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

Ireland 2017: doorways

As promised, here is a series of “still life” photos taken on our recent trip to Ireland. Wherever we travel, the colors, textures and geometric patterns found in doorways and building facades seem to characterize the aesthetic culture of a place. I love how bold paint hues contrast with whitewash and stone in Ireland. The following pictures are from Clifden, the island of Inishbofin and Galway.

France (doorways w/vines)

La Redorte, France

La Redorte, France

Let’s go back to our recent trip to southern France. Among the gazillion pictures Rob and I took of doors and windows, there are more than a few which feature trained leaf vines and other plants. It was so odd to see vegetation growing out of the pavement, with no dirt in sight. I love the way a bit of greenery frames and softens the straight angles on the buildings.

Carcassonne, France

Carcassonne, France

MillePetit, France

Mille Petit, France

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Argen, France

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Argen, France

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La Redorte, France

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La Redorte, France

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Bram, France

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Marseilles, France

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Marseilles, France