MY BED – Home: Part 4

PART 4 – Elephant Lamp and Goldfish Lampshade: Today’s post shows how I made the elephant lamp and goldfish lampshade in the child’s bedroom at the end of my picture book, My Bed.
Part 1 gives an overview of the page.
Part 2 focuses on the outside architectural details of the cut-away house.
Part 3 takes a peek inside at the furniture and the sleeping child.
Future parts will be about all of the other animal icons represented in the scene.

Signed copies of My Bed are available in my shop here. Watch this 8-minute documentary about making the artwork for the book.

My original idea for this illustration was to show a universal child sleeping in bed, surrounded by stuffed toys that looked like the animal icons featured throughout the book. I soon realized that the bed and floor around it wouldn’t accommodate all of the animals, so I came up with other ways spread them around the room.

The sturdy elephant turned into a lamp base and the goldfish ended up swimming around a sea blue lampshade. The goldfish icon first appears on the text panel in the Japanese spread in the book.

To make the lampshade, I appliqued an embroidered felt goldfish head and tail onto a piece of blue felt.

I added a felt back piece and edged the front and back with wire on the top and bottom. That way, it would stick out and stay curved like a real shade.

For the lamp base, I shrunk the elephant down to about 1/2 the size of the spot illustration on the text panel on the Indian page of the book.

To make the armature, I bent a pipe cleaner and threaded one end through a wooden bead. The bead would become the head and the pipe cleaner extension would form the trunk.

Then I wrapped the pipe cleaner trunk with embroidery floss, covering the fuzzies like the dolls’ arms and legs are made in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk.

I sewed pieces of felt inside the body to fill in the void and give it bulk.

I then covered the bead head and body with pieces of felt. It’s been a few years, so I can’t remember exactly how this part was done, but I remember that it was rather fussy. I probably used 2 separate pieces for the front and back of the body and the head.

You can see the difference in scale between the 2 elephants in the photo of my work table below. They’re like the mother and baby elephant in my first children’s book, The Way Home.

Replicating the blanket at 1/2 size was also fussy, but at least it was flat!

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a full size version of this lamp, with the elephant made out of clay or wood and a painted goldfish swimming around the shade?

Stay tuned for more posts about the other animals in this scene.

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MY BED – Home: Part 1

PART 1 – Overview: For the past few years, I’ve shared the process of making the 3-dimensional embroidered illustrations for my newest picture book, MY BED. The book has been out for a year and the Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition of the original artwork is well underway. So, I’d like to pick up where I left off last year and continue to show what goes into doing this kind of work. Posts I’ve written in the Bed Book Peek series so far are listed here.

The Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition is at the  New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA through Dec. 31, 2021 and will be at the International Quilt Museum, Lincoln, NE Jan. 25 – April 10, 2022. See the the full schedule here. Visitors often ask, “How did she make all of this in one year?”. It’s confusing because all of the pieces are consistently embroidered with the date 2020 on the border. Even though I worked on it over a 3 year period, the project was completed when it was published as a book in 2020.

Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.

HOME – Near the end of the story, the illustration shows a child in bed, when it’s almost time to go to sleep. All of the animal icons from the different places featured throughout the book are gathered together in a snug little bedroom. I felt it was important to depict a universal child, who wasn’t clearly identifiable by gender or race, whom any child being read to could identify with. I also wanted the house to convey a warm and playful sense of “home” that could be imagined anywhere.

You can find out more about the Animal Icon spot illustrations in these previous posts – Rooster, Camel, Parrot, Elephant, Goldfish, Cat, Duck, Sheep, Rabbit, Cow, Crocodile, Giraffe, Dog, Pony.

To begin, I enlarged the thumb nail sketch to full scale and used it as a template. The drawing provided a general layout of the house and tree, but once I started making the animals, they took over and pretty much determined what the interior arrangement would be.

I worked on one double-page spread at a time. The background and parts accumulated on an old ironing board that served as an extra working surface. When I needed to press a piece of felt, the iron was right there.

Rob set up a camera and lights on top of the table, so we could make a little animated film before I sewed all of the parts together.

This is what it looks like when you compress 6 weeks into 9 seconds.

There’s is so much to show about making this scene that I’m going to write several posts focusing on different parts, including the animals, the child and architectural details. Stay tuned for more!

