Doll house stories- wallpapering

This part 2 in the Doll House Stories series shows how a little light demo work and new wallpaper transformed the interior of my 45 year old doll house. It was a welcome indulgence to spend the summer fixing up the house. My excuse was that the house needed some home improvements to make it presentable for my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum (through Dec. 22, 2020). As you can see, the wallpaper was showing a level of wear and tear that strategically hung pictures could not hide much longer.

Years of neglect as well as the Wee Folk Players theater troupe’s multiple set changes and general mayhem had taken its toll on the place.

The kitchen was in an especially sorry state.

I demolished the tile splash board.

And made new wallpaper.

I cut out separate pieces for each wall, cutting out the window and door openings. Then I glued them in place, covering up the grimy old paper with the new stuff.

For the other rooms, I used newly purchased scrap-booking paper and some other paper I’ve had in store since I first made the house 45 years ago. It’s true, I don’t throw out anything of an artistic nature that shows promise.

Once all of the rooms were newly wallpapered, I set about putting back the furniture and picking out new pictures to hang on the walls.

My son Ian made a tiny painting of a suspended egg, which is one of his favorite themes.

I printed out a miniature reproduction of the snow scene from my book “You and Me”, mounted it on mat board and hung it up in the kitchen.

It was fun setting up this domestic scene in the bright and cheery new kitchen. I already had most of the furniture and appliances, but I made a new wall clock out of a Timex watch face set inside a plastic curtain ring.

Stay tuned for part 3 in the Doll House Stories series. – I will share how I made the woman and children and give some clues about what they’re cooking.

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Doll house stories (part 1)

This past summer, I renovated my 45 year old doll house, to get it ready to display in my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches”, which is on view at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA through Dec. 22, 2020.

In addition to showing the original illustrations for my new picture book MY BED, the Cahoon Museum is displaying many rarely seen creations from my art school days to the present, including this doll house. These extra items are only included in the Cahoon Museum show and will not travel in the touring exhibition.

There are so many pictures and stories to tell about redecorating, re-wallpapering and re-upholstering furniture for the house, that I’ll be writing several posts about it. I thought I’d begin by giving a little history of when it was first constructed and how it’s been used up until now.

I built the doll house in the summer of 1975, after taking a wood working class. I can remember using my father’s tools and workbench and later obsessing over the wall paper choices and other architectural details. To me, this was just another art project, but I knew enough not to talk about it with people who wouldn’t understand how a 20 year old young woman would rather construct and decorate a doll house than go out partying.

in subsequent years, the doll house has moved around with my family and me, from house to house, along with all of our other stuff. For a long time it sat neglected in the corner and my boys weren’t interested in playing with it. Then, a few years ago, my interest was renewed when some real live children visited my studio and made a beeline for it.

I looked at the house with new eyes and decided to spiff it up. I added some green molding here and there and painted leafy branches on the plain pink gable.

An opportunity to display the house at Highfield Hall’s Holiday event came up, so I decked it out in a Christmas theme. I went through my old family Christmas ornaments and spun cotton Santas and set them up in the rooms, together with the doll house family. There were Santa’s hanging out everywhere – even in the bathtub and sitting on the toilet. I found miniature lights and pine boughs at Michael’s and strung them up. To keep eager fingers out of the rooms, I covered the openings with Plexiglas. People really got a kick of peeking inside!

The house was also used in a photographic set-up that shows the doll house family project in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures.

Then, after the 2016 election, the Wee Folk Players theater troupe took over the house and staged their series of politically satirical scenarios. They ruthlessly rearranged the furniture and transformed the rooms into the White House and a Royal Palace, among other set-ups.

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The doll house, along with characters from the Wee Folk Players was part of my exhibition, “Liberty and Justice” at the New England Quilt Museum in 2018.

During their month’s-long occupation, the theater troupe pretty much trashed the place, so when another opportunity to show the doll house came up this year, I decided to fix it up first. Stay tuned for more stories about the renovation.

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create your own wee world

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One of the most rewarding parts of writing my book, Felt Wee Folk is hearing from fans who’ve wholeheartedly thrown themselves into the wee world. They don’t just make dolls using the patterns and directions from the book. They lovingly create characters who act out narratives in a very personal way. When the first edition of the book came out almost 18 years ago, I hoped that once people became comfortable with the process, they would start incorporating their own ideas. And I’m happy to say that this has happened! Today, I will share words and photos from two people who’ve been inspired by the book. One is a college student and the other is recently retired.

Mary R. Black is an 18-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan who wrote to say how much enjoyment she has gotten out of making the dolls from the book. She and her sister have been immersed in the wee world for a long time and it was an important part of their childhood. I just love Mary’s unabashed enthusiasm! (At her age, I was still hiding my penchant for dolls and miniatures.) She says, “I also make fairies, but when I started to see how you made normal dolls, I made dolls for my dollhouse too! They are in some ways more fun to make than fairies because of their variety and accessories, don’t you think?”

