Once Upon a Stitch exhibition

Video

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You are invited to come see an exhibition of my artwork at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, MA. This is a chance to take in the fine detail and 3-dimensional quality of my original sculptural embroideries that are reproduced in children’s books.

SALLEY MAVOR – Once Upon a Stitch
Cape Cod Museum of Art
December 12, 2019 – January 26, 2020

Opening Reception – Friday, Dec. 13th, 5:30 – 7:00 pm
Artist Talk at 4:00 pm

Family Gallery Talk – Saturday, Jan. 4th, 1:00 – 2:00 pm

On display will be a wide array of picture book illustrations spanning 2 decades of my career, including favorites from The Way Home (1991), Mary Had a Little Lamb (1995) and the award-winning, Pocketful of Posies(2010). Several pieces are on loan from private collections, making this an opportunity to see work that is rarely shown in public. The exhibition and accompanying scavenger hunt are sure to appeal to families and anyone with a penchant for miniatures and/or needlework.

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I’ve been preparing for the show all Fall, gathering enough pieces to represent every book I’ve published from 1991. That meant contacting people who’ve bought original artwork, some as far back as the 90’s. I’m grateful for their willingness to loan their pieces for the duration of the show. While they were in my studio, I cleaned up the glass and frames, so they will be sparkling clean. Also, Rob took some digital photographs of the art, including detail shots really close-up.

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Once Upon a Stitch Scavenger Hunt

I’m using the photos for the scavenger hunt and large printed images, which will be hung in the gallery along with my embroidered originals. I just love playing with scale!

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Large format prints of details from my books.

An advantage of taking high resolution close-ups is that the photo quality isn’t lost when they are blown up big. I’ve been asked if these large prints are for sale. Unfortunately because of contractual agreements with publishers, I cannot sell reproductions of these images. But, I can use them to compliment and expand exhibitions!

I hope that those of you in the area will make it down Old King’s Highway (route 6A) to the Cape Cod Museum of Art to see the show!

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Judy Sue in miniature

I don’t know why it’s taken so long, but I finally made a miniature version of my friend/teacher/agent Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges. We met over 40 years ago at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she still teaches illustration. Judy Sue has guided countless art students, urging them to follow their own path. And I feel lucky to be one of them. All those years ago, when she saw me sitting in her class, stitching pea pod pins, she said, “For goodness sake, do this for your assignments!” Up until then, I’d been under the impression that illustration was only painting and drawing and had kept my interest in crafts separate. With her encouragement, I started incorporating 3-dimensional elements and sewing into my work. Instead of trying to keep in step using traditional mediums, I discovered that with stitching, I could dance the fandango! So, the least I can do is make her a little Judy Sue doll!

April Prince, Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges and Salley Mavor

For doll-making inspiration, I found this photo from a few years a ago, when Judy Sue and April Prince, who work together in the boutique agency Studio Goodwin Sturges, came for a visit. Of course, the Judy Sue doll would have to be dressed in a huipil, which is the most distinguishing feature of her wardrobe.

(Huipil [ˈwipil] (from the Nahuatl word huīpīlli [wiːˈpiːlːi]) is the most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico to Central America.)

She has quite a collection of huipils, which all came from a friend who lives in Guatemala. She stores them folded up in shelves. It was surprising to see some of of my illustrations from the ’90’s hanging on the adjacent wall, because I’d forgotten that she had them!

I stopped by Judy Sue’s place last week to pick up a piece from “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, that she’s loaning for my upcoming retrospective exhibition, Once Upon a Thread, which will be at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 26, 2020. GALLERY TALK: December 13, 2019 – 4:00 – 5:30 pm. RECEPTION: December 13, 2019 – 5:30 – 7:00 pm. FAMILY GALLERY TALK: January 4, 2020 – 1:00 – 2:00 pm

Pages 8/9, Mary Had a little Lamb, 1995

Now that you have some background information, let’s move on to making the doll. I made the pipe cleaner body the same as the 4″ sturdy doll in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures. Then I painted her face on a wooden bead and glued on a felt wig.

I embroidered the felt huipil with flower thread, which is thicker than 1 strand of floss.

Toward the end, I outlined some shapes with 1 strand of violet colored floss.

Judy Sue also likes to wear bold and colorful jewelry, so I made her a seed bead necklace.

Her hair is made with hand-dyed fingering weight Merino wool that I recently bought from Flying Finn Yarns.

Here’s the real-life Judy Sue, with her wee folk replica. Thank you Judy Sue, for your generous spirit and for instilling a belief in the trans-formative power of art to so many!

