Bed book peek: giraffe

Shall we start the year with something cute to counteract the fact that everything in the world seems to be spiraling out of control? Good, now that we agree on a diversion, I will show how I made the giraffe for my new book, My Bed.


Update: Signed copies of My Bed can be ordered in my shop here. Watch this 8 minute documentary about how I created the illustrations for the book.


I’d originally picked a giraffe to go with the illustration set in Africa. But, then we narrowed it down to the country of Ghana, which doesn’t have giraffes. I started researching other possible animals to go along with the scene. Fortunately, sat next to man from Ghana in a restaurant, who told me about wild life in his home country, including crocodiles. So, I switched to a crocodile instead. My ignorance about the African continent almost caused a gaffe similar to what Delta Airlines went through when they chose an image of a giraffe to represent Ghana in a tweet about the World Cup in 2014!

I was able to use the giraffe on another page, though. It appears with the other animal icons on the end-papers and as a spot illustration on the text panel in the second to last spread in the book, which isn’t set in any particular part of the world.

To start, I drew a simple sketch of a giraffe and bent a pipe cleaner to form the legs. Then I wrapped them with embroidery floss, using the same techniques I teach in my how-to book of doll projects, Felt Wee Folk.

From there, I built up the body and neck with felt and more thread wrapping.

While studying photos of giraffes. I noticed that their spots are made up of a complex combination of shapes and patterns, that fit together like paving stones on a garden path.

I used chain stitching to make the spots, which has become my favorite way of filling in areas. I sewed the spot covered piece of felt to the giraffe’s body and neck. I covered the back with a mishmash of stitches, which stretched across to hold the front piece tightly in place. There was no need to make the back look pretty. After all, art is an illusion.

To make the mane, I sewed a length of wire along the giraffe’s neck and wrapped it with thread.Then, I blanket stitched a few rows of “hair” along the wire mane.

It took several attempts to make the giraffe’s head, which had a combination of funny looking, yet endearing features. Not only do giraffes have horns and long ears, they have prominent eyes, an oddly shaped nose and a smiling mouth. That all had to be reduced to a few stitches, beads and wire.

For the tail, I sewed on a looped section of wire, which I wrapped with thread.

When I sewed on the head, it actually looked like a giraffe!

If you’d like to see posts about making the other animal icons for the book, please follow the links below:
Animals – Rooster, Camel, Parrot, Elephant, Goldfish, Cat, Duck, Sheep, Rabbit, Cow, Crocodile, Dog.

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Looking back at 2020

As we bid adieu to 2020 and look ahead to a hopefully brighter 2021, let’s review the posts published here during this most unusual year. They are grouped by topic, including a miscellaneous category at the end. I wrote about a variety of subjects, including how to make cloth face masks, a wee folk tribute to RBG, and a series of stories about refurbishing my dollhouse. A big focus of the year was the publication of my new picture book MY BED and the debut of “Bedtime Stitches”, the touring exhibition of original artwork for the book. Over the past few years, I’ve shared the process of making the illustrations for the book. There’s more to show, so I’ll continue the series into 2021.

One thing I’ve noticed about life during the pandemic, is that it is more socially acceptable to exhibit introverted tendencies. It’s become quite normal to do as I’ve always done – stay home and basically keep to myself. I hear that people miss going to bars. For me, going to a crowded bar is more of an endurance exercise than an enjoyable activity. Why did it have to take all of this disruption, hardship and tragedy on a world-wide scale for me to fully realize my potential as a semi-reclusive eccentric grey-haired stitching lady?

Even extroverts are feeling awkward these days. An entertaining New York Times article talks about how even extremely outgoing people are feeling uncomfortable socially, “like eighth graders attending a school dance for the first time.”  The article’s author has some insights on the subject, if you can get past the rampant name dropping of fashion world personalities that a clueless baby boomer like me has never heard of.

Winter, especially January has always been my favorite time of year, when the hubbub around us slows down and we are free to move inward, with fewer distractions. Come to think of it, this year of Covid has felt kind of like January all year long.

