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

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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.

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Hanging by a Thread exhibit

gallery65-1-of-1This month, Hanging by a Thread: Needle Art of Salley Mavor will be shown at Gallery 65 on William in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The owner, Nicole St. Pierre has graciously agreed to hang five large pieces in her gallery’s changing exhibit space. The show will be there until April 1st, 2017. Gallery open hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 – 5:00.

Opening Reception: Thursday, March 9th, 5:00 to 8:00 pm, during New Bedford’s monthly AHA! Night. This month’s theme is “All Sewn Up”, a celebration of the city’s rich textile history, as well as its current day love affair with the textile medium. The streets and venues of downtown New Bedford will be alive from 5 to 9pm with performances, art exhibits, lectures, and much more.

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The following works will be shown: (click on title to find out about each piece) Face Time, Whiskers, Cover UpBirds of Beebe Woods and Displaced.

If you’re in the neighborhood, you can also take in the Excellence in Fibers exhibit, which is at the New Bedford Museum of Art until March 19th.

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making Face Time (part 3)

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FaceTimeWMThis is Part 3 in a series about making my newest piece, Face Time. It picks up where I left off in Part 2, which covers the embroidered felt wreathlike frames. Part 1 explains the concept of the piece and shows the making of the heads.

UPDATE: Face Time will be part of my exhibit, Hanging by a Thread: Needle Art of Salley Mavor at Gallery 65 on William in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The show will be there until April 1st, 2017. Gallery open hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 – 5:00.

After all 41 frames were finished and each bust was safely sewn inside its own personal cameo, I arranged the characters according to time period. It was like putting together a puzzle, fitting the pieces in chronological order. Characters from the past were rooted at the bottom of the tree and others cascaded upward through time to contemporary folks at the very top.

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Tree branches were formed with felt covered wire. Embroidery floss seed stitches on the felt created a bark-like texture. The smaller branches are made of floss wrapped wire. I sewed the branches to the back of the “cameos”, extending the wire around the frame to give each little portrait some structure, like bendable bones.

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With this piece, I tried out a new kind of border/frame. Instead of putting fabric on top of and around the sides of a wooden stretcher, I stapled the background fabric to the back, creating a space inside for the 3-d tree. I padded the stretcher bars with cotton batting and covered it with fabric, like upholstering furniture. It required quite a bit of fussing and hand stitching to make the corners look good. This way the finished piece can be hung with or without another outside frame or shadow box.

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I made felt covered wire leaf forms for the corners, first embroidering the strips of felt with seed stitches.

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And then filled in some gaps with floss wrapped wire doodles.

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Face Time is currently being shown in Entangled as you see here, without a glass covered frame. But that is temporary, as Rob will make a frame to protect the artwork from curious fingers and dust.

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Thank you for following along through the process! As with Birds of Beebe Woods, I am not selling Face Time and will be entering it into juried shows around the country. Please visit the events page from time to time to see where my original work is on display.

For those of you interested in making your own characters, please refer to my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures, for basic guidance.

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making Face Time (part 2)

FaceTime-19446FaceTimeWMThis is Part 2 in a series about making my newest piece, Face Time. It picks up where I left off in Part 1, which shows and talks about the painted and wigged wooden bead heads.

UPDATE: Face Time will be part of my exhibit, Hanging by a Thread: Needle Art of Salley Mavor will be shown at Gallery 65 on William in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  The show will be there until April 1st, 2017. Gallery open hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 – 5:00.

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I wanted each character to peek out of their own frame, like cameo portraits. I cut pieces out of felt with scalloped shears and embroidered the edges.

This, along with stitching the leaves and stems took many, many hours.

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I brought them with me on boat excursions near home…

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and far away on our canal trip in France. I got a lot done on the plane ride, too.

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Finally, all 41 busts had their own wreathlike frame.

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The heads are based on the wee folk dolls in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. This little lady’s bonnet is made with embroidery floss wrapped wire.

