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 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 started making 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, including faux flower petals for fairy skirts and wool fleece fairy hair.   

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 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, 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 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 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  (C&T Publishing). Copies ordered from my Etsy Shop have extra goodies; autograph, faux flowers to make 2 fairies and a note card. 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. 

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 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 7 museums, with available slots in 2023. Interested museums with funding for shipping the framed artwork to and from Massachusetts are welcome to contact me 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

Frosty Morning – part 6 (wee folk)

This 6th and final part in the Frosty Morning series is about making the wee folk characters who live in the winter landscape. All of the other stuff, the trees, the icy snow cover and the sparkling sky are just meant to set the stage for the little people to frolic in. While I worked on this piece, I thought about what the wee folk would look like and what they would be doing. Adding a narrative element with human (or animal) faces helps me fall in love with what I’m making. The scenery may be lovely, but without play actors, there is no story. And without that, what’s the point?

This year, I’m working on a group of seasonal landscapes that capture the wonder and magic of the natural world, both real and imagined. Frosty Morning is the first completed scene in the series. Note cards are available in my Etsy Shop. 

You can follow the progress of the other 3 seasons on Facebook and Instagram.

The full figures are about 2″ tall, with smaller ones peeking out of the holes in the shelters. To make them, I used the same basic techniques that I teach in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk, with some adjustments in the armature material and clothing.

I used wool tapestry yarn or mending wool to stitch and wrap their winter clothing. Whenever I share photos showing dolls wearing sweaters, people actually think I knit them! For something this small it’s much easier to create the allusion of knitting with rows of chain stitches. For other examples of faux knitted outfits, see Polly Doll‘s Irish knit sweater here and her Fair Isle vest here.

When making people, I always start by painting their faces on wooden beads. Then, after meeting them, I feel motivated to bring them to life.

I’ve been saving some really small acorn caps for just this kind of project.

Instead of pipe cleaners, which would be too bulky, I formed the body armature out of 24 gauge jewelry wire. The bead heads were glued to the wire neck at the very end, when the clothing was finished. I glued small pieces of felt onto the top of the bead heads, in a kind of Mohawk. Later, when I added yarn hair, the felt gave the threaded needle something to catch onto.

Miraculously, this old mending wool from my collection of deceased relatives’ ephemera escaped being eaten my moths. It was the perfect weight with which to stitch miniature clothing.

In this sequence of photos, you can see how I wrapped and stitched yarn around the wire arms and legs and then made a separate faux knitted coat to go on top. I completed the look with French knot buttons, striped leggings, wool hair, and a glued on acorn cap.

The group of little people grew and grew until there seemed to be the right amount.

The sled is made from a pod I found so long ago that I can’t remember where it came from. An image search identified it as a coming from a Foxglove tree.

With just a few stitches, I sewed the characters in place – pulling the sled, looking out from shelters and climbing along tree branches.

When all of the parts were finished, it was time to mount the piece.

I made a border frame by padding and covering a wooden stretcher with upholstery fabric. I then hand sewed the layered background fabrics to the back of the stretcher, making it as taught as possible. After that, I sewed the different landscape sections to the background surface, starting with the lace snow cover, stone wall and driftwood house and ending with the trees.

To help prop up the tree limbs, I sewed beads to the back and stitched them to the background fabric.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this close look at the process of making Frosty Morning. When the Spring scene is finished, I’ll write about it as well.

Part 1 shows how I made the tree trunks.
Part 2 gives a close look at how I formed and wrapped the wire tree branches. Part 3 is about constructing the rounded shelters.
Part 4 is about making the stone wall and the ice covered bush in front of it.
Part 5 is about adding sparkle to the scene.

Frosty Morning and the other 3 yet-to-be finished pieces in the 4 Seasons series will have their premiere showing in my retrospective exhibition next year.
What a Relief: The Art of Salley Mavor
June 3 – Sept. 11, 2022.
Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, ME

There will be more opportunities to see the 4 Seasons series in 2023. They will be included in the following exhibitions:
Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Stitch
Feb. 18 – June 4, 2023, Upcountry History Museum, Greenville, SC
Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches and Social Fabric
Fall 2023, Southern Vermont Arts Center, Manchester, VT

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

  1. Frosty Morning – part 5 (sparkles) 2 Replies
  2. Frosty Morning: part 4 (stone wall) 10 Replies
  3. Frosty Morning: part 3 (shelters) 2 Replies
  4. Frosty Morning: part 2 (branches) 9 Replies
  5. Frosty Morning: part 1 (trees) 7 Replies
  6. Frosty Morning 11 Replies
  7. Bed book peek: Pony 7 Replies
  8. The Way Home Giveaway 364 Replies
  9. Social Fabric exhibition in Greenville SC 15 Replies