Bed book peek: North America (part 1)

This illustration features a little girl and her doll, tucked in and cozy under a quilt. She’s looking at a book in bed, in her bedroom, someplace in North America. The scene will be included in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book:
Holland, South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussiaNorth Africa and Iran. To see a list of all my books, click here.

I’m steadily making progress on the book, with the intention of meeting the deadline in a few months. This kind of work can’t be sped up and just takes the time it takes, kind of like children growing up. It’s important that my art have a handmade quality that shows that a real human being labored over it. If I can’t be in my studio, I stitch during every possible moment – in the car (in the passenger seat) and while waiting for appointments. Of course, I sleep, cook dinner, go to exercise class and occasionally pay attention to my husband. Winter is speeding by too fast, but then I’ve come to the age where it seems like my life is going by in a blur. There’s no such thing as boredom.

The quilt is embroidered with pastel colored cotton flower thread on wool felt. I chain stitched the squares from the outside in, around and around, like a Greek key pattern.

I’ve been using the chain stitch a lot in this book, as a way to fill in areas. After the squares were finished, I noticed that they needed more definition, so I outlined them with a darker purple and rose color.

I made the girl’s body out of pipe cleaners and her head from a wooden bead, using the same basic doll-making techniques that are in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

Her doll has the tiniest wood bead head that I could find.

The book she’s holding is felt, edged with blanket stitch and wire to give it form. Otherwise it would be too floppy. I built the bed’s head and foot board of wood, gluing the parts together.

Her room has furnishings, too, such as this chest of drawers.

And there’s wall paper, which I decorated by stitching a vertical leafy vine on gold striped upholstery fabric.

This is the first in a 3 part series about making the scene. There are many more elements to show, which you can get a glimpse of in the photo below. Please stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.

I am happy to announce that the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, Massachusetts will host the premiere exhibit of original illustrations for the book. The exhibit will be coordinated with the book’s publication in the fall of 2020. Like with Pocketful of Posies, I am scheduling a touring exhibit, so that more people can see the “real thing”, which is a totally different experience than seeing reproductions on the printed page. Interested museums and art centers are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. It would be wonderful to have the original illustrations make their way across the whole country!

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Wee Folk playing cards!

I am excited to announce a new set of Felt Wee Folk playing cards! Aren’t they a perfect way for all ages to enjoy the wee folk? C&T Publishing has just added the cards to their product line, which also includes the 1st and 2nd editions of my how-to book Felt Wee Folk. After selling out earlier this week, they’ve been restocked in my Etsy Shop. I also want to take this opportunity to let you know that I’ve added some doll-making supplies to the shop – wool fleece fairy hair, flower petal skirts and wings.

Playing cards

C&T Publishing’s catalog describes them this way:
The popular Felt Wee Folk, created by best-selling author Salley Mavor, spring to life in an imaginative deck of playing cards. Each felt doll is shown in exquisite detail, so their outsize personalities shine through. So cute you will want to play with them all, these popular playing cards make a great gift for crafters and children, but will be loved by all!

• Unique set of playing cards based on Salley Mavor’s much-beloved Felt Wee Folk books
• Adorable characters handcrafted with love 
• This set makes a fun gift for everyone—especially crafters, children, and the young at heart

Standard Size: 2.375″ x 3.5″

Retailers please take note:
The cards are sold in boxes of a dozen in an attractive POP (point of purchase) display.

C&T Publishing – ISBN 978-1-61745-806-4

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bed book peek: camel

I don’t know if I could survive a year without hunkering down in my studio during the cold months of January and February. It’s like a gift of time, when you can focus and get things done, without warm weather distractions. My plan is to make as much progress as possible on my picture book, My Bed: Where Children Sleep Around the World. The summer deadline looms large and no matter what I do, the process cannot be sped up. So, that means stitching in front of the fire in the evening, too. I’m not complaining – this is my happy place! For the past year or so, I’ve been sharing photos of the book’s progress on this blog, with more frequent updates on Facebook and Instagram, which a follower called “a daily dose of eye candy.” The story, which features children in different cultures and living environments, was written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. 

Today, I’d like to show how I made a two hump, or Bactrian camel, which will be a spot illustration to go with the North African scene.

UPDATE: I am thankful to Anna from Alaska, who pointed out that African camels are the dromedary or one-hump type, which shows sloppy research on my part. So, I’ve just transformed this guy’s two-humps into one! It’s better to find out now, before the book is printed and smart little kids write in to correct me!

Transformed from Bactrian (2 humps) to Dromedary (1 hump) Camel.

Each double page spread in the book will have a text panel with a corresponding animal; elephant and goldfishparrot and sheeprooster, cat, duck and bunny.

For a guide, I used this wooden toy camel that I made in the mid-80’s, when I went through a period of cutting out shapes on a jig saw.

