Search
SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon
Permission
Please do not reproduce images or content from this site without permission. Thank You!

Email the Editor
Categories
Archives

My Life My Craft: Salley Mavor

Salley with Self Portrait 2009

Salley with self portrait 2009

Years ago, when my daughter was a toddler I found Salley Mavor’s art, and her flower fairies. I loved acorns and acorn caps Salley was behind my inspiration to do an acorn cap exchange with online friends. I did leave the acorn itself for the squirrels … I still have a huge collection of acorn caps of all sizes from around the U.S. and treasure it, thanks to Salley! There was a time that I was making these little people for every child I met. I also wore them as pins which was delightful to both children and adults. At my daughter’s Kindergarten, when Miss Charlotte was “our” teacher, every child got one from me for Christmas, and when my daughter was old enough to make her own, I would arrange picnics with friends to sit under an oak tree and make them together. Now that I think of it, these 6-7 year olds had so much patience. One day, when I dig up all my own work from various storage containers, I will show you some of our work.

Felt Wee Folk

Salley’s book, Felt Wee Folk, is an American classic, and if you love hand-sewing, this book offers many beautiful options in working with felt. The little fairies are just the cherry on top!

Salley has also illustrated children books with her beautiful handwork, the latest is Pocketful of Posies, which was reviewed in the Spring 2011 issue of Living Crafts.

Here’s my interview with her:


When did you first start handwork? What was the “original” craft you started doing and who taught you?


Looking back, I have early memories of sewing and constructing things as a child. I would spend hours sewing outfits and creating scenes for my dolls. Once I figured out how to sew on snaps, a world of possibilities opened up. I was especially interested in all things miniature and coming up with ways to decorate and furnish my doll’s environment. I can remember making a tiny bathroom and looking around the house for shower curtain material. It had to be plastic and water repellant, regular cloth would not do! I took a pair of scissors, went into our bathroom and cut a small piece out of the shower curtain. It took a while for my mother to discover that the corner was cut out, but she was quite open to sacrifice in the name of art. She was an artist herself and created an atmosphere in our home where art and making things with one’s hands was important. In our home, learning how to make things was not only looked upon as fun, but there was also an unspoken high regard for handwork and beauty. Art was not looked upon as an “extra” and my mother instinctively knew the benefits of creative work, that the process can engage the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of oneself.

In a term paper about art education for her master’s degree in 1965, my mother wrote, “The student should be encouraged to find his own way, but this does not mean the void of laissez-faire. Children need a structured exposure to many ways of seeing, doing and thinking. To teach art, the teacher must be an artist. By having confidence in their own abilities, teachers will be able to sensitize children to want to learn and care—not just problem solve. Through intuitive discovery a child will find himself, what he believes and be really free, even in a computer society. By giving students something to do—learn and contemplate what they can understand naturally—will give them the values needed today.”

Anne and Salley with playhouse our parents built and painted
Anne and Salley with playhouse our parents built and painted


How did you get interested in felt? And hand-stitching?


I’ve used many different types of fabric in my artwork, but it wasn’t until the early 90’s, when my two sons were enrolled in a Waldorf School, that I discovered the joys of real felt. I love how it looks and feels to work with and I now use plant dyed wool felt almost exclusively. I am self-taught in needle work and have learned through trial and error, as well as plenty of practice. I’m not as interested in method as I am communication. I think that in order to best tell a story, my artwork must be executed with skill, so that the medium contributes to the message and doesn’t distract.

Lately, I’ve been describing my work as part of a Slow Art Movement. Yes, its very time consuming and not very practical, but that is part of what attracts me to this way of working. I sew, wrap, embroider, carve and embellish in as many ways as I can think of—all by hand. I can’t really speed it up and machines are no help. Through the repetitive, tactile processes, I find a calm satisfaction that can help lead to effective problem solving. But, stitchery itself is not dynamic enough for me, I like to decorate felt pieces and parts with embroidery and then combine them with other dimensional materials. Each illustration requires figuring out something new, whether it is a way of constructing a driftwood house or making a tiny basket, so I need time to work things out.


How did you start doing those little acorn people?


I was intrigued by the use of natural objects in the handwork projects at our Waldorf School and started making little people and teaching workshops for parents. The idea started with a simple acorn capped fairy and grew into a larger group of fanciful characters. Through teaching, I learned how to break down and explain the process of making the dolls. I made and sold Blossom Fairy Kits for about 10 years and wrote the how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects.


