bed book peek – Mongolia (part 3)

This is Part 3 in a series about how I made the Mongolian scene for my new picture book MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. I’m thrilled to say that the book will be published very soon – in 10 days! Thank you for following along during the past few years, while I shared bits and pieces of the process. For a full list of posts, go to this page.

Update: Signed copies of My Bed can ordered in my shop here. 40 pages, 9″ x 9″, words by Rebecca Bond, pictures by Salley Mavor, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

BEDTIME STITCHES Exhibition
And there’s more exciting news! Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches, the touring exhibition of original embroidered artwork for the book debuts at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit, MA. The exhibition will be there from Sept. 11 – Dec. 22, 2020. To ensure a safe and welcoming experience when you visit, please pre-register for timed entry. Masks will also be required. For those of you who live too far away to come see the show in person, the museum will be sharing the exhibition on their website as much as possible. To see other locations for Bedtime Stitches, go here.

Along with the illustrations, additional artworks will be on view, including two fairy houses, many of my wee folk dolls, Polly Doll, as well as composition books and objects from my home studio. Also included is a doll house I built in 1975 while in college and which I’ve spent the past few months renovating and redecorating (photo below). These additional artworks will only be on view at the Cahoon Museum show.

Doll house built in 1975, renovated in 2020

Now, back to the Mongolian scene. Part 1 and part 2 are about making the little yurt, sheep, plants, door and flag. This 3rd and last part is about the yurt’s cozy interior that appears in the cutaway.

In my research, I found photographs of families inside their yurts, sitting on beautiful carpets, always with a stove in the center. I noticed painted red furniture, so I made a little chest decorated with a chain-stitched locking key pattern.

To keep the felt straight and firm, I edged the pieces with wire, which is stitched over so you don’t see the shiny metal.

For the stove, I used black felt and various hooks and eyes that look like mini hardware.

As with the red chest, the different pieces are edged with wire to keep them firm. For the feet, I sewed on square clay beads. The stove pipe is made with acid free card board covered with felt.

I made a little tea kettle of wood and wire. The lid is a button with a seed bead knob sewn on top.

A little metallic acrylic paint makes it look authentic.

I made a little rug using brocade upholstery fabric as a base and chain stitched a bold pattern around the border.

The child has a painted wooden bead head and wire hands.

He only need one arm because most of his body will be hidden under the covers.

For the bed covering, I embellished a piece of printed cotton that must be at least 50 years old. In fact, every piece of fabric and felt used in all of the illustrations for this book came from my collection. That goes for all of the found objects as well.

I used red leather strapping to represent the painted red slats that hold up the walls. Lengths of leather are folded over and sewn together and then sewn in rows.

And lastly, I sewed glass and metal beads on top of the chest, just to make it look homey. I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes peek at making the Mongolian scene. For a full list of posts about My Bed, please refer to this page.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Bed book peek – Mongolia (part 2)

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This is Part 2 in a series about how I made the Mongolian spread for my new picture book. Photographs of my stitched bas-relief scenes will be printed in MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. Here are links to posts about making other illustrations for the book: South America, JapanNorth AfricaGhana, Russia, Scandinavia, North AmericaHollandIran, and Afghanistan. To see a list of all my books, click here.

Update: Signed copies of My Bed can ordered in my shop here. 40 pages, 9″ x 9″, words by Rebecca Bond, pictures by Salley Mavor, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

Art Exhibition: An accompanying national tour of the original artwork reproduced in the book will debut at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit, Massachusetts from Sept. 11 – Dec. 19, 2020. Information about the exhibition is on this page.

Part 1 looks at the process of making the yurt or ger, sheep, and plants in the Mongolian scene. This Part 2 will focus on the creating the door.

My_Bed_Mongolia (1 of 1)-39When researching the yurts or gers in Mongolia, I was impressed with the bold and beautiful doors. They are made of wood panels painted with traditional geometric motifs in predominately primary colors. For my design, I referenced several doors I saw in photos, combining the squares and triangles to make a pattern I liked.
I don’t remember exactly how I transferred the design from paper to the felt, but it probably involved a ruler and eyeballing it with a chalk fabric pencil. The red basting stitches mark where panels will later be placed on top. I colored in the patterns with chain stitched rows of cotton flower thread. The yellow triangles are made with fly stitches.

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Stitching patterns like this is the closest I get to doing old-style embroidery. It feels as calming as coloring in between the lines in a coloring book. 

