bed book in progress – Japan

Today, I’d like to give a little behind-the-scenes peek at a recently completed scene for my “bed book”. Over the next year, I will continue to work on illustrations for the book, which will feature sleeping places in different cultures around the world.

This double page spread has children sleeping on futons in a traditional Japanese interior. To represent a spare and ordered Japanese aesthetic, I deviated from my usual style, which tends to be busy and curvy. I can’t remember the last time I made so many straight lines and right angles!

The tatami (floor mat) is made with some 75 yr. old linen fabric from my grandmother. The texture and age stains make the floor covering look woven and worn. I loved figuring out what items to display in the tokonoma (alcove).

Here’s a video of stitching French knot blossoms on the ikebana (floral arrangement).

 

I researched Japanese buildings for this roof section…

and made a fence out of real bamboo shoots.

Outside, the cherry tree provided a welcome opportunity for curves and repetitious little stitches.

To make a bed covering, I found some blue cotton in my stash…

and embellished it with chain stitching.

Her pajamas also got some extra yellow thread accents.

The book, My Bed Rocks on the Water is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. To see a peek at an illustration set in South America click here.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page).

New book underway

Sometimes it’s unclear how much to share of one’s project while it’s in the works.  In this age of social media, I feel a pull to share images and post updates about what’s going on because it’s fun and exciting and it’s happening right now! It was simpler in the past, when I would work for years on a children’s book, knowing that the illustrations wouldn’t be seen until they were released in a printed book. My books are listed here.

There has got be an approach that lands somewhere between instantaneous sharing and holding back for years. The book is scheduled to come out in 2020, so I’d rather not wait until then. After some thought, I’ve decided to zero in on the details and show closeups. I figure it’s like not seeing the forest for the trees. Hopefully the publisher will agree that showing peeks behind the scenes is OK, too. I’ve tried to document different stages along the way, to give you an idea of my process, while retaining a bit of mystery about the finished project. So, be warned that this is a teaser.

The “new book” is an exploration of varied cultures from around the world. This South American scene shows children sleeping in hammocks.

I devised the hammocks from a basic wire structure, with blanket stitching that looks like weaving. There were several prototypes before I figured out how to make it look right.

The background has embroidered bushes, with thread covered wire branches.

The scene features a lush environment with lots of opportunity to make felt and wire leaves and flowers.

Over the next year, I will share details from other illustrations, documenting the process with photos. These were all taken with my cell phone camera. I hope that you enjoy the upcoming round the world tour!

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page).

Needle Nonsense revisit

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While cleaning up my studio last summer, I came across a plastic bag full of small characters and other props I’d made years ago. The items were used in place of words in a rebus I wrote and illustrated sometime around 2000 for Threads Magazine’s Closures page.

Since then, I’ve shared cell phone photos on Instagram and Facebook of little things I’ve found around my studio. The easiest way to do this was to hold them in my left hand while clicking the camera with my right hand. I realized that showing the scale of these tiny objects with a human hand as a reference point makes you see them differently. The uptick in viewer responses to these images led me to look for more small scale items to photograph in my fingers.

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I looked at the printed rebus again and noticed how the images floating on the white page give no sense of scale. Other than the found objects like the buttons, needle and spools of thread, there’s no way of knowing the real size of the handmade objects.

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With these new photos, you can see just how small everything is.

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Displaced

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Sketch for Displaced

All winter long, while I sat and worked on this new piece, I listened to news stories on the radio about the people who are fleeing their home countries amid war and conflict. Even though Displaced is inspired by current world events, it could very well represent the universal and timeless plight of refugees throughout history.

I often think in terms of creating miniature shallow stage sets and with this one, I envisioned a highly dramatic scene. It was important to me that the piece evoked a strong emotional reaction, much like an opera.


The heavily burdened figures are a chorus of characters making their way through a black and ominous landscape. To help create tension in the design, I thought of antonyms, such as dark/light, general/personal, despair/hope, trapped/escape, harsh/tender, sharp/soft and horror/beauty.

With fiber art, much attention is paid to materials and techniques, as well as the labor intensive process. My intention was to make a work of art that transcends the amount of work invested, and the methods and skill involved in the expression.

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Displaced, 24″ H x 22″ W, 2016

UPDATE: 18″ x 24″ Posters of DISPLACED are now in my Etsy Shop here.

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Poster – Displaced

Here are some details of the piece, along with a glimpse behind the scenes in my studio.

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Cover Up (part 5) & Giveaway

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This is final part in a series of posts about my new embroidered bas-relief piece Cover Up. In Part 1 and Part 2, the collection of “covered” women are introduced and discussed. Part 3 shows how I made the pieced felt background and Part 4 is about the felt covered wire border. To enter the Giveaway, please see the information at the end of this post.

Before sewing all of the heads in place, I added squares of 1/4″ thick felt in between the holes. That way, the pieced felt background would lay flatter. I then stitched the heads so that they peeked out of the holes and covered the entire back with a piece of neutral colored fabric.

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I pinned the heads inside the openings and shuffled them around quite a bit to get an arrangement that balanced color and contrast. It just took a few stiches at the hole rim to attach the portraits.

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My husband Rob took photos of the finished piece downstairs. I hope that you have enjoyed this series of posts. You can receive notice whenever I publish a new post by subscribing to this blog (at the top of the right column on the home page). Rest assured that I will not share your information.