For the past few years, I’ve been very busy promoting my new book, MY BED and its touring exhibition and I’m anxious to get back into making mode. During the cold months ahead, I’ll be working on a new piece with a winter theme. If it goes well, I may do more scenes that reflect the other seasons — spring, summer and fall. This project isn’t for any purpose other than to celebrate the natural cycles of life on our planet. I’m looking forward to becoming so totally engrossed in the process, that time stands still.

2020 in Review

Pandemic
A Virus Free World
This Little Piggy Stayed Home
DIY Cloth Face Mask Video
Introverts Have the Advantage (includes “Confessions of a Homebody”)

Doll House Stories
Doll House Stories (part 1) History
Doll House Stories (part 2) Wallpaper
Doll House Stories (part 3) Kitchen
Doll House Stories (part 4) Re-upholstery
Doll House Stories (part 5) All Moved In

Celebrity Tribute Dolls
The Greta Effect
RIP RBG

Polly Doll
Polly Travels Close to Home

Cape Cod Museum Exhibition – Once Upon a Stitch
A Few More Weeks
Scavenger Hunt
Lace Bombing

My Bed Book
Bed Book Peek – Cow
Bed Book Peek – Back Cover
Bed Book Peek – Ghana (part 1)
Bed Book Peek – Ghana (part 2)
Bed Book Peek – Ghana (part 3)
Bed Book Peek – Ghana (part 4)
Bed Book Peek – Crocodile
Bed Book Peek – Mongolia (part 1)
Bed Book Peek – Mongolia (part 2)
Bed Book Peek – Mongolia (part 3)
My Bed Is Officially Launched!

Bedtime Stitches Exhibition
Bedtime Stitches at the Cahoon Museum
Bedtime Stitches Tour
Play Village

Shop
Greta Cards Are Here
Hand-Painted Wee Folk Faces
Shop Update

Misc.
To Teach or Not to Teach
The Red Chair
Library Community Art Project

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Play Village

I made this modular play village when I was a student at RISD around 1977. It was a project for one of my favorite classes, where we were encouraged to explore the concept of toys. It wasn’t necessarily about making toys for children, but rather playful art objects. Looking back, I can see that the teacher’s goal was to stretch our imaginations beyond tradition forms of illustration. At this point, I had already started working in 3-d, so this class was an opportunity to play, play, play! In this class, I made paper vegetables and a layer cake out of a stack of Reader’s Digest condensed novels, which I cut into a circle with a band saw and decorated with piped sugar frosting. They’ve since gone by the wayside, but I still have the play village!

I’m writing about the village now because it’s included in my exhibition “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum through Dec. 19. That’s just 1 more week! Click here for hours, registration and Covid safely information. The village is one of several extra items that will only be shown at the Cahoon and will not travel with the touring exhibition of 18 original framed sculptural embroideries for my picture book, MY BED. To see the schedule of participating museums, click here.

My friends Glen and Susan sent this photo after they went to see the exhibition yesterday. Don’t they look handsome and color coordinated, masks and all? I made them this pair of dolls when they got married a few years ago.

Now back to the Play Village:
I can’t remember the class assignment that triggered the notion of a modular village, but I do remember making it. The whole idea was to create a town, with buildings, grass, river and road sections on squares that could be moved around. To begin, I talked my way into the school’s wood-shop where I got help using a table saw to cut 1/4″ thick Masonite into 3″ squares.

I covered the squares with fabric, using green flannel for grass and black velveteen for the road. Even back then, I didn’t trust glue and relied on stitches to make a tight fit.

I constructed the houses out of mat board and then made sides and roof pieces out of fabric. I used my Singer Featherweight to top-stitch ribbon windows and rows of rickrack roof tiles.

I hand embroidered the bakery sign and hand stitched the buildings to the fabric covered squares.

The trees are made with ribbon covered wooden dowels, with stuffed fabric balls on top. The base is a wooden button that had a hollow big enough to fit the dowel into. Since they’ve stayed together all these years, I must have used glue.

I also used glue to hold together clay beads for this equestrian statue. That’s only because I couldn’t figure out how to sew the beads together without a maze of threads showing.