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To replicate the wood panels, I cut strips of felt and outlined them with blanket stitches. To make them firm, I edged the panels with wire, which I covered over with stitches.

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For the door’s hardware, I poured through my collection of hooks and eyes until I found some of the right scale.

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I sewed them in place back to back, so they looked like door hinges.

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In the research photos, I often saw red flags flying on poles near the doorways. To make mine, I cut the corner off of an old red hankie that had delicate white edging. I then finished off the other two sides. I added wire around the outside edge so that it could be bent to look like a flag flapping in the wind.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you will have noticed that besides fabric, thread and beads, wire is an essential component of my artwork. I use it as a structural framework to keep limp materials upright and to form free-standing shapes.

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Another feature of the doors is a hanging rope-like pull. To make one, I braided strands of pima cotton.

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Please stay tuned for Part 3 in this series, which will be about making the child and the interior of the Mongolian yurt or ger.

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To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Bed book peek – Mongolia (part 1)

With its release date a month away, review copies of my new picture book, My Bed are being sent out by the publisher. It’s been so long since my last children’s book (Pocketful of Posies 2010) that I forgot about the anticipation and excitement of reviews. So, I was taken off-guard when my editor announced that My Bed was given a Kirkus Star, which described the book as “Ingeniously illustrated”. With many thousands of new children’s books entering the marketplace each year, publishers, authors and illustrators rely on reviews to help make their books stand out in the crowd. And a quotable review can make all the difference in a book’s success.

In addition to gearing up for My Bed’s publication, I’m preparing for the US tour of the original fabric-relief art for the book. The exhibition will debut at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit, Massachusetts from Sept. 11 – Dec. 22, 2020. You’ll be glad to know that the museum is taking measures to make your visit safe by requiring face masks and scheduling time slots with a small number of visitors at a time. They will also be putting the show online for those of you from places too far away to visit.

Update: Signed copies of My Bed can ordered in my shop here. 40 pages, 9″ x 9″, words by Rebecca Bond, pictures by Salley Mavor, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

In creating the illustrations for My Bed, I feel as if I’ve gotten to visit all the children in the places they live around the globe, even though I stayed home. Rebecca Bond wrote a narrative that celebrates our differences, while also bringing us together through the universal theme of children sleeping in their safe little beds.  It was my job to bring these children to life and create their varying environments. Here are links to posts about making illustrations for the book: South America,JapanNorth AfricaGhana, Russia, Scandinavia, North AmericaHollandIran, and Afghanistan. To see a list of all my books, click here.

In this post, I will focus on making the yurt or ger, sheep and plants for the scene set in Mongolia.

Way back in the beginning, I laid out the whole book and made sketches for each page. The scenes fill up 3/4 of a double page spread and the text will be printed on the remaining 1/4 page, which will be to the left of the decorative border. The vertical line over the door is there to mark where the fold or gutter will be located.

For reference, I looked at many photos of authentic Mongolian yurts or gers and decided to show a cutaway of both the outside and inside. I loved the bold and bright patterns on the doors. They sometimes paint designs on the white cloth cover, too.

The grazing sheep needed to be pretty small to fit the scale. I painted their faces on oval wooden beads and formed the rest of their bodies with wire. Then I wrapped the ears, legs and tails with fine wool yarn.

I covered the bodies with cotton batting and stitched French knots all over.

After sewing the yurt and sheep in place on the felt background, I added a few stitches to look like tufts of grass.

To help separate the foreground from the background, I made stems with wire and wrapped the leaves and branches with embroidery floss.

Please stay tuned for more parts in this series. Future posts will be about making the door, the child and the interior of the scene from Mongolia.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

bed book peek: Ghana (part 4)

This is Part 4 in a series of posts about making the bas-relief scene set in the West African country of Ghana. A photograph of the piece will be reproduced in my upcoming picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. An accompanying US tour of the original artwork used to illustrate the book will begin in the fall of 2020. Information about the exhibition is on this page.

Part 1 shows the process of making the smaller house and background figure.
Part 2 is about making the child and his house in the foreground.
Part 3 shows how I made the shade tree and the bird.

Update: My Bed can now be pre-ordered in my shop here. The book’s release date is in Sept. 2020 and people have asked if they can pre-order autographed copies ahead. So, if you put your order in now, I’ll have a better idea of how many copies to get. The book will be shipped to you as soon as it arrives!