Mary goes on to say, “I also have started a little fun project at my college by setting up a fairy house at the base of a tree. I have received so many comments on how it brightens up people’s day, which is exactly what I wanted! But one day, to my surprise and extreme pleasure, I found a little gnome store on the other side of the tree!! I was so excited that my project inspired others to be creative too.”

She wrote back to update me with the news that her little character, Aspen had gotten engaged and married to Cypress. By the way, it looks like the happy couple’s hats are acorn caps from a Burr Oak tree.

Thank you Mary Black, for bringing your delightful imaginings to life and sharing them with your friends and us!

I’d also like to show you what Jane Walster from Chehalis, Washington has been doing in her first year of retirement. She writes, “I have been combining your lovely wee folk designs with additional ideas from Karina Schaapman’s Mouse Mansions.” Look at this comfy rustic living room she’s created for her dolls!

If you haven’t seen Karina’s books, you should check them out. And if you’re in Amsterdam, go visit The Mouse Mansion shop and studio, where you can see all of her amazing scenes on display. Friends have told me that seeing them in person is a wonderful experience.

Jean also sent a photo of her version of the Harvest Folk scene in Felt Wee Folk.

I like how the sheep came out, which I assume are based on the one she saw in a post earlier this year (shown left). It’s an animal icon from my upcoming picture book, My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. You can see the post about making the sheep here.

She writes, “Liberty and Justice is such a brave and creative way to share your artistic talent. I love how you combined the personal and political with a big dose of humor. Your work fills me with hope that as I hone my skills, I will discover my own unique artistic style.”
Thank you for sharing your wee world, Jean!

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still playing with dolls

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Some things never change. Like the urge to play with dolls. I’d venture to guess that there are a lot of grownups like me who still find themselves drawn to creating little worlds, just like they were in their youth. I feel honored to share my passion (perhaps even obsession?) for the wee world with you through my books and this blog.

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I recently got out some props I’d made a few years ago for a video project that my husband Rob and I were planning, but didn’t undertake. It was pure play, as I set up one of the houses out in the yard and made this video with my phone camera.

Our original idea was to make a short stop motion animation of one of my favorite nursery rhymes, Wee Willie Winkie. The easy part was constructing the characters, houses, trees and a clock. Finding the time and space to work on the incredibly tedious task of animating the story turned out to be too much of a challenge. We figured that it would take several months of concentrated effort to make even a 5 min. video that we would be proud of. We’re still intrigued by the prospect of putting together a film and who knows, we may do it eventually. But for now, I will soon embark on a new project that will keep me busy for a few years. More about that later…

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Here’s the clock for the scene, “Are the children in their beds, for now it’s 8 o’clock?”

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In the meantime, the various props have not been hidden away. They’ve been used as backdrops for other photos, including shots of Polly and A Buggy Picnic, which is available as a card.

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Books, tree, dollhouse and Instagram

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There’s quite a list of business to cover here. I’ll begin with the news that I just set up an account with Instagram! This will be a way to share spontaneous cellphone photos of projects I’m working on and things I encounter in my life that I find inspiring, from the everyday to the extra special. So, if you’d like to follow along, here’s my Instagram address.

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Exhibits and a Book Signing:
This little goat (detail above) and a donkey and swine from pages 6/7 in Pocketful of Posies (below) are on public display at the Concord Museum in Concord, MA. It’s included in the exhibit Good Night, Sleep Tight: Art from Children’s Literaturewhich features over twenty original illustrations from classic and contemporary children’s books woven around the themes of bedtime, dreams, and lullabies. The exhibit’s up for a nice long run, until May 3, 2015, but this coming Sunday Dec. 7th is Author and Illustrator Day (1:00 ~ 4:00 pm), which is held in conjunction with the annual exhibit, Family Trees: Celebration of Children’s Literature. I’ll be there, along with other authors and illustrators, chatting with museum visitors and signing books. There’s a lot going on at the museum that day, so, if you’re in the area, come over and say hi!

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A few years ago, I participated in the Concord Museum’s Family Trees event, which I wrote about here. For the past two years, I’ve been using those same ornaments to decorate a tree for the Holidays at Highfield event at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA.

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My tree, as well as 6 original illustrations from Pocketful of Posies are downstairs in the front hall and my dollhouse is upstairs. Holidays at Highfield is open daily from 10:00 to 4:00 until Dec. 7th.

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playful week

April Prince, Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges and Salley Mavor

April Prince, Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges and Salley Mavor

I spent the week playing with friends, both real and imaginary. Judy Sue and April from Studio Goodwin-Sturges came to visit. It was so fun to have them over! Judy Sue and I go way back to my art school days, when she was my teacher at RISD. She is still inspiring and challenging students to find their own way of working. In fact, she makes a point that her classes are about “making art”, not illustration. She’s all about opening up possibilities! Hearing her talk excitedly about her current classes made me feel lucky to have had her guidance early on.

