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

Wedding Banner: Katherine & Basil

We had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a family friend earlier this month in Boston. As with many couples during these Covid times, Basil and Katherine had to postpone their wedding by a year. It was a lovely event and we felt happy to be a part of their special day and to see old friends. For the past decade or so, I’ve been making personalized wedding banners as gifts. They combine two of my favorite things, hand embroidery and handwriting. You can see this and other banners by scrolling through the archives here.

This post includes three Stitch Minute videos, which give closeup views of my process in action. The idea of making a series of short snippets of different aspects of my working methods came about when I saw the overwhelming response to a simple cell phone video of me stitching French knots that I posted on Facebook and Instagram. Since then, Rob and I have set up a filming studio in the basement, where we can control the lighting and camera positioning. Everything is ready to go, so it’s easy to bring whatever I’m working on in my studio into the basement and film a little bit. Of course, Rob has to be available, so I work around his schedule. In sharing these videos, my aim isn’t to instruct, but to inspire, by offering a glimpse over my shoulder. 

Whenever I begin a project like this, I choose a color scheme and pick out materials that I might use.

I wrote Katherine and Basil’s names in cursive handwriting on paper and using that as a template, I made a 3-dimensional copy with memory thread.

In this video, you can see how I wrapped embroidery floss around memory thread and formed cursive letters..

Then I cut out a felt background with my customary wavy edge; I tend to resist straight sides and sharp angles.

After choosing 2 shades of green embroidery floss to contrast with the red letters and lavender felt background, I blanket stitched around the outside edge and slits.

You can watch a minute’s worth of blanket stitching in this video.

Then I pinned and sewed the letters to the felt background.

Throughout the process, I brought out various threads, beads and doodads, to see what to include in the design. Not everything ended up in the finished piece and through a process of elimination, many potentially interesting items were put aside.

For this banner, I settled on a heart shaped vine for the featured decoration, which incorporated glass leaf beads and tiny seed beads.

Watch this video to get a close up view of making the wire vine.

Next, I wrote out their wedding date in blue letters and numbers and made a separate contrasting background.

I blanket stitched all around the outside edge of the blue banner with variegated pima cotton (Watercolours by Caron). Then I sewed the different pieces onto the banner and added dangling shells to the 3 bottom flaps.

I looked through my driftwood collection and found the right sized stick that would work as a hanging bar.

I drilled holes to thread beads through.

Then I attached a leather strap to hang the banner from.

Congratulations on your wedding Katherine and Basil. We are so happy for you!

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be 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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