Tell me about your childhood, your family, and now …


Jimmy, Salley and Anne Mavor 1960
Jimmy, Salley and Anne Mavor 1960

The middle of three children, I lived with my parents, sister and brother in the small village of Woods Hole, Mass. on Cape Cod. Growing up in our household was like living in a busy hive, with art projects, materials and equipment close at hand. My mother had a big influence on my development as an artist. There was always time for art and I never heard her say no to an imaginative scheme. She would help us gather supplies and teach us whatever we needed to make an idea come to life. We lived in a perpetual state of clutter, with the technique du jour in evidence all through the house. One day, Mom had the children clear a path through the living room so that our father could walk through. For Mom, part of the fun of making things was the physical thrill of interacting with the materials. Her batik room was a Jackson Pollack of spattered dye, where she would busily apply hot wax on the fabric and dip it in dye pots. Our world was full of creative possibilities and I’ve dedicated Pocketful of Posies to the memory of my remarkable parents, Mary and Jim Mavor.

I’m on my father’s lap

 


What is a day of your life like?


Since my work is so sedentary, I try to start the day with some form of exercise; dance aerobics, yoga, bicycling, etc. Then I usually catch up on e-mails, write blog posts or interviews like this one. I try to stitch for several hours a day and work on design related problems the rest of the time. I break for dinner and then resume working in my studio. I got in the habit of stitching in the evening when my sons were young, because that was the only time I could sit peacefully. My husband, Rob says that when I’m not eating or sleeping, I’m working in my studio. Of course, this is not entirely accurate, but it’s close to the truth. I admit to being obsessed with making things, as I believe are most artists. Holding a threaded needle is my default position.

Salley sewing 2010
Salley sewing 2010


What advice can you give our readers, who are so eager to have their own handwork businesses and books of their own?


Fine handwork skills are essential, but good design is the most important element in making something to sell. If your product stands out and is beautifully made, then you may be able to charge enough o make it worth your time. You have to be content with working on the same item, over and over again and building a reputation for quality. Working by hand is no way to make a lot of money, so do it because you get some satisfaction from the process.

Books are a lot of work, so be sure that you are ready before making a proposal and embarking on a publishing project. How-to publishers are looking for unique, teachable ideas that are not so complicated that the reader becomes frustrated. You have to be the type of person who doesn’t mind explaining every minute detail of directions, a trait that often does not come with a creative personality.


How do you go about designing and creating?


Just like other illustrators who work in more traditional ways, I draw a layout of the book, making sketches of each page that show the general positioning of the subjects in the picture, leaving space for the type. I find the design phase to be the hardest and most cerebral part of the process. I’m glad when it’s done, because then I can get down to the more intuitive and enjoyable business of making. It’s thrilling to hold the materials and let my hands start forming the pictures.

I find that welcoming found objects into my work can become a trap. Some very interesting looking things can seduce me into thinking they belong in a picture. Later, if it doesn’t contribute to the story, I’ll have to make the painful decision to kick it out. That’s hard, especially when I really like the object. Writer friends tell me that they encounter something similar in their writing. They have to get rid of clever characters, witty dialog or funny situations that seemed perfect earlier. We agree that it’s all part of the creative process, but you have to be willing to see the imposter for what it is.


What do you want to tell us about the meaning of life, and anything else that pleases you.


It took five years for Pocketful of Posies to go from early sketches to the final production stage.

For three of those years, I stitched and assembled the 51 nursery rhyme illustrations. What kept me going was the challenge and excitement of bringing so many stories and characters to life. I could concentrate a lot of energy into each picture and make bold design decisions. I was determined that every rhyme would have the love and attention it deserved. Adults comment on my detailed, labor intensive technique, but children are not impressed by how long it takes or how perfect my stitches are.

No matter what technique I use, or how many days it takes, my goal is to stimulate the imagination and have children emotionally connect with my art. Right now, I’m taking a break from illustrating and will be spending the next few years making pieces for art shows. I’m not even sure what I’ll be making, but I feel like I have something to contribute outside of the children’s book world.

 

Recently C+T Publishing published Salley’s article about the connection betwaeen her books, and they have generously allowed us to publish it on this blog as follows:

Stitches tie books together

When my new children’s book, Pocketful of Posies came out last fall, many people were introduced to my work for the first time. I’ve been illustrating with fabric, embroidery and found objects for 20 years and I’m delighted to report that this book has taken off like nothing I’ve done before. Pocketful of Posies has attracted a lot of unexpected attention, but the biggest surprise is that it has been given the Golden Kite Award for picture book illustration from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. To my knowledge, this is the first time this honor has been given to fabric or dimensional illustrations of any kind.

