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 patterns. To 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 Shop. Update: 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 5 museums, with availability beginning in June 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.
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