Studio insights

Here’s a glimpse at some of the many photos I’ve been taking in and around my studio with my phone camera. It’s really an excuse to play with my toys! I love how quick and easy it is to snap close-up images and share them on Facebook and Instagram. But, since not everyone wants to be tethered to multiple social media platforms, I thought I’d show a recent selection of my daily photos on this blog, too.

There are pictures of old and newer pieces, from my collection of insects made 37 years ago, to original bas relief children’s book illustrations, to newer wee folk characters from Felt Wee Folk. These days, I’m pretty busy working on some exciting projects that I can’t talk about yet, so my blog posts will be less frequent. If you’d like to keep up with regular posted images, I invite you to “like” my Facebook and Instagram pages.

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 3 & video)

CoverUp_lowresWMThis is part 3 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. Now, I will show how the pieced felt background was made. There’s also a short video my husband Rob filmed, which shows me stitching various stages of the project.

In the beginning, I knew that the piece would be populated with portraits of women, with each peering through an oval opening, but I didn’t know how many characters would be included. I did some simple drawings to get an idea of its composition and proportions and then calculated that 45 portraits would have enough breathing room within the 24″ x 30″ size. As you can see in this sketchbook page, there were lots of possibilities for border treatment.

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The background needed to be done in a way that would compliment the portraits and not compete with the detail of the individual women. I also wanted the colors and design to work from a distance and also entice viewers to take a closer look.

I grouped my felt scraps in piles according to color and pieced them together crazy quilt style in diagonal strips according to their hue. It was done in a similar way to the beard in Whiskers. I find that large solid colors can be too overpowering and simplistic, whereas breaking up the field into small parts brings a softer, more natural appearance. I guess it’s more like impressionist art that way. I used plant dyed wool/rayon felt that I bought years ago from Textile Reproductions. Unfortunately it is no longer being produced, so every little piece is as good as gold.

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The odd-shaped pieces are held together on the back with a simple slip stitch. On the front, I used a fly stitch to join and outline the felt pieces. Here’s a video of some of the stitching:

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It was great winter project, which I worked on through the holidays and into the new year.

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I used Soft Flex beading wire to outline the holes and give them a clean edge and some structure.

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I had fun playing around with the arrangement of the women.Cover_Up_process_3WM

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Before sewing the portrait heads in their holes, I sewed the pieced felt background to a stretcher frame covered with upholstery fabric.

The next post (part 4) will show the process of making the border for Cover Up. Read Cover Up (part 1) here and (part 2) here.

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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.

Nativity Scene photo shoot

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I know it’s rushing the season, but for those of you who celebrate Christmas, it’s time to get started on making a nativity scene, so that you have it ready to display during the holidays. This set is from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures, which has patterns and directions for making Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus, 3 Kings and a shepherd and his sheep.

In this post, I show what the scene looked like in my studio, before we took photos for the book.

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The nativity figures are fun to make and can be as simple or decorative as you want.  I especially enjoyed coming up with the costumes for the three kings. Their gifts are different beads that look liked containers.

nativity project from Felt Wee Folk

nativity project from Felt Wee Folk

For the photo shoot, I made the manger from curved pieces of driftwood, creating an arched structure. The back drop is a dark purple piece of felt with sewed on star sequins.

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Bayberry branches and dried foliage were the right scale for trees and brush. I used beach stones to fill gaps and build up the surrounding landscape. A pail full of beach sand covered the plywood base and the straw bedding was dried beach grass.

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The photo below is the one Rob and I chose for the book. We used a different photography method, which gives a more dramatic nighttime effect. We took the photo at night, in a completely dark room. During a long expose time of about 10 seconds, Rob “painted with light”, pointing and moving a small flash light around the areas he wanted lit up. We repeated that many times, until we had a good selection of photos from which to choose.

I’ve already heard from several enthusiastic people who are in the process of making or have competed a Nativity of their own. And I’m sure that each set of characters will be as unique as their maker!

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making Face Time (part 2)

FaceTime-19446FaceTimeWMThis is Part 2 in a series about making my newest piece, Face Time. It picks up where I left off in Part 1, which shows and talks about the painted and wigged wooden bead heads.

Face Time will be on display this fall at Some Things Looming in Reading, Pennsylvania. Their fiber art exhibit, Entangled will run from Sept. 12th to Oct. 24th, 2015.

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I wanted each character to peek out of their own frame, like cameo portraits. I cut pieces out of felt with scalloped shears and embroidered the edges.

This, along with stitching the leaves and stems took many, many hours.

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I brought them with me on boat excursions near home…

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and far away on our canal trip in France. I got a lot done on the plane ride, too.

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Finally, all 41 busts had their own wreathlike frame.

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The heads are based on the wee folk dolls in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. This little lady’s bonnet is made with embroidery floss wrapped wire.

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After the wreaths were completed and the busts sewn in place, I figured out their arrangement on tree branches. They would be grouped according to time period, going from past at the bottom to present at the top.

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The tree branches were made of felt covered wire.

To be continued in Part 3

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Give-away: 15,000 views of Rabbitat!

I am excited to say that the Rabbitat video has been viewed 15,000 times! It’s been almost 4 years since Daniel Cojanu and Elise Hugus of UnderCurrent Productions started filming me working in my studio and scavenging for driftwood out at the Quissett Knob. This film was financed with prize money from 2 awards I received for my book Pocketful of Posies; the 2011 Horn Book Award and the 2011 Golden Kite Award. The film was a wise investment and continues to hold up as a great communication tool.

And now for the Give-away! This is a world-wide offer. To enter, please leave a comment telling about a favorite gift that you made for someone else. The prize is a box of fairy making supplies, which includes green wool felt, 12 wooden bead heads with faces painted by Salley, 12 acorn caps to fit, wool fleece hair and faux flower petal skirts and wings.

Follow the directions in my book, Felt Wee Folk and have a fairy making party! The winner will be picked at random on April 14th. FYI, I also sell faux flowers in my Etsy Shop here.

Congratulations to the Give-away winner, Terri from Redlands, California!

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new books in and out

FeltWeeFolk-1482Hooray! Despite all of the stormy winter weather during their drive across the country, FedEx Ground delivered my order of Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures last Friday before noon, as scheduled. A wee folk welcoming committee was on hand!

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I immediately opened the boxes and started processing orders because I wanted to mail a bunch off that day. Instead of being “hot off the press”, the books were “cold off the truck” as I opened to the title page and started signing them.

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I had prepared as much as I could beforehand, so all I had to do was sign and slip the books into pre-addressed mailers. Since then, I’ve brought several loads to the post office. Orders made in early January were filled first and will progress toward more recent ones. The rest will go out this week, so don’t fret, yours is coming!

These are all orders from my Etsy Shop (here), which include some extra goodies; an autograph, a winter scene poster (folded flat), faux flowers to make 2 fairies and a wee folk note card.

If you want to support your local bookseller, have them get one for you. My neighborhood bookstore, Eight Cousins offers signed copies, too. They’re having a book launch party on Sunday, March 8, at 3:00 pm. And there’s always Amazon, where today, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures is rated No. 1 in “Toymaking! They have an e-book version, which is a sensible option for international customers.

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