Mossy Glen: Part 7 – Violets and Berries

In this Part 7 of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created violets and berry bushes. Part 1 is all about stitching a moss-like texture, Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees, Part 3 is about the stone walls, Part 4 shows how I made the forsythia blossoms, Part 5 features wire and felt leaves and Part 6 is about chain-stitching leaves.

winding wire stems with embroidery floss

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.


While I write this post, I’m in the midst of preparing for my upcoming retrospective exhibition in Kennebunk, Maine at the Brick Store Museum. Even though I’ve hardly picked up a needle and thread this spring, I’m still being creative, but in a different way. My approach to curating this show is similar to how I imagine and labor over my artwork. It’s all about taking a lot of small details and arranging them in a way that contributes to the story. The exhibition, What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor will tell the story of my evolution as an artist, from childhood to today. Just like my art, this exhibit will be very busy, with a ton of original 3-dimensional pieces to eye as closely as you like. As my husband Rob says, “With Salley’s art, more is more.”

Early work from the 80’s and 90’s on loan for the exhibition, What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor.

What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine, (June 7 – Sept. 11, 2022). I will be there on Sat., June 25th from 1 – 3 pm for a meet and greet and book-signing event.

The retrospective exhibition will feature a large selection of my artwork, spanning over 40 years, from early on to the present day. Over 100 pieces from my collection and rarely seen works on loan from private collections will fill walls a cases in multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor. Original picture book illustrations, including the entire series from my most recent book, MY BED will also be shown.

Now back to the patch of violets, which appear in the lower left foreground of Mossy Glen. I chose violets because I thought a dark leafed plant would bring some weight to the bottom of the composition. I also wanted something larger scale, to offset all of the itty bitty berries and leaves.

I constructed the leaves out of wool felt and wire and embroidered the veins.

You can see the process of making the leaves in this Stitch Minute video.

After sewing the leaves to the background fabric, I stitched flowers with silk ribbon.

I created stems with wire, silk ribbon and embroidery floss.

The silk ribbon was so fun to use that I couldn’t resist adding some “grass” to the bottom edge.

Scattered throughout Mossy Glen are berry bushes, which I make with wire, glass beads and embroidery floss.

You can see how I form wire and bead berry bushes in this Stitch Minute video.

Wire and glass bead berry bush

At this stage of the project, I picked out some upholstery fabric from my stash and used it to cover the stretcher frames. It hurts my brain to try to explain why and how it’s done, but the process involves cotton padding and lots of contorted hand sewing, kind of like upholstering a piece of furniture. In putting the covered stretcher on top, I’m basically freeing up an extra 1/2″ of depth that would normally be wasted behind the stretched fabric.

I then stapled the background fabric to the back of the covered stretcher and started assembling the pieces on top, inside the upholstered border frame.

Stay tuned for a final post about making the wee folk characters in Mossy Glen.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)
Part 5 (wire and felt leaves)
Part 6 (chain stitched leaves)

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

Mossy Glen: Part 6 – stitched leaves

Before delving into Part 6 in the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, Id like to give you a preview of Harvest Time, the fall landscape that I just finished making. For the past 6 months, I’ve documented its progress on Facebook and/or Instagram and I look forward to later sharing photos and videos about making the scene on this blog, too.

Harvest Time in my studio

The fall scene shows a cutaway view, with a tree stump dwelling above ground and tunnel storage spaces underground. It took way longer to make than I’d planned, which may have to do with the insane amount of mossy French knots on the stump.

Stump Dwelling for Harvest Time

The 3 seasons I’ve completed so far, winter, spring and fall, will be included in this summer’s exhibition, What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine, (June 7 – Sept. 11, 2022). I will be there on Sat., June 25th from 1 – 3 pm for a meet and greet and book-signing. The retrospective exhibition will feature a large selection of my artwork, spanning over 40 years, from early on to the present day. Pieces from my collection and rarely seen works on loan from private collections will fill multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor. Original picture book illustrations, including the entire series from my most recent book, MY BED will also be shown.

