shifting focus

This past summer, I emerged from an intense 3 year stitching marathon just in time to put in a garden. The plot had laid fallow for a few years, while I grew art instead. I was so happy to dig in the dirt again! Maybe it was good to rest the soil for a while because I don’t remember it producing such a generous bounty before!

I also made the switch from total making mode to marketing mode, where I let the world know that my art exists. This internal/external dynamic isn’t new for me and I actually like both parts, but I find that it requires a major shift in mindset. Sure, I can write blog posts periodically and fill orders from my Etsy Shop while also being immersed in creating artwork, but some “public relations” tasks use a different part of my brain and call for all of my attention. And my approach is careful and methodical, just like my stitching, so it takes a lot of time and effort!

Making art is so much easier than writing about it, so I have to set aside time to concentrate on giving interviews, setting up future exhibitions and generally promoting my work. I try to think of these activities as creative undertakings, too. They can be crafted and honed into something that reflects who I am and what I think. It just feels more like work than making art does. Here are a couple of results:

  • Interview with Create Whimsy, which you can see here. I describe my journey as an artist and share thoughts about the challenges of making art in the face of long standing attitudes that needlework is just a woman’s hobby, with lots of accompanying photos.
  • Guest writer on C&T Publishing‘s blog, which you can see here. In addition to announcing C&T’s new Felt Wee Folk playing cards, I introduce my traveling companion, Polly Doll to a whole different audience.

I’ve mainly concentrated on writing and sending out proposals for the upcoming touring exhibition, Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stories, which will be shown in museums around the country for several years. The exhibition will be a unique opportunity to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of the original sculptural embroideries from my next picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World (Houghton Mifflin, Sept. 2020). To find out more about the exhibition and to see the schedule, visit this page. New locations will be added as they are confirmed.

The switch from one mindset to the other didn’t happen all at once. Between the Bed Book project and the escapades of the Wee Folk Players, I’ve been in making mode for more than 3 years straight. When the book’s illustrations were delivered to the publisher, I started the transition by paying more attention to my husband Rob and cleaning my studio.

Besides putting all the materials away in boxes and baskets, I completely cleared my nature and ephemera table, dusting and washing each object before returning it to it’s place among the other treasures. I took some delight in thinking of how horrified Maria Kondo would be by my cluttered aesthetic sense! I know that she says, “Keep what gives you joy.”, but it all gives me joy!

I also reorganized some things I made long ago – these pins, for example. You can read their story here.

The other day, this 40 year old cat pin was spied out in public. I didn’t keep many of these, so it’s nice to capture them in photos whenever possible.

I’ve also had time to meet other artists like Jodi Colella, who was in the area for her exhibition at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA, which is on display until Oct. 31, 2019. Jodi is an innovative mixed media artist who uses many different methods and materials in her work. Her beautifully evocative Unidentified Woman series is part of the 3 person show, Look This Way. She uses a process where she crops and enlarges old tintype photographs, then prints them on aluminum and embellishes with needle and thread. We had a great time chatting in my studio about making art with a clear vision that pushes the boundaries of needlework. We could have talked for a long time and I hope that we can get together in the future!

Soon, I will get back into making mode, threading my needle and diving into a new project. I’m not exactly sure what it will be, but several ideas are swirling around in my head.

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

Horn Book Cover

This is an edited and republished version of a post that was first written in 2012.

The Jan/Feb 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine is out, with my illustration on the cover. This issue has many wonderful articles and book reviews, including the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award speeches, which were delivered at the colloquium on Sept. 30th, 2011. As an award recipient for Pocketful of Posies, I had the honor of illustrating a cover for the magazine. You can find out more about my award here.

Read on to see the process of making the cover illustration, which I worked on for about 6 weeks this past summer. The original size of the scene is about 12″ wide and 18″ high. I first found a twisted vine to use as the central tree and made a sketch with the Horn Book logo and child characters. I then drilled holes on the vine where wire branches would go.  

To form the branches, I covered wire with felt and embroidered them to match the real vine/tree trunk. This coiled branch has thread-wrapped wire thorns attached.

The Horn Book logo was rendered in wire branches and found objects. For one of the O’s, I sawed the back of a walnut-shell, so that it would lay flat and not stick out too much.  The O in the word Horn is a nest-like acorn cap from an oak tree in Iowa and the B’s spiky acorn caps are from northern California.

