Introverts have the advantage

from “Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures”

In this time of physical social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, introverts have the advantage, plain and simple. Putting aside the widespread disruption, financial hardship and increased anxiety, being told to stay home hasn’t required much of an adjustment for many of us who are already quiet, introspective, and enjoy the pleasures of domestic life.

I suspect that many of you who follow this blog have those traits, too. Further ahead in the post, I share my own story about living as an introvert in Confessions of a Homebody.

from “You and Me: Poems of Friendship”

Introverts are not all the same, but the general thought is that they are prone to exhaustion from too much social engagement, whereas extroverts are energized by being around people. So, for some, the stay at home order can seem like a reprieve from all the hubbub, while others feel as if they’re being sent to their room for punishment. No matter your personality type, we are all confronted by the seriousness of the virus, both individually and collectively. These dire circumstances are forcing everyone to face themselves and reflect on what they value most in life. And during this time when we may not like staying home for weeks on end, I think about the wisdom of this saying, “The place to be is where you are.”

Penikese Island, Massachusetts

I think that artists and introverts in general will get through this period of home confinement better than some, because they have an independent streak and already choose to spend time alone. Personally, I would not be able to make art if I had to be around people most of the day. Even for someone like me, who is cloistered in her studio 7 days a week, the idea of everyone staying at home all the time seems eerily unnatural, like we’re living in a dystopian novel. It takes all kinds to make the world go round and many people who thrive on social interaction are struggling as they try to navigate through this extraordinary time.

I marvel at the human capacity to adapt and innovate within a set of constraints, to get what they need. And if there ever was a time for creative problem solving, this is it. A person can’t really change their personality, but they can strive for a balance between people time and alone time. Just like I’ve had to push myself to engage socially, I hope that more extroverted people will take this opportunity to stretch themselves in the other direction and exercise their independent and contemplative side. However you look at it, people are looking at themselves, reflecting on their lives, and thinking about what’s important. The question is, can we all learn something from this experience that will benefit ourselves and society?

Confessions of a Homebody
I grew up in a family of introverts — mother, father and 3 kids. You could say that we excelled at parallel play. Just look at this photo of me with my siblings – we are either engrossed in art projects or staring into space, not looking at each other or talking. We were all creative, with rich interior lives. Our family connected with each other and our wider community through art, music and dance. It wasn’t until later, when I married a more socially balanced person and we had children of our own, an extrovert and an introvert, that I realized family life could be anything different. From a young age, I have grappled with how to interact with the world outside of home in a way that didn’t become overwhelming. Being a classic introvert, there was only so much socializing that I could take, before melting into a puddle. The length of a school day was about my limit. I enjoyed school and my friends, but enough was enough. After the Woods Hole School let out, I’d carry my empty Flintstones lunchbox, along the path through the woods to home, where I could recharge for the next day. I remember being horrified when a friend of my parents described living in a Kibbutz where the children were raised communally, all together all the time. For me, living in such an environment would have been exhausting, but for my more outgoing son, it would have been heaven.

Woods Hole School 1965 – Salley in middle row, 2nd in from the right

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, a friend called after school to ask if I wanted to come over and play. I remember fingering the cord of the 60’s wall phone in the kitchen and telling her that I couldn’t because I was grounded. I’d heard about other kids getting grounded, so I must have thought it sounded plausible, as well as a good excuse to stay home. I’m sure that I lied other times to get out of things, but I remember this conversation, because the idea of a goody good like me doing anything that would warrant being grounded was preposterous. It just shows how desperate and awkward people can be when they pretend to be something they’re not, just because they don’t want to look like a weirdo.

Self-Portrait detail, 2007

Over the years, I’ve built up a tolerance for social gatherings and can even pass at being moderately gregarious, but there is a limit to how long I can keep it up. My husband Rob knows “the look” when it’s time to leave, before I do the grownup version of melting into a puddle. I’ve come to understand my needs and have learned to communicate them better. And in doing that, I’ve found out that there are an awful lot of other introverts out there!

