Liberty and Justice – the movie!

LIBERTY and JUSTICE: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free

What happens when a pair of lost citizens wander in the deep dark woods in search of a new leader? In this satirical take-off of the traditional folk tale, “Hansel and Gretel, the wordless story follows protagonists Liberty and Justice as they negotiate the challenges of today’s unique political landscape, while being shadowed by a persistent Twitter bird. The 13 min. movie is at the end of this post.

The film features an ensemble of old and new cast members from the Wee Folk Players theater troupe, who formed soon after the 2016 election. Other posts about the Liberty and Justice animation project include “Liberty and Justice” in process, All that Glitters, America First Ladystop-motion in action, costuming despots and innocents and Animated Film Logo. In this interview, I reflect on my foray into political satire and describe how speaking out through art has affected my work and life.

After about a year filming in the basement, where our animation stage is set up, my husband Rob Goldsborough and I are thrilled to share the fruits of our labor! It’s the first large joint artistic/technical venture we’ve undertaken in almost 40 years together. We used stop-motion animation to create the narrative, spending countless hours manipulating and photographing the characters and props so that they appear to move on their own when the series of frames is played in fast sequence.

We each had our field of expertise – I made all of the dolls and scenery and did the animating, while Rob contributed his talents in photography, lighting, computers and editing. Rob, a retired engineer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has had a life-long interest in photography and film-making. He and I have wanted to bring my wee folk characters to life through animation for many years – we just needed a compelling reason to jump in.

For a framework, I drew a basic story board that grew and developed over time. Every night at dinner, we discussed ideas for different camera angles and how we were going to film the next shot. What was supposed to be a fun summer adventure, ended up becoming a big part of our lives for a whole year! The more we learned, the more invested we became in the project. Luckily, we are both detail oriented and not very chatty, so spending hours on end in silent concentration, filming what would become 5 to 20 sec. scenes was not a problem. I calculated that at 24 frames per second, our 13 min. 32 sec. animation is made up of almost 20,000 individual photographs. Even though the project was incredibly time consuming, we loved working this way and would like to make more animated films in the future. But right now, I have to get back to working on a new children’s book, which you can see progressing here.

A highlight of the project has been finding and working with the musicians who produced the original score for the movie. Rob and I filmed about 100 silent scenes, knowing all along that music and sound effects would be an integral part of the finished film. Through friends, we were lucky to connect with Matthias and Carlaa local Woods Hole couple who specialize in this kind of work. I mean, what are the chances of us living just a few miles from each other in a small town on Cape Cod?

We are thrilled with what they’ve created for the soundtrack! They took our movie and ran with it, blending together many layers and styles into a carpet of sound that propels the story along, creating the right mood for each scene. Their sound production company, Stellwagen Symphonette, creates evocative instrumental music for radio, film and computer games. Drummer and pianist Matthias Bossi, violinist Carla Kihlsted and guitarist and engineer Jon Evans bring together many years of experience writing, performing and recording music. If you listen to NPR, you’ve heard their music embedded in stories from time to time. Their clients include This American Life, The Moth Radio Hour, Atlantic Public Media, Transom.org and Frontline Dispatch. 

Liberty and Justice was shown in the Woods Hole Film Festival in July 2018 and won the Audience Award for short animation.

I hope that you enjoy the movie! It can also be viewed and readily shared on YouTube here.


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Animated Movie Logo

Wee Folk Studio now has its very own movie logo! Rob and I filmed it to put at the beginning of our soon to be released short film, Liberty and Justice. The movie is very close to being finished and we plan to put it online in a week or so. In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to go behind the scenes and show the process of making this logo. The sound effects you hear are just a tiny hint of Stellwagen Symphonette’s fantastic musical score for the finished movie!

To start, I made a mini me…

and painted a sign…

with colored pencil decorations.

I stitched foliage for the tree.

Luckily, I already had a little house from another project that was abandoned years ago. I found a gnarly piece of wood to hold up the sign.

I’m still a reluctant hot glue user, but it worked well to mount the sign.

To animate the growing flowers, I needed different sizes, from single stems to bunches with multiple blossoms.

We filmed the scene on the all black stage in the basement.

This LED lamp came from a dollhouse supply company.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

“Liberty and Justice” in process

Screen shot from “Liberty and Justice” animation

In this new year, I thought it would be a good time to bring you up to date on the stop-motion animation my husband Rob and I have been working on for most of 2017. I introduced the project a while back in this blog post. Yes, we’re still inching ahead, spending every spare hour filming in the basement. We’ve recorded 8 minutes of a 10 to 12 minute video and hope to have the filming part finished later this winter. Then, there’s the soundtrack, which is especially important for a wordless story like ours. For that, we’re commissioning an original score and sound effects from musicians and sound artists.

The movie, Liberty and Justice, a political take-off of Hansel and Gretel, is a cautionary tale about what happens when a pair of lost citizens wander in search of a leader. So, when will it be finished? Honestly, we don’t know, but we’re estimating that it’ll be ready to show sometime in the summer of 2018. Don’t worry, I will announce any particulars about where it can be seen, once it’s completed.