I most likely used cardboard to form the car’s basic shape and stuffed the hood to make it puff out in front. The wheels are clay beads – you can see the insulated wire axle sticking out. The seat lining and fenders are made with velvet ribbon and the steering wheel is a plastic miniature car wheel.

The people are simple beads sewn and glued together.

The baby carriage is made with plastic toy car wheels, hooks and eyes and black wire. There used to be a baby inside, but he got lost.

I hope that you enjoyed this closer look at the village. It’s brought back a lot of memories that make me grateful for the remarkable teachers at RISD who help ignite the unique spark inside their students.

Modular Village 1977

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Bedtime Stitches tour

Japan

The first showing of the Bedtime Stitches touring exhibition is coming to an end, with just 3 more weeks to go (through Dec. 19) at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit MA. So, if you’ve thought about going, but haven’t yet, please get yourself over there before it’s shipped off to Illinois! (See the tour schedule later in this post). I recommend registering ahead, as the museum has protocols in place to ensure a safe and welcoming experience for their visitors, with timed entry in 1 hour intervals and required face coverings. Click here for hours, registration and Covid safely information. There’s a free Open House on Sunday, Dec. 6th from 10:00 – 4:00.

One visitor who made the trip from 2 hours away described her experience this way, “Having not been in a museum, post office, etc. since March 13, I debated coming down, but I felt very safe in that BIG room and with the COVID19 protocols and limited # of people allowed in per hour.”

The Falmouth Enterprise

Reviews of the exhibition have a similar theme, all pointing out the comforting and uplifting effect the artwork has on people. The headline of the Falmouth Enterprise article read, “Bedtime Stitches Provides Cozy Respite From Tumultuous Year”. And Artscope Magazine‘s review starts off saying, “The genius of Salley Mavor’s meticulously realized imaginative worlds is just what we need right now.”

Russia

Some people have gone to the museum more than once, returning 2 or 3 times with family and friends. Visitors have left comments like these – “What beautiful sensitive artwork to soothe the soul.” and “It’s so beautiful, with such warm qualities, something we need so badly now.” Hearing these kind of reactions makes me feel that all those years of stitching were worth it.

The “Bedtime Stitches” exhibition features 18 original sculptural embroideries that were used to illustrate my new picture book, My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. The book is available wherever books are sold. Signed copies are in my shop here.

Before I framed each scene behind glass, I added fabric borders and signed them with my initials and the year 2020. I completed them all before 2020, of course, but that’s the date when the project was completed and the collection was published in a book.

Currently, the Bedtime Stitches exhibition is booked at 7 museums through May 2023 and more could be added. I wish I could wave a magic and send it all over the country, but I’m limited by how many years I want to keep the collection in circulation, as well as reliant on the interest and financial support of museums and curators. If you want the show to travel close to where you live, please talk it up with a museum in your area. Enthusiasm from local members of the community can make a difference. That’s how the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum in La Conner, WA heard about the opportunity and booked the show for 2023. Museums are welcome to contact me for information about hosting the exhibit. 

The exhibition includes a series of panels showing the process of making the artwork for MY BED.

BEDTIME STITCHES
A touring exhibition of original bas-relief embroidered illustrations by Salley Mavor for her new picture book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. 

Sept. 11 – Dec. 19, 2020 at the Cahoon Museum, Cotuit, MA.
Feb. 28 – April 25, 2021, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Mount Vernon, IL
Sept. 14 – Dec. 31, 2021, New England Quilt Museum, Lowell, MA
Jan. 22 – May 8, 2022, Upcountry History Museum, Greenville, SC
June – September 2022, Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, ME
Fall 2022, Historical and Cultural Center of Clay County, Moorhead, MN
Feb. 1 – Apr. 30, 2023, Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, La Conner, WA
Additional locations will be added when they are confirmed.

Home

The Cahoon Museum has published the sweetest little booklet that makes a nice keepsake of the exhibition. The Booklets are 6″ x 9″ soft cover, full-color, 16 pages. It’s full of photos and information about the exhibition, including images of works only on view at the Cahoon. See what’s in the book here.