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DIY Cloth Face Mask Video

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been recommended that the general public wear face masks when venturing out of home isolation to hunt for groceries or medicine. And because of the shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment), surgical face masks need to be saved for medical workers.

So, to fill the gap, a brigade of sewers across the country are making cloth face masks. Of course, they are not as effective as the surgical masks, but they are better than nothing.

The internet is full of patterns and suggestions for how to make them and there’s a lot of discussion about what kind of fabric and how many layers to use. This article from the New York Times, What’s the Best Material for a Mask? is very helpful. It cites a study that compares the effectiveness of various combinations of materials, including both air filters and fabric.

Salley in her studio connecting via telephone, while filming the DIY cloth mask video.

I’ve made some cotton masks using a simple straightforward pattern from the New York Times, which you can link to here. My husband Rob and I put together a DIY video based on this design, which you can watch below. Besides a sewing machine, you’ll need tightly woven cotton, cotton flannel (or another filter) and 1/4″ wide elastic to hold it on around your ears, although ties made of grosgrain ribbon or flat shoe laces will work, too. And a pipe cleaner, if you want to make a nose bridge.

Salley Mavor shows how to make a cloth face mask.

There’s also a big discussion about the best way to wash cloth masks. These are some ideas; wash in bleach water (not if there’s elastic), boil in soapy water, press with a steam iron or zap it in the microwave (not if there’s elastic or a wire nose bridge) for 2-3 minutes.

I’m limited by the amount of elastic I have, but I’ve made enough masks for my family and friends. Here I am delivering masks to my friend’s mailbox, which is hidden in an overgrown wall. And, no, that is not their house pictured in the background. Stay safe everyone!

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This little piggy stayed home

We’re all homebodies now, like this little piggy, as we try to keep the corona-virus from spreading even further than it already has. In searching for comforting images to share during these unsettling times, I noticed that there are an awful lot of scenes with characters in domestic settings in my picture book, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. In many cases, the people and animals are safe inside, peering out of windows, which seems to reflect our collective experience right now. So, as you shelter in place, please take a moment to escape into this warm and fuzzy world, where everything is all stitched up, safe and sound.

This coming fall, it will be 10 years since Pocketful of Posies was published. The book is a favorite baby gift, but it’s really for all ages, especially now, when we all want to feel safe and secure. Personally autographed copies are available in my shop 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.

a virus-free wee world


Are you wondering what to do while you’re hunkered down at home, staying away from crowds?  I must admit that the concept of “social distancing” isn’t very different from my normal life, so it’s not much of an adjustment. But, I realize that closed schools and work places, as well as travel and event cancellations, is a hardship for many of you. So, to help keep your mind off the worrisome situation, how about immersing yourself in the virus-free fairy and wee folk world? In this post you will find a source list of materials to make projects from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. There are also lots of photos and videos that I hope will inspire you to make your own wee world!

When I posted this idea on Instagram, several people, including a self-described introvert, commented that they were already in making mode:

  • “‘I adore your wee felt folk book and actually hunkered down yesterday and made a little jester. I’ve decided to make more to give to friends during this crazy time💕
  • ‘What a lovely idea! I admit, I’m more worried about craft supplies than toilet paper.”
  • “Introvert here reporting from a cozy studio! I secretly love a good excuse to stay in. I’ve got your book and will be making some fairies while we bunker down!!” 

Many of the supplies needed to make the dolls, such as embroidery floss, paint, brushes, unvarnished wood beads, pipe cleaners and faux flowers can be found at craft stores. Online sources for the book, wool felt, acorn caps, and other materials are listed below:

Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures, with bonus playing cards and flower skirts & wings

I’m keeping my Etsy shop stocked with wool fleece fairy hair and flower skirts & wings.

The dolls and their clothing are portable, so you can bring them where ever you want to settle in.

This is my work table on a random day, the way it really looks.

My Work Table on a random day

I made the Frost Family for a benefit raffle a few years ago. See more details here.

This is a little experimental video from a few years ago.

Of course, all of the dolls pictured in this post were made years ago and the raffles are long past. I just wanted to show you a variety of possibilities.

