Bed book peek: Iran (part 3)

This is the third and final post about the Iranian illustration for my new children’s book. To see the previous posts in the series, click the links for Part 1 and Part 2. The scene will be included in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistan and Russia. To see a list of all my books, click here.

For this courtyard scene, I sorted through piles of fabric in my stash to find a combination of colors, patterns and textures that worked together and lent themselves to the environment. Then, following the layout drawing, I built structures and embroidered architectural details, using my preferred stitches; blanket and chain.

All variety of beads, charms, metal findings and small hardware can find their way into a piece. My propensity for including found objects has not waned since childhood, when I declared that “crayons are not enough” and that my artwork was not finished until “something real” was added!

For this over-the-top decorative style, it’s tempting to keep adding more doodads because they are so cool and need to be seen! Like with all artistic ventures, editing is key to forming a clear statement. It’s not that busyness and detail is bad, there has to be purpose to it, with some sense of order amid the chaos. I have learned to choose objects with care, constantly asking myself, “Will this enhance or detract from what I’m trying to convey?”. Most of my favorite treasures don’t make the cut and have to wait years, hidden in boxes and bags. Sometimes you have to see what doesn’t work first, to be able to recognize what does work.

Another favorite stitch is the single daisy chain, which I use a lot for leaves, like on this tree. The branches are formed with thread covered wire.

After years of being passed over, I was happy to finally use this herring bone wool for the roof.

Trees and branches are some of my favorite things to make. It’s like doodling with wire and thread.

An illustration this size usually takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete, but I am determined to get it down to 3 weeks, in order to meet the deadline. For the next 6 months, I’ll be working in the studio 7 days a week, including evenings. You see, Rob and I spent all last year doing our civic duty, making the animated film, Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free, when I was supposed to be working on the bed book. Don’t feel sorry for me — this is what I want to do. And it’s a good excuse to get out of social obligations.

I made heads and arms for 2 sleeping boys. No legs were necessary, since they will be covered up. Except for the hands, they are similar to the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures.

It was a treat to embroider their quilts and pillows.

I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes. Documenting the process is a way to keep you up to date with what I’m making, without actually showing the finished illustrations, which will have to wait until the book is published in 2020.

To keep up with new posts, 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 – India (part 3)

Welcome to the neighborhood, in this 3rd part of the series about making an illustration set in India for my new picture book. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world was written by Rebecca Bond. It will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.

In this scene, the boy’s house takes up 2/3 of the spread and the surrounding village is pictured in the left 1/3. I used a lighter colored background to separate it from the darker house in the foreground. And since the house is blue, I thought, why not offset the sky with green?

Making little dwellings is a favorite diversion, so working on this part of the illustration was a total indulgence!

Roof tiles emerge in rows of fly stitches…

and tube beads strung with wire stack up to make a front porch post.

There’s always seams to be an area that needs tree and leaf embellishment.

This story focuses on children, with adult figures off in the distance, so they have to be really tiny.

She may be one of the smallest wee people I’ve put in an illustration. I loved making her outfit and braiding her hair.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little peek behind the scenes. To see the whole piece, please go to Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page).

Ireland 2017: doorways

As promised, here is a series of “still life” photos taken on our recent trip to Ireland. Wherever we travel, the colors, textures and geometric patterns found in doorways and building facades seem to characterize the aesthetic culture of a place. I love how bold paint hues contrast with whitewash and stone in Ireland. The following pictures are from Clifden, the island of Inishbofin and Galway.

display at the Providence Children’s Museum


I had the pleasure of going to the Providence Children’s Museum last week to set up some of my artwork in their Geometry Gallery display case. This section of the museum explores spatial thinking and has a number of hands-on play and learning experiences. The display case shows a changing exhibit of 3-dimensional creations loaned by different  artists. The museum staff couldn’t have been more welcoming! We’re all anticipating that the glass will have to be cleaned frequently because of finger and nose prints left by inquiring little (and big) ones!

I brought 2 original fabric relief illustrations from Pocketful of Posies and a whole bunch of wee folk characters from Felt Wee Folk, as well as houses and other props from my collection that I talk about in still playing with dolls. The items will be there for 6 months, until January 8, 2017. I hope that some of you will have a chance to visit. FYI – An exhibit of new fabric relief pieces will also be shown nearby in Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016 ~ Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor  at the Bristol Art Museum.








still playing with dolls


Some things never change. Like the urge to play with dolls. I’d venture to guess that there are a lot of grownups like me who still find themselves drawn to creating little worlds, just like they were in their youth. I feel honored to share my passion (perhaps even obsession?) for the wee world with you through my books and this blog.


I recently got out some props I’d made a few years ago for a video project that my husband Rob and I were planning, but didn’t undertake. It was pure play, as I set up one of the houses out in the yard and made this video with my phone camera.

Our original idea was to make a short stop motion animation of one of my favorite nursery rhymes, Wee Willie Winkie. The easy part was constructing the characters, houses, trees and a clock. Finding the time and space to work on the incredibly tedious task of animating the story turned out to be too much of a challenge. We figured that it would take several months of concentrated effort to make even a 5 min. video that we would be proud of. We’re still intrigued by the prospect of putting together a film and who knows, we may do it eventually. But for now, I will soon embark on a new project that will keep me busy for a few years. More about that later…


Here’s the clock for the scene, “Are the children in their beds, for now it’s 8 o’clock?”


In the meantime, the various props have not been hidden away. They’ve been used as backdrops for other photos, including shots of Polly and A Buggy Picnic, which is available as a card.

Scotland (Oct. 2015) street scenes

Scotland_Oct15dPortree on the Isle of Skye and the streets of Edinburgh…








And rows of houses in the quaint village of Plockton. See more scenes of Plockton here.



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

Scotland (Oct. 2015): Abbotsford


In the Scottish lowlands, we visited Abbotsford, the home of 19th century author Sir Walter Scott, who’s historical novels were influential in popularizing and romanticizing Scotland’s past.


The building and gardens were impressive. Rosie got a good view from high up with the hollyhocks.


The interior rooms held an even more amazing collection of treasures, my favorites being the entryway full of armor and wooden sculpture and the sitting room, with its hand painted Chinese wallpaper.