Animals

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Shop update

During this time of year, the big oak table in the center of my studio becomes a processing center for my Etsy shop. This is where I fill orders for signed books, cards, posters, and doll making supplies. 2020 has been the busiest year ever, which could have something to do with people spending more time at home because of the pandemic. There certainly has been a renewed interest in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk as well as doll making supplies (painted faces, faux flowers and fairy hair). Customers are also taking advantage of the opportunity to have my new picture book, My Bed personally inscribed to their friends and family members.

I’ve recently added 2 new cards, Reindeer Ride and Cheese Straws (includes recipe), which would make fun Holiday Greeting cards. They’re available in packs of 4 and 8.

Reindeer Ride – card
Cheese Straws – card

After a photo of “Birds of Beebe Woods” went viral among bird watchers on Facebook, my shop was practically cleaned out of bird cards! More are on the way and they’ll be back in stock Dec. 2. I’m happy to welcome this group of self-described bird nuts into the fold. They bought a lot of posters, too, which are in good supply.

There are many note cards with wee folk characters and fairies in a variety of scenes, which are sold in packs of 4 and 8, with different mixed sets available. Free shipping for cards and posters in the US.

For doll making supplies, I sell wool fleece fairy hair, faux flowers for fairy skirts and wings and hand-painted wooden faces. Please visit my Etsy shop!

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Doll house stories – all moved in

In this final part 5 in the Doll House Stories series, you will see the completed rooms in my newly refurbished doll house, along with its wee folk inhabitants. The house, which I built in 1975 while in art school, is on view in the exhibition “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA through Dec. 19, 2020.

In addition to showing the original illustrations for my new picture book MY BED, the Cahoon Museum is displaying many rarely seen creations from my art school days to the present, including this doll house. These extra items are only included in the Cahoon Museum show and will not travel in the touring exhibition.

Since “Bedtime Stitches” opened in mid-September, I’ve heard from many people who’ve gone to see the exhibition with their children, grandchildren, parents and friends. One woman said, “After our visit, my husband said it was the best day of 2020.” Another wrote to say, “It feels like your art is the antidote to, I don’t know, maybe most of the rest of the world.”

I’m so glad the show will be up for another 6 weeks (through Dec 19), so that more folks can make the trip to see it. Not only has the Cahoon Museum done a beautiful job presenting my work in the gallery, they have protocols in place to ensure a safe and welcoming experience for their visitors, with timed entry in 1 hour intervals and required face coverings. Click here for hours, registration and Covid safely information.

For the past few weeks, you’ve seen several posts about the doll house. Here’s a list if you’d like to review them:
How the house was used over the past 45 years – part 1 (history)
Before and after shots of wallpapering – part 2 (wall-papering)
The process of making wee folk characters – part 3 (kitchen)
How I re-upholstered a 1930’s era sofa – part 4 (re-upholstery).

After arranging the furniture and figuring out who would live in the house, I moved the whole setup into the basement so that Rob could photograph it. He also made a little film, which pans from room to room throughout the house.

For the soundtrack, Rob recorded crickets and other night sounds outside. In the middle of summer, he sat on our patio with a microphone and headphones, listening in the dark, with the moon above.

I hope you enjoy this little house tour.

It was so much fun working on the house over the summer! I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to indulge in something so seemingly unimportant, if not for the deadline to get it fixed up for the “Bedtime Stitches” exhibition. But, after allowing myself the luxury of “playing house” again, I feel connected to my younger self – The child who spent blissful hours engrossed in creative play, the 13 year old who kept her love of dolls a secret and the self-conscious art student who lay in bed thinking about decorating her new doll house. Throughout my life, I’ve been on the same search – to find ways to make what I imagine into something real to share. And it makes me happy to share it with you!

What are they making in the kitchen? Cheese Straws! This cozy scene is printed on a card with my family recipe for cheese straws on the back. Cards are available in my shop.

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Doll house stories: re-upholstery

This part 4 in the Doll House Stories series shows how I re-upholstered the sofa which is in the living room of my newly renovated doll house. The house, which I built in 1975 while in art school, is on view in my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA through Dec. 19, 2020. Other posts in this series: part 1 (history), part 2 (wall-papering), part 3 (kitchen).