The Oakley Family was made for another benefit raffle. See the process of making them here.

And yet another fairy family raffle, which you see in more detail here.

I hope that the wee folk help keep your spirits up through this ordeal. Please stay safe!

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bed book peek – cow

Today, I’m happy to show how I made this cow, which will be used as a spot illustration in my upcoming picture book, MY BED. The story is about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world. It’s written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Sept. 2020. Autographed copies can be pre-ordered in my shop here. A touring exhibition of my original embroidered artwork for the book, Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches, will travel around the United States beginning in Nov. 2020. See the updated tour schedule here.

Each country or region represented in the book has an animal icon that appears on the text panel adjacent to the full illustration. The cow shows up next to the Scandinavian scene, which I’ve written about here.

To see the other animals from the book that I’ve written about so far, please click on the following links.
Animals (spot illustrations) – Rooster, Camel, Parrot, Elephant, Goldfish, Cat, Duck, Sheep, Rabbit

I’ve enjoyed making cows over the years, including the one below, which is from the 2005 board book, Hey, Diddle, Diddle! (Sorry, it’s out of print) Cows are fun to depict because they are so distinct from other animals.

Close Up from “Hey, Diddle, Diddle!” 2005 board book

To begin, I drew sketches that exaggerated the cow’s squarish head, outspread ears, big eyes and prominent nostrils.

As always, I wrapped the legs first, leaving enough extra pipe cleaner to shape the body.

It’s been a while since I made this, so I can’t remember how I attached the felt body. From the looks of it, I first added a thread wrapped wire tail and then stitched pieces of felt to the front and back of the pipe cleaner form.

Then, I made a little pink felt udder with seed bead teats.

For the cow’s face, I embroidered a nose and sewed on bead nostrils.

To make the eyes more prominent, I outlined them in white.

The ears are felt, edged with blanket stitch and wire.

After sewing the ears in place, I looped Silk/Merino wool thread on the top of her head.

The first cow collar I made was embroidered with pretty flowers, but I had to change it to a plainer version because decorations like that are a Swiss specialty and not Scandinavian.

Before (above) and After (below).

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Greta cards are here!

Two weeks ago, I announced my new project featuring climate change activist Greta Thunberg, which you can see here. Since then, I’ve heard from many of you who would like to purchase cards with the wee folk version of Greta and her quote. I am happy to say that note cards, postcards and prints are now available in my shop. Profits from sales will go to support climate science research at the Woods Hole Research Center.
Set of 4 Note Cards – $10.00 – Buy here.
Set of 10 Postcards – $10.00 – Buy here.
8.5″ x 11″ Archival Print – $15.00 – Buy here.

Thank you for purchasing prints and cards! With your help, we can bring more awareness to this important issue. If you live in the local Falmouth, MA area and want to avoid having the cards and prints sent in the mail, please contact me via e-mail so we can arrange a pick up time.

Greta is looking at you.

If you missed the post about making the Greta doll, please check it out here.

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.

to teach or not to teach

Quite often, I am asked to teach how I make things. Requests for classes, tutorials, patterns and directions from groups and individuals who are eager to learn my methods regularly fill my email box. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask such questions and I’m happy that people are interested in learning new ways of working. But for me, these inquiries only remind me of how much I operate outside of the mainstream, in a different needle and thread universe. In this post, which is a rewrite of a story published 5 years ago, I will do my best to explain my approach to making art and my personal philosophy about sharing knowledge.

Stitching foliage in the S. America scene.

There’s a strong needlework tradition of teaching and learning through imitation, with instructions and patterns aplenty. It used to be that women passed down their knowledge to the next generation in the family. Today, a vast needle-craft industry is built around a technique driven culture of copying, with businesses supplying materials, equipment, tools, patterns and kits for embroiderers, knitters and quilters of all kinds. It’s a challenge to find my place within this culture because that’s not how I came to do what I do. I learned how to embroider from diagrams in a simple booklet I bought at the Needlewoman Shop in London in 1978. And I only use half a dozen basic stitches in my work. Everything else I taught myself through experimentation and lots and lots of practice.