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

Wedding Banner: Katherine & Basil

We had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a family friend earlier this month in Boston. As with many couples during these Covid times, Basil and Katherine had to postpone their wedding by a year. It was a lovely event and we felt happy to be a part of their special day and to see old friends. For the past decade or so, I’ve been making personalized wedding banners as gifts. They combine two of my favorite things, hand embroidery and handwriting. You can see this and other banners by scrolling through the archives here.

This post includes three Stitch Minute videos, which give closeup views of my process in action. The idea of making a series of short snippets of different aspects of my working methods came about when I saw the overwhelming response to a simple cell phone video of me stitching French knots that I posted on Facebook and Instagram. Since then, Rob and I have set up a filming studio in the basement, where we can control the lighting and camera positioning. Everything is ready to go, so it’s easy to bring whatever I’m working on in my studio into the basement and film a little bit. Of course, Rob has to be available, so I work around his schedule. In sharing these videos, my aim isn’t to instruct, but to inspire, by offering a glimpse over my shoulder. 

Whenever I begin a project like this, I choose a color scheme and pick out materials that I might use.

I wrote Katherine and Basil’s names in cursive handwriting on paper and using that as a template, I made a 3-dimensional copy with memory thread.

In this video, you can see how I wrapped embroidery floss around memory thread and formed cursive letters..

Then I cut out a felt background with my customary wavy edge; I tend to resist straight sides and sharp angles.

After choosing 2 shades of green embroidery floss to contrast with the red letters and lavender felt background, I blanket stitched around the outside edge and slits.

You can watch a minute’s worth of blanket stitching in this video.

Then I pinned and sewed the letters to the felt background.

Throughout the process, I brought out various threads, beads and doodads, to see what to include in the design. Not everything ended up in the finished piece and through a process of elimination, many potentially interesting items were put aside.

For this banner, I settled on a heart shaped vine for the featured decoration, which incorporated glass leaf beads and tiny seed beads.

Watch this video to get a close up view of making the wire vine.

Next, I wrote out their wedding date in blue letters and numbers and made a separate contrasting background.

I blanket stitched all around the outside edge of the blue banner with variegated pima cotton (Watercolours by Caron). Then I sewed the different pieces onto the banner and added dangling shells to the 3 bottom flaps.

I looked through my driftwood collection and found the right sized stick that would work as a hanging bar.

I drilled holes to thread beads through.

Then I attached a leather strap to hang the banner from.

Congratulations on your wedding Katherine and Basil. We are so happy for you!

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Frosty Morning: part 2 (branches)

Part 2 in the Frosty Morning series gives a close look at how I formed and wrapped the wire tree branches, from the inside out. Part 1 was about making the tree trunks.

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop.

I started experimenting with wire branches in the mid-80’s, while exploring new ways of adding dimension to my work. The trees in the winter scene below are an early example of the same basic technique I use today.

This piece from 1986, along with over 100 works spanning my 40 year career, will be included in next summer’s retrospective exhibition, WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor, May 3 – Sept. 11, 2022 at the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, ME. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections will fill multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor. A large selection of sculptures, bas-relief pieces and original picture book illustrations, including the scenes from my newest book, MY BED, will also be shown.

I use jewelry wire or copper filled insulated electrical wire to form tree branches.

As I described in part 1, the trunk and thicker limbs were covered in felt.

Then came the fiddly part, where I wrapped the wire branches in embroidery floss. I wound thread up and down several times, until the wire was no longer visible and the branches looked smooth and even. Using variegated thread gives the tree a more naturalistic look because nothing in real life is just one color.

Despite its apparent fussiness, the process of wrapping the wire is strangely calming. People often remark at how patient I am, which ironically makes me feel annoyed and impatient. I know it’s meant as a compliment, but doing this kind of work has nothing to do with patience. For me, stitching is a grounding daily practice that verges on obsession. Somehow, that feels different than patience. Watch this video and see what you think.

Sometimes I used the copper wire filling inside insulated electrical cables I found at the hardware store.

Part 3 in the series will be all about making these curious looking rounded shelters.

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Frosty Morning: part 1 (trees)

Are you ready for a blast of cold air in the heat of summer? I hope so, because today, I am giving a behind the scenes peek at how I made the tree trunks for Frosty Morning. Part 2 in the series will concentrate on how I formed and wrapped the wire branches. As the summer progresses, I will share other features of the winter scene, including snow and ice, cozy little shelters, a stone wall and the ubiquitous wee folk characters dressed in warm winter outfits.

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal pieces that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop.

I’m currently deep in making mode, working on a completely different piece – the spring scene, which you can follow on Instagram and Facebook . So, writing this post requires switching my brain into explaining mode. You see, when I’m engrossed in making something, I don’t think about the actual process. I’m focused on bringing my vision to life.

