WHAT A RELIEF installation

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that my artwork runs the gamut from precious to poignant to provocative, making it hard to categorize. One thing is for certain, I love creating and sharing my vision with you, whether on social media, in books or in person! This summer, from now until Sept. 11th, there’s an opportunity to see over 150 of my bas-relief pieces and sculptural objects at the Brick Store Museum in the quintessential New England town of Kennebunk, Maine.

WHAT A RELIEF at the Brick Store Museum

The retrospective exhibition, WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor contains a large selection of my life’s work, showing everything from a folksy fairy world to full-frontal nudity (in the Garden of Eden). The exhibition spans over 40 years, from early in my career to the present day. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections fill multiple galleries on the Museum’s entire first floor. The show is laid out somewhat chronologically, so visitors can see the evolution of my style and techniques through the years..

Brick Store Museum block, Kennebunk, Maine

So what’s my connection to the Brick Store Museum? In 2019, my recent topical pieces, including Displaced and the animated film, Liberty and Justice were included in their exhibit “The Art of Cute”. The show, which was curated by the Illustration Institute, included a broad spectrum of art and products that could be considered “cute”, from endearing to edgy. My topical and political work were part of the Meta cute or “beyond” cute category. The museum received such rave reviews about my work that we immediately started planning a larger solo exhibit and here we are!

The Art of Cute at the Brick Store Museum in 2019

Curating a show of this size takes a lot of time and preparation. In addition to figuring out what to include, I’ve spent the past couple of years studying the museum’s floor plan and visualizing how my work could be organized in the galleries.

Since it is a retrospective exhibition, I needed to track down people who’d purchased my work decades ago. My records are spotty, so I don’t know where everything ended up, but I was able to contact several owners who live within a reasonable driving distance who were willing to loan their pictures for the duration of the exhibit. So, in the early spring, I personally picked up artwork from various locations around New England. It was wonderful to meet some owners for the first time and hear how much they’ve enjoyed living with the pieces for 25 to 40 years! After bringing them back home, I removed the artwork from their frames and cleaned the glass, as well as took digital photos. Keeping them protected under UV glass for all these years really made a difference because they were in excellent condition inside.

In addition to early work on loan, the exhibition includes more recent pieces that I’ve purposely not offered for sale, so that they are available to exhibit. One consequence of all this laborious hand stitching, is that it takes forever to accumulate enough work to have a solo show. For instance, I completed just 3 pieces in the past year and a half (Frosty Morning, Mossy Glen and Harvest Time), even though I spent every spare moment working on them. At this stage of my career, I feel that the value of my work lies in its ability to be shared publicly. So that means I’ll be holding onto my recent work for the time being. See a schedule of current and upcoming exhibitions here.

Two weeks ago, Rob and I stuffed a UHaul cargo van with crates and boxes filled with artwork and drove up to Maine to deliver everything to the Museum. We spent a few days helping the staff set up the show, which you can see in photos and videos further ahead in this post. We left before the installation was fully completed, so we’ll take more pictures when we go back for the opening event on June 25th.

WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor
Brick Store Museum
117 Main St., Kennebunk, Maine
June 7th thru Sept. 11th
Meet the Artist on June 25th, 1 to 3 PM

Once the artwork was unpacked, the museum staff got to work installing the show. Here’s Leanne Hayden, the collections and exhibition manager hanging Noah’s Ark and a group of ornaments over the mantelpiece in the first gallery. I made the ornaments about 10 years ago for the Family Trees event at the Concord Museum.

One wall in the center gallery features enlarged photographs of women from my piece, Cover Up. Their faces are blown up to about 12 times the size of the 1″ wooden bead doll heads. I like playing with scale, taking something tiny and making it huge. They certainly demand your attention when you walk into the room.

Cynthia Walker, the museum’s executive director, skillfully hung the prints on the wall with sticky Command strips.

I was so impressed by how quickly everything went up. While I set up sculptural items in display cases, Cynthia and Leanne measured and hung the framed pieces.

Props and characters from the animated film Liberty and Justice.

In this video, I bring you around the room, pointing out what’s on display.

With her baby and dog looking on, Cynthia hung Bedtime Stitches. How impressive is that?

The Bedtime Stitches portion of the exhibit has been touring for the past 2 years and is scheduled at other locations around the US through 2024.

Video tour of Bedtime Stitches

It’s wonderful to hear that the exhibition is already attracting many visitors from near and far. I look forward to meeting some of you at the opening event on Sat., June 25th from 1 to 3 PM. And for those of you from very far away, we’ll take more photos and share them!

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 8 – wee folk

This is the 8th and final part of the series about making the spring landscape, Mossy Glen. All spring I’ve shared photos, videos and commentary about how I created the piece, from stitching moss to forming wire stems. I’ve saved the best for last – today’s post is about making the wee folk characters! 
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, Part 6 is about chain-stitching leaves and Part 7 looks at the violets and berries.

Before delving into how I made the wee folk in Mossy Glen, I’d like to announce the opportunity to see a large selection of my work in person this summer. The exhibition, What a Relief, has been in the works for years and I’m happy to say that its doors are open to the public this week! For those of you who live too far away to come see the show, I’ll be sharing photos and videos of the exhibition in future posts.

WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor
June 7 – Sept. 11, 2022
Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, ME
Meet the Artist on June 25, 1 – 3 PM

This is the first major retrospective exhibition of my artwork, spanning over 40 years, from early on in my career to the present day. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections fill multiple galleries on the Museum’s entire first floor. The show is laid out somewhat chronologically, so visitors can see the evolution of my style and techniques through the years. Over 150 framed pieces and sculptural objects are on display, including the series of original illustrations from my most recent picture book, MY BED.

What a Relief, Brick Store Museum
What a Relief, Brick Store Museum

Wee Folk in Mossy Glen
Now, let’s turn our attention back to the characters frolicking in the Mossy Glen. I’m never sure who is going to appear in these landscapes. They just show up one by one and claim their spots. After many months building places for the wee folk to live, it feels satisfying to finally meet them and let them take over.

The figures are similar to the acorn-capped dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk, just smaller in scale. Instead of pipe cleaners, I made the armatures with 24 gauge jewelry wire. You have to wind a lot of thread around the wire to make the limbs look proportional and not too spindly. At least you don’t have to deal with pipe cleaner fuzzies poking out.

After wrapping the wire armature with either embroidery floss or tapestry yarn, I embellished the torso and arms with faux knitting. which is basically rows of chain stitching.

I first started experimenting with fake or faux knitting when I made Polly’s Irish sweater by embroidering patterns and textures on felt. I’m not very experienced with knitting or crocheting, so this seemed like a good solution.

Since then, I’ve left out the felt and stitched directly onto the thread wrapped bodies. It’s fussy for sure, but the clothing comes out looking the way I want it to.

Here’s a Stitch Minute video showing some of my faux knitting.

I know this fellow looks uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to hide what he endured for the sake of fashion.

I made this stroller out of wire, which I covered with embroidery floss. The wheels are beads. As usual, I was so absorbed in figuring out how to make it, that I didn’t think to take photos along the way. I’ll try better with the next scene.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this series about making Mossy Glen. Here’s a list of the different parts:
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)
Part 7 (violets and berries)

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