Wee Folk Forager for Harvest Time

Now back to Mossy Glen – In this Part 6, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created the chain stitched leaves. Part 1 is all about stitching a moss-like texture, Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees, Part 3 is about the stone walls, Part 4 shows how I made the forsythia blossoms and Part 5 features wire and felt leaves.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

To rest the eye from all of the 3-dimensional busyness in this scene, I mixed in flat chain stitched designs. They’re also busy, but the overall effect is calmer. While I work on a piece, I’m constantly aware of how its composition, color, texture and depth direct the eye. Maybe that’s why I never get bored – there’s always something to consider about the next step in the process. I’m often asked if I listen to books on tape while stitching, as if it’s a mindless activity. There’s no way I could follow a story and give my artwork the attention it needs. There are too many decisions to make along the way!

I chain stitched the leaf shapes with cotton flower thread. Its matte finish is different from the glossy sheen of cotton embroidery floss, which I used to wrap the wire stem. DMC flower thread is no longer available, but if you’re interested, Dutch Treat Designs has some of the discontinued thread in stock. 

Watch how I chain stitched around and around the leaf shape with gradated colors in this Stitch Minute video.

Stitch Minute – chain stitching leaves

Sometimes I mark lines on the felt with a chalk pencil or basting, but mostly I eyeball the designs. Here’s another Stitch Minute video, showing the smaller chain stitched leaves.

Stitch Minute – chain stitching leaves

I also made ferns with strung together fly stitches.

To make the ferns pop, I underlined one side with a darker shade of green.

To see me stitching the ferns, including a fiddle head, watch this Stitch Minute video.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on other plants, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)
Part 5 (felt and wire leaves)

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

Mossy Glen – part 5: Leaves

In this Part 5 of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created the leaves. Part 1 is all about stitching a moss-like texture, Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees, Part 3 is about the stone walls and Part 4 shows how I made the forsythia blossoms.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

Spring is the season when nature shows its most attractive side, when every new leaf and bud is a delight to behold. The undergrowth is neat and tidy, with manageable mossy lawns and tiny plants just starting to emerge in the miniature landscape. It’s when I go scouting for places to photograph my wee folk characters outside, like Polly’s Washing Day, which is a note card in my shop here.

Polly’s Washing Day note card

When planning out Mossy Glen, I pictured hillsides in different shades of light green, punctuated with 3-dimensional leaves.

I made separate leaves with wool felt and wire, which you can watch in this Stitch Minute Video.

Stitch Minute – Leaf

I made branches of wire wrapped with embroidery floss, which I embellished with glass seed beads.

To add more stability to the larger leaves, I made the center vein with wire. All of the wire is covered with thread to hide the shiny metal.

I made long skinny leaves to go around the pond.

Even though the leaves had wire all around the outside edges and along the center veins, they weren’t rigid enough to keep them airborne and separate from the background pond fabric. So, I sewed blue tube beads to the undersides of the leaves, giving them the needed lift. Then, I sewed the beads to the pond fabric.

I also made bushes with felt leaves, wire branches and bead berries.

You can see the process of making the bush is this Stitch Minute Video.

Stitch Minute – Bush

This bush was one of the last parts I made for the scene and when it was finished, I eagerly sewed it in place. But every time I looked at the completed piece, I felt that something was off with the color and contrast of the bush. It blended in with the background and didn’t stand out enough. So, I did what I’ve done many other times when I’m not satisfied with how something looks, I snipped the thread holding the bush in place and figured out how to improve it.

In this case, I brightened the leaf edges with yellow thread, which created a vibrant striped effect. I also outlined the leaf veins with light green to heighten the contrast. It was fussy work because the threads kept getting caught on the branches and beads. But, in the end I was happy with the results, which is all that mattered.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on other plants, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)

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

Mossy Glen – part 4: forsythia

In this Part 4 of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, I share photos and commentary about how I created the sweeping forsythia bush that arches above the hillside. Part 1 is all about stitching a moss-like texture, Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees and Part 3 is about how I incorporated stone walls into the scene.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

Before we escape into Mossy Glen’s land of innocence, I want to acknowledge what’s happening in the real world. The shocking and merciless attack on Ukraine by the Russian military is just too horrible to ignore. At times like this, I find it helpful to channel my distress into art. In this case, I already had images to work with. All I had to do was rearrange the photos and present them in context. So, this past week, on International Women’s Day, I posted the following image in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. The response on Facebook and Instagram was immediate and heartfelt, so I’m sharing it here as well. The group of portraits, featuring a Ukrainian in a traditional folk costume in the center, are some of the 48 women from around the world in my 2016 piece, Cover Up, which you can see and read about here.

