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

WHAT A RELIEF installation

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that my artwork runs the gamut from precious to poignant to provocative, making it hard to categorize. One thing is for certain, I love creating and sharing my vision with you, whether on social media, in books or in person! This summer, from now until Sept. 11th, there’s an opportunity to see over 150 of my bas-relief pieces and sculptural objects at the Brick Store Museum in the quintessential New England town of Kennebunk, Maine.

WHAT A RELIEF at the Brick Store Museum

The retrospective exhibition, WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor contains a large selection of my life’s work, showing everything from a folksy fairy world to full-frontal nudity (in the Garden of Eden). The exhibition spans over 40 years, from early in my career to the present day. Rarely seen works on loan from private collections fill multiple galleries on the Museum’s entire first floor. The show is laid out somewhat chronologically, so visitors can see the evolution of my style and techniques through the years..

Brick Store Museum block, Kennebunk, Maine

So what’s my connection to the Brick Store Museum? In 2019, my recent topical pieces, including Displaced and the animated film, Liberty and Justice were included in their exhibit “The Art of Cute”. The show, which was curated by the Illustration Institute, included a broad spectrum of art and products that could be considered “cute”, from endearing to edgy. My topical and political work were part of the Meta cute or “beyond” cute category. The museum received such rave reviews about my work that we immediately started planning a larger solo exhibit and here we are!

The Art of Cute at the Brick Store Museum in 2019

Curating a show of this size takes a lot of time and preparation. In addition to figuring out what to include, I’ve spent the past couple of years studying the museum’s floor plan and visualizing how my work could be organized in the galleries.

Since it is a retrospective exhibition, I needed to track down people who’d purchased my work decades ago. My records are spotty, so I don’t know where everything ended up, but I was able to contact several owners who live within a reasonable driving distance who were willing to loan their pictures for the duration of the exhibit. So, in the early spring, I personally picked up artwork from various locations around New England. It was wonderful to meet some owners for the first time and hear how much they’ve enjoyed living with the pieces for 25 to 40 years! After bringing them back home, I removed the artwork from their frames and cleaned the glass, as well as took digital photos. Keeping them protected under UV glass for all these years really made a difference because they were in excellent condition inside.

In addition to early work on loan, the exhibition includes more recent pieces that I’ve purposely not offered for sale, so that they are available to exhibit. One consequence of all this laborious hand stitching, is that it takes forever to accumulate enough work to have a solo show. For instance, I completed just 3 pieces in the past year and a half (Frosty Morning, Mossy Glen and Harvest Time), even though I spent every spare moment working on them. At this stage of my career, I feel that the value of my work lies in its ability to be shared publicly. So that means I’ll be holding onto my recent work for the time being. See a schedule of current and upcoming exhibitions here.

Two weeks ago, Rob and I stuffed a UHaul cargo van with crates and boxes filled with artwork and drove up to Maine to deliver everything to the Museum. We spent a few days helping the staff set up the show, which you can see in photos and videos further ahead in this post. We left before the installation was fully completed, so we’ll take more pictures when we go back for the opening event on June 25th.

WHAT A RELIEF: The Art of Salley Mavor
Brick Store Museum
117 Main St., Kennebunk, Maine
June 7th thru Sept. 11th
Meet the Artist on June 25th, 1 to 3 PM

Once the artwork was unpacked, the museum staff got to work installing the show. Here’s Leanne Hayden, the collections and exhibition manager hanging Noah’s Ark and a group of ornaments over the mantelpiece in the first gallery. I made the ornaments about 10 years ago for the Family Trees event at the Concord Museum.

One wall in the center gallery features enlarged photographs of women from my piece, Cover Up. Their faces are blown up to about 12 times the size of the 1″ wooden bead doll heads. I like playing with scale, taking something tiny and making it huge. They certainly demand your attention when you walk into the room.

Cynthia Walker, the museum’s executive director, skillfully hung the prints on the wall with sticky Command strips.

I was so impressed by how quickly everything went up. While I set up sculptural items in display cases, Cynthia and Leanne measured and hung the framed pieces.

Props and characters from the animated film Liberty and Justice.

In this video, I bring you around the room, pointing out what’s on display.

With her baby and dog looking on, Cynthia hung Bedtime Stitches. How impressive is that?

The Bedtime Stitches portion of the exhibit has been touring for the past 2 years and is scheduled at other locations around the US through 2024.

Video tour of Bedtime Stitches

It’s wonderful to hear that the exhibition is already attracting many visitors from near and far. I look forward to meeting some of you at the opening event on Sat., June 25th from 1 to 3 PM. And for those of you from very far away, we’ll take more photos and share them!

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. Mossy Glen: Part 8 – wee folk 5 Replies
  2. Mossy Glen: Part 7 – Violets and Berries Leave a reply
  3. Mossy Glen: Part 6 – stitched leaves 3 Replies
  4. Mossy Glen – part 5: Leaves 4 Replies
  5. Mossy Glen – part 4: forsythia 12 Replies
  6. Mossy Glen: Part 3 – stone walls 9 Replies
  7. Mossy Glen: Part 2 – Cherry Trees 10 Replies
  8. Bedtime Stitches opens in Lincoln, NE and other news 4 Replies
  9. Mossy Glen: Part 1 (moss) 10 Replies