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Behind the Glass – part 2

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

In this second post in the series Behind the Glass, I’ll show close-up photos of a double page spread reproduced in Hey Diddle, Diddle! (2005) and 2 illustrations from You and Me: Poems of Friendship (1997). You can see part 1 in the series here. These loaned pieces were temporarily removed from their frames in preparation for my upcoming exhibition, making it possible to get up close and take photos from different angles. I’m enjoying seeing the characters again and remembering making them all those years ago.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

The retrospective exhibition, Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Thread will be at the Cape Cod Museum of Art Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 16, 2020. It will include original illustrations from my picture books, from the first (The Way Home,1991) to the latest (Pocketful of Posies 2010).  Between the borrowed ones and others that I’ve kept, there will be lots of original pieces on display, with a dozen titles represented. This show will be an opportunity for visitors to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person and also view pieces from private collections that are rarely shown in public.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

Yes, that’s a real silver spoon, a tiny one meant to go with a salt seller. The plate was cut out of Fimo clay with a cookie cutter. After hardening it in the oven, I painted the face and dish pattern.

Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005
Hey Diddle, Diddle! 2005

The next set of images show closeups of 2 spreads from You and Me: Poems of Friendship (1997). One illustrates the poem Sidewalks, which describes different ways of showing oneself and interacting on a public sidewalk.

Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
Sidewalks, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997

The last piece in this post is from the poem Snow. I hadn’t seen it for over 20 years and was happy to take it out of its frame and get up close with a camera. The owner seemed reluctant to part with it for a few months, but the timing ended up being convenient for her, since she’s selling her house and moving into a new place. I told her that it would be returned in better shape with sparkling clean glass.

SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997
SNOW, You and Me: Poems of Friendship 1997

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Behind the Glass – part 1

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An original embroidered illustration from “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in a private collection.

This is the first post in a series that will show what my artwork looks like Behind the Glass. I’ve had to accept that UV glass is a necessary barrier that protects my embroidery from dust, bugs, light, and probing fingers. But, since these loaned pieces were temporarily removed from their frames in preparation for my upcoming exhibition, I was able to get up close to take photos from different angles.

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

For the past few weeks, I’ve been gathering my embroidered artwork from local collectors who are generously loaning their pieces for my upcoming exhibition, Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Thread at the Cape Cod Museum of Art (Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 16, 2020). The retrospective exhibition will include original illustrations from my picture books, from the first (The Way Home,1991) to the latest (Pocketful of Posies, 2010).  Between the borrowed ones and others that I’ve kept, there will be lots of original pieces on display, with a dozen titles represented. This show will be an opportunity for visitors to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person and also view pieces from private collections that are rarely shown in public.

Close-up photos of illustrations for my first 3 books are shown in this post: The Way Home (1991), Come to My Party (1993) and Mary Had a Little lamb (1995).

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Luckily, many of the collectors who bought pieces in the early days live nearby, so it’s fairly easy to round up enough work to display. At this point, I should have 4 spreads from Mary Had a Little Lamb, the most that have been together for over 20 years.

People ask how I can sell my originals, because of the amount of work that goes into them. The simple answer is – it’s not hard to let them go. For me the joy comes from making more than having. It’s good to spread them around! There are practical considerations as well. Selling originals is how I’m paid for my work, since book royalties aren’t much. I also need to clear space to fill with new art, both physically and mentally. That said, I’ve kept pieces that have a special meaning and I’m holding onto some of my newer pieces, so that they are available to exhibit. The original illustrations for my upcoming picture book, My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World will eventually be offered for sale, after the touring exhibition, Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches.

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

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Mary Had a Little Lamb

Judy Richardson loaned me her 2 pieces, one from each of the 2 books she wrote and I illustrated: The Way Home and Come to My Party. Read the series of posts about our adventures in children’s book publishing here.

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The Way Home

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Come to My Party

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The Way Home

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Studio goings-on

After being almost exclusively in making-mode for the past few years, I now wake up every morning with a different agenda. Besides paying attention to my husband Rob and having lunch with friends, I’m photographing my work, organizing exhibitions, and preparing lectures. Making art is one thing, but if you want to share it with the world, you have to figure out ways get it out there. It’s a different creative exercise that not all artists can or want to take on. Although I would rather be stitching right now, I know that doing the promotional part is worth it down the road.

Before showing what’s happening in my studio, I’d first like to invite those of you in the Boston area to an Artist Talk I’ll be giving in Watertown, MA. It’ll be at the Quilters’ Connection, on Thursday, October 24, 2019 at 7:00 PM at St. James Armenian Church, 465 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown, MA. $10.00 guest fee for non Quilters’ Connection members.

I will share the joys and challenges of making art that ranges from precious to poignant to provocative, as well as explain where this doll-infested needle and thread universe comes from. I’ll also bring along some original pieces, including Birds of Beebe Woods (pictured left) and books to sell. I look forward to meeting you!