I realize that people need a place to start and they derive great satisfaction from being guided through the process. That is why I used to make kits and wrote Felt Wee Folk., a how-to book about making dolls. My goal is to show the basic framework, with a variety of possibilities, so that the reader can gain the confidence to add more personal touches and create something that is uniquely their own. Through the book, I share my techniques for making the dolls, which I see as a much-needed opening for people to play and express themselves.

With needlework, the distinction between art and craft is particularly fuzzy (no pun intended). That subject will still be discussed and debated long after I’ve threaded my last needle. For me, it points to the question of when to tell how and when not to. I am not worried about individuals copying my techniques, I just don’t want to spend my time and energy telling how I do it — time and energy that would otherwise go toward artistic growth. I find reviewing and explaining in detail the process of making something I’ve lived and struggled with for months like sliding backward into the muck, hindering any movement forward.

But, where does the artist who creates original work with needle and thread fit into the imitation model ingrained in and perpetuated by the needle-craft industry? In order to explore new concepts and ideas, I have found it necessary to educate the public and protect myself from misconceptions about my work. For instance, people frequently ask if I have a pattern to make Birds of Beebe Woods. Others want directions for making the illustrations from Pocketful of Posies. The idea of providing patterns for my fabric relief pieces has me totally baffled. I think that artists working in other mediums would be equally taken aback if asked for patterns and instructions.

My children’s book illustrations and stand-alone pieces are much more involved and complicated than what I teach in Felt Wee Folk. Through 40 years of experimentation, I have devised methods of working that I consider proprietary knowledge. For instance, the way I make hands with little fingers is too linked to my personal artistic expression to show how in detail. I don’t want to upset the creative process by constantly organizing the steps in my mind and thinking in terms of explaining it to another. That would hold me back and limit the possibilities. I think the act of creating something new shouldn’t be overly dissected, else it lose its magic.

Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe from “Pocketful of Posies”

Even though conventional needlework businesses don’t completely mesh with what I do, I am a part of it because I’ve authored a how-to book which is marketed within this world. But other than that, I operate independently, outside of the mainstream. That is not surprising, since my work is generally an anomaly in any group I’m lumped into; embroidery, stumpwork, dolls, art quilts, miniatures, fiber art, children books, etc. The narrative and decorative style of my fabric relief pieces doesn’t really fit into the abstract, conceptual contemporary fiber art scene. I suppose that writing Felt Wee Folk opened me up to being categorized as a teacher of doll making techniques. And since delving into political satire with the Wee Folk Players, my work is proving to be even harder to classify!

Props and characters from “Liberty and Justice” animation

I identify myself as an artist first and foremost. To me, it doesn’t matter what medium or materials you use for your work to be considered art. Not today, in an art world that recognizes all manner of expressions. Not in this age of the internet, where individuals can build careers and gain followers, despite the hierarchy of the art establishment and opinions of curators and critics.  I don’t want to be the kind of “serious” artist who, in an effort to have their work recognized as legitimate, dissociates themselves from the world of hobby needlework. There is too much real humanity and power in stitched objects that are labored over so lovingly.

As an artist, I draw the line on what parts of my process to share and what parts I want to remain a mystery, even to myself. People wonder how I can give away “all of my secrets”, but I don’t look at it that way. In Felt Wee Folk, I’ve simplified some doll making techniques to a point where I can teach them step by step. Nonetheless, I won’t be writing any more how-to books or teaching classes. But, I will share projects in progress, thoughts, inspirations, travels, and give glimpses behind the scene. My sketchbook is brimming with ideas and I intend to devote as much time as I can to making new work.

This blog is full of photos that show the development of projects. What is shown and what is not usually depends on how engrossed I am and if I can remember to take pictures. Sometimes I take photos of different stages of making a piece, but that just skims the surface and may be perceived is a tease of sorts. I see it as documentation, not as a tutorial, which takes a different, more systematic approach

So, the simple explanation is that I show what I’m willing to share and don’t show what I’m not. I will continue to offer glimpses into my world through the wonders of social media and I hope you come along on these adventure!

