Cover Up (part 2)

CoverUp_lowresThis is the 2nd part in a series of posts about my new piece Cover Up (24″ x 30″), which features 45 individual characters who represent women from particular times or places. They all wear some form of head covering, adornment, makeup or mask that serve as markers, whether they are forms of self expression or dictated by religious or cultural tradition. There’s a wide array, from exaggerated fashions to veils that hide women from sight.

Some depictions are identifiable by their national costumes, tribal markings or regional headdresses and others are less distinguishable and open to interpretation, but they are all distinct individuals who fit into a collective portrait of women through history.

souvenierdollI tried to personify a variety of ethnic groups with accuracy and sensitivity. I didn’t want them to look like those plastic international souvenir dolls (shown on right), with generic features molded in different pigment shades. And I hope that Cover Up has more depth than a fashion show or a Unicef card. My intention was to show portraits of real imagined people, with their own personalities and spirits, who live or have lived with the pressure imposed by their society’s ideas about being female. Even the Geisha has an identity underneath her white pancake makeup and the Afghan woman has a unique self inside her blue burqa.

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I used Google Images to find reference material and practiced painting likenesses on 20mm wooden bead heads with tiny brush strokes. As I watched the crowd of characters grow, I realized that each one had a story to tell. So, I photographed them all separately before sewing them onto the larger piece. Looking at the women individually may be a way to appreciate their distinct styles, but the relationship between them is missing. When viewed alone, there is no context for comparison, whereas the whole piece creates a juxtaposition that I find more thought provoking.

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The following images are a collection of portraits of women who depict cultural, national, and religious forms of head coverings and tribal markings that reflect notions of female modesty, fashion, status and conformity from different times and places. The originals have 20mm wooden bead heads and these photos are enlarged so you can see the details.

Instead of making a key that lists each character’s source, I’ve decided to resist the tendency to label them and let their humanity speak instead. I hope you enjoy meeting the women!

12 x 17 posters featuring of a selected group are available in my  Etsy Shop here.

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Poster – Cover Up

Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

The next post (part 3 & video) shows the process of making the pieced felt background for Cover Up. Read Cover Up (part 1) here.

Cover Up (part 1)

CoverUp_lowresThis is the first in a multi-part series of posts about my new fabric relief piece, Cover Up. It’s the female counterpart to Whiskers, my previous exploration of men’s facial hair styles. Cover Up focuses on women’s head coverings that serve as identifying markers imposed by the conventions of a particular time and place throughout history. I want the 45 characters to invite comparison and point out contrasts and similarities between different societies, whether they are open or restrictive in tolerating self expression and individuality.

I loved the research phase of the project and spent many days hunting down images of women from around the world, each wearing a form of covering that reveals something about the culture they come from. I’ve depicted individuals with all sorts of veils, scarves, hats, makeup and facial markings that reflect different notions of female modesty, attractiveness, fashion, status and conformity.

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While searching through the images, I considered this question, “At what point does a bold, new fashion statement evolve into just another form of conformity that brands a group identity?” I also reflected on being a part of our diverse American society that is made up of immigrants and how this experience may influence one’s perception of “the other”.

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The possibilities were endless and I could have kept making new heads for a long time, but I had to narrow it down and chose styles that I thought would best represent a variety of cultures. In a lot of cases it came down to choosing depictions that had characteristics I found personally intriguing.

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Poster - Cover Up

Poster – Cover Up

After finishing the portraits and before making the background field to put them in, I took separate photos of each one and shared them on Instagram and Facebook. I invite you to follow me on these other social media sites for more frequent postings and notices, which include behind the scenes pictures.

The response to the photos was so enthusiastic that I decided to print a poster which shows enlargements (200%) of a selected collection of these portraits. The 12 x 17 poster (shown left) is available in my Etsy Shop here.

 

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Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

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Please stay tuned for more posts about making Cover Up. Coming up are more photos of the portraits and how the felt background was made. My husband Rob is even working on a short video with material he filmed while I was stitching the piece. Read (part 2) and (part 3 & video).