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12 x 17 posters featuring of a selected group of portraits from Cover Up are available in my  Etsy Shop here. Information about entering the Giveaway is at the end of this post.

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Poster – Cover Up

 Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

Read the other parts in the Cover Up Series: Part 1), (Part 2) and (Part 3) and (Part 4).

GIVEAWAY offer: 3 posters (pictured above) will be given away (US residents only). To enter, please write a comment about a style or fashion in a particular time period or region of the world that interests you.  It doesn’t have to be from Cover Up – I want to hear your ideas. The winners will be picked at random on Sunday, April 24th. Good luck!

Cover Up (part 4)

CoverUp_lowresWMThis is part 4 in a series of posts about my new embroidered bas-relief piece Cover Up. In part 1 and part 2, the collection of “covered” women are introduced and discussed. Part 3 shows how I made the pieced felt background.

The next phase in the project involved making a felt covered wire border, which is a new technique I’ve developed over the past few years. The idea originated with a desire to form and stitch lines that have a 3-dimensional quality. I’ve used wire in my work for many years, but mostly in miniature scale. With larger gauge wire, covered in strips of embroidered felt, I have been able to incorporate bolder, linear patterns and designs into my work, like in the pieces shown below; Birds of Beebe Woods, Face Time, Whiskers and Rabbitat.

coverupsketch3Cover Up’s border started with a sketch of a vine-like pattern. As usual, plans changed once my hands began the process of forming and articulating the wire lines. It ended up looking more like a lattice topped pie or a chain linked fence.

I sewed strips of felt to lengths of insulated electrical wire and embroidered the felt with pastel shades of variegated floss. Straight lines seemed too rigid and unwelcoming, so I wiggled the wire and arranged them in a diagonal grid.

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This video shows close-ups of me covering and stitching wire with my non-manicured fingers.

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For the lattice pattern, I used many worm shaped lengths of covered wire. I joined the wire ends in a way that’s hard to explain. Let’s just say that it involves poking wire through felt, with lots of fussy sewing to keep the wire from pulling out.

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Here I am, working on the border downstairs, all cozy and warm in front of the wood stove, with snow outside.

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When the border was finished, I spent a long time repositioning the doll heads until I was satisfied with the arrangement. I then secured each portrait inside their hole with a few stitches on their shoulders.

Perhaps I should mention the time commitment, because people are always curious. This size (24″ x 30″) piece usually takes 3 or 4 months of solid work. But, I must add that I believe time alone doesn’t give a piece of art its value. Like other artists who do labor intensive work, I am not deterred by the prospect of spending countless hours on a single piece, as long as it holds the promise of transcending the effort involved. I hope that you are enjoying this series of posts as much as I relished the process of making Cover Up. Stay tuned for one more post in the series! By the way, you can receive notice whenever I publish a new post by subscribing to this blog (at the top of the right column on the home page). Rest assured that I will not share your information.

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Poster - Cover Up

Poster – Cover Up

12 x 17 posters featuring of a selected group of portraits from Cover Up are available in my  Etsy Shop here.

Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

The next post (part 5) will show the end of the process, with the finished piece. Read Cover Up (part 1), (part 2) and (part 3).

Cover Up (part 3 & video)

CoverUp_lowresWMThis is part 3 in a series of posts about my new embroidered bas-relief piece Cover Up. In part 1 and part 2, the collection of “covered” women are introduced and discussed. Now, I will show how the pieced felt background was made. There’s also a short video my husband Rob filmed, which shows me stitching various stages of the project.

In the beginning, I knew that the piece would be populated with portraits of women, with each peering through an oval opening, but I didn’t know how many characters would be included. I did some simple drawings to get an idea of its composition and proportions and then calculated that 45 portraits would have enough breathing room within the 24″ x 30″ size. As you can see in this sketchbook page, there were lots of possibilities for border treatment.

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The background needed to be done in a way that would compliment the portraits and not compete with the detail of the individual women. I also wanted the colors and design to work from a distance and also entice viewers to take a closer look.

I grouped my felt scraps in piles according to color and pieced them together crazy quilt style in diagonal strips according to their hue. It was done in a similar way to the beard in Whiskers. I find that large solid colors can be too overpowering and simplistic, whereas breaking up the field into small parts brings a softer, more natural appearance. I guess it’s more like impressionist art that way. I used plant dyed wool/rayon felt that I bought years ago from Textile Reproductions. Unfortunately it is no longer being produced, so every little piece is as good as gold.

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The odd-shaped pieces are held together on the back with a simple slip stitch. On the front, I used a fly stitch to join and outline the felt pieces. Here’s a video of some of the stitching:

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It was great winter project, which I worked on through the holidays and into the new year.

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I used Soft Flex beading wire to outline the holes and give them a clean edge and some structure.

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I had fun playing around with the arrangement of the women.Cover_Up_process_3WM

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Before sewing the portrait heads in their holes, I sewed the pieced felt background to a stretcher frame covered with upholstery fabric.

The next post (part 4) will show the process of making the border for Cover Up. Read Cover Up (part 1) here and (part 2) here.

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Poster - Cover Up

Poster – Cover Up

12 x 17 posters featuring of a selected group of portraits from Cover Up are available in my  Etsy Shop here.

Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.