The “made in Japan” 1930’s era sofa came from my mother’s childhood collection of doll house furniture. Over the years since she gave me the furniture, I’d become quite fond of the sofa, with its sinking seat and rusted tacks. But, as I fixed up the house, I knew that it was time to re-cover the sofa.

When I started sharing the re-upholstery process on Facebook, an immediate alarm went off, as I committed the grave sin of altering a vintage item! And on a cherished toy of my mother’s no less! I imagined that many of the people who commented were just preaching the gospel according to Antiques Road Show. As I posted new photos, the chastising subsided and when they saw what it looked like in the end, I even got some requests for forgiveness.

It actually took years for me to overcome my sentimental attachment to this sofa and decide that my mother would be excited about upgrading it. The first challenge was to find a fabric that was the right color, weave and weight. I looked through my large stash of upholstery fabric and chose this one, with its appropriately scaled pattern and subdued color palette. The only problem was its distracting reddish purple dots, which I pulled out, thread by thread.

I didn’t want to take the sofa apart, since I wasn’t sure what I’d find underneath, so I left the existing fabric in place. Using a combination of white glue and stitching, I covered the seat first.

Then, I covered the back…

and stitched along the curve of the top.

The arms were tricky. Looking at this photo months later, I can’t even tell how I did it.

The front of the arms where all of the sides came together looked kind of messy, so I sewed a metal button on top.

It took several wee hands to help move the sofa into the living room. All it needed were some pillows and a doily antimacassar draped over the back.

Stay tuned for part 5 in the Doll House Stories series. I will show photos and a video of the finished doll house. Other posts in this series: part 1, part 2 (wallpapreing), part 3 (kitchen).

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Doll house stories: kitchen

This part 3 in the Doll House Stories series shows how I made the family of dolls who are gathered around the kitchen table in my newly renovated doll house. The house, which I built in 1975 while in art school, is on view in my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA through Dec. 19, 2020. Other posts in this series: part 1, part 2 (wallpapering), part 4 (re-upholstery.

Here’s a short video of the kitchen scene.

I suppose the boy could be rolling out dough for lots of different baked treats, but I imagined them making cheese straws, which is a family tradition going back several generations. In the past, I’ve shared the recipe for the best cheese straws in the world on this blog.

Since so many of you’ve enjoyed the recipe over the years, I decided to make a card with the cozy kitchen scene (above) on the front and the recipe for making cheese straws printed on the back. That way, it’s a greeting card (or Christmas card) and recipe card all in one.

The Cheese Straws card is available in my shop in packs of 4 or 8.

To make the figures in this scene, I started by painting their faces on wooden beads. After seeing their personalities come to life, I’m motivated to make the rest of their bodies. The doll making process is based on the instructions and patterns in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures.

I glued felt wigs to the crown of the bead heads, making a surface that a needle can grab onto. Then, I stitched their hair with mending wool, which is just the right weight for this kind of detailed work. It seems like all of my relatives kept cards of wool to mend sweaters, so I now have a nice supply of browns and grays to choose from.

I bent wire in the shape of hands and wrapped the fingers and palms with embroidery floss. I’m frequently asked to show in detail how I make hands, but I choose to keep that process private.

Just like I teach in Felt Wee Folk, their bodies are constructed with pipe cleaners.

Here, you can see how the skirt fabric is gathered and sewn to her waist. It can be messy because it will be covered by a sweater.

Since their clothes are sewn on, these dolls can’t change outfits very easily.

I used a chain stitch to sew stripes on this shirt.

To give this character a womanly shape, I sewed beads to her chest.

To finish off her cooking outfit, I made a little apron.

The dough is made with polymer clay. To give it a more realistic color, I kneaded in dried mustard, which is an ingredient in the cheese straws recipe. As mentioned earlier, Cheese Straws cards are available in my shop here.

Stay tuned for part 4 in the Doll House Stories series. I will share how I re-upholstered a vintage 1930’s miniature sofa.