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Cover Up preview & poster

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Over the past few months, I made Cover Up (24 x 30), the newest piece in an evolving portrait series. I’m in the process of writing more posts about the making of Cover Up, which will be published soon, but, I wanted to send out a preview first. It was an engrossing project that kept me busy all through the cold snowy days of winter. Cover Up depicts women wearing cultural, national, and religious forms of head coverings and tribal markings. The portraits reflect notions of female modesty, fashion, status and conformity from different times and places.

Because of the multitude of hard to see little portraits, I decided that the finished piece (shown above) wouldn’t translate well into a reduced sized poster format. Instead, I chose to feature a selected group of women, with their photos juxtaposed in a grid. Each head is enlarged 200%, so that you can take in the details and essence of the person. The 12 x 17 poster (shown below) is available in my Etsy Shop here.

In this series, which includes Face Time and Whiskers, I’ve focused on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

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Whiskers (part 3)

WhiskersblogIn this 3rd and final post about Whiskers, there are lots of close up photos, including individual shots of all the bearded and mustached guys. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to take a detour from making sweet faced wee folk characters and delve into the world of hairy men! The styles range from handle bars to goatees to hipster beards. There’s more about Whiskers in Part 1 and Part 2.

Last summer, when I started making the piece, I posted a photo on Facebook of my work table full of bearded heads. Someone asked if there would be women as well. I answered that this piece was about facial hair and that only bearded ladies could be included! Don’t fret, a crowd of women (with head coverings, not beards) are featured in my next piece Cover Up, which I’ll write about in the future.

Whiskers, Cover Up and more new large (24″ x 30″) works will be included in my upcoming show, Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum in Bristol, RI this fall, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30.

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I pinned the head and shoulder portraits in their peep holes before sewing them in place. At this angle, don’t the guys look like they’re floating in swimming pool lanes?

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After consulting with my artistically perceptive son Ian, it was clear that the piece needed another element to help finish it off. At the last minute, just before it was scheduled to be professionally photographed, I decided to add a red thread zigzag to the border.

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The collection of heads have doll wigs similar to the ones in the new edition of my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. Some whiskers are painted, but the glasses and embroidered felt beards are a new development, since the book was written. So, here are the fellas…

I had a blast researching and making the bearded guys and I hope that you enjoyed meeting them! It’ll be the women’s turn next, when I show another new piece, Cover Up in future posts. You can get a preview on Facebook here and Instagram here.

Whiskers, Face Time, Cover Up, Birds of Beebe Woods, Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion and more will be included in my exhibit, Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, Rhode Island, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

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Whiskers (part 2)

WhiskersblogMy apologies to those of you who received notice of this post prematurely as I mistakenly clicked “publish” before any text was added!

Early on in the process, when I was mulling  over the idea of making this piece and starting to do research, I envisioned a large, bearded face. I wanted to create a structure that could serve as a display mechanism for the group of little men. And because most people never see my original artwork, it was important that there be a strong graphic image that would translate well when reproduced in different image sizes.

At first, I was attracted to the “green man” concept, but veered more in the direction of Assyrian sculptures, which have wonderful stylized beards. I stayed with the green palate and added blues and browns.

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In this post, I will show photos of the process of making the beard, which turned into a separate piece that could be used as a costume!

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The beard is made up of small scraps of felt, that are pieced together like a crazy quilt. I drew peep holes on a paper template and matched felt pieces like a jig saw puzzle to fit. The pieces are sewn together on the back with a slip stitch and then embroidered along the front seams with a fly stitch. I made a lot of progress while on vacation, which is further evidence that I work all the time. The view out the window was nice, though!IMG_2731

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I used my felt covered wire technique to outline the beard and facial features.

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To keep the holes rounded and firm, I stitched wire around the openings. The smaller curls on the mustache and beard top are made with floss wrapped wire.

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The next post (part 3) click here shows the finished piece, with close ups of the bearded men. To read Whiskers (part 1) click here.