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.

the Greta effect


Ever since learning about Greta Thunberg, the 17 year-old Swedish environmental activist, I’ve wanted to make a wee folk version of her. But, the idea of making such an inspiring public figure into just a cute little doll with braids didn’t seem like enough to do her justice. Greta symbolizes the upcoming generation who will experience climate change much more profoundly than people my age and they must be heard. I kept thinking that the real Greta would not like being turned into a passive fetish object, without her strong message and a call to action. So, I figured out a way to both depict her likeness and quote her, while also supporting the issues she is calling attention to.

After making the Greta doll, I set out to photograph her outside in a natural setting. The aim was to take a photo that would have room to incorporate one of her famous quotes. So, on a recent beautiful day, Rob and I went around the corner to Woodneck Beach. The conditions were perfect! The low tide created an interesting landscape and the late afternoon sun gave off the kind of warm glow that photographers can only wish for. The result was the image below, which we are making into prints to sell as a fundraiser for climate science research.

8.5″ x 11″ archival print for sale to benefit climate research

The image of Greta Thunberg with her quote is available for sale in my shop HERE. All profits will go to the Woods Hole Research Center, a leading source of climate science that drives the urgent action needed to solve climate change.
Set of 4 Note Cards – $10.00 – Buy here.
Set of 10 Postcards – $10.00 – Buy here.
8.5″ x 11″ Archival Print – $15.00 – Buy here.

Woods Hole Research Center is an organization of renowned researchers who work with a worldwide network of partners to understand and combat climate change. They have been focused on climate change since it first emerged as a pubic policy issue 35 years ago. Headquartered in Falmouth, MA, they currently work in more than twenty countries around the globe – from the Amazon to the Arctic. World-class science is the foundation of everything they do. They share their learning with scientific colleagues, lawmakers, private sector leaders, and the public in order to turn knowledge into far-reaching action. For more information, visit

The Greta Effect Animation
During the process of making the Greta doll, the partially made pipe cleaner body sat on my work table, looking at me in an intense way. I thought, we have to film her doing just that! So, Rob and I made this short animated film, “The Greta Effect”.

The following photos show the process of making the Greta doll and the video:

To paint a likeness on the round wooden bead, I referred to photos of Greta. In this small scale, I was limited to a few brush strokes to make her face recognizable.


With the exception of a few added details, the Greta doll is made with the same basic techniques that are taught in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.
After painting the face, I glued a felt wig to the bead head and let it dry. Then, I stitched embroidery floss hair to the felt, which provided something for the needle to grab onto. It was fun to make her tell-tale braids.


This photo gives you an idea of how her hands were made.


Partway through the process, we filmed the Greta doll sitting on my work table, turning her head to look straight out at the viewer, as if to say, “I’m looking at you!”.


It took 2 tries to do the animation because I messed up the first attempt by kicking the tripod. We started over the next day.


Even though the scene is only 11 seconds long, it took all day to animate. In addition to my turning the doll’s head incrementally, Rob manually rotated the camera and moved it along the slider, one frame at a time (24 frames per second). It brought back memories of our year in the basement, filming Liberty and Justice.


Then it was time to make her clothing. I made her pants and shoes and…


a zippered anorak out of pink felt….


sewing it in place, so that it’s never coming off!


Who knows if the real Greta will ever see this, but if she does, I hope that she approves of using her image and quote to support climate science research. Again, prints and not cards may be purchased in my shop HERE. If you live in the local Falmouth, MA area and want to avoid having the print sent in the mail, please contact me via e-mail so we can arrange a pick up time.


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lace bombing

It being near the end of my retrospective exhibition “Once Upon a Stitch” at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, I thought I’d squeeze in a post about how I “lace bombed” a pole in the gallery with doilies and other lacy items from my stash.
Carloads of visitors have been flocking to see the show before its last day on Sunday, Jan. 26th. If you’re thinking of making the trip, please note that the museum is open Thursday 10 am – 7 pm, Friday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm, Sunday 12 noon – 4 pm. 