The next part of the week was spent playing with dolls. I set up my doll house and Pocketful of Posies Tree at Highfield Hall for their Holiday’s at Highfield event (Nov. 28 ~ Dec. 7). You can see more photos of the house in last year’s post here. My doll house is inhabited by antique Santas and a family of dolls from my new book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. I just found out that it’s release date is Feb. 16, 2015 and copies can be pre-ordered from C&T here. And, when the book is printed, I’ll be selling autographed copies (with an extra goody) through my Etsy Shop.dollhouse2014 This is the 3rd year I’ve decorated the Pocketful of Posies Tree and the 2nd year it’s been at Highfield for the holidays. I’m always happy to unpack and hang the nursery rhyme ornaments and spool garlands. I hear that people who see the tree are disappointed that the ornaments are not for sale. But, I’d rather display them together as a group every year, in a place where lots of visitors can see them. If you’re local, come join the festivities at Highfield Hall! posiestree2014 littlebopeepWM

Polly’s packed and ready

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Polly’s going on another adventure tomorrow! It took the better part of a week for her to figure out what to wear on this trip. She’ll only have one outfit, so it has to work for everything. Polly looked through her clothes from Antarctica, Ireland, California, China Town (San Francisco) and Cuba, but they were not right for this trip.

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Polly decided to get something new that was a little more practical and nautical; a simple blue skirt and striped top. An acorn cap beret fits nicely on top of her head, too. Among other things, she’ll be helping navigate a barge along the Canal du Midi in southern France. There will be so much to share when she returns in a couple of weeks!Pollyhousefrancedetail

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To keep up with new posts, 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.

Celeste the dancer

Last month, during Holidays at Highfield, my friend Celeste and some other lovely young dancers spent an afternoon in their Nutcracker costumes, circulating among the visitors. Here she is, posed in front of my doll house and Pocketful of Posies tree. I’m happy to have Celeste back on this blog. She’s has been featured before; Celeste’s class visits Highfield, Dolls from Istanbul, Wee Yo Yo Ma.

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dollhouse decorated for Holidays at Highfield

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My circa 1975 dollhouse is getting spruced up for the holidays. I was asked to bring it over to Highfield Hall and have it on display during their 10 day Holidays at Highfield event (Nov. 29 – Dec. 8, 2013). It’s been a while since the house has been out in public, so I thought I’d fix it up for the occasion. I added some green shutters and trim and decorated the plain pink triangle under the roof with a painted foliage design.

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I made this dollhouse one summer vacation, between years in art school. Following a plan in a book, I cut the wood pieces and constructed it in my father’s workshop in our basement. I can remember being so engrossed in the project that would lie in bed at night thinking about how I would decorate the rooms. I remember feeling guilty, because I thought I should be focused on finding a boy friend, instead of dreaming about a dollhouse! Years later, I’m still dreaming about making art.

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It was so much fun to make back then and it’s still fun to work on now. The doll house family is new–they will be included in my new book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures. As I’ve written before, I can’t show detailed photos of the dolls until 2015, when the book is published and my designs are protected by registered copyrights.

I’ve added evergreen garlands and Christmas lights to the house and the Small family is busy decorating their tree, cooking and wrapping presents. To keep little (and big) hands away, the rooms will be covered with Plexiglas. To see more decorations and who’s come to visit, scroll down to the end of this post.

My Pocketful of Posies tree (see a post about it here) will also be on display during the 10 day event. I hope that some of you will be able to join the festivities at Highfield this season! 

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doll house play

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Yesterday, I witnessed the sight of real children playing with my doll house! Some friends came over to my studio with their grandchildren, who immediately engaged with the dolls and miniatures in and around the house. You may wonder why I find this so remarkable, especially since I constructed and decorated it almost 40 years ago. For most of those years, the house has been packed away or displayed behind glass. My sons weren’t interested in playing with it, so I offered to have it shown in the children’s room at the Falmouth Public Library. It stood there for several years in a case near the check out desk, out of reach of children’s hands. When the library was renovated and didn’t have a space for the house, I took it back and it has since been gathering dust in a corner of my studio.

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I loved watching the children manipulate and position the dolls with their small hands.

The house has been out on my center table lately, because I’ve been fixing it up for a photo shoot of some projects that will be in the 2nd edition of Felt Wee Folk (2015 release date). I’m also sprucing it up for display at the Holidays at Highfield event later this year at Highfield Hall in Falmouth. The 10 day event will feature a tree decorated with Pocketful of Posies ornaments that I made for the Family Trees exhibit at the Concord Museum last year (see posts here).

Nov. 29 ~ Dec. 8, 2013, Original embroidered artwork, a tree full of ornaments and a doll house all handmade by Salley Mavor will be on display at The Holidays at HighfieldHighfield Hall, Falmouth, MA. Open daily 12 pm ~ 4 pm

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