Introverts have the advantage

from “Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures”

In this time of physical social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, introverts have the advantage, plain and simple. Putting aside the widespread disruption, financial hardship and increased anxiety, being told to stay home hasn’t required much of an adjustment for many of us who are already quiet, introspective, and enjoy the pleasures of domestic life.

I suspect that many of you who follow this blog have those traits, too. Further ahead in the post, I share my own story about living as an introvert in Confessions of a Homebody.

from “You and Me: Poems of Friendship”

Introverts are not all the same, but the general thought is that they are prone to exhaustion from too much social engagement, whereas extroverts are energized by being around people. So, for some, the stay at home order can seem like a reprieve from all the hubbub, while others feel as if they’re being sent to their room for punishment. No matter your personality type, we are all confronted by the seriousness of the virus, both individually and collectively. These dire circumstances are forcing everyone to face themselves and reflect on what they value most in life. And during this time when we may not like staying home for weeks on end, I think about the wisdom of this saying, “The place to be is where you are.”

Penikese Island, Massachusetts

I think that artists and introverts in general will get through this period of home confinement better than some, because they have an independent streak and already choose to spend time alone. Personally, I would not be able to make art if I had to be around people most of the day. Even for someone like me, who is cloistered in her studio 7 days a week, the idea of everyone staying at home all the time seems eerily unnatural, like we’re living in a dystopian novel. It takes all kinds to make the world go round and many people who thrive on social interaction are struggling as they try to navigate through this extraordinary time.

I marvel at the human capacity to adapt and innovate within a set of constraints, to get what they need. And if there ever was a time for creative problem solving, this is it. A person can’t really change their personality, but they can strive for a balance between people time and alone time. Just like I’ve had to push myself to engage socially, I hope that more extroverted people will take this opportunity to stretch themselves in the other direction and exercise their independent and contemplative side. However you look at it, people are looking at themselves, reflecting on their lives, and thinking about what’s important. The question is, can we all learn something from this experience that will benefit ourselves and society?


Confessions of a Homebody
I grew up in a family of introverts — mother, father and 3 kids. You could say that we excelled at parallel play. Just look at this photo of me with my siblings – we are either engrossed in art projects or staring into space, not looking at each other or talking. We were all creative, with rich interior lives. Our family connected with each other and our wider community through art, music and dance. It wasn’t until later, when I married a more socially balanced person and we had children of our own, an extrovert and an introvert, that I realized family life could be anything different. From a young age, I have grappled with how to interact with the world outside of home in a way that didn’t become overwhelming. Being a classic introvert, there was only so much socializing that I could take, before melting into a puddle. The length of a school day was about my limit. I enjoyed school and my friends, but enough was enough. After the Woods Hole School let out, I’d carry my empty Flintstones lunchbox, along the path through the woods to home, where I could recharge for the next day. I remember being horrified when a friend of my parents described living in a Kibbutz where the children were raised communally, all together all the time. For me, living in such an environment would have been exhausting, but for my more outgoing son, it would have been heaven.

Woods Hole School 1965 – Salley in middle row, 2nd in from the right

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, a friend called after school to ask if I wanted to come over and play. I remember fingering the cord of the 60’s wall phone in the kitchen and telling her that I couldn’t because I was grounded. I’d heard about other kids getting grounded, so I must have thought it sounded plausible, as well as a good excuse to stay home. I’m sure that I lied other times to get out of things, but I remember this conversation, because the idea of a goody good like me doing anything that would warrant being grounded was preposterous. It just shows how desperate and awkward people can be when they pretend to be something they’re not, just because they don’t want to look like a weirdo.

Self-Portrait detail, 2007

Over the years, I’ve built up a tolerance for social gatherings and can even pass at being moderately gregarious, but there is a limit to how long I can keep it up. My husband Rob knows “the look” when it’s time to leave, before I do the grownup version of melting into a puddle. I’ve come to understand my needs and have learned to communicate them better. And in doing that, I’ve found out that there are an awful lot of other introverts out there!

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The best cheese straws in the world!

This family recipe was first published on my blog 6 years ago. Based on the numbers of visits since then, the post has been a constant favorite ever since. If you want to bring something special that’s not hard to make to a holiday party this season, try it out!

Cheese straws are my favorite offering to bring to holiday gatherings. The recipe comes from my maternal grandmother’s family from Orangeburg, South Carolina.  The tradition has been passed down from mother to child for generations. There are cheese straws and then there are these cheese straws, which always get a lot of attention. I’m working on teaching my sons how to make them – they sure like to eat them! The trick is to use the sharpest cheddar cheese you can get and to roll them as thinly as possible.

