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 patterns. To 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.
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