The book is about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Sept. 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth America, ScandinaviaHolland and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

This post shows how I made the leaves, plants and woven fence. It completes the 4 part series about stitching and constructing the many parts in the Ghanaian illustration. Since the shade tree is a prominent feature of the scene (and the text), I wanted to make it as 3-dimensional as possible. Sometimes I embroider leaves to a background fabric, but this tree would stand alone as a separate object. That meant that each individual leaf had to be cut of felt, stitched around the outside and edged with wire. At the time, I didn’t pay attention to how many, but out of curiosity, I just counted 89 leaves.

I grouped them in branches of 3, 4 and 5 leaves and added fly stitches to look like veins.

The clusters accumulated on my work table over the course of a few days.

Then I joined the small branches to the larger branches of the tree (which I described in Part 3) and wrapped embroidery floss around the thick and thin wire.

The trick is to get a seamless transition between the felt and wire branches. Wire provides the flexibility to bend and arrange the branches this way and that, to evenly fill the gaps and overlap the leaves.

i also made felt plants with long thin leaves. For extra stability, I stitched wire both around the outside edge and down the center vein.

For the hanging plant, I made wire stems and attached glass bead leaves.

The planter is an acorn cap. I sewed the plant and 3 pieces of wire to a circle of brown felt. I rarely use glue, but figured it was the best choice for holding the felt/wire/plant inside the acorn cap.

I found a plant hook of the right size in my hook & eye collection, which has really come in handy for this book project.

I cut a piece of felt for the fence and stitched 2 rows of wire to the top edge to keep it from being too floppy. I found some small flat pieces of wood in my stash of misc. parts and sewed them to the felt. Then, I stitched silk ribbon in a diagonal square pattern to make it look like it was woven with plant fibers.

I hope that you enjoyed this series about making the Ghanaian scene. Over the past year or so, I’ve written about most of the illustrations in the book, but there are a few more to go. My Bed’s release date of Sept. 8th, 2020 is just around the corner! If you’d like to pre-order autographed copies, please go to my shop. To see a complete list of the “bed book peek” blog entries, please go here.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

bed book peek – Ghana (part 3)

This is Part 3 in a series of posts about how I made the stitched bas-relief scene set in the West African country of Ghana. A photograph of the piece will be reproduced in my upcoming picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. An accompanying US tour of the original artwork used to illustrate the book will begin in the fall of 2020. Information about the exhibition is on this page.

Part 1 shows the process of making the smaller house and figure in the background and Part 2 is about making the child and his house in the foreground.

The book is about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Sept. 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth America, ScandinaviaHolland and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

Update: Signed copies of My Bed can ordered in my shop here. 40 pages, 9″ x 9″, words by Rebecca Bond, pictures by Salley Mavor, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-544-94906-5

In this part, I’ll show how I made the shade tree and the bird. Please bear with me while I try to explain ways of working that don’t easily fit into a logical sequence. These are techniques I’ve figured out intuitively over many decades of manipulating materials in my hands and I will do my best to translate into words what my hands have taught me.

In the beginning, I made thumbnail sketches of all of the pages in the book and enlarged them to full size. I used the drawing of the Ghanaian scene to trace and cut out a template of the tree.

Using the template, I traced and cut the trunk shape out of acid-free mat board. Over the years, I’ve gotten more diligent about using archival materials that won’t deteriorate or stain over time. You can read how I learned my lesson in this post about repairing an older piece.

To give the mat board a stitch-friendly surface, I glued layers of thin quilt batting to the front and back of the mat board. That way, there was something to catch the needle onto. I built up the thickness of the trunk by sewing tapered layers of felt to the top.

To make thinner branches, I sewed insulated electrical wire to the top where the trunk divides into 3 sections. I covered the tree trunk and thicker branches with brown felt, using a gazillion stitches on the back to pull it tight around the front.

I stitched a zigzag bark texture to the front with variegated pima cotton (Watercolours by Caron). To make the knot in the tree, I cut out a donut shaped piece of felt and blanket stitched it to the trunk.

To make leaves, I cut out pieces of felt and edged them with blanket stitches. Then, I stitched jewelry wire around the outside edges and formed stems by twisting wire.

I attached clumps of 3 or 4 leaves to the tree branches by winding the thin jewelry wire around the thicker insulated electrical wire.

Then, I wrapped the thick and thin wire with embroidery floss, covering the bumps and lumps until it looked smooth.