The legs were made by wrapping embroidery floss around a bent pipe cleaner, just like the dolls’ limbs in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

Here, I’m stitching a blanket with fringe to the simple cut-out felt shape of the camel.

The chain stitch is becoming my favorite way to “draw” and “color in” with thread these days.

I stitched the front and back pieces together with a blanket stitch. But before that, I sewed the seed bead eye in place and embroidered the heavy eyelid. The bead is probably set inside a small slit, cut into the felt. Sometimes, I can’t remember exactly how things are done, which is why these peeks behind the scenes are really too vague to be tutorials.

I cut out a felt ear, outlined it in blanket stitch and and sewed it to the head. I like to add details, even in the smallest of figures and thought that a little hair on the head and neck would make this camel more distinctive.

Here’s an even smaller camel, which will be included in another scene in the book. I think I’ve reached my size limit with this one!

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bed book peek : duck

Let’s start the new year with a duck. It’ll be a spot illustration in my new picture book, MY BED. Each double page spread will have a text panel with a corresponding animal. The duck will appear alongside the scene with a houseboat in Holland, which you can see here.

As with the other animals I’ve made so far (elephant and goldfish, parrot and sheep, rooster, cat, camel and bunny. I start with research photos. In this case, I searched for pictures of a classic rubber ducky, with webbed feet. I was so interested in figuring out how to make the feet, that I tackled them first. That turned out to be a mistake because they ended up being too small and out of proportion to the body that came later.

I want to use this duck as an example of how I really work, which is not in a straight line, but here, there and everywhere. My creative process is full of experiments that may or may not end up in the finished piece, but they are essential to getting there.

The second pair of feet (pictured below) are a little bit larger and more neatly defined. It’s not unusual for me to take several tries to get something the way I imagine it. There’s a lot of ripping out and starting over, which is one of the advantages of using thread. For the feet, I devised a kind of weaving stitch that created the webbing between the 3 toes.

The body and wing are made of 2 shades of yellow felt.

The beak was a bit tricky to get to look right and took several attempts. It started with a thread wrapped piece of wire that’s bent into two V shapes for the top and bottom of the beak.

I then stitch the thread wrapped wire onto the head. The round shape of the head is from a wooden bead that is covered with felt, which I forgot to document with a photo. I wasn’t happy with how this beak (below photo) was coming out, so I ripped it out and started over.

I’ve had practice making bird beaks for the Birds of Beebe Woods and the Twitter Bird in my animated film, Liberty and Justice, but it’s like a new experience every time. When faced with a new challenge, I let my hands guide me, trusting that a solution will appear. That’s what keeps it interesting and never boring!

This is the second try at forming the duck’s beak.

After stitching the top and bottom beak in place, I wrapped thread around the wire. I then added a seed bead eye and stitched on the wing.

It looks like I opened up the bottom of the duck’s body to make room for it’s legs. They were the last to stitch in place, with the first pair lingering in the sidelines.

After looking at the duck for a while, I decided that it need more personality. The plain rubber ducky look just wasn’t enough! So I added some details, like the embroidered feather texture and the distinguishing lines on the wings.

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2018 – precious to provocative

It’s been quite a year. Thank you for coming along on my artistic journey, which I endeavor to make entertaining, as well as thought provoking. It’s encouraging to know that you are out there, interested in what’s happening at Wee Folk Studio!

To help review the year, 
I’ve organized a list of all of the posts published on this blog in 2018. They are grouped by topic, including a miscellaneous category at the end. Like my work, the subject matter ranges from precious to provocative. Along with the ubiquitous fairies and Polly Doll adventures, there’s our animated film, “Liberty and Justice” and the exhibit that caused a ruckus. I also documented the process of making a new picture book, “My Bed: Where Children Sleep Around the World”, which will continue into 2019. I hope you enjoy the 2018 tour.


Animation Stage for Liberty and Justice

Liberty and Justice Animated Film
Rob and I spent a year in the basement, making our 14 minute stop-motion animation, Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free. We learned as we went, filming over 100 scenes. I made and animated the dolls and props and Rob designed the lighting, operated the camera equipment and edited the film. The movie was completed and released earlier this year. Get a look behind the scenes in the following posts:

Liberty and Justice in process 1/1/2018
All that glitters 2/25/2018
Animated movie logo 4/16/2018
Liberty and justice – the movie 4/24/2018
Liberty and Justice film festival debut 7/7/2018
Costuming despots and innocents 8/5/2018
Liberty and Justice film on YouTube 8/29/2018


WGBH Open Studio interview with Jared Bowen

Censorship and the Liberty and Justice Exhibit 
It took me awhile to understand that being called a badass is a high form of praise these days. I was as unfamiliar with the term as spellcheck, which automatically underlines it in red, as if it is too hot to handle. But, after experiencing the cancellation of my exhibit because of its political content and the subsequent uproar, I’m enjoying the label, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. Over the past 2 years, I’ve made art that shows a provocative side that has always been there – it just needed a good enough reason to reveal itself.  The following links cover the story of the Liberty and Justice exhibition:

Censored 9/6/2018
The show must go on 9/22/2018
Liberty and Justice for all! 9/30/2018
New England Quilt Museum Steps Up 10/12/2018
Happenings of Note 10/20/2018
WGBH Interview with Jared Bowen 10/12/2018


Close up from Afghanistan page in My Bed

Bed Book
This year, I’ve focused on illustrating a new picture book that explores varied cultures from around the world. My Bed: Where Children Sleep Around the World  is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by HoughtonMifflin in 2020. I’m really enjoying the process and am falling more and more in love with the children and their living environments as time goes on. The end of the project is near, but there’s still a lot to do before late Spring, when the finishes are due!  The following links document the process of making scenes and animal icons that were completed in 2018:

Holland (part 1), (part 2), (part 3)
N. Africa (part 1), (part 2),(part 3)
Iran (part 1), (part 2), (part 3)
Russia (part 1), (part 2), (part 3)
Afghanistan (part 1), (part 2)
India (part 1), (part 2), (part 3)

Persian Cat
Rooster
Parrot and sheep
Elephant and Goldfish 


Stitching fairy tunics in the Edinburgh Airport

Ltd. Edition Fairies
Even though I’ve moved on from fairies, I still like to take projects to work on while traveling. So, every once in a while, depending on my schedule, a Ltd. Edition of 25 Fairies makes its way into my Etsy Shop. This year I completed 2 fairies, Honeydew and Petunia. You can see the process of making them here:
Honeydew
Petunia


Polly in Edinburgh

Polly Doll
Polly traveled to Scotland in her custom made Fair Isle vest.

Polly – Scotland
Polly’s Fair Isle vest


Cahoon Museum of American Art

Misc. Posts
An odd collection of posts, from studio discoveries to activist art to a family recipe.

Small things around the studio
Surprise Find!
The best cheese straws in the world!
Self portrait revisited
Fiber art at the Cahoon Museum
Sweet Resistance Art
In the Heart

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small things around the studio

smallthings

I wrote this post 2 years ago and don’t know why it stayed in the drafts folder all that time. It was clearly written during a period of procrastination or when there was a gap in my work schedule, because it mentions cleaning my studio, which rarely happens. Right now, I’m engrossed in the process of working on a new children’s book, which you can follow here. It’s a calming break from earlier this fall when my Liberty and Justice exhibit caused a ruckus because of its political satire. So, let’s take a little detour and visit some small things around my studio!

But first an UPDATE on last week’s offer of special discontinued cards. Even though they sold out quickly, there are other designs available, like this 8 card sampler of wee folk babies and fairies.

— While cleaning up my studio, I came across the elephant pictured above. Her name is Savi and she is the main character in The Way Home, my first book. This attempt at an elephant wasn’t up to my standards (I think the bumpy trunk bothered me), so she never made it into an illustration. She’s been hanging out in my studio for 25 years. I took her picture and posted it on Instagram and Facebook.

Since then, I’ve found more small things to photograph and post. I’m holding some of them, so you can see the scale in relation to my hand. There’s Humpty Dumpty, 1 inch wee folk characters, a house and leaves that were used as spot illustrations in Pocketful of Posies. There’s a chipping sparrow that wasn’t included in the finished Birds of Beebe Woods. And at the end is a yellow telephone I made while in art school over 40 years ago.

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Surprise Find!

I am happy to offer a very limited supply of discontinued Wee Folk Studio note cards, which were recently discovered in storage. Most of these designs were originally released in the early 2000’s and have been out of print for over 10 years. They come from a time when my business was dominated by fairies, with dozens of varieties of kits and cards sold on a wholesale basis to catalogs and stores.

Back then, I could be seen photographing fairies all over town, along the roadside, at the beach or on the bike path. This all-consuming experience led to writing my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk, which gives step-by-step instructions for making your own fairies and wee folk characters. My work has taken me in other directions since then, but I look back fondly at this period when the possibilities to expand the wee world seemed endless. I don’t think I would be making the kind of art I am today, if I hadn’t gone through this “fairy period”.

The cards will be sold in packs of 8 different designs, 4.25″ x 6″, with envelopes, in a vinyl wallet. The watermark will not appear on the cards. Each set will include 8 different cards, selected at random from a choice of 16 different images — Bay Berry, Morning Glory, Princess Dill, Harvest Folk, Swamp Rose, Dandelion, Lavender, Crystal, Flora and Rosebud, Sweet Pea, Milkweed, Bitter Sweet, Blueberry, Petite Pea, Moon Shell, and Rosita.

UPDATE: The discontinued cards sold out quickly, but there’s another 8 card sampler of fairies and baby wee folk available, which is a good substitute. 

Please enter 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