In the months since Pocketful of Posies was released, there has been a renewed interest in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects , published by C&T in 2003. Many people who see the fabric relief artwork in my children’s books want to learn how to make dolls and scenes of their own. So, I’m glad to have an instructional book already on the market. There are projects to suit all skill levels, from simply constructed dolls to finely made figures with intricately embroidered felt clothing. In Felt Wee Folk, I teach how to make little dolls, which are basically made the same as way as the characters in Pocketful of Posies. The wee folk appear in both books, with their painted wooden bead heads donning acorn caps and wearing similarly stitched outfits.

The two books seem to compliment each other, with Pocketful of Posies spurring the imagination and showing possibilities of what can be made with the techniques demonstrated in Felt Wee Folk. Not only do I hope to inspire creativity in children, but I want to encourage people of all ages to try their hand at making their own miniature worlds with a needle and thread.

It’s been 8 years since Felt Wee Folk was first published and I’ve been asked if I will write another instructional book. It’s satisfying to hear that my book has created a thirst for more, but I probably will not write another. So, what are my plans? I’ve been feeling the urge to experiment with my fabric relief techniques and make more personal one-of-a-kind artwork. I’ll still work in 3-dimentions and stitch like crazy, but lately my muse has been calling and urging me to try a new approach. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, but I figure that if I’m going to expand my horizons, now is the time. I have truly enjoyed sharing my stitched world through the nursery rhymes in Pocketful of Posies as well as the photos, directions and patterns in Felt Wee Folk. I hope that both of these books will remain available for years to come. Links to learn more about Salley and her work: Blog: http://weefolk.wordpress.com/ Web Site: www.weefolkstudio.com

You may also be interested in reading an interview Salley did with the children’s book blog, Seven Impossible Things.

Salley’s Two-Book Giveaway

 

Felt Wee Folk

Today, we are giving away two of Salley’s books: Wee Folk Felt, published by C+T Publishing,  and Pocketful of Posies, by Houghton Mifflin. To enter the drawing, please leave a comment here by 8 p.m. EST Sunday, April 17th. The winner will be announced Monday.

And the winner is…

Mel V 2011/04/16 at 5:07 pm
Thank you for sharing your story and your passion. Just beautiful.

Posted by Living Crafts on Apr 15, 2011 07:12 PM | 464 Comments

464 Responses to “My Life My Craft: Salley Mavor”

  1. Sally Mavor has been my inspiration for years. I have bought many of her flower fairie kits, to share with friends….she is THE BEST. 

  2. Barbara says:

    Amazing work. I would love to learn about crafting with felt.

  3. wendy jane says:

    we LOVE wee felt folk!

  4. Sarah Schwab says:

    I'm a collector of Salley Mavor books and I NEED this for my collection!

  5. Anne says:

    We love Salley's felt wee folk.  We also have board books of nursery rhymes illustrated with her work.  She is such a great handwork inspiration!

  6. The books are beautiful!  What a fantastic giveaway!

  7. Catherine says:

    I have made few little people with my children when they were small and they still love them!
    Salley's work is just amazing. I have lent my book to so many friends…
    I would love to get Pocketful of posies as well
    Thank you!

  8. Cindy says:

    Love these books!!!  What a generous give away!  Thank you!

  9. Jessica says:

    LOVE THIS ARTICLE!!!!!!!!  You are a wonderful and gifted and inspiring creator!!!

  10. I have not entered a giveaway in a very long time, yet I have always wanted a copy of Felt Wee Folk, and the pocket full of poseys looks so beautiful, what a treasure. Such a wonderful giveaway I just cannot resist.

  11. yana bordon says:

    I adore your work!! It`s the most inspirational handwork I ever did for me and my children and also friend`s children! Thank you for awesome giveaway, new article and new photos!

  12. Jennifer says:

    What beautiful artwork!  I'm new to felt art but would love the materials – so would my children!

  13. Barb says:

    Love her little creatures – so lifelike.  Hope I win the books.  Thanks for great creative talent.

  14. Thank you for offering this beautiful book. What a work of love. I'd love to be able to share it with my Fiber Arts Club at school.

  15. Anne Ryan says:

    I love Sally's work and have never tired of it. I think this book is a beautiful development  and I admire her integrity of craft and creativity. She is both inspiration and gift!!!

  16. Marcy says:

    I love Salley's book "Felt Wee Folk".  I now have two very tiny grandaughters and I look forward to making some of the wee folks for them.  Thank you for making the world a wee bit more beautiful.

  17. C-lee says:

    Little felties are the best use for all those leftover yarns!