UPDATE: The 13 min. movie can be viewed and readily shared on YouTube here.

To give an idea of our process, here’s a video made up of several filming sessions from last summer. Rob set up a separate camera to take time-lapse photos while we worked in the basement. It looks funny to see our actions sped up into hyper mode, when in reality our movements are painstakingly slow and deliberate. I’m animating figures, using wire rigs anchored to black blocks, which are visible to you behind the set. The monitor near where I’m sitting shows the camera view, so I can check how the scene looks on screen. You can barely see Rob with his magnifying headset behind the camera slider, as he turns on a flash light to see the measurement for each photo.

Keeping in mind that this post could be a spoiler, I’ve selected a group of still photos that don’t give away too much of the good parts. You will surely pick up on some of the themes, though. Most images show our animation stage during the last month or so. At this point in their journey, the characters (who’ve just been through a lot of challenges) enter a kind of candy land.

It was so much fun setting up the scenes, which had to be adjusted according to the camera angle and movements of each shot. How do you make water for animation stage? Shiny blue fabric, jumbo glitter and mini LED lights, of course. It looks so cool when the swans move along!

When starting the filming process all those months ago, we knew that stop-motion animation takes a long time. And we’ve since learned that it requires many forms of patience. Not only do we need the capacity to deal with all the fussy parts pertaining to animation, we have to be patient with each other. This is the first large joint artistic/technical venture we’ve undertaken in almost 40 years together. Even though we’re used to working solo most of the time, working side by side has been an overall positive experience. We’re both meticulous workers and neither of us has a problem  concentrating for long stretches of time. It’s not unusual to spend a 5 hr. stretch filming a 12 second scene. At 24 frames per sec., that’s 288 photographs, each taken separately, with camera motion and moving up to a dozen figures and props in between shots. Crazy? Yes, but it’s all worth it when you play back the movie and see the characters come to life!

I got carried away making props – searching for jelly beans, gum drops and small scale sugary treats to decorate with. As a rule, I don’t use hot glue because it’s messy and stringy, but in this case it was an effective solution. I like how actual candy with sparkling sugar crystals adds a realness to the fantasy world.

I lopped off the stems of mini sugar canes with a knife, saving the curved ends to build a border wall. Handling all of this sticky candy was so unappetizing that it felt toxic, like working in a sugar Super Fund site.

So far, no little critters have come out at night to nibble the edible set. This little campaign motorcade zooms along in the movie. I’m looking forward to hearing the sound effects!

It was a relief to get back to needle and thread for this sheep character.

He joined the brown and rainbow sheep for a cameo scene. I manipulated their heads, ears and tails during the filming process.

While doing the animation, I refer to a monitor (top, center) that projects the camera view. It’s tricky to move the bodies in small enough increments to make their movement look natural.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who take an interest in my work and read this blog, whether you’ve followed for years or just subscribed. Your support means a lot to me and it is an honor to connect with you and the world outside of my studio!

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

 

Self Portrait set to music

Self-Portrait detail, 2007

Eight years ago, I started this blog with the intention of sharing my creative life with the wider world. Back then, I couldn’t have predicted how the regular discipline of writing posts would help me form a personal narrative about my life as an artist. For me, this blog has become much more than a place to publish images of my artwork and show process photos. Over the years, I’ve developed a clearer understanding of why I do what I do, which is to communicate through making things. This platform offers an opportunity to articulate what I think and care about and I thank you for listening and following along!

Today, I am very excited to share a video of my Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion, which is set to music in chronological order. Like the dolls’ outfits in my embroidered piece, the sound track reflects my upbringing and personal taste. Some of what you see and hear may even overlap with your memories, especially if you were born in the 1950’s. I hope you enjoy the film – be prepared for a nostalgic experience! Please note that a complete list of songs will scroll by at the end of the video.

 

 

In mid-November 2009, the introductory Wee Folk Studio blog post featured my Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion. I made the self portrait for an invitational show 10 years ago in 2007. It shows a spiral of little dolls, one for each year, starting with my birth date and a baby in the center, up until age 52 when I made the piece. Each figure is dressed in an outfit I would have worn that year, taken from memories, family photos or my imagination. My husband Rob appears the year we were married and my sons, Peter and Ian, are included through the years when they were little and physically connected to me. Through the progression, you can see my hair gradually graying over time. The wool felt spiral is mounted on upholstery fabric, which I embellished with multicolored french knots. The tatting around the outside of the circle was made by my late grandmother over 100 years ago.

The original framed piece is on semi-permanent display at the Woods Hole Public Library, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

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Self Portrait: a personal history of fashion, 2007

 

Visual Storytelling

This summer, while organizing and hanging my retrospective exhibit at the Falmouth Art Center (Aug. 1- 31), I’ve thought about children’s picture books and reflected on the wonderful opportunity they present to visual artists. The story book structure provides a unique opening to the imagination, with both writers and artists doing their part to interpret and articulate the human experience into something tangible and accessible.