So how did this vision develop? I started by picturing a winter scene in my mind, with expressive branches and sparkling ice crystals. When I sketched out some ideas, rounded shelters showed up, all nestled in the thicket of trees. The original drawing also included a line of little figures climbing high along a branch. The details changed along the way, but the basic thrust and curve of the center tree remained. Over the 4 months that I worked on Frosty Morning, I used the drawing as a guide, but never a template.

Because the center tree is the main focal point of the piece, I constructed it first. The photo below shows how I used matte board and wire to form the structure of the tree trunk.

The concept of using matte board as a base actually began over 40 years ago, when I designed a line of stuffed pins. You can follow the story of my pins here.

i still have the patterns for the various shapes, including the cat. The board inside gave a nice flat backing to stitch the pin fastener onto.

For the tree, I glued a piece of felt (the cheap stuff) to the back of the matte board. That way there is something for the needle to catch onto. Then, I wrapped a piece of felt (the good stuff) around the trunk, covering the front side and stitching it in place on the back.

Then, I stitched a zigzag pattern on the font side with variegated pima cotton made by the Caron Collection.

I used insulated wire of different gauges, sometimes stripping off the rubber/plastic coating to reveal multiple wires inside. It’s the kind of supply that can be found at hardware stores The skinnier wire inside became the finer limbs as the tree branched out.

I searched through my old lace collection until I found something that would evoke snow cover on the center tree’s outstretched branch.

I made the purple tree a little differently.

Being smaller in diameter, the purple tree didn’t need a board backing, so i just wrapped the wire armature with strips of cotton batting until they were the right thickness. I have no logical explanation as to why this tree is purple. I just wanted to cheer up the scene with something besides drab browns and grays.

Part 2 in this series, will be devoted to forming and wrapping the branches.

Frosty Morning note cards are available in my Etsy shop here.

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.

Frosty Morning

Since January of this year, I’ve been in full making mode, creating art for no reason other than the pure joy of it. It’s something I regularly promise myself at the end of long involved projects like illustrating a book or animating a film. I’m taking this year to work solely on a group of seasonal pieces that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined.

Frosty Morning, which is the first completed scene in the series, was inspired by what I saw early one January morning, when every bare branch sparkled with ice crystals. I’m one of those rare people who loves winter so much that it never seems to last long enough. I think it’s because I like long periods of time to work without the distraction of warm weather.

If all 4 seasons are completed in time, they will be included in my upcoming retrospective, WHAT A RELIEF: the Art of Salley Mavor at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, ME (May 3 – Sept. 11, 2022). The exhibition will feature a large selection of my artwork, spanning over 40 years, from early on to the present day. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections, as well as pieces I’ve held onto, will fill multiple galleries on the museum’s entire first floor.

Right now, I’m working on the spring scene, which you can see documented in photos and videos on Instagram and Facebook. My followers are so excited about the mossy landscape that it’s all I can do to fend off their questions about how I did this or that. I tell them, “I know you’re curious, but I’m in pure making mode right now and don’t want to dispel the magic by turning on the explaining part of my brain yet. That will come later when the piece is finished and I write about it on my blog.”

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I operate outside of the mainstream, in a different needle and thread universe. It’s been a struggle to find my place in the technique-driven imitation model ingrained in the needle arts community. In the essay, To Teach or Not to Teach, I discuss in detail my approach to making art and my personal philosophy about sharing knowledge.

So, with all of that in mind, I’m preparing to turn on the explaining part of my brain, at least enough to say something to go along with the photos. Over the summer, I will be telling the story of making Frosty Morning in a series of posts that focus on different aspects of my working process. My aim is to inspire more than instruct, to give a peek behind the curtain that may spark your own kind of creativity.

I took lots of photos along the way, so there’s enough material to delve more deeply into several areas including making trees, snow and ice, cozy little shelters, a stone wall and the ubiquitous wee folk characters. The following photos are just a sampling of what’s to come.

Frosty Morning Part 1 – trees, Part 2 – branches, Part 3 – shelters.

For those of you who need a blast of cold air in the heat of summer, Frosty Morning note cards are available in my Etsy shop here. It would also make a fun Christmas card 6 months from now!

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.