For the background, a solid color looked too plain, so I stitched together scraps of naturally dyed wool felt to make a more interesting field for the action.

I made a little fairy to fit in the walnut-shell.

I didn’t want the characters to be animals, but children dressed in animal costumes. So, I made every effort to make them look like children by giving them bangs, ponytails, hands and shoes. These figures are made with similar techniques found in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

During the process, I changed some of the characters in the original sketch and substituted a boy in a dinosaur costume pulling an acorn cap wheeled wagon full of books.

I printed out the words on acetate, so that I’d be sure to leave enough room at the bottom edge. I then embroidered plants and leaves to the felt background.

This little child/mouse is getting red shoes.

The Horn Book staff suggested I include a reading child, so I made a felt book for the face-painted mouse.

All of the parts piled up as I worked. It’s a miracle nothing got lost!

It was really fun thinking up costumes to make for these kids. I wanted to create a scene of children immersed in imaginary play and story.

I added a sun to the upper left corner and embroidered a wavy chain-stitched border. Then, I sewed the felt background to a sheet of foam core board, pulling it flat and straight.

Then, I stitched the tree, characters and other props in place, right through the foam core board. After everything was in place, I took it to the photographer, so he could take its picture. After that, I removed it from the foam core board and remounted the felt background and all of the parts on a cloth-covered stretcher. It is now framed behind glass and was recently bought by a collector. It was a joy to work on this project with Lolly Robinson at the Horn Book Magazine! Having my illustration on the cover will be a great opportunity for many people to discover my work for the first time.

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

Here I am with Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book.

fairy houses 2015: making “Grate Hall”

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Fairy House blog-12017 Update:
Grate Hall has returned for the Storybook Fairy Houses exhibit, which is on display at Highfield Hall and Gardens June 25 – Sept. 4, 2017. Tickets ($5.00) for the 2017 FAIRY FAMILY RAFFLE may be purchased online here. After the winner is picked on Sept. 4th, the fairies will fly to their new home anywhere in the world!

 

It’s been an exciting week in the fairy neighborhood! Every day, more wee domiciles are popping up around the grounds of Highfield Hall and Gardens in Falmouth, MA (Cape Cod). By the time the Fairy Houses of Highfield Hall exhibit opens this Sunday, June 28th at 1:00pm, there will be 32 fairy houses installed and ready to view. Just like the previous show in 2013, this display is sure to bring in many visitors from near and far!

Last winter I invited 30 local artists and fairy aficionados to make houses for this summer’s exhibit. Each builder started the process by walking around the property and picking their favorite spot. They spent the next few months planning and working on their creations. I haven’t been privy to any finished houses until this week, and from what I’ve seen, this year’s collection is spectacular! There’s a wide variety of interpretations of the “fairy house” concept, from cozy abodes to airy perches. Building materials are as eclectic as the pieces themselves: clay, wood, mushrooms, paper, moss, felt, plants, shells, bark, stones, glass, metal, etc. Don’t worry if you live too far to see the originals — in the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing photos on this blog, Facebook and Instagram.

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The Fairy Houses of Highfield Hall and Gardens will be on display until August 31, 2015. The exhibit is free, with a suggested donation. Stop by the hall to pick up a map with house locations and artists’ names. Inside the hall you can also see my fairy family. Raffle tickets for a chance to win the 5 doll set can be purchased online here. Read a post about making the fairy family here. I hope that many of you have a chance to visit this extraordinary outdoor event!

Making my fairy house….
Come along, while I make my fairy house, “Great Hall”, which is pictured at the beginning of this post. It began with a bunch of old metal graters that I saved, while cleaning out deceased relatives’ kitchens. For years I’ve been eying them for a future project and thought they’d give a solid structure to a fairy house. I drilled holes and bolted 4 of them together to make walls and a roof.

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Then, I used my felt covered wire technique to form a base and arched beams. This single glove was in a box of my grandmother’s things. She and her sisters did a lot of tatting in the early 1900’s, so perhaps one of them made it.

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I incorporated the glove into the front wall, leaving room for a door opening and curled loops of felt covered wire.

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I stitched wool tapestry yarn in a zigzag pattern to fill in some areas, while leaving some open for viewing inside the house.

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FairyHouses-1-7I tried not to get too fussy, but the door required a bit more detailed work.

