Salley Mavor’s book Felt Wee Folk is a treasure for any family who enjoys the combination of handcrafting and seasonal celebrations. Every page is filled with ideas and directions for bringing the world of imagination alive. From Hansel and Gretel to Blossom Fairies, A Royal Family to Harvest Folk, the possibilities for felt crafting are endless. Salley is here to share with us a small taste of her incredible creative process.
Your book reflects the change is seasons beautifully, what is your favorite thing about autumn, and how is that reflected in your work?
I think of autumn as a time to harvest materials in anticipation of the winter months that I find most productive. I gather acorn caps, milkweed and other seed pods that are incorporated into my artwork. It’s cool enough to wear sweaters again and I love hearing the crunch of dried leaves underfoot. And then, when it’s cold and time to come inside and hibernate, I get cozy with my stash of supplies and stitch, wrap and wind to my hearts content.
Your book uses natural materials. What do you believe is the benefit of working with nature and materials that reflect the natural world?
I use found objects from nature in my artwork as a way to surprise and delight. I really get a kick out of devising ways to combine miniature natural objects with my sewn constructions. Sometimes nature cannot be improved upon, so it’s best to use the real thing, like an acorn cap for a hat or a shell for a bed, or driftwood for a door frame. I find that natural objects have a grace and complexity that can enhance and compliment my work.
Your book has an almost fairy tale quality to it. What stories run through your head as you put your material together?
Instead of stories in a literary sense, I picture moments in time that might have several narratives going on simultaneously. I’m influenced by the aesthetic of folk cultures from all over the world. Way before the term “world music” was fashionable, my parents listened to folk music from everywhere; Greece, Bulgaria, Israel, Ireland, French Canada, Russia, etc. We were infused with ethnic rhythms and patterns. I spent my childhood in the 50’s and 60’s folk dancing and my mother decorated our home with folk art from around the globe.
Share with us what your creative process can look like, and how you allow yourself to move through the things that you choose to work on.
I usually have some kind of image in my head first and then might make a simple sketch before bringing out materials and working on constructing a picture of felt, beads and found objects. Sometimes, I work more intuitively and dive right into the materials, without a clear composition in mind. Either way, the work evolves and changes as I work. I like to think of my process like playing with a doll house. I set up a scene and then move things around, adding or taking away props and characters until it looks right. I start with a general structure, but the design has to have a certain amount of flexibility and the parts have to be movable for me to work happily.
How does your family inspire or contribute to your work?
I have had the good fortune of growing up in an extremely creative household, with parents who embraced the arts as a natural part of life. I tried to create a similar environment with my own family, but always felt like I couldn’t be as open and generous with my time as my mother was. When my children were young, my husband and I had projects going all the time and included our children in cooking, sewing, woodworking and crafts. Today, my grown sons bring an artistic flare to whatever they do. For 30 years, my husband has been making beautiful wooden shadow box frames for my fabric relief artwork.
What projects do you have lined up, and what are you most excited about in seeing them come to life?
My latest children’s book, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, will be coming out this fall. After intensely working on this project for four years, I am ready to try something different. Many people have requested another how-to book, but I feel compelled to go on another course, away from an instructional and analytical model. It’s time to look toward the unknown, to develop a more experimental form of expression that doesn’t have step-by-step directions. My muse has been calling for some time and I’m paying attention!
Salley shares a beautiful project for creating a Felt Cat Pin in our Play section. We hope you enjoy a taste of Felt Wee Folk.
Salley Mavor grew up in a household full of treasures and creative ideas in the village of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. She learned to sew as a child and has been playing with a needle and thread ever since. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Ms. Mavor has illustrated many children’s books using her unique blend of materials and sewing techniques. Her craft how-to book, entitled Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects, includes directions and patterns for making a variety of wee folk dolls. The original fabric relief artwork from her newest children’s book, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes will be exhibited in a traveling show for 3 years. Ms. Mavor lives with her husband, Rob Goldsborough and their sons, Peter and Ian, in Falmouth, Massachusetts.