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!

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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.

The Art of Cute

This post is playing a bit of catch-up, since The Art of Cute exhibition opened way back in the spring. The good news is that it’ll be at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, ME for another 6 weeks, so there’s still time to see the show (until Aug. 31st). The exhibit, which is curated by the Illustration Institute, includes a broad spectrum of art and products that could be considered “cute”, from cloying to edgy and from innocent to provocative. My topical and political work is part of the Meta cute or “beyond” cute category.

People ask, “How do you feel about having your work called cute?” In the context of this exhibit, I can happily embrace the label. Otherwise, I find the term cringe-worthy, even though I know it’s a valid description of much that I make. It’s just that the word “cute” can sound belittling and dismissive when characterizing art. But recently, I’ve experienced the power in making art that draws the viewer in, in a non-threatening way, so a message gets through. This show is thoughtful and wide reaching in its interpretation and begins with this premise — “The Art of Cute is an exhibition that takes a serious look at a powerful aesthetic that is often not taken seriously. Our culture has a love/hate relationship with “Cute”.”

The exhibit is spread throughout several adjoining buildings, so that the displays move seamlessly from one theme to another. My work is grouped together on a wall in the Meta Cute room, with a nearby station set up to sit and watch the film Liberty and Justice.

At the opening, I met some wonderful folks, many of whom were seeing my work for the first time.

Cover Up, a bas-relief embroidered piece about women’s head coverings is there…

…as well as Displaced.

The exhibit also includes some of my political satire, which is definitely cute and provocative at the same time. There are photographs from the Wee Folk Players series and a display case with characters and props we used to make the Liberty and Justice film.

Museum goers can sit and watch the film with head phones, so they don’t disturb others. I loved watching people pick out the different characters from the film in the display case.

It has been a pleasure working with the curators of this exhibit, Scott and Nancy Nash of the Illustration Institute. They found out about my work from news stories covering the controversy surrounding my previous exhibit Liberty and Justice: The Sweet to Satirical Art of Salley Mavor. Having my work shown in the context of cute art has been an unexpected delight!

If you’re going to Maine, Kennebunk is in the southern part of the state, right off Rt. 95. The Art of Cute will be at the Brick Store Museum until August 31st.

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fiber art at the Cahoon Museum

Last Friday was the opening party for Twisted, Twined and Woven: Contemporary Fiber Art at the Cahoon Museum of American Art, which is located in Cotuit, Massachsetts. The exhibit will be there until Dec. 22. On display are four of my fabric relief pieces (Whiskers, Cover Up, Face Time and Displaced) and the work of Jodi Colella, Jacqueline Davidson, Anna Kristina GoranssonSarah HaskellAndy MaueryDiane Savona and Elizabeth Whyte Schulze. 

Whiskers, Cover Up, Face Time and Displaced

It was fun to see old friends and meet new people in the museum’s beautiful new gallery. The space was added on to the Colonial Georgian home (c.1775) that constitutes the original part of the museum. By early 1800’s, the building was operating as a tavern, an important overnight stop on the Cape Cod stagecoach line between Sandwich and Hyannis. I love how the new addition creates more opportunities for showing art, while maintaining and complimenting the historic parts of the museum.

Stinger by Jody Collella

The exhibit is as diverse as fiber art is and includes framed works as well as hanging installations and large scale, free-standing sculpture. Jodi Collella’s extraordinary scorpion made of vintage lace doilies dyed black is the dramatic centerpiece of the show. When the museum director and curator, Sarah Johnson, asked for recommendations of other artists for the show, I told her about the incomparable Diane Savona. As expected, her piece, Security Blanket is powerful and moving. Other pieces on display are Anna Kristina Goransson‘s vibrant felted work, Sarah Haskell‘s framed embroidered houses and baskets by Elizabeth Whyte Schulze.

Detail from “Security Blanket” by Diane Savona

“Beauty in Growth.” by Anna Kristina Goransson

The following pieces of mine are included in the exhibit – Displaced, Cover Up, Face Time and Whiskers. As with all of my work, including illustrations that are reproduced in children’s books, seeing the originals is a different experience than looking at photographs. If you can make the trip to Cape Cod, I encourage you to come and see for yourself.

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum will be hosting the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for my new picture book, MY BED: Where Children Sleep Around the World. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the fall of 2020. Like the traveling show for Pocketful of Posies, I hope to schedule other exhibits, so that more people can see the “real thing”. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting an exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the illustrations make their way across the whole country!