The original sketch didn’t include a bird, but after watching the scene come together, I decided to add a third blue focal point to catch the eye. The other 2 are the boy’s blue shorts and the blue skirt worn by the woman in the doorway. They stand out in contrast with the overall orange, brown and green color palette. I researched birds in West Africa and found a spectacular bird called the splendid glossy-starling.

For the bird’s head, I painted a wooden bead blue and formed a beak out of jewelry wire, which I wrapped with embroidery floss. Then I stuck the wire through the bead hole and used the extra length of wire to make the bird’s feet.

I made the bird’s body out of felt and added a wire tail. This starling is really glossy, so I stitched some bling with purple metallic thread on its tail and underbelly.

After sewing the bird’s wire feet to a thick branch on the tree, I could almost hear it sing!

Please stay tuned for Part 4, which will cover how I made the plants and woven fence.

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.

The Red Chair

During the 80’s and 90’s, life was simpler. At least it seems that way, looking back. All I did was take care of my family and make art. That was before the internet, social media, Netflix and all the other ways of “connecting” and being entertained. So, I look back nostalgically at some of the artwork I made back then, like The Red Chair. It is one of the few pieces that I held onto from that period. I just couldn’t bring myself to sell it and it’s been hanging in my studio for 26 years.

From time to time, I’ve offered printed reproductions of The Red Chair in my shop, where they’ve been a favorite gift for new mothers. The cards have also been popular with breast feeding organizations, who’ve purchased them in bulk. Note Cards and Prints are again available in my shop.
Set of 4 Note Cards – $10.00 Buy here
8 x 10 Print – $15.00 Buy here

Back when I made the piece, my figures were flat in the back, in shallow relief (about 1 inch max). For the skin, I used an old woven wool petticoat of my grandmother’s (she was born in 1890). The cloth had been laundered so many times in hot water that it had felted to the point where you couldn’t see the weave. After painting the cloth with fabric paint, I’d embroider the faces. I had to rip out the stitching over and over, until their expressions came out the way I wanted. I used every last inch of that petticoat until it was all gone and I’ve never been able to find anything comparable. So many of the materials and found objects I’ve used over the years are one-of-a-kind, which forces me to adapt and tailor my approach to meet the needs of every new piece.

The chair was modeled after one in our living room that came from my (wool petticoat) grandmother. I changed the straight angular back into a rounded curve, which seemed to better reflect the subject matter. I sculpted the chair feet with Fimo dough. I used upholstery fabric for the chair, wallpaper (embellishment added), floor and carpet.
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If you’re wondering about the Buddha, it’s been treasured by my family for 4 generations, ever since my great-grandfather, James Mavor bought it from a missionary while visiting Russia in the late 1800’s.

Opportunity to Pre-order MY BED

My upcoming picture book My Bed is now available for pre-order in my shop here. It’s release date is isn’t until Oct., but people have asked if they can order autographed copies ahead. So, if you put your order in now, I’ll have a better idea of how many copies to get. The book will be shipped to you as soon as it arrives!

It’s been 10 years since Pocketful of Posies came out and for years I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever feel like doing another picture book. With such a labor intensive techniques, illustrating a book is a big commitment! I needed the freedom to make other kinds of art, which I’ve done. But, I missed being a part of the children’s book world, so here we are!

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.

scavenger hunt

The scavenger hunt at my retrospective exhibition of original picture book art at the Cape Cod Museum of Art has been a hit! Not just with kids, but with all ages. Searching for the details is a fun way to engage with the artwork and helps you see things you might not otherwise notice.

I got the idea from my friend Deb Coulombe, who 10 years ago, put together cards for school groups who came to see the touring exhibition of original art from Pocketful of Posies. With the hunt, the kids experienced my artwork in a playful way that enhanced their museum experience.

So, I took the scavenger hunt concept and brought it to “Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Stitch”, which will be on display for only one more week, until Sunday, Jan. 26th. People are coming from far and wide to see the show, driving and even flying in from out of state. If you’re thinking of making the trip, please note that the Cape Cod Museum of Art is open Thursday 10 am – 7 pm, Friday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm, Sunday 12 noon – 4 pm. 

Rob and I spent last fall photographing closeup images of the artwork to use in the scavenger hunt. Because my pieces are sculptural, its a challenge to take pictures that bring out the detail and 3-dimensional quality of the real thing. We’ve tried different approaches, sometimes using a light box (above) to diffuse the light and soften the shadows. I’m constantly getting in the way, fussing and tweaking, which drives Rob crazy!