MY BED: night sky – part 2

This is part 2 in the series about making the night sky illustration for my new picture book, My Bed. It’s like a finale at the end, with all of the children and their beds hovering above the nighttime skyline. Today, I will give a behind the scenes peek at how I made the miniature versions of the Scandinavian children sleeping in their cubby style bunk bed and the Japanese child on his futon. Part 1 covered the mini children from N. Africa and Holland.

Update: Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.

The tiny beds floating in the night sky represent different children, beds and regions of the world that are featured individually throughout the book. To make the mini Scandinavian bunk bed, I simplified and shrunk down the bed frame to the point where it wouldn’t look too unwieldy next to the other beds. You can read about making the full size artwork (below) for the Scandinavian scene here.

Scandinavian scene in MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep Around the World

I painted their faces on really tiny (3/8″) wooden beads and added embroidery floss hair. I think these are some of the smallest braids I’ve ever made. The doll wigs in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures are larger and more manageable than this.

Scale-wise the figures were too big for the bed, but I was determined to fit them in their cubbies nonetheless. The absence of legs helped a lot.

I cut sections of the bed frame out of wool felt and pieced them together on top of a background layer. As usual, everything was edged with blanket stitching. To create depth in the frame, I stacked layers of felt.

I stitched wire around the outside edge to smooth out the bumps and give it a crisp, architectural look.

After making eiderdown quilts and polka-dot curtains, I put the children to bed.

To finish it off, I made a mini ladder with wire and covered it with embroidery floss.

Duplicating the Japanese futon in miniature was easy compared to the bunk bed. To see how I made the full size artwork (below) for the Japanese scene, click here.

I made the the top half of the child’s body and then a futon mattress and pillow for him to sleep on.

Because the scale was all off, I couldn’t use the same blue fabric to make the quilt, so I embroidered a reduced version of the pattern on felt.

I hope that you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes at how I made some of the tiniest beds in MY BED. Please stay tuned for more posts about different beds in the night sky scene. See Part 1 here.

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.

My Bed: night sky- part 1

This is the first in a series of posts that will show how I made the night sky illustration for my new picture book, My Bed. The spread appears near the end of the story, with all of the children from around the world sleeping in their beds, floating in a starry sky above a silhouetted town. By the time I made this scene, I was about 2 years into the project and had gotten used to taking photos of almost every little step along the way. So, there’s a lot of material to share, which is divided into several parts that I’ll write about over the next few weeks. You can see a list of posts about making the other illustrations for the book on this page.

Update: Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.

The Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition is currently at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mt. Vernon, IL. This is an opportunity for those of you in the middle of the country to see the original bas-relief embroidered artwork for MY BED. The exhibition will be there until May 2, 2021. To see the tour schedule, please visit the Exhibitions Page.

Bedtime Stitches exhibit at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Mt. Vernon, IL

Thank you to those of you who’ve reached out to museums in your area to tell them about the exhibit. This strategy has resulted in several bookings! In fact, I’m in the process of working out the details with a curator who heard about my show from a fan who’s eager to see my artwork in person. As soon as the dates are confirmed, this museum will be added to the tour schedule.

Way back in the beginning, I sketched out the pages of the book. For the finished illustration, I rearranged the beds at bit, keeping in mind not to loose any children in the gutter. That’s where the pages are bound together in the center, which is marked with a vertical line on the drawing.

First, I made houses and trees out of black felt for the silhouetted landscape. I found some shiny golden fabric in my stash and sewed it behind the cutout openings for the windows and doorways. To help define the buildings and trees, I stitched wire around the outside edges.

Then, I started making miniature versions of the characters and beds pictured throughout the book. Since they are so tiny, I simplified the designs to include important and recognizable features. This one represents the child sleeping on the roof in the North African scene.

To make these reduced scale versions, I had to substitute smaller parts such as red seed beads for the roof tiles.

The girl’s pink nightie is made out of the same old handkerchief that I used to make the larger version in the North African scene. As you can see, the sleeves are not fabric, but embroidery floss wrapped around her wire arms.

I made the head and foot boards of another bed with wire and tube beads.

This is a different interpretation of the child who appears several times in the book – on the title page and in the scene that shows a house full of animal icons. The orange pajamas and star covered quilt are the giveaway.

For the boy in the scene set in Holland, I didn’t even try to duplicate the houseboat in such small scale, but instead made a boat bed for him to sleep in.

I hope that you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes at how I made some of the tiniest beds in MY BED. Please stay tuned for more posts about different beds in the night sky scene.

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.