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I worked on the house during the snowy winter — my favorite time to be engrossed in a project.

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The whisk was another kitchen find that I added near the end.

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I pruned some supple branches off my blueberry bushes and lashed them to the grates with wire, adding a more organic façade.

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I wanted the interior to be magical, so I draped strings of glass beads and crystals from the ceiling. Tiny blue and white LED lights (run on batteries) added a glow as well.

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In the daylight, it’s hard to see the lit interior, so I sprinkled small round Shisha mirrors on the ground inside to reflect the lights and make it sparkle.

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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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Spectacular artifacts

specs1 Last winter, I had the pleasure of being invited to look through the Falmouth Historical Society’s archives and choosing interesting items to be shown alongside my artwork. The museum’s curator, Amanda Wastrom came up with this brilliant idea, which creates a tie between art of today with objects from the past. We discovered many boxes full of delightful surprises, like collections of old eye glasses and doll shoes. There was no question that these favorote finds would be included somehow. specs2I arranged the different styled spectacles, including a selection of green sun glasses on my table top and sewed them to a stretched piece of fabric. Each pair was unique in some way, but I liked playing around with  the commonality of oval shapes of wire and glass. specs5Someone said that these sun glasses made with wire mesh are from the 1700’s. specs6We hung up the glasses display, along with other items from the museum’s archives. Sometimes visitors to my show are confused and think that everything hanging on the wall is from my own personal collection, so I want to clear that up. specs7These dolls’ shoes and miniature knitted mittens melted my heart! ThenandNow13 The exhibit, Salley Mavor: Expressions in Stitches, Then and Now will be showing at Falmouth Museums on the Green until August 16th. I am thrilled that so many visitors have come already! ThenandNow12 shoes

Close-ups (beds)

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The first image in this series of bed pictures is an illustration for a poem called Tumbling, which is included in my 1997 poetry anthology, You and Me:Poems of Friendship. Then there’s a page from my 2001 picture book In the Heart, which was written by Ann Turner. Copies of In the Heart are available in my Etsy Shop.

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My book, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes has many different scenes with beds. After his fall, Jack took to bed and wrapped his head with vinegar and brown paper. And Hush-a-bye-baby rocks in a walnut shell.

Here are more unconventional sleeping places in my Wee Willie Winkie board book.
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And here’s “my son John, went to sleep with his trousers on” from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. I offer autographed copies in my Etsy Shop.

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“Go to bed first, a golden purse” from Pocketful of Posies.

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And here’s Elsie Marley, who won’t get up to feed the swine, which is also from Pocketful of Posies.

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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

Fairy Houses of Beebe Woods #3

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“Home of the Tooth Fairy” by Sue Beardsley

People are still flocking to see The Fairy Houses of Beebe Woods exhibit, which will be in and around the grounds of Highfield Hall until July 21st. Stop by the building to get a tour map during their open hours (M – F, 10 – 4, S – S 10 – 2) or print out your own from this pdf file.

fairyfamilyraffleOther Fairy House News
(added May 30, 2015)
The Fairy Houses of Highfield Hall outdoor exhibit will be held from June 28th to August 31, 2015 at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. In addition to curating the exhibit, Salley Mavor has made a fairy family of 5, which is being raffled (3 tickets for $5.00). Tickets may be purchased online or at Highfield Hall, where the fairy family is on display. The raffle drawing will be August 30, 2015. The prize will be sent to the winner anywhere in the world! Good luck!

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detail from “Home of the Tooth Fairy” by Sue Beardsley

My husband, Rob took these “house portraits” of the dwellings in the morning or evening light, depending on their orientation. As you can see, each artist has interpreted the Fairy House theme in a vastly different way. More photographs of other houses can be seen on posts #1 and #2.

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“Beech House” by Bobbi Bailin

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detail from “Beech House” by Bobbi Bailin

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“Casa de Hadas” by Anne Halpin

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“Low Living High Flying” by Molly Bang

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“Fire Flye Hollow” by Amy Wilson Sanger

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“The Ministry of Metamorphosis & Faerie Hatchery” by Angela Tanner

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“Sea Shanty” by Rebecca Edwards

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“Solvagen” by Jane Parhiala

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“Wild Cherry Village” by Skee Houghton

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“Sentinel” by Andrea Moore

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“Chippikomuk” by Jenny Junker