My grandmother (2nd from left) with the Salley family, in about 1900.

Ingredients: 3 Cups flour, 2 tsp. seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s), 1 tsp. dried mustard, 1 cup butter, 8 oz. very sharp cheddar cheese. Start by mixing the flour, salt and dried mustard in a bowl.

Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, like you are making pie crust.

Grate the cheddar cheese and stir it in with the flour mixture.

Dribble ice water into the mixture and combine until it sticks together in a doughy consistency. Don’t let it get too soggy!

Divide into balls, handling the dough as little as possible. Then wrap the balls and refrigerate for a few hours.

Roll out the dough balls as thinly as possible and cut in strips with a pastry wheel.

Spread the straws out on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. They may take longer to cook, so check them often and switch pans to different racks during baking time.

They don’t take long to cool, so immediately sample a few. Now, put them out and watch them disappear! They can be saved in a tin and make a great gift, too.

Since so many of you’ve enjoyed the recipe over the years, I decided to make a card with the cozy kitchen scene (above) on the front and the recipe for making cheese straws printed on the back. That way, it’s a greeting card (or Christmas card) and recipe card all in one. The Cheese Straws card is available in my shop in packs of 4 or 8.

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Anne of Green Gables & family ties

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During our trip to PEI, we visited Green Gables, of course. Although L.M. Montgomery never lived there, her cousins’ house and farm was the inspiration for the setting of her famous book Anne of Green Gables. The property has been designated as a National Historic Site of Canada and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

Our friend and hostess Polly (yes, a real life person!), Rob and I were glad to be there on a less crowded week day and freely roamed around the lovingly restored house, inside and out. After perusing every possible Anne themed souvenir in the gift shop, Polly (doll above) sighed with relief when she came across a stack of books.

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Green Gables is set up as if the character Anne Shirley and her adoptive family of Matthew and Marilla lived there in the late 1800’s. The rooms are furnished with a wonderful collection of period pieces and Anne’s room includes important book related items, like her carpet bag and puffed sleeve dresses.

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This is where the family tie to Anne of Green Gables comes in. But, first a little family history. Growing up, I heard about our relatives in Toronto, the “Canadian Cousins”. We were the only branch of the family to move to America, where my grandfather followed his career in biology. My father’s grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins in Canada seemed so much more interesting than the few family members we knew at home. The stories of their lives emphasized an unconventional and creative spirit, full of drama and public service. I never met them in person and that may be why they still loom large in my mind as colorful characters who were celebrated for their leadership and vision (at least in Canada).

I heard about my totally eccentric great-grandfather, James Mavor, who through his connections with the Canadian government and Russian Tolstoyans, helped arrange the mass immigration of the Doukhobors from Russia to Saskatchewan in 1898. I’ve never met an American who knows about the Doukhobors, but I think most Canadians have at least heard of them or know their descendants. There were also stories about James Mavor’s daughter, my great-aunt Dora Mavor Moore who is considered the Grand Dame of Canadian Theater. My father talked about Dora and her son, his first cousin, Mavor Moore who was a multi-talented creative force in CBC radio and television and the arts. These relatives and my parents are gone, but the family remembrances live on through stories, creating narratives beyond mere names and dates on a genealogy chart.

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In Charlottetown, we saw the last performance of the season of “Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™”, which I really enjoyed.  I already knew that Mavor Moore had been involved from the show’s beginning in 1965 and was Co-writer of the lyrics.

What I didn’t know was that his daughter, Charlotte Moore was on stage, playing the leading role of Marilla. During intermission, I read the program and couldn’t believe it when her name and picture popped out. We had not met, but I was aware that she was a professional actress and singer, carrying on the family theater tradition.

 

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After the show, it seemed almost impossible to send a message back stage, but another actor told us that the cast sometimes gathers in the bar at Mavor’s Restaurant (named after Mavor Moore) in the same theater complex. We only waited a few minutes in the bar before I heard the name “Charlotte” being called out behind me. I turned around and there she was, my real life “Canadian Cousin”. After some quick introductions, we had a great chat about the family. I also got to meet Mavor Moore’s widow, opera singer, Alexandra Brown Moore, who was visiting PEI from Victoria, BC.

We were all so delighted to finally meet each other! I felt connected to the Canadian branch of my family in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Our interaction made me realize that sometimes just showing up, taking notice and making a little effort can make all the difference in how life unfolds. It’s daunting to think that I am the older generation now. How could that possibly be? After all, I still play with dolls, for goodness sake!

