still playing with dolls

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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.

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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…

The houses, etc. (and a couple of original Pocketful of Posies illustrations) will be shown for the next 6 months, June 2, 2016 – Jan 8, 2017 ~ in the Geometry Gallery display case at the Providence Children’s Museum, Providence, RI

13147836_1084989028189856_5937376141503391142_oHere’s the clock for the scene, “Are the children in their beds, for now it’s 8 o’clock?”

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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.

wee folk sprouting up all over

Weefolk-1-18I can’t remember a more glorious spring here on Cape Cod! The days are clear and warm, but not too hot, with zero humidity. And the yard is full of perfectly scaled vegetation and flowers for wee folk to ramble through, including bugle weed, forget-me-nots and buttercups. Here’s a selection of characters who escaped from my studio into the outdoors, some from my how-to book,  Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures.

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How about a lattice topped pie in an acorn cap?

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Weefolk-1-19Poppies are ready to pop.

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Little Red Riding Hood makes her way across the bugle weed forest…

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And a fairy bride and groom dance through a field of buttercups!

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Cover Up (part 4)

CoverUp_lowresWMThis is part 4 in a series of posts about my new embroidered bas-relief piece Cover Up. In part 1 and part 2, the collection of “covered” women are introduced and discussed. Part 3 shows how I made the pieced felt background.

The next phase in the project involved making a felt covered wire border, which is a new technique I’ve developed over the past few years. The idea originated with a desire to form and stitch lines that have a 3-dimensional quality. I’ve used wire in my work for many years, but mostly in miniature scale. With larger gauge wire, covered in strips of embroidered felt, I have been able to incorporate bolder, linear patterns and designs into my work, like in the pieces shown below; Birds of Beebe Woods, Face Time, Whiskers and Rabbitat.

coverupsketch3Cover Up’s border started with a sketch of a vine-like pattern. As usual, plans changed once my hands began the process of forming and articulating the wire lines. It ended up looking more like a lattice topped pie or a chain linked fence.

I sewed strips of felt to lengths of insulated electrical wire and embroidered the felt with pastel shades of variegated floss. Straight lines seemed too rigid and unwelcoming, so I wiggled the wire and arranged them in a diagonal grid.

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This video shows close-ups of me covering and stitching wire with my non-manicured fingers.

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For the lattice pattern, I used many worm shaped lengths of covered wire. I joined the wire ends in a way that’s hard to explain. Let’s just say that it involves poking wire through felt, with lots of fussy sewing to keep the wire from pulling out.

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Here I am, working on the border downstairs, all cozy and warm in front of the wood stove, with snow outside.

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When the border was finished, I spent a long time repositioning the doll heads until I was satisfied with the arrangement. I then secured each portrait inside their hole with a few stitches on their shoulders.

Perhaps I should mention the time commitment, because people are always curious. This size (24″ x 30″) piece usually takes 3 or 4 months of solid work. But, I must add that I believe time alone doesn’t give a piece of art its value. Like other artists who do labor intensive work, I am not deterred by the prospect of spending countless hours on a single piece, as long as it holds the promise of transcending the effort involved. I hope that you are enjoying this series of posts as much as I relished the process of making Cover Up. Stay tuned for one more post in the series! By the way, you can receive notice whenever I publish a new post by subscribing to this blog (at the top of the right column on the home page). Rest assured that I will not share your information.

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Poster - Cover Up

Poster – Cover Up

12 x 17 posters featuring of a selected group of portraits from Cover Up are available in my  Etsy Shop here.

Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

The next post (part 5) will show the end of the process, with the finished piece. Read Cover Up (part 1), (part 2) and (part 3).

Cover Up (part 1)

CoverUp_lowresThis is the first in a multi-part series of posts about my new fabric relief piece, Cover Up. It’s the female counterpart to Whiskers, my previous exploration of men’s facial hair styles. Cover Up focuses on women’s head coverings that serve as identifying markers imposed by the conventions of a particular time and place throughout history. I want the 45 characters to invite comparison and point out contrasts and similarities between different societies, whether they are open or restrictive in tolerating self expression and individuality.

I loved the research phase of the project and spent many days hunting down images of women from around the world, each wearing a form of covering that reveals something about the culture they come from. I’ve depicted individuals with all sorts of veils, scarves, hats, makeup and facial markings that reflect different notions of female modesty, attractiveness, fashion, status and conformity.

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While searching through the images, I considered this question, “At what point does a bold, new fashion statement evolve into just another form of conformity that brands a group identity?” I also reflected on being a part of our diverse American society that is made up of immigrants and how this experience may influence one’s perception of “the other”.

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The possibilities were endless and I could have kept making new heads for a long time, but I had to narrow it down and chose styles that I thought would best represent a variety of cultures. In a lot of cases it came down to choosing depictions that had characteristics I found personally intriguing.

