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 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.
Future parts will be 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

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MY BED – Home: Part 2

PART 2 – Architecture: This series is about making the illustration at the end of my new picture book, My Bed. It’s a cut-away view of a sleeping child, surrounded by souvenir animals from the places around the world that the book travels through. Looking at it now, the child’s one room house filled with animals reminds me of a favorite children’s book character, Pippi Longstocking, who lived an exciting self-sustaining life with a monkey and a horse. Of course, My Bed is a completely different kind of story, but those kind of connections make perfect sense to me.

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

Today, the focus will be on how I put together the outside architectural elements of the house, including the doorway and the roof. Everything was made with wool felt, with wire reinforcements.

As always, I blanket stitched around the outside edge of each felt piece. My motto could be, “When in doubt, blanket stitch.” The little dashes all lined up make the different parts stand out, like crosshatching with a pen. I added a layer of wire around the outside, giving the felt some stability, so it wouldn’t be too floppy. You can’t see the wire because it’s covered with brown whip stitches. Then, I decorated the felt “board” with a chain stitched curvy line.

This is the roof section, which I built up to about 1/2″ with layers of felt. I wanted to create a 3-dimensional structure that clearly separated the outside from the inside space.

To make roof tiles, I sewed together a line of rough cut shell beads.

Then, I sewed the string of beads along the rooftop and crowned the top with a clay bead.

The door is made with 2 layers of felt, all blanket stitched. My goal was to soften the hard edges and make the building parts look sturdy and wobbly all at the same time.

The door knocker is a hook and a bead and the door knob is button and a bead.

I made the light out of a hook, a bead and some kind of bobble I’ve had for ages.

Now that we’ve looked at the outside, let’s take a peek inside next time, shall we?

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MY BED – Home: Part 1

PART 1 – Overview: For the past few years, I’ve shared the process of making the 3-dimensional embroidered illustrations for my newest picture book, MY BED. The book has been out for a year and the Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition of the original artwork is well underway. So, I’d like to pick up where I left off last year and continue to show what goes into doing this kind of work. Posts I’ve written in the Bed Book Peek series so far are listed here.

The Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition 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. Visitors often ask, “How did she make all of this in one year?”. It’s confusing because all of the pieces are consistently embroidered with the date 2020 on the border. Even though I worked on it over a 3 year period, the project was completed when it was published as a book in 2020.

Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.

HOME – Near the end of the story, the illustration shows a child in bed, when it’s almost time to go to sleep. All of the animal icons from the different places featured throughout the book are gathered together in a snug little bedroom. I felt it was important to depict a universal child, who wasn’t clearly identifiable by gender or race, whom any child being read to could identify with. I also wanted the house to convey a warm and playful sense of “home” that could be imagined anywhere.

You can find out more about the Animal Icon spot illustrations in these previous posts – Rooster, Camel, Parrot, Elephant, Goldfish, Cat, Duck, Sheep, Rabbit, Cow, Crocodile, Giraffe, Dog, Pony.

To begin, I enlarged the thumb nail sketch to full scale and used it as a template. The drawing provided a general layout of the house and tree, but once I started making the animals, they took over and pretty much determined what the interior arrangement would be.

I worked on one double-page spread at a time. The background and parts accumulated on an old ironing board that served as an extra working surface. When I needed to press a piece of felt, the iron was right there.

Rob set up a camera and lights on top of the table, so we could make a little animated film before I sewed all of the parts together.

This is what it looks like when you compress 6 weeks into 9 seconds.

There’s is so much to show about making this scene that I’m going to write several posts focusing on different parts, including the animals, the child and architectural details. Stay tuned for more!

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Frosty Morning – part 6 (wee folk)

This 6th and final part in the Frosty Morning series is about making the wee folk characters who live in the winter landscape. All of the other stuff, the trees, the icy snow cover and the sparkling sky are just meant to set the stage for the little people to frolic in. While I worked on this piece, I thought about what the wee folk would look like and what they would be doing. Adding a narrative element with human (or animal) faces helps me fall in love with what I’m making. The scenery may be lovely, but without play actors, there is no story. And without that, what’s the point?

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop. 

You can follow the progress of the other 3 seasons on Facebook and Instagram.

The full figures are about 2″ tall, with smaller ones peeking out of the holes in the shelters. To make them, I used the same basic techniques that I teach in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk, with some adjustments in the armature material and clothing.

