A family of Wedding dolls

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It seems like every summer, someone I know is getting married or celebrating a big anniversary and this year is no exception. My good friends Judy and Phil Richardson had a small gathering to celebrate the recent marriage of their daughter, Mary to David. And Mary orchestrated a 50th anniversary surprise for her parents at the same time!

This was an opportunity for Terry McKee and me to partner up again for a cake and doll project. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you might remember some other creative adventures that Terry and I have embarked on in the past. We’ve teamed up for so many cooking and sewing projects that we have a special category here.

My part was constructing 2 sets of wedding dolls, one of Mary and David and the other of Phil and Judy. It helped to have reference photos to make likenesses in face and clothing. They were based on the patterns and directions in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk-New Adventures.

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Terry made a delicious lemon bundt cake with a stand for the dolls in the center hole. She devised a paper New York Skyline to surround the couple, complete with the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

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Judy and Phil, on the other hand, needed a vessel to ride in, since they would be floating in a sea of ice cream, glazed with blueberry compote.

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Terry came up with the idea of adding a shortbread depiction of Vinalhaven, Maine, where they were married 50 years ago. Here are Terry and I, enjoying the results. It was another successful collaboration indeed!

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Displaced

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Sketch for Displaced

All winter long, while I sat and worked on this new piece, I listened to news stories on the radio about the people who are fleeing their home countries amid war and conflict. Even though Displaced is inspired by current world events, it could very well represent the universal and timeless plight of refugees throughout history.

I often think in terms of creating miniature shallow stage sets and with this one, I envisioned a highly dramatic scene. It was important to me that the piece evoked a strong emotional reaction, much like an opera.


The heavily burdened figures are a chorus of characters making their way through a black and ominous landscape. To help create tension in the design, I thought of antonyms, such as dark/light, general/personal, despair/hope, trapped/escape, harsh/tender, sharp/soft and horror/beauty.

With fiber art, much attention is paid to materials and techniques, as well as the labor intensive process. My intention was to make a work of art that transcends the amount of work invested, and the methods and skill involved in the expression.

Displaced, 24" H x 22" W, 2016

Displaced, 24″ H x 22″ W, 2016

Its premiere showing will be this fall at my show in Bristol, RI. Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016 ~ Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor – Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI.

UPDATE: 18″ x 24″ Posters of DISPLACED are now in my Etsy Shop here.

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Poster – Displaced

Here are some details of the piece, along with a glimpse behind the scenes in my studio.

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The ups and downs of exhibiting your work

Let’s be honest. Finding places to exhibit your work can be challenging and frustrating. I’ve been entering juried group shows for decades and still wonder if it’s worth the hefty jury fees, the shipping costs, the steep odds of being accepted, and having to hold artwork in reserve until the results come in. And they usually only want new work, so your pieces time out after 3 years. I’m not talking about art and craft fairs where you set up a booth, but art exhibits hung in a gallery space.  I ask myself, “Is this a worthwhile way to promote my work and participate in the art world?” Despite my doubts, I keep trying, even though my pieces are not accepted into the majority of shows I enter. One happy exception this summer is Fiber Innovations II at the Parker Arts, Culture and Events Center, in Colorado, which includes Face Time.

I got the idea to write about this subject after talking with an art quilter at a recent SAQA opening, who was surprised when I told her that my work didn’t get into the show. I wasn’t complaining, just trying to explain the reality of the situation. I realized that only sharing positive news on this blog may give the impression that it’s always a smooth path forward. Continually painting a rosy picture can be deceiving, as well as annoying, and may not be helpful of those of you who also face rejection of your work.

Leading the life of an artist is full of struggles, both personally and professionally, and I’ve had my fair share. When you put your art out there to be judged, it isn’t always admired, no matter how established you are. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that what I do doesn’t easily mesh with what jurors and curators are looking for. It must not be easy to curate a cohesive grouping of pieces by different artists, especially with the variety of styles and methods in the fiber art world. Each juror has their own tastes and vision, which should be respected. If they’re attracted to more abstract, conceptual or edgy work, I’m out in the first round. I can also imagine there being a problem if dolls give them the creeps or they don’t like work that’s framed under glass. There’s no way of really knowing because there’s no feedback, just a simple “accepted” or “rejected”.

And you can’t always tell by the show’s prospectus, guidelines, and juror bios if your work has a decent chance of getting in. You just use your instincts to pick the shows, submit your highest quality photos, fill in all of the requested info and hope for the best. One good thing is that most juried shows are blind, so that everyone’s work is judged without bias toward or against an artist’s name. So, we’re all given an equal chance to have our work seen by a wider audience. Even though I’m very comfortable being an outsider, I plan to continue applying to juried group shows because I want to influence and contribute to today’s seemingly impenetrable and illusive art world as much as I can.

Despite all of this grumbling, there is some good news on the exhibit front. I’ve been invited to show my work at a few places (listed below), so I’m happy to say that there are opportunities to see my pieces in person this summer and fall. There may even be some more juried shows this coming fall and winter to add to the exhibits page!

Displaced, 24" H x 22" W, 2016

Displaced, 24″ H x 22″ W, 2016

In a productive year, I can make 2 large (24″ x 30″) pieces, so it takes several years to accumulate enough work to hang together in a solo show. That’s why I’ve held off selling my new pieces. I just finished Displaced (shown above), which will have its premiere showing at the Bristol Art Museum in Rhode Island this fall.