Rob printed the images on good quality paper on his super duper Epson printer and I cut them up. Even though they’re all square, it reminded me of playing with paper dolls.

Then I divided them up into groups of 4 that I knew would keep people moving around the gallery, like an aerobic activity.

Anyone can play the game and choose from about 20 different laminated cards in the gallery.

You can also do the scavenger hunt at home by searching for the following images in my books. Each group of 4 that you see below is labeled with a list of books where you can find the images. Have fun!

Details from “Pocketful of Posies”
Details from “Hey, Diddle, Diddle!”, Pocketful of Posies and “In the Heart”
Details from Pocketful of Posies”, “The Way Home”, “Hey, Diddle, Diddle!” and “Wee Willie Winkie”
Details from “Pocketful of Posies, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, You and Me” and “Come to My Party”
Details from Pocketful of Posies” and You and Me”
Details from “Pocketful of Posies” and “Jack and Jill”

SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch
Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 26, 2020

Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA
Winter hours: Thursday 10am – 7pm,
Friday – Saturday 10 – 4, Sunday 12 – 4

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Studio goings-on

After being almost exclusively in making-mode for the past few years, I now wake up every morning with a different agenda. Besides paying attention to my husband Rob and having lunch with friends, I’m photographing my work, organizing exhibitions, and preparing lectures. Making art is one thing, but if you want to share it with the world, you have to figure out ways get it out there. It’s a different creative exercise that not all artists can or want to take on. Although I would rather be stitching right now, I know that doing the promotional part is worth it down the road.

Before showing what’s happening in my studio, I’d first like to invite those of you in the Boston area to an Artist Talk I’ll be giving in Watertown, MA. It’ll be at the Quilters’ Connection, on Thursday, October 24, 2019 at 7:00 PM at St. James Armenian Church, 465 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown, MA. $10.00 guest fee for non Quilters’ Connection members.

I will share the joys and challenges of making art that ranges from precious to poignant to provocative, as well as explain where this doll-infested needle and thread universe comes from. I’ll also bring along some original pieces, including Birds of Beebe Woods (pictured left) and books to sell. I look forward to meeting you!

Over the past few weeks, Rob and I have been photographing a lot of older artwork. My pieces are displayed in cherry wood shadow-box frames that Rob makes. Glass protects the bas-relief embroidery from dust, bugs and curious fingers.

The process includes removing each piece from its frame, taking its picture and then putting it back in the frame. So, why didn’t we take photos before framing them behind glass? It’s a long story involving deadlines, a broken wrist, and consequently being behind schedule. So, here we are, doing the job years later. Many of these pieces will be part of a solo exhibition this coming winter at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.

The family-friendly exhibition, SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch, will feature a wide selection of original embroidered artwork from my 25 year career illustrating children’s books. You can see them here. Several pieces will be on loan from private collections. These are rarely seen by anyone other than the owner’s friends and family. This is a unique opportunity to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person.
SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch
Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 26, 2020
Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA
Opening Reception: Friday, Dec. 13 – 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm ~ Artist Galley Talk at 4:00 pm

To photograph the art, we set up the equipment in the spare room, with a light box to minimize harsh shadows. The room’s sky light affected the light balance, so we covered it with another defuser. The camera was propped up on a tripod, facing straight down. To counteract the weight of the heavy camera lens, we hung a bag of stones at the other end of the extension pole. When I asked why the camera had to be so far above the art, Rob told me that the long 100 mm focal lens maintains the correct perspective. I’m glad that he understands this stuff!

For closeup shots, we lowered the camera.

The closeup photos will be used for a treasure hunt for kids (and adults) that I’m putting together for the Once Upon a Thread exhibition.

An advantage of taking high resolution close-up is that the photo quality isn’t lost when they are blown up big. For the exhibition, I’m playing with scale by juxtaposing extra large details with my miniature artwork.

This week, we had a storm and the power was off for 3 days. So, instead of working at the computer, I settled in near a window and stitched, like a character in a Jane Austen novel. Although I’m glad to have electricity back, so that I can write and publish this post, I’m missing the simple pleasure of making things by hand by the light of the sun. That and a cup of tea is my idea of heaven!

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.

Self Portrait poster is back

I am happy to announce that a newly designed poster of Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion is available in my Etsy Shop. When the first edition sold out a few years ago, I thought that would be it. But, this piece continues to resonate with a lot of people and I regularly receive requests to reprint the poster. So, here it is, back by popular demand!

