it would be returned in better shape with sparkling clean glass.

SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997

To keep up with new posts, 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.