I used wool tapestry yarn or mending wool to stitch and wrap their winter clothing. Whenever I share photos showing dolls wearing sweaters, people actually think I knit them! For something this small it’s much easier to create the allusion of knitting with rows of chain stitches. For other examples of faux knitted outfits, see Polly Doll‘s Irish knit sweater here and her Fair Isle vest here.

When making people, I always start by painting their faces on wooden beads. Then, after meeting them, I feel motivated to bring them to life.

I’ve been saving some really small acorn caps for just this kind of project.

Instead of pipe cleaners, which would be too bulky, I formed the body armature out of 24 gauge jewelry wire. The bead heads were glued to the wire neck at the very end, when the clothing was finished. I glued small pieces of felt onto the top of the bead heads, in a kind of Mohawk. Later, when I added yarn hair, the felt gave the threaded needle something to catch onto.

Miraculously, this old mending wool from my collection of deceased relatives’ ephemera escaped being eaten my moths. It was the perfect weight with which to stitch miniature clothing.

In this sequence of photos, you can see how I wrapped and stitched yarn around the wire arms and legs and then made a separate faux knitted coat to go on top. I completed the look with French knot buttons, striped leggings, wool hair, and a glued on acorn cap.

The group of little people grew and grew until there seemed to be the right amount.

The sled is made from a pod I found so long ago that I can’t remember where it came from. An image search identified it as a coming from a Foxglove tree.

With just a few stitches, I sewed the characters in place – pulling the sled, looking out from shelters and climbing along tree branches.

When all of the parts were finished, it was time to mount the piece.

I made a border frame by padding and covering a wooden stretcher with upholstery fabric. I then hand sewed the layered background fabrics to the back of the stretcher, making it as taught as possible. After that, I sewed the different landscape sections to the background surface, starting with the lace snow cover, stone wall and driftwood house and ending with the trees.

To help prop up the tree limbs, I sewed beads to the back and stitched them to the background fabric.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this close look at the process of making Frosty Morning. When the Spring scene is finished, I’ll write about it as well.

Part 1 shows how I made the tree trunks.
Part 2 gives a close look at how I formed and wrapped the wire tree branches. Part 3 is about constructing the rounded shelters.
Part 4 is about making the stone wall and the ice covered bush in front of it.
Part 5 is about adding sparkle to the scene.

Frosty Morning and the other 3 yet-to-be finished pieces in the 4 Seasons series will have their premiere showing in my retrospective exhibition next year.
What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor
June 3 – Sept. 11, 2022.
Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, ME

There will be more opportunities to see the 4 Seasons series in 2023. They will be included in the following exhibitions:
Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Stitch
Feb. 18 – June 4, 2023, Upcountry History Museum, Greenville, SC
Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches and Social Fabric
Fall 2023, Southern Vermont Arts Center, Manchester, VT

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Frosty Morning: part 3 (shelters)

Part 3 in the Frosty Morning series is about making these curious looking rounded structures. Part 1 showed how I made the tree trunks and Part 2 gave a close look at how I formed and wrapped the wire tree branches, from the inside out.

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Spring, summer and fall will come later.
Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop.

From the start, I knew that the scene would include little characters who needed places to take shelter from the cold. So, I constructed cozy homes for them, like a wee folk housing development nestled in the trees.

Each shelter was custom made to fit between tree limbs. I first cut out pieces of wool felt in the basic shapes. Then, I cut out rounded doorways and trimmed them to conform to the surrounding branches.

To give the shelters a nest-like appearance, I stitched a random cross-hatched pattern onto the felt, using fingering weight Merino wool from Flying Finn Yarns.

As I worked, the spiral around the doorway grew larger, creating a shallow entrance, with an overhanging rim. On top, I added a bit of snow cover with white metallic thread and clear glass beads.

Each shelter was made to be different in shape and color.

This one was built to fit under a piece of driftwood.

In the back, I added layers of felt to make the walls puff out a bit.

Sometimes I drill little holes in wood to sew it in place, but in this case I glued the wood to the back layer of felt.

At this point, I wasn’t sure who would be moving into the neighborhood, but there was much more to finish before they started showing up, anyway

Stay tuned for Part 4 in the Frosty Morning series, which will zero in on the stone wall and its surroundings.

