Close-ups (snow)

In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan,   

Earth stood hard as iron,   

Water like a stone;   

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,   

Snow on snow,   

In the bleak midwinter,   

Long ago.   

by Christina Rossetti, English poet (1830 – 1894)   

drawing by Salley. age 6

 With snow falling and lingering in many parts of the country this winter, I’ve found some  snow pictures to show you. First, here’s a crayon drawing saved from my childhood by my mother. Then we skip ahead to 1995, with a detail from the title page of the 32-page edition of Mary Had a Little Lamb. It’s the scene where Mary, her brother and her father are trudging through the snow to visit the lamb in the barn.  

detail from "Mary Had a Little Lamb" 1995

 The next scene is from the illustration for the poem “Snow”, which is in the poetry anthology, You and Me: Poems of Friendship. The snowman is made of felt, painted with an acrylic based bumpy liquid medium. In the background is an old linen tablecloth.  

detail from "You and Me: Poems of Friendship" 1997

 Here are some wee folk dolls that were brought out to play in the snow. 

Wee Folk in the Snow 2002

 This snowflake covered bed spread is part of an illustration from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. The bed frame is made from some hollow dried plant parts, maybe thorns, with the sharp points cut off. I bought them a long time ago in a bead store. The original illustrations will be shown in a traveling exhibit when the book is released next September. Find out about it here.  

detail from "Pocketful of Posies" 2010

Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive here.

Pink House

I can still remember how much fun The Pink House was to make, even though it’s been almost 15 years. I had finished the 2 year project of making  illustrations for Mary Had a Little Lamb and was ready to burst out with something bold and unplanned. I sorted through boxes of objects that I’d been collecting, selecting parts to use.PinkHouselowWM

The hair pins and costume jewelry were from grandmother’s things.  The key and New York subway token were found in her desk drawer. I try to find things that can be sewn. Even the shells used for the breasts were earrings with convenient holes already drilled, making it easier to sew them down. I prefer to sew things in place and not use glue, which is messy and unpredictable. With stitches, if somethings doesn’t work, you can always rip it out and try again.

hair pins

pinkhouse2detailWM Some of the objects I’ve sewn on include a miniature silver lock, man and dog buttons, a girl with umbrella charm and a bakealite flower button. The woman”s headdress is a pin made of a cluster of shells.

sketch for “The Pink House”


The Pink House  was one of the first pieces I made with wool felt. The red felt is from an old maternity top my late mother had from the 50’s.  The woman is holding a doll house sized plastic frying pan from my childhood. Queen With Duster is another piece I made with my grandmother’s found objects during the same period. You can see it on this post here.


I’m so glad that my mother saved some of her children’s artwork. I don’t remember this childhood drawing and just found it when I was cleaning my parents’ house.  I can’t help notice some similarities between this drawing done when I was seven and The Pink House. They both have a bold central figure in a dress, with arms raised, gesturing hands, a head-piece and circle cheeks.

drawing by Salley at age 7

Close-ups (winter houses)

Houses appear so frequently in my artwork that I’ve divided them up into categories to show you in this Close-ups series. When you think about it, the shape is just a square with a triangle on top that can be depicted in any color and style to bring mood and stability. And houses are strong symbols of security that I seem to want in my pictures. This collection of winter houses starts with the winter section of a 4 seasons drawing I made at age 7. Then there’s a detail from a fabric relief piece called “Skating”. The next three are from the books, You and Me: Poems of Friendship, The Hollyhock Wall and Pocketful of Posies, which will be published in Sept., 2010.

by Salley at age 7

detail from “Skating” 1986

from “You and Me: Poems of Friendship” 1997

detail from “The Hollyhock Wall” 1999

from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive here.

Close-ups (Winter Trees)

This group of trees starts with a paint and crayon picture I made as a child of 7. Next is a detail of a painting I did in art school and then part of an early fabric relief winter scene. The last two are taken from my book, Pocketful of Posies

snowman and trees, 1963

from “Laplander Mural” 1977

detail from “Skating” 1987

from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

from “Pocketful of Posies” 2010

Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive here.

Walking the Dog

I started making Walking the Dog soon after my mother died in 2005. It is a kind of modern day mourning needlework piece, popular in 19th century America, although in mine, there are no figures dressed in black, grieving under weeping willows. My mother loved color and I never ever saw her wear plain black or brown. I thought about her throughout the process, about her gift of nonjudgmental encouragement and her willingness to provide time, space and materials for everyone in our household to create works of art. To her, art wasn’t an extra, but an essential part of everyday life.

My mother, Mary (Hartwell) Mavor, holds up a newspaper announcing the end of WWII, while a student at RISD in Providence, RI

I often think about how wise and thoughtful she was. In a term paper about art education for her master’s degree in 1965, she wrote, “The student should be encouraged to find his own way, but this does not mean the void of laissez-faire.

Drawing of my Mom by an unknown RISD classmate, mid 1940’s

Children need a structured exposure to many ways of seeing, doing and thinking. To teach art, the teacher must be an artist. By having confidence in their own abilities, teachers will be able to sensitize children to want to learn and care—not just problem solving.  Through intuitive discovery a child will find himself, what he believes and be really free, even in a computer society. By giving students something to do—learn and contemplate what they can understand naturally—will give them the values needed today.”

“Walking the Dog”, fabric relief by Salley Mavor 2005, 20″ x 23″

I started making Walking the Dog by spreading out a bunch of metal parts I’d been collecting onto my work table. Several of the objects, like the wrenches and drawer pull, I’d found a few years earlier at the Liberty Tool Company  in Liberty, Maine. I had no plan and tried to approach the project as an open exercise that may or may not lead to something tangible. I started playing around with the shapes and a figure emerged, then a dog made from an old key and a lamp pull chain leash. Later I added a handbag to balance the dog on the other side. Earrings and a brooch became her breasts and  tummy. Then the figure needed a place to be, so I made her a hillside out of wool felt. One thing led to the other, with the earth needing a felt atmosphere, which then needed to be contained with ricrac. I finished it off with lots of french knots, chain-stitched curly ques, and added a border made from a long section of antique button loops. Then I mounted the felt piece to some leopard-like spotted upholstery fabric. It ended up being a very satisfying experience, with something to show for it. Thank you, Mum.

This detailed image from Walking the Dog is part of card set in my Etsy Shop.

Detail from “Walking the Dog”

I recently found these childhood drawings and can see that my subjects and style haven’t changed much in almost 50 years!

Cowboy by Salley at age 6

Woman with hat by Salley age 5