fiber art at the Cahoon Museum

Last Friday was the opening party for Twisted, Twined and Woven: Contemporary Fiber Art at the Cahoon Museum of American Art, which is located in Cotuit, Massachsetts. The exhibit will be there until Dec. 22. On display are four of my fabric relief pieces (Whiskers, Cover Up, Face Time and Displaced) and the work of Jodi Colella, Jacqueline Davidson, Anna Kristina GoranssonSarah HaskellAndy MaueryDiane Savona and Elizabeth Whyte Schulze. 

Whiskers, Cover Up, Face Time and Displaced

It was fun to see old friends and meet new people in the museum’s beautiful new gallery. The space was added on to the Colonial Georgian home (c.1775) that constitutes the original part of the museum. By early 1800’s, the building was operating as a tavern, an important overnight stop on the Cape Cod stagecoach line between Sandwich and Hyannis. I love how the new addition creates more opportunities for showing art, while maintaining and complimenting the historic parts of the museum.

Stinger by Jody Collella

The exhibit is as diverse as fiber art is and includes framed works as well as hanging installations and large scale, free-standing sculpture. Jodi Collella’s extraordinary scorpion made of vintage lace doilies dyed black is the dramatic centerpiece of the show. When the museum director and curator, Sarah Johnson, asked for recommendations of other artists for the show, I told her about the incomparable Diane Savona. As expected, her piece, Security Blanket is powerful and moving. Other pieces on display are Anna Kristina Goransson‘s vibrant felted work, Sarah Haskell‘s framed embroidered houses and baskets by Elizabeth Whyte Schulze.

Detail from “Security Blanket” by Diane Savona

“Beauty in Growth.” by Anna Kristina Goransson

The following pieces of mine are included in the exhibit – Displaced, Cover Up, Face Time and Whiskers. As with all of my work, including illustrations that are reproduced in children’s books, seeing the originals is a different experience than looking at photographs. If you can make the trip to Cape Cod, I encourage you to come and see for yourself.

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum will be hosting the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for my new picture book, MY BED: Where Children Sleep Around the World. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the fall of 2020. Like the traveling show for Pocketful of Posies, I hope to schedule other exhibits, so that more people can see the “real thing”. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting an exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the illustrations make their way across the whole country!

Displaced

DISPLACED
All winter long, while I sat and worked on this piece, I listened to news stories on the radio about people who are fleeing their home countries amid war and conflict. Even though Displaced is inspired by recent world events, it could very well represent the universal and timeless plight of refugees throughout history. When forming an idea, I often think in terms of creating miniature shallow stage sets and with this one, I envisioned a melodramatic scene full of foreboding as well as hopeful anticipation. The trail of heavily burdened figures are like an operatic chorus, winding its way upward through a threatening landscape. To help create tension in the design, I thought of opposite forces, such as dark/light, despair/hope, trapped/escape, harsh/tender, sharp/soft and horror/beauty.

Cover Up

COVER UP is a collective portrait of women from around the world, each with a head covering that reflects the conventions of a particular place, social class or time in history. The 45 depictions invite comparison, pointing out contrasts and similarities between different societies. They all wear some kind of scarf, head piece or mask that serve as identifying markers, whether they are forms of self-expression and fashion, or dictated by religious and cultural tradition.

Face Time

FACE TIME is a broad interpretation of a family tree, showing the faces of humanity through time, from early in history to today. The 41 individuals represent a variety of peoples and cultures throughout the world, all connected through branches of the center tree.

Whiskers

WHISKERS focuses on beards and mustaches, showing an array of male characters from different cultures and historic periods. The piece explores diverse societies and their origins, using needle and thread to signify the unraveling and mending of human cultures throughout history. The large face and beard that contains the various heads is inspired by Assyrian sculpture.

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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.

Whiskersblog

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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Whiskers (part 1)

Ok, it’s been awhile since I’ve checked in. My only excuse is that it’s winter – my favorite time to hunker down and go full throttle on a project. There’s no way I’m going to some place warm! And I know that some of you are of like mind, but we happy hibernators generally don’t get much agreement out there. I’m happy to say that I just finished a piece I’ve been working on since fall. Cover Up depicts cultural and national forms of head coverings and tribal markings that reflect notions of female modesty, fashion, status and conformity from different times and places. I’ll show lots of photos of Cover Up on this blog in the future. My Facebook and Instagram followers have been getting frequent glimpses throughout the process, so head over to one of those sites if you’re curious.

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For now, let’s play catch up with a series of posts about a 24″ x 30″ piece I finished last summer. Whiskers focuses on beards and mustaches, showing an array of male characters from different cultures and historic periods.

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Little men peek out and display themselves like an unlikely collection of international souvenir dolls. Their painted wooden heads appear in vertical lines, within a large man’s beard, which acts as a holding place. The bulk of the large beard is comprised of small pieces of felt that are patched together by hand with embroidery stitches. The large man’s bas relief face and beard are defined with lengths of wire covered with felt or wrapped with thread. Whiskers explores diverse societies and their origins, using needle and thread to signify the unraveling and mending of human cultures throughout history.

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I made the heads like the wee folk dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. Some beards are painted on the wooden bead head. I also tried something new, by gluing embroidered felt beards to their faces.

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FaceTimeDetail1WMI had a blast researching beard styles for the collection of characters. This piece is a continuation of a new series that explores history and fashion.  Face Time (shown left) is a previous piece showing cameo portraits from early civilizations to the present day. See Whiskers Part 2 here.IMG_20150711_101219