Displaced

DISPLACED
All winter long, while I sat and worked on this piece, I listened to news stories on the radio about people who are fleeing their home countries amid war and conflict. Even though Displaced is inspired by recent world events, it could very well represent the universal and timeless plight of refugees throughout history. When forming an idea, I often think in terms of creating miniature shallow stage sets and with this one, I envisioned a melodramatic scene full of foreboding as well as hopeful anticipation. The trail of heavily burdened figures are like an operatic chorus, winding its way upward through a threatening landscape. To help create tension in the design, I thought of opposite forces, such as dark/light, despair/hope, trapped/escape, harsh/tender, sharp/soft and horror/beauty.

Cover Up

COVER UP is a collective portrait of women from around the world, each with a head covering that reflects the conventions of a particular place, social class or time in history. The 45 depictions invite comparison, pointing out contrasts and similarities between different societies. They all wear some kind of scarf, head piece or mask that serve as identifying markers, whether they are forms of self-expression and fashion, or dictated by religious and cultural tradition.

Face Time

FACE TIME is a broad interpretation of a family tree, showing the faces of humanity through time, from early in history to today. The 41 individuals represent a variety of peoples and cultures throughout the world, all connected through branches of the center tree.

Whiskers

WHISKERS focuses on beards and mustaches, showing an array of male characters from different cultures and historic periods. The piece explores diverse societies and their origins, using needle and thread to signify the unraveling and mending of human cultures throughout history. The large face and beard that contains the various heads is inspired by Assyrian sculpture.

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: North Africa (part 1)

The book project is moving along, one stitch at a time. Or in this case, one roof tile at a time. When researching the architecture of North Africa, I was struck by the juxtaposition of white and tan buildings topped off with bright red or terracotta roof tiles. So that combination became the dominant color palette of this illustration.

The scene will be included in My Bed, which will be a book 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 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussia, North America and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

Since I didn’t have any red beads to make the roof with, I stained some white and brown clay disk beads with red magic marker. Some came out bright red and others had a more earthy tone. I’ve had these beads for a long time and it felt good to finally use them. Don’t worry, the red on my fingertip isn’t blood, but magic marker ink!

The holes in the center of the beads make it easy to sew them in place. I used a range of subtle shades of beige and tan felt for the buildings.

For a decorative scalloped edge, I added thread-covered wire to this strip of rooftop.

Then sewed on the overlapping red bead tiles.

After the roof was sewn in place, I added a decorative bead under the top eaves and stitched a bead curtain in the doorway.

In this part of the world, roofs serve as open living spaces, surrounded by walls. For this one, I made a fence with thread wrapped wire that you can see through.

Clay tube beads stick out like the ends of structural beams.

I made a striped turquoise awning for shade…

and a shuttered window in blue, for color contrast with the red and white.

I’m always looking for opportunities to add patterns and this door needed a carved wood appearance.

This roof section is edged all around with wire, which gives it the necessary structure to stick out from the background fabric. Otherwise the felt would be floppy and not very roof-like.

I search through my stash of hooks and eyes to find the right hardware for the door and windows.

This house is made from a loosely woven, nubby fabric that I thought matched the texture of white washed masonry walls. To be continued… See Part 2 here.

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for the book. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication in the fall of 2020. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a touring exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than seeing reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting an exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country!

Please stay tuned for future posts, as I have lots more to show about making this illustration. To keep up with new posts, 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 – India (part 3)

Welcome to the neighborhood, in this 3rd part of the series about making an illustration set in India for my new picture book. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world was written by Rebecca Bond. It will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.

In this scene, the boy’s house takes up 2/3 of the spread and the surrounding village is pictured in the left 1/3. I used a lighter colored background to separate it from the darker house in the foreground. And since the house is blue, I thought, why not offset the sky with green?

Making little dwellings is a favorite diversion, so working on this part of the illustration was a total indulgence!

Roof tiles emerge in rows of fly stitches…

and tube beads strung with wire stack up to make a front porch post.

There’s always seams to be an area that needs tree and leaf embellishment.

This story focuses on children, with adult figures off in the distance, so they have to be really tiny.

She may be one of the smallest wee people I’ve put in an illustration. I loved making her outfit and braiding her hair.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little peek behind the scenes. To see the whole piece, please go to Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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