Bed book peek: Dog

Today, I’m happy to give a behind the scenes peek at how I made this dog, which is used as a spot illustration in my new picture book, MY BED. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world was published in Sept. 2020. A touring exhibition of my original embroidered artwork for the book is traveling around the United States. Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches will next be shown at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, in Mt. Vernon, IL from Feb. 28 to May 5, 2021. The tour schedule is listed here.

Update: Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.

The dog joins all of the other animal icons on the book’s endpapers. If you’d like to see posts about making the other animal icons for the book, please follow the links below: RoosterCamelParrotElephantGoldfishCatDuckSheepRabbitCowCrocodile, Giraffe.

Forming the dog: After drawing a simple dog shape, I bent a pipe cleaner to match the outline. Then I wrapped the legs and tail with embroidery floss, using the same technique that I teach in my how-to book of doll projects, Felt Wee Folk.

Backing: I sewed a felt scrap to the back of the pipe cleaner, cutting the felt to fit as I stitched around the whole body.

Padding: I padded the inside of the body by layering and sewing small scraps of felt inside the pipe cleaner edge. It didn’t matter what color the backing and padding was since it’ll be hidden inside.

Body front: At this point, I must have been so engrossed in adding the top layer of felt that I forgot to take photos until the whole body was covered. So, I’ll try to explain what I did. I cut out a piece of felt that was about 3/8″ bigger than the dog shape. Then, I folded the felt over the pipe cleaner edge and stitched it to the backing. To make it nice and tight, I went around several times, until the head and body where clearly defined. I cut and stitched the felt closely around the legs and tail to make them fit.

Ears, nose, eyes: I stitched a mouth with embroidery floss and sewed on seed beads for an eye and nose. For the ear, I cut out a separate piece of felt, edged it with blanket stitches and sewed it to the head. I chain-stitched a collar and sewed on a bead for a dog tag.

Fur: The dog’s body looked rather plain, so gave it a furry texture using mending wool. I’m glad I kept a collection of vintage cards that were found in a relative’s dresser drawers. They’re from the days when people actually darned moth holes.

Tail: To make the tail look more tail-like, I covered the wrapped pipe cleaner with other stitches.

The dog appears on the back cover of the book. You can see a previous post about making the border here. Stay tuned for more peeks behind the scenes!

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: giraffe

Shall we start the year with something cute to counteract the fact that everything in the world seems to be spiraling out of control? Good, now that we agree on a diversion, I will show how I made the giraffe for my new book, My Bed.


Update: Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.


I’d originally picked a giraffe to go with the illustration set in Africa. But, then we narrowed it down to the country of Ghana, which doesn’t have giraffes. I started researching other possible animals to go along with the scene. Fortunately, I sat next to man from Ghana in a restaurant, who told me about wild life in his home country, including crocodiles. So, I switched to a crocodile instead. My ignorance about the African continent almost caused a gaffe similar to what Delta Airlines went through when they chose an image of a giraffe to represent Ghana in a tweet about the World Cup in 2014!

I was able to use the giraffe on another page, though. It appears with the other animal icons on the end-papers and as a spot illustration on the text panel in the second to last spread in the book, which isn’t set in any particular part of the world.

To start, I drew a simple sketch of a giraffe and bent a pipe cleaner to form the legs. Then I wrapped them with embroidery floss, using the same techniques I teach in my how-to book of doll projects, Felt Wee Folk.

From there, I built up the body and neck with felt and more thread wrapping.

While studying photos of giraffes. I noticed that their spots are made up of a complex combination of shapes and patterns, that fit together like paving stones on a garden path.

I used chain stitching to make the spots, which has become my favorite way of filling in areas. I sewed the spot covered piece of felt to the giraffe’s body and neck. I covered the back with a mishmash of stitches, which stretched across to hold the front piece tightly in place. There was no need to make the back look pretty. After all, art is an illusion.

To make the mane, I sewed a length of wire along the giraffe’s neck and wrapped it with thread.Then, I blanket stitched a few rows of “hair” along the wire mane.

It took several attempts to make the giraffe’s head, which had a combination of funny looking, yet endearing features. Not only do giraffes have horns and long ears, they have prominent eyes, an oddly shaped nose and a smiling mouth. That all had to be reduced to a few stitches, beads and wire.

For the tail, I sewed on a looped section of wire, which I wrapped with thread.

When I sewed on the head, it actually looked like a giraffe!

If you’d like to see posts about making the other animal icons for the book, please follow the links below:
Animals – Rooster, Camel, Parrot, Elephant, Goldfish, Cat, Duck, Sheep, Rabbit, Cow, Crocodile, Dog.

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.