  18. Patti says:

    The news of the release of  Sally Mavor's new book Pocketful of Posies is so exciting!! I cherish her first book and it started me on a love affair with felt, embroidery floss, needlefelting and recycling fibres. Congratulations Sally and thank you for continuing to share and inspire us all to think outside the box and stretch our creative skills and imagination!

  19. Connie Raby says:

    I could live in the pages amongst these peaceful creatures and never leave their village!  Thank you for giving me this peaceful escape!

  20. Nellie says:

    Beautiful. I love Sally's work.  I would like to tell stories to the children with the book in my hands.

  21. I never heard of Salley before, but her work is really fantastic inspiring! I like it a lot and would be thrilled to win these books.

  22. rosesmama says:

    We like. Thanks.

  23. Lisa says:

    I have been a huge fan of Salley Mavor for years.  I have a very worn copy of her Felt Wee Folk book - very inspiring!

  24. Helen says:

    I would love to have these books… They are inspiring and make me want to shrink to a wee size and crawl into the worlds Salley creates. 

  25. Christine Gibbons says:

    I would love to win these books.  I have admired wee Wonderfuls for ages.

  26. Kelly Paquet says:

    What a joyful way to live life!  I think Salley's work is exquisite.  Thanks to you and to her for offering this giveaway of her two beautiful books.  I would love to learn how to make scenes and dolls like hers, and would enjoy sharing her award winning children's book with my grandchildren. 

  27. Christine says:

    I love her work! It's magical!

  28. LisaAnn says:

    I adore her books and work! It would be so wonderful to win these! Thanks for the chance :)

  29. Louise says:

    So adorable!

  30. Julie says:

    Her work is incredible!

  31. Pam says:

    I love making dolls and animals. These would be a great addition to my library.

  32. Petra Coy says:

    What an inspiration just to look at the work and read the interview, and then to see the amazing work. Wow, I love it and it would be so great to win those books. Happy Easter to all of you!

  33. Love the wee folk! I'm dying to try some as Christmas tree decorations. I mentioned Wee Felt Folk in a newsletter I create for Parenting Press, and then Salley let me know that her piece representing each year of her life is on display on the Cape and I was able to mention that in the publisher news column in the monthly published by the Independent Book Publishers Association.

    • Living Crafts says:

      Hello Linda, if by any way this information is online, i’d love to receive it with a link and we can add it to this blog so everyone can enjoy your article as well. best, pardis oh yes please send to editor@livingcrafts.com – thanks! p

  34. nichole says:

    i want  them both!!!  i even have a local shop to buy real felt!  we have checked the book out beforej my daughters enjoy creating with me.

  35. Agnes says:

    What a great set of craft books!  I love working with felt! 

  36. Donna says:

    What a beautiful book would love to have in my library.

  37. reina says:

    Sally has inspired my 6.5 year old son to start sewing! He would be thrilled to read A Pocket Full of Posies! And so would I… :)

  38. Veronica R says:

    We love Sally and her work. Thanks for a nice interview!

  39. Barbara-Helen Hill says:

    Thank you so much for the interview and the stories. I'm a fabric artist and a doll maker. I've just not tried making things so small. I'm inspired to do so after seeing the books and reading the interview. thank you again Sally for the wonderful work. helen

  40. SusanB says:

    I have admired Salley's work for years.  It is inspiring to read her interview.

  41. Molly says:

    I absolutely ADORE her work! It is amazing and so cute.

  42. Dawn G. says:

    Sally's work has been a HUGE inspiration for me as I carve out time for handwork while raising a family.  These books are simply amazing!

  43. MaryJo says:

    I get so inspired by your work,  The books would be put to good use!

  44. Laura L says:

    Salley Mavor 's work is amazing. I love the people spiral wall hanging behind her in the picture. I would so much like to learn her techniques- it would be fun to do a felt family tree.

  45. Janet W says:

    I've admired Sally's work for*ever*.  Fabulous interview!! Thanks so much for blogging about her. 
    Janet, Felt On The Fly
    http://www.feltonthefly.etsy.com

  46. Susan Barnes says:

    I love Sally's work, I have bags of acorn caps. I made a sweet blueberry fairy set for my children's school auction, everyone loved them! I would be over the moon to recieve these two books!

  47. I love her work!!, this is a great giveaway!!  thanks.

  48. Genevieve says:

    Wonderful interview & inspiring books!

  49. Tami says:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful giveaway — I love the creations in this book.  What an inspiring interview

  50. Victoria says:

    What a great interview! Sally's work is beautiful and inspirational. Thanks.

Leave a Reply























  




© 2010-2011 Living Crafts Blog.
All original images and text on this website are copyright and the property of Living Crafts Inc. and LivingCrafts.com