She works in fabric relief, creating a stage-set effect that, in turn, is carefully photographed for reproduction.
From the Artist’s Note page of A Pocketful of Posies:
“. . . [the artwork] was made from a variety of materials, all sewn together with different stitching techniques on naturally dyed wool felt. I used materials such as acorn caps, stones, driftwood, and objects that I found outside….
“. . . Other things I found inside, such as buttons, beads, and wire. . . .I made all the parts, including the people, animals, trees, and houses, separately and then sewed them to the wool felt backgrounds, to build a new scene for every illustration…”
You can see the originals via a traveling exhibition currently touring. Check out the itinerary at Salley’s blog.
Joy Chu: It’s lovely to discover something new every time I gaze at one of your pieces! Did you photograph your artwork, or was it done at a professional studio? People often do not realize how tricky this can be — in terms of capturing crisp color and details, while avoiding harsh or unwanted indirect shadows.
Salley Mavor: Over the years (20 as an illustrator), I’ve had several different professionals take pictures of my fabric art for reproduction purposes.
Joy Chu: I know how difficult it can be to shoot art, as I’ve had to supervise many a session for a variety of publishers. Setting up the lighting alone takes hours! Then there’s color correction, surprise dust bunnies, et al…
Salley Mavor: Yes, the lighting is crucial, as well as the importance of showing every detail. Rick Kyle from Pembroke, MA took the photos for Pocketful of Posies, and he has done the best job of capturing the detail, texture and color of my work. I am happy that the publisher, Houghton Mifflin found him and made sure that the book’s production was excellent.
A good photograph can make all the difference with dimensional illustration, so that the viewer feels drawn in to the picture. In order to have a successful picture book, no matter what the medium, the child needs to be visually engaged.
Even though there is a tendency for adults to comment on my technique, my first goal is to make pictures which will hold the attention of a child and stimulate the imagination. Children aren’t impressed by how well the stitching is executed. They either connect or they don’t.
I wasn’t sure that the book would pass the child test until it came out last fall. I heard from the mother of an active toddler who carried my book around all day, wanted it read to him exclusively and recited the rhymes over and over.
His mother brought him to see the original fabric relief illustrations, when they were displayed in the Boston area.
Since the book was published last September, and the originals have been touring, I’ve heard from many different people. It is gratifying to know that not only women who appreciate sewing and handwork can connect to it, but men, teenagers and children, too.
Joy Chu: What is the size of your originals? That is, do you work same size, or up-size proportionally, relative to the final book trim size?
Salley Mavor: I usually work the same size, but some of the pages in Pocketful of Posies are enlarged from the original. The cover is the only illustration that is reduced in size. The found objects I’m using usually determine the size I work in.