In Solidarity with Ukraine

Forsythia
One of the first signs of spring around here, besides snowdrops and daffodils are the telltale splashes of yellow forsythia bushes. They’re only noticeable for a few weeks, before leafing out and blending in with every other nondescript mass of leggy branches along the roadside. When forsythia are in full blossom, though, they are an important marker of the changing season.

Once I decided to make a forsythia bush, I had to figure out how to construct the different parts. The wire branches would be straightforward, but the flowers needed a new approach. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to replicate them perfectly, so I thought of ways to give the impression of delicate blossoms.

After experimenting with different threads and yarns and finding the flowers too droopy and clumsy, I tried silk ribbon. The petals perked right up and held their shape!

The process of forming the flowers was quite fussy. It’s much easier to show than tell how, so here’s a Stitch Minute video to give you the basics.

Forsythia

The silk ribbon I used is from Silk Road Fibers. They have a ton of different colors.

I filled the wire branches with about 100 flowers and buds.

Then I wrapped brown embroidery floss around the branches, covering the messy wire stems.

The stems were still a bit bumpy, so I wrapped more layers with 2 or 3 strands of floss, until they were smooth like this.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on the leaves, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)

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

Mossy Glen: Part 3 – stone walls

In this Part 3 of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen, I share photos and commentary about how I incorporated stone walls into the scene. Part 1 is all about making moss and Part 2 gives a glimpse at how I made the cherry trees.

Why did I use real stones instead of making them with felt, as I did for Frosty Morning, (which you can see here)? I’ve asked myself the same question and have no clear answer, besides a feeling that real stones somehow balanced out and matched the realness of the wooden doorways.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

I first time I used real stones in my artwork was in 1995 for the picture book, Mary had a Little Lamb. I can remember sitting on the beach, sifting through the sand for small flat stones to use in the garden scene. When it came time to glue them to the background fabric, I was a nervous wreck, afraid of dropping glue in the wrong place by mistake and ruining all my work.

This time, I found more stones than sand to sift through at the beach.

Woodneck Beach, Falmouth, MA

I came home with a varied selection of stones, ranging in size from 1/2″ to 1 1/4″. They needed to be thin so they wouldn’t be too heavy and flat on the back so the glue would have a surface to adhere to.

As I played around with their arrangement, I decided to add a mossy felt section to the composition, which I embellished with silk ribbon. This ribbon is made by Silk Road Fibers.

One downside of using glue is that once you’ve cemented something in place, that’s where it stays. I’d rather have the flexibility to move parts around, so I glued stones to individual pieces of felt. That way, I could make adjustments as I built the wall. It’s a lot easier to rip out a bunch of stitches than move a glued object.
Aleene’s makes a variety of fabric embellishing adhesives that all work well. Do I use hot glue? No, because it’s stringy, messy, shoddy looking and I don’t trust its holding capabilities.

Once the stones and their felt backings were sewn in place, I covered the felt and filled in the cracks with a gazillion french knots, making a carpet of moss.

As with the moss in other parts of the Mossy Glen (that you can see here), I combined different shades of green embroidery floss to give it a naturalistic appearance.

As I stitched french knots around the stones, I realized that the mossy wall was too plain and would look better with something growing in front of it.

So, I formed a vine out of wire, silk ribbon and embroidery floss. Even though I documented the process with photos, it’s hard to remember exactly how I made it. All I know is that the silk ribbon loopy leaves came first and then I covered the wire and ribbon with embroidery floss. In my head, can hear my mother’s voice saying that the floss covered a multitude of sins.

I sewed the vine in place in the spaces between the stones.

I expanded the Mossy Glen neighborhood to include another stony bank with 2 more doorways.

This time, I glued the stones directly to the background fabric because I was more confident about their placement.

When I stitched around the stones, I left some room between the knots, so the blue green felt showed through. Again, I thought the hillside was too plain, so I stitched a few plants with silk ribbon.

As I embellished around the stones, I periodically checked the positioning of the moss covered wooden doorways, to make sure that they fit OK.