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Whiskers (part 1)

Ok, it’s been awhile since I’ve checked in. My only excuse is that it’s winter – my favorite time to hunker down and go full throttle on a project. There’s no way I’m going to some place warm! And I know that some of you are of like mind, but we happy hibernators generally don’t get much agreement out there. I’m happy to say that I just finished a piece I’ve been working on since fall. Cover Up depicts cultural and national forms of head coverings and tribal markings that reflect notions of female modesty, fashion, status and conformity from different times and places. I’ll show lots of photos of Cover Up on this blog in the future. My Facebook and Instagram followers have been getting frequent glimpses throughout the process, so head over to one of those sites if you’re curious.

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For now, let’s play catch up with a series of posts about a 24″ x 30″ piece I finished last summer. Whiskers focuses on beards and mustaches, showing an array of male characters from different cultures and historic periods.

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Little men peek out and display themselves like an unlikely collection of international souvenir dolls. Their painted wooden heads appear in vertical lines, within a large man’s beard, which acts as a holding place. The bulk of the large beard is comprised of small pieces of felt that are patched together by hand with embroidery stitches. The large man’s bas relief face and beard are defined with lengths of wire covered with felt or wrapped with thread. Whiskers explores diverse societies and their origins, using needle and thread to signify the unraveling and mending of human cultures throughout history.

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I made the heads like the wee folk dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. Some beards are painted on the wooden bead head. I also tried something new, by gluing embroidered felt beards to their faces.

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FaceTimeDetail1WMI had a blast researching beard styles for the collection of characters. This piece is a continuation of a new series that explores history and fashion.  Face Time (shown left) is a previous piece showing cameo portraits from early civilizations to the present day. See Whiskers Part 2 here.IMG_20150711_101219

Posies exhibit in Greenville, SC

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Last week, Rob and I visited Greenville, South Carolina, where I gave a talk in conjunction with my Pocketful of Posies exhibit. It was a pleasure to meet the people who came to see the show and hear about my work at the Upcountry History Museum  last Thursday. Before heading inside the museum, I couldn’t resist standing next to the enormous banner outside.

The museum staff did a superb job hanging the show! I’m happy to say that it’s the most creative and professionally presented installation I’ve seen on the five-year tour. There’s plenty of time to visit the show, which is on display until Feb. 14th, 2016. This could very well be its last venue, as I’m no longer soliciting new locations. Of course, it could be a different story if an invitation from a great place with funds to ship the artwork comes forth.

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The bold choice of lilac purple walls really sets off the natural golden brown wooden frames. They covered one area with a 6′ blow-up of the “Wise Old Owl” and a screen, which shows my Rabbitat video and Felt Wee Folk book trailer on a loop. Signage with different versions and information about the rhymes hang below the framed illustrations. For this, the previous exhibitor, the Bel Air Library in Maryland generously shared their research about the rhymes with the Upcountry History Museum. To give an idea of how I make the figures, they laid out step-by-step parts in a display case. They’re the same ones I made and photographed for Felt Wee Folk. And last but not least, the black box theater lighting makes everything pop and sparkle!

Pocketful of Posies, Oct. 17, 2015 – Feb. 14, 2016 at the Upcountry Museum – Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina.

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We really enjoyed our visit and took a few extra days to see a friend and relative in the area. I spent a wonderful day near Columbia with my cousin, also named Salley with an “e”. Her 5-year-old grand-daughter is also named Salley, so our family surname continues to be passed down. Our grandmothers were 2 of the 5 independently minded, high spirited Salley sisters of Orangeburg, SC. In this circa 1900 photo, my cousin’s grandmother has their father’s arm around her and mine is standing, 2nd from the left.

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And we had a fantastic visit with my RISD classmate, Niki Bonnett, who lives in Asheville, NC. What an artsy, fun town! Years ago, Niki designed the poster and catalog for my pins, which you can see here. We could have soaked up the southern hospitality for a bit longer, but had to fly home.

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