Self Portrait – 18″ x 24″ Poster

The 18″ x 24″ high quality reproduction is off-set printed on extra thick gloss cover 100 lb. paper. The poster will be rolled and shipped in a heavy duty mailing tube. As with most items in my shop, shipping is FREE within the United States.

Salley with her Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion in the Woods Hole Public Library

Here I am in 2007 at the Woods Hole Public Library, where the framed original bas-relief embroidered sculpture is on semi-permanent display. The Self Portrait is a time-line of my life from birth to age 52, with a spiral of dolls dressed in outfits I would have worn each year. When choosing the fashions, I relied on family photographs and personal recollections. Since the clothes are so tiny (the dolls range from 1″ to 3″), I had to embroider felt or find fabrics with prints that fit their small scale.

As well as clothing memories, we all have a personal soundtrack that goes with different times in our lives. This video is a nostalgic tour through fashion and music that my husband Rob and I put together. At the end, there’s a list of the music.

 

I’m glad to once again offer the Self Portrait in the poster section of my Etsy Shop. These affordable reproductions are the next best thing to seeing the original embroidered pieces. A customer just wrote a 5 star review about the Birds of Beebe Woods poster, saying “Absolutely excellent photo quality. Love it!”


For those of you in the Boston area, I will be speaking in Watertown in October. This event is open to the public, with a $10.00 guest fee for non-members of the Quilters’ Connection. I hope to meet you there!

  • Salley Mavor will give a lecture about her art at Quilters’ Connection
  • Date: Thursday, October 24, 2019
  • Location: St. James Armenian Church, 465 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown, MA
  • Time: Doors open at 6:00 PM, meeting starts at 7:00 PM.
  • $10.00 guest fee for non Quilters’ Connection members

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.

Horn Book Cover

This is an edited and republished version of a post that was first written in 2012.

The Jan/Feb 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine is out, with my illustration on the cover. This issue has many wonderful articles and book reviews, including the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award speeches, which were delivered at the colloquium on Sept. 30th, 2011. As an award recipient for Pocketful of Posies, I had the honor of illustrating a cover for the magazine. You can find out more about my award here.

Read on to see the process of making the cover illustration, which I worked on for about 6 weeks this past summer. The original size of the scene is about 12″ wide and 18″ high. I first found a twisted vine to use as the central tree and made a sketch with the Horn Book logo and child characters. I then drilled holes on the vine where wire branches would go.  

To form the branches, I covered wire with felt and embroidered them to match the real vine/tree trunk. This coiled branch has thread-wrapped wire thorns attached.

The Horn Book logo was rendered in wire branches and found objects. For one of the O’s, I sawed the back of a walnut-shell, so that it would lay flat and not stick out too much.  The O in the word Horn is a nest-like acorn cap from an oak tree in Iowa and the B’s spiky acorn caps are from northern California.

For the background, a solid color looked too plain, so I stitched together scraps of naturally dyed wool felt to make a more interesting field for the action.

I made a little fairy to fit in the walnut-shell.

I didn’t want the characters to be animals, but children dressed in animal costumes. So, I made every effort to make them look like children by giving them bangs, ponytails, hands and shoes. These figures are made with similar techniques found in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

During the process, I changed some of the characters in the original sketch and substituted a boy in a dinosaur costume pulling an acorn cap wheeled wagon full of books.

I printed out the words on acetate, so that I’d be sure to leave enough room at the bottom edge. I then embroidered plants and leaves to the felt background.

This little child/mouse is getting red shoes.

The Horn Book staff suggested I include a reading child, so I made a felt book for the face-painted mouse.

All of the parts piled up as I worked. It’s a miracle nothing got lost!

It was really fun thinking up costumes to make for these kids. I wanted to create a scene of children immersed in imaginary play and story.

I added a sun to the upper left corner and embroidered a wavy chain-stitched border. Then, I sewed the felt background to a sheet of foam core board, pulling it flat and straight.

Then, I stitched the tree, characters and other props in place, right through the foam core board. After everything was in place, I took it to the photographer, so he could take its picture. After that, I removed it from the foam core board and remounted the felt background and all of the parts on a cloth-covered stretcher. It is now framed behind glass and was recently bought by a collector. It was a joy to work on this project with Lolly Robinson at the Horn Book Magazine! Having my illustration on the cover will be a great opportunity for many people to discover my work for the first time.

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Here I am with Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book.