Here’s a photo showing the back of the hillside, with a green felt strip along the top edge. It’s kind of like piping without a cord filler inside.

I added the green strip along the top of the mound to create a space for blades of grass. In contrast to the myriad of greens, I used bright warm colors to stitch the grass.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on the forsythia bush, leaves, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 4 (forsythia)

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

Mossy Glen: Part 2 – Cherry Trees

Flowering trees in the spring are glorious, aren’t they? Maybe we appreciate them because their showy display is so brief. In this Part 2 of the series about making Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created the cherry trees that sit atop the hillside, off in the distance.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

The pink tinted trees against the blue sky remind me of the blossoming apple trees in this book jacket illustration for my 1995 book, Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Mary Had a Little lamb 1995

Of course, apple and cherry trees are shaped differently and their flowers aren’t the same shade of pink. I also constructed them differently – the apple trees are embroidered directly onto cotton velveteen, whereas the cherry trees in Mossy Glen are made with a combination of wrapped wire and embroidery on wool felt.

I also made the cherry trees as separate objects that could be shifted around. That way, I could adjust their position according to how the surrounding parts came out. Over the years, I’ve found that keeping an open-ended playful element in my process is more and more important. The idea of following a set pattern or grid, without much wiggle room, such as in knitting, cross-stitching or weaving makes me feel trapped and constrained, without room to breath.

I formed the tree shapes with wire, using a finer gauge for the smaller branches. The loops on the ends were big enough to sew a needle and thread through.

I wrapped the branches with embroidery floss and covered the trunk with wool felt, which I embellished with vertical rows of chain stitching. This Stitch Minute video shows how I wrapped the wire and stitched the blossoms with french knots.

Stitch Minute – wire tree

This was the first time I can remember creating a tree with its own section of sky attached. Luckily, I had some pale blue felt that was almost the same shade as the cotton velveteen background sky.

After sewing the wire tree to the felt, I embroidered a few extra branches to fill in the gaps and added pink blossoms with french knots.

I made a patch of sorts, by cutting the felt around the contours of the treetop. At this point, I’d figured out where to put the trees, so it was okay to decorate the surrounding area. Watch this Stitch Minute video to see how I stitched some little bushes onto the velveteen background.

Stitch Minute – bushes

In the future, I’ll give a closer look at how I made the foliage on the hillside that’s positioned below and in front of the cherry trees.

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Other parts in the series will focus on the stone walls, forsythia bush, embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)

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

Mossy Glen: Part 1 (moss)

Wouldn’t it be nice to step out your front door onto a mossy carpet every morning?  In this Part 1 of the series about making Mossy Glen, I share photos, videos and commentary about how I created just that for the wee folk who live there.

Mossy Glen is the springtime scene in a series of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Mossy Glen and the winter scene, Frosty Morning are available as note cards in my shop here.

I always start a project with an image in my head. In this case it included a forsythia bush overhanging a neighborhood made up of stone walls and doorways nestled into moss covered mounds. I drew a thumbnail sketch of the basic composition and printed it out in full scale using Block Posters. Over the 5 months working on Mossy Glen, I used the enlarged drawing as a general guide, not as an exact template.

Faux Moss
About 10 years ago, I fell in love with stitching moss while making my piece Rabbitat, which you can learn about in this film.

Rabbitat 2011

I can’t believe it’s taken so long to get back into embroidering moss. The simple idea of stitching multiple French knots side by side to form a naturalistic ground cover isn’t a new concept, but it reached a heightened level of obsession with Mossy Glen. It’s one of those repetitive activities that has you totally mesmerized.

Out of curiosity, I calculated that each square inch of faux moss contains an average of 144 knots, depending on the thickness of the thread, number of strands and the density of the stitches. That means that Mossy Glen is covered with several thousand knots.

If you follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram, you’ve gotten a preview of the process of making Mossy Glen. Last summer I shared photos and videos of whatever part I was working on that particular day. One constant question was, “How do you stitch on wood?” Back then, I was immersed in the act of creating and didn’t want to switch on the explaining part of my brain. Now, I’m ready to talk about it.

So, how do I stitch onto wood? It helps to think of art is an illusion, that the goal is to make the viewer perceive something in a way that suspends disbelief, like magic. The thing is, people who make stuff are super curious and aren’t satisfied until they can make sense of how something is done.

