FAQ

salleyfairyhouse

This is a list of the most frequently asked questions about my work. Several subjects come up again and again in the comments on my posts, so I thought I’d devote a whole page to answering them as best I can.

When did you start making fabric reliefs?
I named my work “fabric relief” in about 1980, when people kept asking what it was called. Before that, I made free standing dolls that were photographed in 3-dimensional scenes. In an effort to have my work recognized as art, I converted to a relief format which is displayed under glass, in shadow-box frames. The Way Home, the first of my 11 children’s books illustrated in fabric relief, was published in 1991.

How did you learn this technique?
I am self-taught in embroidery and fiber art and have developed my style and working methods through years of experimentation and practice. I am inspired by 17th century English “stumpwork” or raised embroidery and have figured out my own way of achieving a 3-dimensional effect. I learned about visual communication, color and design as an illustration major at the Rhode Island School of Design (BFA 1978).

Why have you delved into making political satire? 
I am not by nature a political person, but I believe that bearing witness through art is important for the health of our democracy, especially since the 2016 presidential election. To read an interview about the Wee Folk Players (They’re a Stitch), go to this post. In this Interview on WGBH TV, I reflect on my foray into political satire, the abrupt cancellation of my exhibit, “Liberty and Justice” and describe how it has affected my work and life.

Is your studio open to the public?
Not usually, but occasionally I host an Open Studio event. My studio is a private work space and an oasis where I spend most of my time working alone, surrounded by collections of treasures.

Do you have a shop?
Yes, I have an online Etsy Shop which offers printed reproductions of my work on note cards, posters and (autographed) children’s books and how-to books. My original pieces are currently not for sale.  

Do you sell your original fabric reliefs?
Until recently, I’ve offered original pieces for sale. Now, as the demand to show my work increases, I’m keeping everything I have so that they are available for exhibitions. I do not make commissioned artwork. Exhibitions and other events are listed here.

Do you teach classes?
No, I do not teach classes or give workshops. My schedule is full of making art, working on books and organizing exhibitions. My how-to book Felt Wee Folk provides a step-by-step approach to making wee folk dolls, with many examples and patternsTo get an idea of my thoughts on sharing knowledge and artistic privacy, please read my post to teach or not to teach.

Do you give lectures about your work?
I’ve recently decided to “retire” from giving presentations about my work. That doesn’t mean I’m stopping making art – it’s just that I’d rather focus on doing than talking about it in live public platforms.

How long does it take to make a fabric relief piece?
It takes about a month to stitch the original fabric relief pictures for my children’s books, depending on the size and detail of the illustration. I construct one piece at a time, stitching until it is completed. The characters are made specifically for each scene and not reused multiple times. I spent 3 years making the illustrations for Pocketful of Posies and 2 years for my most recent book, My Bed. Larger pieces, such as Birds of Beebe Woods  and Displaced take several months to stitch.

How many hours a day do you work?
I don’t keep track of the hours, but I work in my studio as much as I can, just about every day. My husband Rob teases,”When Salley’s not sleeping or eating, she’s working in her studio.” Of course that’s not entirely true, I do get out to exercise, work in the garden, meet friends, cook dinner and pay attention to my husband. 

Do you use a sewing machine?
I only use a sewing machine to make clothes, curtains or pot holders–that kind of thing. My fabric relief pieces are all hand stitched.

Do you have any Blossom fairy kits for sale?
No, I’m sold out of kits, which I made and sold for 10 years, from 1998 – 2008. However, I offer the how-to book Felt Wee Folk, wool fleece fairy hair and faux flower petals for making fairy skirts and wings in my Etsy Shop.

Will you write any more how-to books?
I will not be writing any more how-to books. A revised edition of Felt Wee Folk, which was first published in 2003 was published in 2015. The popular fairies and other dolls remain and the non-doll felt projects are replaced with new varieties of wee folk characters and more doll-making tips. This all-doll version has a new cover and more pages than the first edition. It  features many new projects for seasoned wee folk makers as well as new converts, who are just beginning to learn how to wrap pipe-cleaner limbs. The book is titled Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures: 120 Enchanting Dolls  (C&T Publishing). Copies ordered from my Etsy Shop have extra goodies; an autograph, faux flowers to make 2 fairies and a pack of wee folk playing cards. Update: To read my thoughts about artistic privacy, go to this blog post: To teach or not to teach.

May I make and sell dolls from your how-to book?
Many people make fairies and dolls based on my designs. I cannot give permission to use my designs for personal profit, but It is alright with me if individuals sell the dolls on a limited basis, if the profits go to charity. Please give me credit on a tag or in the online description of the dolls. 

A note about my new book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures:
I aim to protect the copyright of new techniques and patterns that are included in this follow-up edition.

Do you sell your dolls?
I do not sell wee folk dolls. 

What kind of felt do you use?
Most of the felt in my recent fabric relief pieces is plant-dyed wool felt produced by Heavenly Hues Wool Studio. They have changed ownership and their online Etsy shop was empty the last time I checked.  A Child’s Dream sells a nice selection of wool felt. They also offer a craft supply basket, full of practically everything you need to make doll projects form my new how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. Find information about wool felt suppliers here.