When I first checked out the gallery and saw the plain white column in the middle of the room, I thought,”How unfortunate, but maybe this is an opportunity waiting to happen.” To me, displaying artwork and decorating a space for an exhibition is like a piece of art in itself. On the drive home, I came up with the idea of covering the pole with lace and doilies in the spirit of yarn bombing.

My collection of lace and linen was passed down in the family or was given to me by people who were trying to find homes for their relative’s stuff. As the pile grows, I keep thinking that I’ll use some of it my artwork, but lace rarely matches my vision. The exception is a doily that I dyed green for the “Ring Around the Rosie” illustration in Pocketful of Posies.

Doily used in a illustration from Pocketful of Posies

After finding out the pole’s height and circumference, I unpacked my stash of doilies, lace and antimacassars, and laid them out on my work table.

This project didn’t require any fussy hand-stitching, so I dusted off my sewing machine and plugged it in. I pinned together rows of doilies and sewed the overlapping edges with the zig-zag stitch.

I wanted the covering to be one piece that could be easily installed. A large piece of green felt left over from my fairy kit days seemed like a good background fabric, with just enough contrast to show off the delicate lace patterns. Then I pinned the rows of doilies and lace to the felt and sewed them in place. Since I don’t use a sewing machine very often, it was fun to push the peddle and go!

When it came time to install the exhibition in the gallery, I wrapped the column with the felt and lace cover and pinned it in place. Then I finished it of with a simple whip stitch along the seam, which was the only hand stitching on the whole project. I even remembered to bring my trusty thimble, which I feel naked without!

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scavenger hunt

The scavenger hunt at my retrospective exhibition of original picture book art at the Cape Cod Museum of Art has been a hit! Not just with kids, but with all ages. Searching for the details is a fun way to engage with the artwork and helps you see things you might not otherwise notice.

I got the idea from my friend Deb Coulombe, who 10 years ago, put together cards for school groups who came to see the touring exhibition of original art from Pocketful of Posies. With the hunt, the kids experienced my artwork in a playful way that enhanced their museum experience.

So, I took the scavenger hunt concept and brought it to “Salley Mavor: Once Upon a Stitch”, which will be on display for only one more week, until Sunday, Jan. 26th. People are coming from far and wide to see the show, driving and even flying in from out of state. If you’re thinking of making the trip, please note that the Cape Cod Museum of Art is open Thursday 10 am – 7 pm, Friday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm, Sunday 12 noon – 4 pm. 

Rob and I spent last fall photographing closeup images of the artwork to use in the scavenger hunt. Because my pieces are sculptural, its a challenge to take pictures that bring out the detail and 3-dimensional quality of the real thing. We’ve tried different approaches, sometimes using a light box (above) to diffuse the light and soften the shadows. I’m constantly getting in the way, fussing and tweaking, which drives Rob crazy!

Rob printed the images on good quality paper on his super duper Epson printer and I cut them up. Even though they’re all square, it reminded me of playing with paper dolls.

Then I divided them up into groups of 4 that I knew would keep people moving around the gallery, like an aerobic activity.

Anyone can play the game and choose from about 20 different laminated cards in the gallery.

You can also do the scavenger hunt at home by searching for the following images in my books. Each group of 4 that you see below is labeled with a list of books where you can find the images. Have fun!

Details from “Pocketful of Posies”
Details from “Hey, Diddle, Diddle!”, Pocketful of Posies and “In the Heart”
Details from Pocketful of Posies”, “The Way Home”, “Hey, Diddle, Diddle!” and “Wee Willie Winkie”
Details from “Pocketful of Posies, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, You and Me” and “Come to My Party”
Details from Pocketful of Posies” and You and Me”
Details from “Pocketful of Posies” and “Jack and Jill”

SALLEY MAVOR: Once Upon a Stitch
Dec. 12, 2019 – Jan. 26, 2020

Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA
Winter hours: Thursday 10am – 7pm,
Friday – Saturday 10 – 4, Sunday 12 – 4

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.