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my favorite dress pattern

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It all started with this photo from a recent post about wedding dolls. My sister Anne wrote to say that she liked my dress. I told her that I made it years ago and asked if she’d like one. While I waited for the fabric she picked out to arrive from Portland, OR, I decided to make another one for myself. After all, you can never have enough cotton dresses to wear in the summer heat. I think it’s my favorite dress style, simple and timeless, with just the right amount of fitted detail at the neck and waist. And there are large side pockets, which I can’t live without!

I first made a dress from this pattern over 30 years ago and it’s stood the test of time, at least in my world. I’ve resisted giving in to the ubiquitous black wardrobe in favor of color and pattern. To me, wearing black seems to lack imagination and looks more like the uniform of the grownup sophisticated set. Teenage Prom goers may crave this look, but I feel more myself in something comfortable and colorful.

I searched all over my studio for the pattern, but couldn’t locate it. Luckily, I still had a white dress from the same pattern that I’d made to wear for Scottish dancing eons ago. I cut open the seams, which included a fair share of top stitching and used the pieces as a pattern. It wasn’t until after I’d made the 2 new dresses that I found the pattern, Simplicity 8922, from 1979.

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I’ve already worn mine enough times to have to wash it.

dress-1-2Anne’s fabric of choice was 2 different blue batiks, which worked out really well. She sent a photo of her wearing the dress.

I really enjoyed the process of sewing the dresses, which was so fast and easy compared to my other work. It made me think about how revolutionary the invention of the sewing machine must have been in the mid 1800’s. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up hand stitching, though. Most of what I want to do can’t be mechanized and the slow methodical approach helps me work out my ideas. It’s just fun to hear the sound of a sewing machine as it wips together a piece of clothing every once in a while.

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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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Desire doll Raffle

Desire-19535This month, I’ve had the pleasure of making a special doll who represents one of my family’s ancestors. The “Desire Doll” personifies Desire Howland Gorham, who was born in Plymouth Colony in 1623 to John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, who both came to America on the Mayflower.The doll will be raffled to raise funds for my sister Anne Mavor‘s ground breaking art project, I Am My White Ancestors: Self-Portraits through Time. Her project involves much more than a genealogic study with a list of names and dates. She is striving to understand our ancestors’ motivations in a historical context. I am glad to be a part of Anne’s fundraising efforts and applaud her thought-provoking vision.

~ About the Desire Doll ~
Hand made by me, Salley Mavor, 4″ tall, stands on a weighted stand, extra sturdy bendable body, hand stitched, clothing made of wool and cotton, basket is made from coiled thread-wrapped wire, includes signed tag. This doll uses techniques taught in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures. This is a rare opportunity to have a one-of-a-kind, more involved and detailed doll, as I usually only make them for gifts or for personal/family projects.

~ To enter the raffle ~ Go to Anne’s Hatchfund page, check the green DONATE button on the upper right. Then enter your tax deductible donation, and choose the Special Desire Doll Raffle Perk. The raffle is being run by the not-for-profit grant making and artist advocacy organization Hatchfund. Donations will be accepted until January 31st, with the winner being drawn on Feb.1st.

Her planned art installation will address issues of immigration, colonization, slavery and war through the personal stories of 10 to 12 of our European ancestors, going back through the centuries, as far as she can research. You can find out about Anne’s project here. Desire-1445

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Anne as Eugenia Buchanan (1823-1898) in Orangburg, SC

Anne describes her exhibit this way:
I Am My White Ancestors: Self-Portraits through Time is a multi-media installation that uses my family history to explore the conflicted story of European Americans. It will consist of 10-12 life-size photographic self-portraits of me as my ancestors, printed on fabric panels and accompanied by short audio diaries from each ancestor’s perspective.

This idea grew out of my interest to understand how my heritage impacts me as a white person living in the United States. I was curious to examine issues such as immigration, colonization, slavery, war, and what life was like in Europe. I wanted to know how similar or different I might be to my ancestors, and what I could learn from their lives. Claiming connection to my family history is also one step towards taking responsibility for the past.

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In a recent update about her project, Anne wrote, “My research continues to turn up gems of information. I just learned more about the life of Desire Howland Gorham who will be my 17th Century self-portrait. She was born in 1623 in Plymouth Colony. Her husband John Gorham was an officer in King Phillip’s War, the last stand of Chief Metacomet and the Narragansett Nation against the English settlers in 1678. After the war, the victorious English soldiers each received parcels of former Indian lands, while the surviving Indians were enslaved or shipped off to the West Indies. Gorham died following the war and was buried on the stolen 100 acres he won on Poppasquash Neck in Rhode Island. Desire never lived there. After her death, her slave Totoo requested in his will that he be buried at the feet of his beloved mistress. War, slavery, and theft, contrasted with deep human connections.”