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After the wreaths were completed and the busts sewn in place, I figured out their arrangement on tree branches. They would be grouped according to time period, going from past at the bottom to present at the top.

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The tree branches were made of felt covered wire.

To be continued in Part 3

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making Face Time (part 1)

FaceTimeWMAbout a year ago, my newest piece, Face Time started taking shape. I took pictures along the way, during the many months that its collection of little heads occupied my work table. The piece was completed this past winter after about 6 months of work.

I’m often asked how long it takes to make a large piece like this (24″ x 30″). It’s hard to say for sure, because my days are interspersed with so many other activities (and distractions) having to do with the business side of being an artist. Of course, I’d rather be stitching every day in my studio, but I fear that would lead to an obscure life, without a presence beyond my studio walls. I’d guess that at least 50% of my work time is spent promoting my art in some way; e-mails, interviews and other publicity, Etsy Shop, editors and publishers, social media, entering and arranging exhibits, etc. OK, that’s enough of a reality check–shall we stick with the romantic notion of spending all day stitching in a window seat?

family tree-2I’d like to take you through the making of Face Time, so you can have a sense of what’s involved.  If you’ve read my post, When to tell how and when not to, you’ll know that I don’t always show my process, but this is one of those instances when I’ve taken enough photos to warrant a 3 part series. I’m excited to share the new direction my work has taken!

For Face Time, I started in the usual way, thinking about the idea for a long time before jotting down itsy bitsy drawings in my sketch book. While I work, the concept remains strong and constant, while the overall design changes with time. I also consider how the parts will be rendered in embroidery and 3 dimensional needlework.

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I wanted to show different people from all over, evolving through time, from long ago civilizations at the bottom, to present day people at the top. I wasn’t so interested in making a personal family tree, but a depiction of the world’s collective heritage. I envisioned a group of faces from a variety of backgrounds and cultures peeking out of the greenery, all linked to a tree-like form.

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Researching fashion history was very fun! Online, I found pictures of hair styles, beards, hats and garments. In addition to wigs and painted facial features, each wooden head had a bit of clothing showing at the neck and shoulders. They expand on the wee folk doll projects from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. Wire glasses were something new, which I thought contributed to the individuality of some characters.

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Over a period of many weeks, the heads grew in number, filling my modest work table.

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There ended up being 41 heads in all, covering many centuries. Here they are, in a group shot, before they were separated by leaves and branches in the finished piece. I will show more about that in part 2.

To be continued…

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Face Time premiere showing

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For the past 9 months or so, while working on it, I’ve been offering occasional peeks at Face Time. This new piece deals with themes that I continually return to; passage of time, patterns that show change and growth, and connections between living beings.

It’s finished now and I’ll bring it with me this Tuesday, April 21st, when I give a talk at 7:00 pm at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Massachusetts. Face Time has been tucked away in my studio and has not yet been exhibited publicly, so this will be its premiere showing. It’ll only be on view for a few hours, while I’m at the library.

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Face Time features a tree with a variety of embroidered felt wreath-like “cameos” with heads and shoulders representing a broad cross-section of humanity. The 41 individuals include a wide swath of characters that show changes in style over time. They branch out through history, from long ago civilizations at the tree’s roots, to present day portrayals at the tree top. It’s not my family tree, but a depiction of the world’s collective heritage.

In this piece, I’ve basically used the wig making techniques introduced in my new how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures, but have added more period fashion details, like beards, hats and glasses.

I hope to meet some of you from the Boston area on Tuesday night at the Newton Free Library. My talk, Once Upon a Thread will be at 7:00 pm. I’ll bring along books to sell, too. The Pocketful of Posies Exhibit will be on display at the library until April 29th.

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Where can Face Time be seen in the future? I can’t say for certain, since I’m entering it in juried shows and won’t know for a while if, where and when it’ll be exhibited. I’ll be sure to include any showings on the exhibits page.

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