Will you exhibit your work in my area?
Viewing my embroidered pieces is a completely different experience than seeing them online or in printed form. Therefore, I would like to create more opportunities for the public to see them “in person”. This requires invitations directly from venues. You can help by encouraging your local museum to show my work. A national tour of the original illustrations from my new picture book, My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World (HoughtonMifflin Publishing Co.) is underway. The exhibition, “Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches” is booked at 11 museums through 2024. Inquiries from museum directors and curators are welcome. Please contact me (Salley at weefolkstudio.com) for information about hosting the exhibit. See my exhibition schedule here.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Recent Posts

Ian and Liz’s Wedding Dolls

Before sharing the process of making wedding cake topper dolls for my son Ian and his new bride Liz, I want to remind you to sign up for a ZOOM Talk that I’ll be giving on August 25th at 2:PM (eastern time). “An Afternoon with Salley Mavor” will be hosted by the Brick Store Museum, where my retrospective exhibition is currently on view until Sept. 11. The Talk will be recorded so that those registrants unable to attend the live chat will receive the recorded version the next business day. I look forward to seeing your smiling faces, as I share the story of my life’s work, touching on where it came from, how it has evolved and why I do it. Have your questions ready! Please register HERE.

My first major retrospective exhibition, “WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor” is currently
at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine until Sept. 11, 2022

Now back to Ian and Liz, who are as adorable in real life as they are in doll form. Their wedding, which took place on July 23rd in New Haven, CT on what could have been the hottest day of the year, was a wonderful and joyous event. Rob and I are thrilled to welcome Liz into our family!

Ever since they announced their engagement a year ago, I’ve looked forward to making Ian and Liz a personalized set of wedding cake toppers. Over the years, I’ve made wedding dolls for close friends (see them HERE) and samples for a chapter in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk, but this is the first time in several decades that someone in our family has had a wedding to make them for!

I had a short window of time to work on them in late June and early July, after my exhibition in Maine was underway and when Ian and Liz could provide reference photos of their clothing, hair styles and other details. If you’ve made figures using the instructions in Felt Wee Folk, you’ll know that you start with the feet, so I couldn’t begin until I had photos of their shoes.

Ian chose a tartan tie (Buchanan from my mother’s side) that we bought for him on our last trip to Scotland. We have Scottish ancestors through many branches of the family, so there are a few different tartans to choose from, but those are never available in souvenir shops.

I matched the window pane weave of Ian’s suit with a stitched grid of embroidery floss and added a French knot boutonniere to the button stitched collar.

It’s been a while since I’ve made glasses, so I referred to my Cover Up poster to see how I twisted wire to form their shape.

Before painting his face, I asked Ian if he would be clean shaven or sport a beard on his wedding day. He carefully planned for a 3 day old scruff look, a favorite with millennials.

The bridal gown was so much fun to replicate in miniature. To get a womanly shape, I sewed a pair of boob beads onto the armature and then created the bodice with a combination of felt, embroidery floss and metallic thread.

The metallic thread was a pain to work with, but it did the job!

Liz sent photos of her hair in a low bun, which I copied.

To make the curly tendrils in front, I smeared glue on a few strands of floss and wound it around a piece of insulated wire until it dried.

When the dolls were finished, I moved onto their platform, which was an oval shaped piece of wood I found at Michael’s.

Planning ahead for when I would sew them in place, I drilled 4 holes (one for each foot) through the wood.

I cut out a piece of wool felt and chained stitched their wedding date in the space that would be in front of their feet. In the photo, the dolls aren’t sewn in place yet, just balanced there while I gauged the spacing.

I used a spider web technique to embroider ribbon roses, which I learned on YouTube.

It was a chance to use some of my collection of silk ribbon, which usually just sits in a basket looking pretty.

The dolls relaxed while I decorated their stand.

I glued a piece of felt to the bottom of the wooden platform and stitched the embellished felt top piece to it around the outside edge.

For a finishing touch and to add some visual weight, I sewed rows of braid and twisted red and green memory wire to the bottom edge of the stand. I had marked the location of the drill holes, so it was easy to anchor their feet with a few stitches using a long sewing needle.

In anticipation of the fact that the wedding couple would be placed on top of a frosted cake (it was carrot cake with cream cheese frosting), I stitched a layer of wax paper to the bottom to protect the felt. It was a good thing, because afterward the wax paper was a bit sticky when I ripped it off.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

  1. WHAT A RELIEF – first 6 weeks 13 Replies
  2. WHAT A RELIEF installation 9 Replies
  3. Mossy Glen: Part 8 – wee folk 6 Replies
  4. Mossy Glen: Part 7 – Violets and Berries 1 Reply
  5. Mossy Glen: Part 6 – stitched leaves 3 Replies
  6. Mossy Glen – part 5: Leaves 4 Replies
  7. Mossy Glen – part 4: forsythia 12 Replies
  8. Mossy Glen: Part 3 – stone walls 9 Replies
  9. Mossy Glen: Part 2 – Cherry Trees 10 Replies