It’s a great responsibility to connect with children through picture books and create their first introduction to art. I want to show the reader something they can care about and attach to. Adults call attention to my labor-intensive and inventive approach to illustrating; children respond directly to the emotional gestalt of a story with pictures. I try to keep that in mind while I stitch and stitch, translating the images in my head into something real.

On Tuesday, August 15th at 7:00 pm, I will participate in the presentation ~ Meet Our Local Picture Book Creators at the Cataumet Schoolhouse , Cataumet, MA. The writer/illustrator team of Jim & Deb Bowen will also talk about their work.

For those of you from far away, I’ve taken some short video tours of my exhibit, Salley Mavor: 25 Years of Picture Books. More videos are at the end of this post. Reflections on the glass make it a challenge to photograph the framed artwork, but I think the videos help give a sense of the show.


VISUAL STORYTELLING

Lately, I’ve been describing myself as a visual storyteller because the term “illustrator” just doesn’t seem to fit anymore and adequately encompass what I do. All of my work is narrative, but not necessarily illustration. And as for terms to describe how I make things — I don’t even try to define it anymore. I make picture books, how-to books and stand alone fabric relief pieces like Displaced. There are also fairy houses, wee folk dolls and sculpture. This past year, political satire and stop-motion animation from the Wee Folk Players – They’re a Stitch were added to the mix. By the way, if you’re missing the Players, they are busy filming on location in the basement. My husband Rob and I are making progress with the animation and have made about 2 minutes into a 10 minute movie.

NEW BOOK
After taking 3 years to complete Pocketful of Posies (2010), I needed a break from the all consuming process of making a book, so I could be free to develop other ideas that have been tugging at me for a long time. I’m glad I spent the last few years experimenting with new subjects, but I’m happy to say that the picture book bug has returned. It’s too early to say much about the new project, but I can tell you that it’s about beds, has an international theme and will be published by HoughtonMifflin in 2020. I’m not sure how much if anything I can show, because this is the first time I’ve worked on a book while also keeping up a blog about my artwork. I figure it’s OK to show details of the process, but not the whole pieces. So, if you want a more frequent inside glimpse, please follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

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Here are a group of detail shots I took of some fabric relief originals in the show, while cleaning the frames and glass.

 

 

 

Mr. Pence goes to Washington

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To commemorate the upcoming inauguration, the Wee Folk Players (They’re a Stitch) decided to film a production of Mr. Pence Goes to Washington. There’s nothing like a deadline to get you going and moving they did, albeit one millimeter at a time, with hundreds of camera clicks.

The stop-motion animation process demanded great patience on the part of the actors, as well as the director and photographer from Dubious Productions. Just like in Hollywood, it took a lot of standing around between scenes and discussions about the simplest actions. Everyone hung out together in the basement for several full days, determined to get through as many shots as it took to make a 1 minute video. The troupe came out unscathed, but there was a question as to whether the dog’s tail would stay attached, after wagging so hard!

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The cast member playing Mr. Pence wasn’t so sure that his assigned costume would give the right impression, but once he tried on the gingham frock, he felt right at home in the role.

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Makeup for the Mr. Pence character was a challenge, but white cropped hair and a permanent look of disapproval on his otherwise bland face helped bring him to life.

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As for the little guy, his head had to swivel around and his tail needed to wag.

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This costume fitting got a little out of hand. Don’t theater people say that animals and children always steal the show?

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The set department painted a gazillion yellow bricks for the road.

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All in all, the cast enjoyed their moving performance and are already rehearsing for the next chapter in the American Drama Series.

The Wee Folk Players are busy writing and directing new episodes in the American Drama Series. To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). And for a wide ranging look at new and old material from my studio, please follow along on Instagram and Facebook. And to find out about my post-election satire, please read  this interview.
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Displaced

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Sketch for Displaced

All winter long, while I sat and worked on this new piece, I listened to news stories on the radio about the people who are fleeing their home countries amid war and conflict. Even though Displaced is inspired by current world events, it could very well represent the universal and timeless plight of refugees throughout history.

I often think in terms of creating miniature shallow stage sets and with this one, I envisioned a highly dramatic scene. It was important to me that the piece evoked a strong emotional reaction, much like an opera.


The heavily burdened figures are a chorus of characters making their way through a black and ominous landscape. To help create tension in the design, I thought of antonyms, such as dark/light, general/personal, despair/hope, trapped/escape, harsh/tender, sharp/soft and horror/beauty.

With fiber art, much attention is paid to materials and techniques, as well as the labor intensive process. My intention was to make a work of art that transcends the amount of work invested, and the methods and skill involved in the expression.

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Displaced, 24″ H x 22″ W, 2016

UPDATE: 18″ x 24″ Posters of DISPLACED are now in my Etsy Shop here.

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Poster – Displaced

Here are some details of the piece, along with a glimpse behind the scenes in my studio.

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