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Poster - Cover Up

Poster – Cover Up

After finishing the portraits and before making the background field to put them in, I took separate photos of each one and shared them on Instagram and Facebook. I invite you to follow me on these other social media sites for more frequent postings and notices, which include behind the scenes pictures.

The response to the photos was so enthusiastic that I decided to print a poster which shows enlargements (200%) of a selected collection of these portraits. The 12 x 17 poster (shown left) is available in my Etsy Shop here.

 

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Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

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Please stay tuned for more posts about making Cover Up. Coming up are more photos of the portraits and how the felt background was made. My husband Rob is even working on a short video with material he filmed while I was stitching the piece. Read (part 2) and (part 3 & video).

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Cover Up preview & poster

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Over the past few months, I made Cover Up (24 x 30), the newest piece in an evolving portrait series. I’m in the process of writing more posts about the making of Cover Up, which will be published soon, but, I wanted to send out a preview first. It was an engrossing project that kept me busy all through the cold snowy days of winter. Cover Up depicts women wearing cultural, national, and religious forms of head coverings and tribal markings. The portraits reflect notions of female modesty, fashion, status and conformity from different times and places.

Because of the multitude of hard to see little portraits, I decided that the finished piece (shown above) wouldn’t translate well into a reduced sized poster format. Instead, I chose to feature a selected group of women, with their photos juxtaposed in a grid. Each head is enlarged 200%, so that you can take in the details and essence of the person. The 12 x 17 poster (shown below) is available in my Etsy Shop here.

In this series, which includes Face Time and Whiskers, I’ve focused on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New AdventuresThese 3 pieces will be included in my exhibit Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

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Whiskers (part 3)

WhiskersblogIn this 3rd and final post about Whiskers, there are lots of close up photos, including individual shots of all the bearded and mustached guys. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to take a detour from making sweet faced wee folk characters and delve into the world of hairy men! The styles range from handle bars to goatees to hipster beards. There’s more about Whiskers in Part 1 and Part 2.

Last summer, when I started making the piece, I posted a photo on Facebook of my work table full of bearded heads. Someone asked if there would be women as well. I answered that this piece was about facial hair and that only bearded ladies could be included! Don’t fret, a crowd of women (with head coverings, not beards) are featured in my next piece Cover Up, which I’ll write about in the future.

Whiskers, Cover Up and more new large (24″ x 30″) works will be included in my upcoming show, Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum in Bristol, RI this fall, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30.

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I pinned the head and shoulder portraits in their peep holes before sewing them in place. At this angle, don’t the guys look like they’re floating in swimming pool lanes?

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After consulting with my artistically perceptive son Ian, it was clear that the piece needed another element to help finish it off. At the last minute, just before it was scheduled to be professionally photographed, I decided to add a red thread zigzag to the border.

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The collection of heads have doll wigs similar to the ones in the new edition of my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. Some whiskers are painted, but the glasses and embroidered felt beards are a new development, since the book was written. So, here are the fellas…

I had a blast researching and making the bearded guys and I hope that you enjoyed meeting them! It’ll be the women’s turn next, when I show another new piece, Cover Up in future posts. You can get a preview on Facebook here and Instagram here.

Whiskers, Face Time, Cover Up, Birds of Beebe Woods, Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion and more will be included in my exhibit, Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, Rhode Island, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016.

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Whiskers (part 2)

WhiskersblogMy apologies to those of you who received notice of this post prematurely as I mistakenly clicked “publish” before any text was added!

Early on in the process, when I was mulling  over the idea of making this piece and starting to do research, I envisioned a large, bearded face. I wanted to create a structure that could serve as a display mechanism for the group of little men. And because most people never see my original artwork, it was important that there be a strong graphic image that would translate well when reproduced in different image sizes.

At first, I was attracted to the “green man” concept, but veered more in the direction of Assyrian sculptures, which have wonderful stylized beards. I stayed with the green palate and added blues and browns.

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In this post, I will show photos of the process of making the beard, which turned into a separate piece that could be used as a costume!

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The beard is made up of small scraps of felt, that are pieced together like a crazy quilt. I drew peep holes on a paper template and matched felt pieces like a jig saw puzzle to fit. The pieces are sewn together on the back with a slip stitch and then embroidered along the front seams with a fly stitch. I made a lot of progress while on vacation, which is further evidence that I work all the time. The view out the window was nice, though!IMG_2731

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I used my felt covered wire technique to outline the beard and facial features.

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To keep the holes rounded and firm, I stitched wire around the openings. The smaller curls on the mustache and beard top are made with floss wrapped wire.

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The next post (part 3) click here shows the finished piece, with close ups of the bearded men. To read Whiskers (part 1) click here.

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