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 this, I made free standing dolls that were photographed in 3-dimensional scenes. In an effort to have my work recognized as art, I decided to convert to a relief format which is displayed under glass, in shadow-box frames. The Way Home, the first of my 10 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 started making pieces that include political satire? 
I am not by nature a political person, but I believe that speaking out 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. The shop also sells supplies, such as faux flower petals for fairy skirts and wool fleece fairy hair. Once or twice a year, I make and sell Ltd. Edition Fairies, announcing their availability on Instagram, Facebook and this blog.  

Do you sell your original fabric reliefs?
Some fabric relief pieces, including original illustrations are for sale. I usually handle sales myself and am not represented by a gallery. Prices range from $2,500. to $6,500. Please contact me if you would like a current list of available artwork. I do not make commissioned artwork. My recent larger pieces are not for sale at this time, so that they can be exhibited and enjoyed by many. Exhibits 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, organizing exhibits and traveling. 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 artistic privacy, please read my post about when to tell how and when not to.

Do you give lectures about your work?
Yes, I enjoy speaking to groups of adults and have given presentations to quilt and embroidery guilds as well as the general public. My illustrated lecture shows the development of my work from early on until the present day, touching on my process and philosophical approach to making art. Please contact me if you would like more information about my fee and availability.

How long does it take to make a fabric relief piece?
It takes about a month to sew 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 piece and not reused multiple times. I spent 3 years making the illustrations for my most recent picture book, Pocketful of Posies. 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, including the evenings. My husband 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 sometimes even pay attention to my husband. I like to stay home, working in my studio so much that the idea of “house arrest” doesn’t seem like a punishment to me. 

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 recently began offering 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?
After saying for years that I will not write another how-to book, I have learned to “never say never”. 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 yet-to-be converts, who are just beginning to learn how to wrap pipe-cleaner limbs. The book, titled Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures: 120 Enchanting Dolls was released by C&T Publishing. Copies ordered from my Etsy Shop have extra goodies; autograph, faux flowers to make 2 fairies and a note card. The original edition, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects (including bonus fairy skirts and wings) will continue to be available from my Etsy ShopUpdate: To read my thoughts about artistic privacy, go to this blog post, When to tell how and when not to.

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 one-of-a-kind dolls. Every once in a while, I offer a Ltd. Edition of 25 dolls in my Etsy Shop.

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. 

Will you exhibit your work in my area?
Viewing my embroidered pieces is a completely different experience than seeing them 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 or art center to show my work. I am currently setting up a touring exhibit of the original illustrations from my upcoming book, My Bed:  Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World (HoughtonMifflin. The exhibition is booked in 4 museums, with availability beginning in Jan. 2022. Interested museums with funding for shipping the framed artwork to and from Massachusetts are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. 

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

shifting focus

This past summer, I emerged from an intense 3 year stitching marathon just in time to put in a garden. The plot had laid fallow for a few years, while I grew art instead. I was so happy to dig in the dirt again! Maybe it was good to rest the soil for a while because I don’t remember it producing such a generous bounty before!

I also made the switch from total making mode to marketing mode, where I let the world know that my art exists. This internal/external dynamic isn’t new for me and I actually like both parts, but I find that it requires a major shift in mindset. Sure, I can write blog posts periodically and fill orders from my Etsy Shop while also being immersed in creating artwork, but some “public relations” tasks use a different part of my brain and call for all of my attention. And my approach is careful and methodical, just like my stitching, so it takes a lot of time and effort!

Making art is so much easier than writing about it, so I have to set aside time to concentrate on giving interviews, setting up future exhibitions and generally promoting my work. I try to think of these activities as creative undertakings, too. They can be crafted and honed into something that reflects who I am and what I think. It just feels more like work than making art does. Here are a couple of results:

  • Interview with Create Whimsy, which you can see here. I describe my journey as an artist and share thoughts about the challenges of making art in the face of long standing attitudes that needlework is just a woman’s hobby, with lots of accompanying photos.
  • Guest writer on C&T Publishing‘s blog, which you can see here. In addition to announcing C&T’s new Felt Wee Folk playing cards, I introduce my traveling companion, Polly Doll to a whole different audience.

I’ve mainly concentrated on writing and sending out proposals for the upcoming touring exhibition, Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stories, which will be shown in museums around the country for several years. The exhibition will be a unique opportunity to see the detail and 3-dimensional quality of the original sculptural embroideries from my next picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World (Houghton Mifflin, Sept. 2020). To find out more about the exhibition and to see the schedule, visit this page. New locations will be added as they are confirmed.

The switch from one mindset to the other didn’t happen all at once. Between the Bed Book project and the escapades of the Wee Folk Players, I’ve been in making mode for more than 3 years straight. When the book’s illustrations were delivered to the publisher, I started the transition by paying more attention to my husband Rob and cleaning my studio.

Besides putting all the materials away in boxes and baskets, I completely cleared my nature and ephemera table, dusting and washing each object before returning it to it’s place among the other treasures. I took some delight in thinking of how horrified Maria Kondo would be by my cluttered aesthetic sense! I know that she says, “Keep what gives you joy.”, but it all gives me joy!

I also reorganized some things I made long ago – these pins, for example. You can read their story here.

The other day, this 40 year old cat pin was spied out in public. I didn’t keep many of these, so it’s nice to capture them in photos whenever possible.

I’ve also had time to meet other artists like Jodi Colella, who was in the area for her exhibition at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA, which is on display until Oct. 31, 2019. Jodi is an innovative mixed media artist who uses many different methods and materials in her work. Her beautifully evocative Unidentified Woman series is part of the 3 person show, Look This Way. She uses a process where she crops and enlarges old tintype photographs, then prints them on aluminum and embellishes with needle and thread. We had a great time chatting in my studio about making art with a clear vision that pushes the boundaries of needlework. We could have talked for a long time and I hope that we can get together in the future!

Soon, I will get back into making mode, threading my needle and diving into a new project. I’m not exactly sure what it will be, but several ideas are swirling around in my head.

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

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