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Frosty Morning: part 2 (branches)

Part 2 in the Frosty Morning series gives a close look at how I formed and wrapped the wire tree branches, from the inside out. Part 1 was about making the tree trunks.

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop.

I started experimenting with wire branches in the mid-80’s, while exploring new ways of adding dimension to my work. The trees in the winter scene below are an early example of the same basic technique I use today.

This piece from 1986, along with over 100 works spanning my 40 year career, will be included in next summer’s retrospective exhibition, WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor, May 3 – Sept. 11, 2022 at the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, ME. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections will fill multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor. A large selection of sculptures, bas-relief pieces and original picture book illustrations, including the scenes from my newest book, MY BED, will also be shown.

I use jewelry wire or copper filled insulated electrical wire to form tree branches.

As I described in part 1, the trunk and thicker limbs were covered in felt.

Then came the fiddly part, where I wrapped the wire branches in embroidery floss. I wound thread up and down several times, until the wire was no longer visible and the branches looked smooth and even. Using variegated thread gives the tree a more naturalistic look because nothing in real life is just one color.

Despite its apparent fussiness, the process of wrapping the wire is strangely calming. People often remark at how patient I am, which ironically makes me feel annoyed and impatient. I know it’s meant as a compliment, but doing this kind of work has nothing to do with patience. For me, stitching is a grounding daily practice that verges on obsession. Somehow, that feels different than patience. Watch this video and see what you think.

Sometimes I used the copper wire filling inside insulated electrical cables I found at the hardware store.

Part 3 in the series will be all about making these curious looking rounded shelters.

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Frosty Morning: part 1 (trees)

Are you ready for a blast of cold air in the heat of summer? I hope so, because today, I am giving a behind the scenes peek at how I made the tree trunks for Frosty Morning. Part 2 in the series will concentrate on how I formed and wrapped the wire branches. As the summer progresses, I will share other features of the winter scene, including snow and ice, cozy little shelters, a stone wall and the ubiquitous wee folk characters dressed in warm winter outfits.

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal pieces that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop.

I’m currently deep in making mode, working on a completely different piece – the spring scene, which you can follow on Instagram and Facebook . So, writing this post requires switching my brain into explaining mode. You see, when I’m engrossed in making something, I don’t think about the actual process. I’m focused on bringing my vision to life.

So how did this vision develop? I started by picturing a winter scene in my mind, with expressive branches and sparkling ice crystals. When I sketched out some ideas, rounded shelters showed up, all nestled in the thicket of trees. The original drawing also included a line of little figures climbing high along a branch. The details changed along the way, but the basic thrust and curve of the center tree remained. Over the 4 months that I worked on Frosty Morning, I used the drawing as a guide, but never a template.

Because the center tree is the main focal point of the piece, I constructed it first. The photo below shows how I used matte board and wire to form the structure of the tree trunk.

The concept of using matte board as a base actually began over 40 years ago, when I designed a line of stuffed pins. You can follow the story of my pins here.

i still have the patterns for the various shapes, including the cat. The board inside gave a nice flat backing to stitch the pin fastener onto.

For the tree, I glued a piece of felt (the cheap stuff) to the back of the matte board. That way there is something for the needle to catch onto. Then, I wrapped a piece of felt (the good stuff) around the trunk, covering the front side and stitching it in place on the back.

Then, I stitched a zigzag pattern on the font side with variegated pima cotton made by the Caron Collection.

I used insulated wire of different gauges, sometimes stripping off the rubber/plastic coating to reveal multiple wires inside. It’s the kind of supply that can be found at hardware stores The skinnier wire inside became the finer limbs as the tree branched out.

I searched through my old lace collection until I found something that would evoke snow cover on the center tree’s outstretched branch.

I made the purple tree a little differently.

Being smaller in diameter, the purple tree didn’t need a board backing, so i just wrapped the wire armature with strips of cotton batting until they were the right thickness. I have no logical explanation as to why this tree is purple. I just wanted to cheer up the scene with something besides drab browns and grays.

Part 2 in this series, will be devoted to forming and wrapping the branches.

Frosty Morning note cards are available in my Etsy shop here.

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.

Frosty Morning

Since January of this year, I’ve been in full making mode, creating art for no reason other than the pure joy of it. It’s something I regularly promise myself at the end of long involved projects like illustrating a book or animating a film. I’m taking this year to work solely on a group of seasonal pieces that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined.