So, how do I continue supporting the work I do, without selling new pieces? I depend on sales of printed reproductions in books, posters and cards to subsidize the costs associated with making and showing the originals. Shipping the framed pieces can be expensive, so I request reimbursement from hosting venues whenever possible. Of course, I can deliver the work by car to places in southern New England. I hope to exhibit these new pieces in other locations in the future, so that more people can see the real thing. Lately, I’m more focused on making new work than the promotional side of things, like sending out show proposals, but inquiries from museums and art centers with funding for shipping costs are always welcome!

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June 2, 2016 – Jan 8, 2017 ~ Selected wee folk dolls, houses and props, plus 2 original fabric relief illustrations from Pocketful of Posies are being shown in the Geometry Gallery display case at the Providence Children’s Museum, Providence, RI.

FiberInnovII_postcardfrontJune 2 – July 10, 2016 ~ Fiber Innovations II at the Parker Arts, Culture and Events Center, Parker, CO. Face Time is included. Fiber Innovations II is a fiber arts show that focuses on surface design. Material options are varied and part of the adventure!  How these materials are used and the forms that are created are part of each artist’s inspired design process.

June 6 – August 5, 2016 ~ Shaping Lives: The Transformative Art of the Figure at the Reece Museum, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. The exhibit focuses on the doll’s unique form or figure. It features artists that use this art form to create a visual voice – to tell a story, initiate a debate, make a statement or simply carry a message that helps educate, empower and/or change the life of another. 3 of my pieces, Whiskers, Cover Up and Molly My Sister and I (from Pocketful of Posies) are included.

Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016 ~ Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor
Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, Rhode Island. Several new pieces will be shown, including Whiskers, Cover Up, Face TimeBirds of Beebe Woods and the premiere showing of Displaced .

Feb. 28 ~ April 1, 2017 ~ Hanging by a Thread – Needle Art of Salley Mavor at Gallery 65 on William, New Bedford, Massachusetts. New and old pieces will be shown.

display at the Providence Children’s Museum

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I had the pleasure of going to the Providence Children’s Museum last week to set up some of my artwork in their Geometry Gallery display case. This section of the museum explores spatial thinking and has a number of hands-on play and learning experiences. The display case shows a changing exhibit of 3-dimensional creations loaned by different  artists. The museum staff couldn’t have been more welcoming! We’re all anticipating that the glass will have to be cleaned frequently because of finger and nose prints left by inquiring little (and big) ones!

I brought 2 original fabric relief illustrations from Pocketful of Posies and a whole bunch of wee folk characters from Felt Wee Folk, as well as houses and other props from my collection that I talk about in still playing with dolls. The items will be there for 6 months, until January 8, 2017. I hope that some of you will have a chance to visit. FYI – An exhibit of new fabric relief pieces will also be shown nearby in Bristol, RI, Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2016 ~ Intertwined – Needle Art of Salley Mavor  at the Bristol Art Museum.

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still playing with dolls

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Some things never change. Like the urge to play with dolls. I’d venture to guess that there are a lot of grownups like me who still find themselves drawn to creating little worlds, just like they were in their youth. I feel honored to share my passion (perhaps even obsession?) for the wee world with you through my books and this blog.

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I recently got out some props I’d made a few years ago for a video project that my husband Rob and I were planning, but didn’t undertake. It was pure play, as I set up one of the houses out in the yard and made this video with my phone camera.

Our original idea was to make a short stop motion animation of one of my favorite nursery rhymes, Wee Willie Winkie. The easy part was constructing the characters, houses, trees and a clock. Finding the time and space to work on the incredibly tedious task of animating the story turned out to be too much of a challenge. We figured that it would take several months of concentrated effort to make even a 5 min. video that we would be proud of. We’re still intrigued by the prospect of putting together a film and who knows, we may do it eventually. But for now, I will soon embark on a new project that will keep me busy for a few years. More about that later…

The houses, etc. (and a couple of original Pocketful of Posies illustrations) will be shown for the next 6 months, June 2, 2016 – Jan 8, 2017 ~ in the Geometry Gallery display case at the Providence Children’s Museum, Providence, RI

13147836_1084989028189856_5937376141503391142_oHere’s the clock for the scene, “Are the children in their beds, for now it’s 8 o’clock?”

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In the meantime, the various props have not been hidden away. They’ve been used as backdrops for other photos, including shots of Polly and A Buggy Picnic, which is available as a card.

wee folk sprouting up all over

Weefolk-1-18I can’t remember a more glorious spring here on Cape Cod! The days are clear and warm, but not too hot, with zero humidity. And the yard is full of perfectly scaled vegetation and flowers for wee folk to ramble through, including bugle weed, forget-me-nots and buttercups. Here’s a selection of characters who escaped from my studio into the outdoors, some from my how-to book,  Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures.

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How about a lattice topped pie in an acorn cap?

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Weefolk-1-19Poppies are ready to pop.

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Little Red Riding Hood makes her way across the bugle weed forest…

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And a fairy bride and groom dance through a field of buttercups!

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Studio insights

Here’s a glimpse at some of the many photos I’ve been taking in and around my studio with my phone camera. It’s really an excuse to play with my toys! I love how quick and easy it is to snap close-up images and share them on Facebook and Instagram. But, since not everyone wants to be tethered to multiple social media platforms, I thought I’d show a recent selection of my daily photos on this blog, too.

There are pictures of old and newer pieces, from my collection of insects made 37 years ago, to original bas relief children’s book illustrations, to newer wee folk characters from Felt Wee Folk. These days, I’m pretty busy working on some exciting projects that I can’t talk about yet, so my blog posts will be less frequent. If you’d like to keep up with regular posted images, I invite you to “like” my Facebook and Instagram pages.