Here’s the simple rundown – 1. find interesting pieces of wood, 2. glue pieces of felt to the wood, 3. stitch onto the felt. As long as there is something to catch a needle with, you can make stitches. I usually shy away from using glue because it’s messy and unpredictable, but decided to try it for this purpose. Aleene’s glue makes a variety of fabric embellishing adhesives that all work well. Do I use hot glue? No, because it’s stringy, messy, shoddy looking and I don’t trust its holding capabilities.

French knots/Colonial knots
It’s been pointed out by people who know such things, that I’m actually making a Colonial knot, not a French knot. It has something to do with the twist at the end. Being self-taught, I’ve never paid attention to the names of different stitches or doing them the “right” way. I just use the basics in combinations that work for me. Here’s a Stitch Minute video that shows how I stitched the knots.

Stitch Minute – Moss

Thread
To make the moss, I used all kinds of thread, from silk to cotton floss, depending on what kind of look I was after. The naturalistic appearance comes from combining different shades of green in groups of 3 or 4 strands. I used these threads: DMC cotton floss, Vineyard Silks and Watercolours by Caron,

This 2 minute video gives a further glimpse into my process.

Stitching Moss with Salley Mavor

Stay tuned for more posts about making Mossy Glen. Future parts in the series will focus on the stone walls, the cherry trees, the forsythia bush, the embroidered embellishments and the wee folk characters.
Mossy Glen (overview)
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)

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

Mossy Glen overview

On this cold January day, I’d like to transport us all to springtime in the Mossy Glen. I began making this new piece in my 4 seasons series last May, just when light green buds started appearing on the maple trees. While I worked on it all summer and into the early fall, I took photos of different stages of the process. As with last year’s winter landscape, Frosty Morning, I will be posting several stories about how I created the different parts for Mossy Glen, from the plants and moss to the little characters frolicking about.

To do that, it’s going to take some adjustment on my part. First off, I’m going to have to turn on the explaining part of my brain, which has been dormant for quite a while. Writing this introductory post and sorting out which photos to include is a way to ease the transition from doing to talking about doing. While I’m in the middle of a project, I give myself over to whatever I’m envisioning and trust that it will work out. I solve each problem as it appears, always keeping the big picture in mind. I don’t try to explain the process, even to myself, for fear of dispelling the magic.

Throughout the months that I was making Mossy Glen, I shared glimpses of my work table on Facebook and/or Instagram. Understandably, my followers were curious about how this or that was made. I gave brief and evasive answers, like “I’ll explain later when it’s finished.” and “Let’s just call it magic.” It’s a tease of sorts, but true to my experience. Now that the piece has been finished for a while, I’m free to go back and review the process with a more analytical eye.

There’s a lot to show and I’m still figuring out how to organize the parts. I’ll be sharing several Stitch Minute videos that give closeup views of me working on different sections of the piece.

I’ll be covering moss-making and stone wall building…

and forsythia blossoming…

and views of constructing the little figures living in the hillside.

I’ll show how I made the cherry trees…

and violets…

and even a mini clothes line.

Please stay tuned for more photos, videos and explanations in the coming weeks.
Part 1 (moss)
Part 2 (cherry trees)
Part 3 (stone walls)
Part 4 (forsythia)
Part 5 (felt and wire leaves)
Part 6 (stitched leaves)

Mossy Glen and Frosty Morning note cards are available in my Etsy shop.

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

MY BED – Home: Part 4

PART 4 – Elephant Lamp and Goldfish Lampshade: Today’s post shows how I made the elephant lamp and goldfish lampshade in the child’s bedroom scene at the end of my picture book, My Bed.
Part 1 gives an overview of the page.
Part 2 focuses on the outside architectural details of the cut-away house.
Part 3 takes a peek inside at the furniture and the sleeping child.
Part 5 is about all of the other animal icons represented in the scene.

Signed copies of My Bed are available in my shop here. Watch this 8-minute documentary about making the artwork for the book.

My original idea for this illustration was to show a universal child sleeping in bed, surrounded by stuffed toys that looked like the animal icons featured throughout the book. I soon realized that the bed and floor around it wouldn’t accommodate all of the animals, so I came up with other ways spread them around the room.