Frosty Morning, which is the first completed scene in the series, was inspired by what I saw early one January morning, when every bare branch sparkled with ice crystals. I’m one of those rare people who loves winter so much that it never seems to last long enough. I think it’s because I like long periods of time to work without the distraction of warm weather.

If all 4 seasons are completed in time, they will be included in my upcoming retrospective, WHAT A RELIEF: the Art of Salley Mavor at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, ME (May 3 – Sept. 11, 2022). The exhibition will feature a large selection of my artwork, spanning over 40 years, from early on to the present day. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections, as well as pieces I’ve held onto, will fill multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor.

Right now, I’m working on the spring scene, which you can see documented in photos and videos on Instagram and Facebook. My followers are so excited about the mossy landscape that it’s all I can do to fend off their questions about how I did this or that. I tell them, “I know you’re curious, but I’m in pure making mode right now and don’t want to dispel the magic by turning on the explaining part of my brain yet. That will come later when the piece is finished and I write about it on my blog.”

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I operate outside of the mainstream, in a different needle and thread universe. It’s been a struggle to find my place in the technique-driven imitation model ingrained in the needle arts community. In the essay, To Teach or Not to Teach, I discuss in detail my approach to making art and my personal philosophy about sharing knowledge.

So, with all of that in mind, I’m preparing to turn on the explaining part of my brain, at least enough to say something to go along with the photos. Over the summer, I will be telling the story of making Frosty Morning in a series of posts that focus on different aspects of my working process. My aim is to inspire more than instruct, to give a peek behind the curtain that may spark your own kind of creativity.

I took lots of photos along the way, so there’s enough material to delve more deeply into several areas including making trees, snow and ice, cozy little shelters, a stone wall and the ubiquitous wee folk characters. The following photos are just a sampling of what’s to come.

Frosty Morning Part 1 – trees, Part 2 – branches, Part 3 – shelters.

For those of you who need a blast of cold air in the heat of summer, Frosty Morning note cards are available in my Etsy shop here. It would also make a fun Christmas card 6 months from now!

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.

Bed book peek: Pony

Today, I’m happy to give a behind the scenes peek at how I made this pony, which is used as a spot illustration on the Mongolian spread in my new picture book, MY BED. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world was published in Sept. 2020.

The pony is also pictured with all of the other animal icons on the book’s end-papers. If you’d like to see posts about making the other animals, please follow the links below: RoosterCamelParrotElephantGoldfishCatDuckSheepRabbitCow,
 Crocodile, Giraffe, Dog.

A touring exhibition of my original embroidered artwork for the book is traveling around the United States. Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches will next be shown at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA, Sept. 15 – Dec. 31, 2021. Then, the the exhibition will head to the Midwest, to the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, NE, Jan 25 – April 10, 2022 . The five year tour schedule is listed here.

Signed copies of My Bed are available in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.

I’ll start off by showing this video, which brings you through the different steps of the pony making process, complete with Mongolian zither music in the background.

Making the Mongolian pony for the book, MY BED

in this series of still photographs, I’ll try to explain what I’m doing. As I’ve said before, I work intuitively, so it can be a challenge to describe the process in exact terms. For most of the animals in the book, I bent a pipe cleaner to form an outline shape. Then, I wrapped the legs, using the same technique that’s taught in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk,

This part is all about building up the body with layers of felt. First, I sewed on a back piece and used scraps of felt to fill the cavity until it was a good thickness.

This is the point where I “upholster” the front of the animal with a piece of felt. There isn’t a supporting photograph because I consistently forget to take a picture of this part. It must be because I’m always consumed in the heat of battle. Just imagine the back as a maze of crisscrossing threads, all working to get rid of any bumps or folds.

Well, after the animal shape looked the way I wanted it to, I sewed on a seed bead eye and embroidered a mane.

I can’t remember how I made the top of the mane where it sticks up, but it could have been several rows of blanket stitching.

To make the tail, I covered the pipe cleaner with embroidery floss.

Research was an important and fun part of illustrating this book. To make an accurate representation, I looked at photographs of real Mongolian ponies, with their colorful, decorative saddles.

It took a while to make the right placement of the ear.

With its bridle in place, the pony was almost ready to go.

All it needed was a brass bead stirrup, which you can see in the last photo.

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.