Over the past few weeks, Rob and I have been photographing a lot of older artwork. My pieces are displayed in cherry wood shadow-box frames that Rob makes. Glass protects the bas-relief embroidery from dust, bugs and curious fingers.

The process includes removing each piece from its frame, taking its picture and then putting it back in the frame. So, why didn’t we take photos before framing them behind glass? It’s a long story involving deadlines, a broken wrist, and consequently being behind schedule. So, here we are, doing the job years later. Many of these pieces will be part of a solo exhibition this coming winter at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.

The family-friendly exhibition, SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch, will feature a wide selection of original embroidered artwork from my 25 year career illustrating children’s books. You can see them here. Several pieces will be on loan from private collections. These are rarely seen by anyone other than the owner’s friends and family. This is a unique opportunity to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of my artwork in person.
SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch
Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 26, 2020
Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA
Opening Reception: Friday, Dec. 13 – 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm ~ Artist Galley Talk at 4:00 pm

To photograph the art, we set up the equipment in the spare room, with a light box to minimize harsh shadows. The room’s sky light affected the light balance, so we covered it with another defuser. The camera was propped up on a tripod, facing straight down. To counteract the weight of the heavy camera lens, we hung a bag of stones at the other end of the extension pole. When I asked why the camera had to be so far above the art, Rob told me that the long 100 mm focal lens maintains the correct perspective. I’m glad that he understands this stuff!

For closeup shots, we lowered the camera.

The closeup photos will be used for a treasure hunt for kids (and adults) that I’m putting together for the Once Upon a Thread exhibition.

An advantage of taking high resolution close-up is that the photo quality isn’t lost when they are blown up big. For the exhibition, I’m playing with scale by juxtaposing extra large details with my miniature artwork.

This week, we had a storm and the power was off for 3 days. So, instead of working at the computer, I settled in near a window and stitched, like a character in a Jane Austen novel. Although I’m glad to have electricity back, so that I can write and publish this post, I’m missing the simple pleasure of making things by hand by the light of the sun. That and a cup of tea is my idea of heaven!

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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.

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

bed book delivered

Before delivering the finished illustrations for MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World to the publisher in Boston, I cleaned up the studio and invited friends and neighbors for an impromptu “Show and Tell”. It felt good to pack up my supplies, which had become a huge mess during the past 3 years of working non-stop on either the book or the Liberty and Justice animation.

This was a good opportunity to organize my felt by color and size. A frequently asked question is, “Where do you get your felt?” The felt I use for much of my work is a thick, plant dyed wool/rayon mix. Unfortunately, the source for this most extraordinary product disappeared a few years ago. I could tell that it wasn’t going to be available forever, so I hoarded enough to last me into old old age. The closest thing that you can buy now is sold through A Child’s Dream, which has all kinds of felt and supplies. Some people dye their own felt to get those gentle soft colors, but I’m more interested in making things out of it than producing it. But, if I didn’t have this stash, I could be motivated to get out the dye pots.

For the “Show and Tell”, I set up the illustrations around the big center table in my studio, saving space by propping up a row of stretchers, back to back. It was risky to display the pieces unframed and exposed, but my “Do Not Touch” signs kept fingers at bay. Right now, the artwork has raw edges overflowing onto a stretched white background fabric. That’s so that the photographer can shoot the images with extra room for cropping later. When the pieces are returned next winter, I’ll add fabric borders and Rob will make frames, making them presentable for exhibition.

It was so nice to see friends and meet younger family members. They really loved seeing the detail and 3-dimensional quality of the artwork, which is totally different than looking at the printed pages of a book. Even with excellent photography, there is no way to replace the experience of seeing the real thing. That is why I’m organizing a touring exhibit of the originals, which will begin after MY BED is published in the Fall of 2020. The exhibit, “Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches” will premiere at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit, MA in Nov. 2020 and travel to a dozen or more venues in the United States. As locations are confirmed, I will add them to the Exhibits and Events page. Museums that are interested in hosting the show can contact me for information and a shipping cost estimate. If you want to have the exhibit shown near you, please let your local museum know about this opportunity!

Last week, I packed up the artwork into 4 huge plastic bags and delivered it to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Boston.

The publishing production team and other staff members came out of their cubicles to see the scenes, which we spread out in the conference room. They mentioned that since artists work digitally so much these days, they don’t often get to see “real” art. It was wonderful to see their excitement about sending this book out into the world. I’m excited, too!

The next step is very important: photography. The publisher has hired Rick Kyle, of 5000K, who also took the photos for Pocketful of Posies. We met in his home studio and talked about lighting the pieces. I also had a chance to look over everything, removing lint and making sure wires didn’t get bent during packing and unpacking. I enjoyed seeing Rick again and have full confidence that he will do an excellent job!

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.