The sturdy elephant turned into a lamp base and the goldfish ended up swimming around a sea blue lampshade. The goldfish icon first appears on the text panel in the Japanese spread in the book.

To make the lampshade, I appliqued an embroidered felt goldfish head and tail onto a piece of blue felt.

I added a felt back piece and edged the front and back with wire on the top and bottom. That way, it would stick out and stay curved like a real shade.

For the lamp base, I shrunk the elephant down to about 1/2 the size of the spot illustration on the text panel on the Indian page of the book.

To make the armature, I bent a pipe cleaner and threaded one end through a wooden bead. The bead would become the head and the pipe cleaner extension would form the trunk.

Then I wrapped the pipe cleaner trunk with embroidery floss, covering the fuzzies like the dolls’ arms and legs are made in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk.

I sewed pieces of felt inside the body to fill in the void and give it bulk.

I then covered the bead head and body with pieces of felt. It’s been a few years, so I can’t remember exactly how this part was done, but I remember that it was rather fussy. I probably used 2 separate pieces for the front and back of the body and the head.

You can see the difference in scale between the 2 elephants in the photo of my work table below. They’re like the mother and baby elephant in my first children’s book, The Way Home.

Replicating the blanket at 1/2 size was also fussy, but at least it was flat!

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a full size version of this lamp, with the elephant made out of clay or wood and a painted goldfish swimming around the shade?

Stay tuned for more posts about the other animals in this scene.

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MY BED – Home: Part 3

PART 3 – Furniture: This series is about making the illustration at the end of my picture book, My Bed, where all of the animal icons from around the world come together in a child’s bedroom. Part 1 gives an overview of the scene and Part 2 focuses on the outside architectural details of the cut-away house. Today’s post will take a peek inside, at the furniture and the sleeping child. Coming up next in Part 4, I’ll show how I made the elephant lamp and fish lampshade.

Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8-minute documentary about making the artwork for the book.

The giraffe on the text panel found its way here after it was bumped from the Ghanaian page. To read about the giraffe gaffe which caused the switchover, go to this previous post.

For this scene, I rendered the giraffe in a different form, as a chain stitched image “painted” on the side of a chest of drawers.

To make the chest look like a wood paneled piece of furniture, I created layers of felt, including a cut out frame and a backing piece of a slightly lighter shade of green. Then, I outlined the frame with blanket stitching and basted the 2 pieces on top of one another.

I chain stitched a simple outline of a giraffe and filled it in with more chain stitches and satin stitched spots. For eyes, I combed through my glass bead supply until I found 2 of the tiniest black ones

After adding a branch and leaves, I sewed wire around the outside edge to give the panel more structure. And for extra emphasis, I went over every edge and corner with a darker shade of green embroidery floss.

To help visually anchor the corners, I sewed on jump rings, covering the metal with embroidery floss. I added a felt top, bead drawer pulls and bead legs.

Creating a side view of the bed frame came next. It’s made with carved bone beads from Africa that I found at a bead show years ago.

Because I wanted every child looking at the page to feel a connection to the character in the illustration, I intentionally made them non-specific by gender or race. I also wanted the house and bedroom to convey a warm and playful sense of “home” that could be imagined anywhere.

Since the child was going to be tucked under the covers, I only had to make the top half of their body. The figure is based on the dolls in my in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

While picking out colors and patterns for the child’s clothes and bed spread, I was keenly aware of how easy it is to fall for pink = girl and blue = boy stereotypes. After much consideration, I chose striped orange pajamas and a starry purplish night sky bed covering.

I embroidered the stars with gold metallic thread, which for me is a material of last resort. Even though synthetic thread is icky to work with, it provided the shine I wanted.

Once the child was safely tucked into bed, I started making the different renditions of the animal icons featured throughout the book. Coming up next in Part 4, I’ll show how I made the elephant lamp and fish lampshade. After that, I’ll write about the other animals in the room.

Bedtime Stitches, the touring exhibition of original 3-dimensional artwork for the book is at the  New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA through Dec. 31, 2021 and will be at the International Quilt Museum, Lincoln, NE Jan. 25 – April 10, 2022. See the the full schedule here.

Bedtime Stitches at the New England Quilt Museum

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