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still life photos around the house

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I spent a little time this week taking still life photographs. Rob is giving me tips about lighting and operating my camera. Some of the photos show seasonal arrangements and others are permanent displays around the house. While looking for things to take pictures of, I noticed that almost every object in our house has been in Rob’s or my family for a long time. It’s an eclectic collection of stuff, from a 3 ft. high bronze Buddha my great grandfather bought from a missionary in Russia in the late 1900’s to tiny silver salt shakers Rob inherited. Very few items are new or were purchased by us. Both of our families are small and we have become the keepers of the past by default.

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My sister Anne’s exhibit at Highfield

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My sister, Anne Mavor is visiting from Portland, OR this week. She’s having a show of her beautiful encaustic paintings at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. The exhibit, Ancient Landscapes: A Spirit of Place will be on display until July 6th. She will also be giving a talk about her work on Sunday, June 1 at 1:30 pm. And look at the banner out front!

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Anne uses watercolors on a wax-translucent wall medium base, which makes her paintings look very different from other encaustic work. You can read more about her technique here.

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I love this photo of Anne painting with our Mom in Maine in 1962. This is such a typical scene. Mom was always creating artwork of all kinds.

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And this one of Anne with Dad in the mid 50’s.

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Anne’s paintings are of ancient sacred landscapes based on research photos taken by our father, James W. Mavor and herself. Several pieces in the exhibit at Highfield Hall are of local scenes from Falmouth and the Elizabeth Islands. I encourage you to go see this show–it’s stunning!

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She writes, “When I was 17, my family took a trip to the British Isles where we visited ancient stone and mounds built by Neolithic and Bronze age cultures 3,000-7,000 years ago.  My father was enthralled with these sites and their spiritual and astronomical meanings.  This interest became his full time passion for the next 40 years until his death in 2006.  His book Manitou: The Sacred Landscape of New England’s Native Civilization, brings together those years of research.

For my part, I never forgot the experience of walking through those sites. The stones were like groups of people meeting together and the mounds like large mammals hibernating. For the past two years, I have been painting images of those sites using my father’s research photos as inspiration.  It has become a form of collaboration through time, combining the creative efforts of the ancient people, my father’s passion, and filtered through my hands and eyes.”

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Mom’s look-a-like doll

When I visited my sister Anne this past spring, she brought out our mother’s look-a-like doll. Mom’s doll was made by our great-aunt, Alma Salley.

Here’s a picture of Mom with her father in the early 1930’s. Mom described him as a kind, gentle man and I love seeing photos of them together. We never knew him, as he died before his grandchildren were born.

 Anne and I remember receiving exquisite doll clothes made by Alma when we were young. We didn’t see our Salley relatives very often, as they all lived in South Carolina and we were in New England. This is an old painted photo of Alma, who was born in the 1880’s and lived through a lot of changes, well into her 90’s.

This photo shows my great grandparents and their five daughters. My grandmother, Louise (second from the left), was the only one who left the south. After 8 years of courting, she finally gave in and moved north to Rhode Island, to marry my grandfather. By that time, she was 35 and he was 45, old newly weds for their era, but common by today’s standards. The “Salley girls” were famous in Orangeburg, SC for their spirited independence and all five of them went on to graduate from college. Even though there weren’t any males to carry on the family surname, subsequent generations have several first named Salleys, like myself. We are descended from Henry Salley, who came to America along with a group of other French Huguenots who founded Orangeburg, South Carolina in the early 1700’s.  

Dr. Michael and Adele Salley and their daughters, circa 1900

 

Anne & Dennis wedding dolls

On my recent trip to visit my sister and her husband in Oregon, I took pictures of their wedding dolls. I made them for Anne and Dennis when they married in July, 1988.

In typical Mavor fashion, the wedding was an eclectic blend of cultures and styles. It would be out of character if any of us had a conventional wedding! Anne wore a dress from Afghanistan, with a Swedish crown of candles. (She spent a college year in Sweden.) Dennis wore a Polish outfit in a nod to his family heritage.

The dolls are about 6 inches tall and I think they were displayed on top of the wedding cake.

The candles on her head-dress are tube beads.

The hat, shoes and boots were made of real leather.

I remember enjoying adding the decorations to their clothing. It was fun to revisit the dolls after 24 years!

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