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Doll house stories- wallpapering

This part 2 in the Doll House Stories series shows how a little light demo work and new wallpaper transformed the interior of my 45 year old doll house. It was a welcome indulgence to spend the summer fixing up the house. My excuse was that the house needed some home improvements to make it presentable for my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum (through Dec. 19, 2020). As you can see, the wallpaper was showing a level of wear and tear that strategically hung pictures could not hide much longer. Other posts in this series: part 1 (history), part 3 (kitchen), part 4 (re-upholstery).

Years of neglect as well as the Wee Folk Players theater troupe’s multiple set changes and general mayhem had taken its toll on the place.

The kitchen was in an especially sorry state.

I demolished the tile splash board.

And made new wallpaper.

I cut out separate pieces for each wall, cutting out the window and door openings. Then I glued them in place, covering up the grimy old paper with the new stuff.

For the other rooms, I used newly purchased scrap-booking paper and some other paper I’ve had in store since I first made the house 45 years ago. It’s true, I don’t throw out anything of an artistic nature that shows promise.

Once all of the rooms were newly wallpapered, I set about putting back the furniture and picking out new pictures to hang on the walls.

My son Ian made a tiny painting of a suspended egg, which is one of his favorite themes.

I printed out a miniature reproduction of the snow scene from my book “You and Me”, mounted it on mat board and hung it up in the kitchen.

It was fun setting up this domestic scene in the bright and cheery new kitchen. I already had most of the furniture and appliances, but I made a new wall clock out of a Timex watch face set inside a plastic curtain ring.

Stay tuned for part 3 in the Doll House Stories series. – I will share how I made the woman and children and give some clues about what they’re cooking.

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Doll house stories – history

This past summer, I renovated my 45 year old doll house, to get it ready to display in my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches”, which is on view at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA through Dec. 19, 2020.

In addition to showing the original illustrations for my new picture book MY BED, the Cahoon Museum is displaying many rarely seen creations from my art school days to the present, including this doll house. These extra items are only included in the Cahoon Museum show and will not travel in the touring exhibition.

There are so many pictures and stories to tell about redecorating, re-wallpapering and re-upholstering furniture for the house, that I’ll be writing several posts about it. I thought I’d begin by giving a little history of when it was first constructed and how it’s been used up until now. Other posts in this series: part 2 (wall-papering)part 3 (kitchen)part 4 (re-upholstery).

I built the doll house in the summer of 1975, after taking a wood working class. I can remember using my father’s tools and workbench and later obsessing over the wall paper choices and other architectural details. To me, this was just another art project, but I knew enough not to talk about it with people who wouldn’t understand how a 20 year old young woman would rather construct and decorate a doll house than go out partying.

in subsequent years, the doll house has moved around with my family and me, from house to house, along with all of our other stuff. For a long time it sat neglected in the corner and my boys weren’t interested in playing with it. Then, a few years ago, my interest was renewed when some real live children visited my studio and made a beeline for it.

I looked at the house with new eyes and decided to spiff it up. I added some green molding here and there and painted leafy branches on the plain pink gable.

An opportunity to display the house at Highfield Hall’s Holiday event came up, so I decked it out in a Christmas theme. I went through my old family Christmas ornaments and spun cotton Santas and set them up in the rooms, together with the doll house family. There were Santa’s hanging out everywhere – even in the bathtub and sitting on the toilet. I found miniature lights and pine boughs at Michael’s and strung them up. To keep eager fingers out of the rooms, I covered the openings with Plexiglas. People really got a kick of peeking inside!

The house was also used in a photographic set-up that shows the doll house family project in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures.

Then, after the 2016 election, the Wee Folk Players theater troupe took over the house and staged their series of politically satirical scenarios. They ruthlessly rearranged the furniture and transformed the rooms into the White House and a Royal Palace, among other set-ups.

Women’s March

The doll house, along with characters from the Wee Folk Players was part of my exhibition, “Liberty and Justice” at the New England Quilt Museum in 2018.

During their month’s-long occupation, the theater troupe pretty much trashed the place, so when another opportunity to show the doll house came up this year, I decided to fix it up first. Stay tuned for more stories about the renovation. Other posts in this Doll house series: part 2, part 3.

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