Wee Inspiration for Spring

22 Mar

With the return of spring our thoughts have turned to nature-inspired crafts. One of our long-time favorite craft books, especially for those of us with small children, is Salley Mavor’s Felt Wee Folk. Her miniature dolls and fairies celebrate the natural world and are fun projects for needleworkers of all levels to explore, from beginning stitchers to advanced embroiderers.  I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Salley about her work, what inspires her, the resurgence of crafting, and her love of natural fibers.

What inspired you to create a craft book featuring “wee folk” and fairies?

Since I was a girl, I’ve been intrigued by dollhouses and dollhouse-sized dolls. Before I wrote the book, I had started a business selling kits to make fairies, and I had taken many photographs of the fairies in different natural settings. I also taught handwork projects to parents at a Waldorf School, and the dolls were the most popular projects to make and sell at the school’s fairs. The book started out being about the little dolls, and I added other felt projects later. For me, the 90’s was the decade of fairies.

Most of your pieces are three-dimensional illustrations created with textiles, fibers, beads, and found bits from nature. How do you choose what images to illustrate?

My first pieces were individual illustrations, interesting pictures from my own mind. When I moved on to illustrating books, I looked for very compelling stories. There needs to be enough action and places and characters for me to work with to make the images powerful and interesting. It takes so long for me to create a book—I live with the character for a year and a half–that I have to be in love with them. I lucked out in working with writer Judy Richards. Lately I’ve returned to working on classic stories. I began my illustration career working with fairy tales, and now I’m illustrating a new series of board books featuring nursery rhymes.

You use a lot of natural fibers in your work. What is it about these materials that speaks to you?

Once people start using natural fibers, they realize their feel and integrity is so different than acrylic. It is real material with real value.  Natural fibers are more permanent and more tied to our past and our history. When I use acrylic materials they feel temporary, like something you should use a glue gun to put together and that you will throw away after a short time. Also, wool felt doesn’t fray and is more accessible than other fabrics. My very first crafting projects involved sewing with wool felt, so working with it makes me feel connected to those early experiences from my childhood. When my children attended a Waldorf school, I was reintroduced to working with natural fibers. Wool felt is great for teaching children to appreciate the integrity of their materials and about conservation. When you’re working with more valuable materials you need to think about your pattern and how to lay it out–you don’t just start cutting from the center.

How has the resurgence of crafting affected you?

I am excited by the current resurgence of interest in handmade things. I went to art school in the 70s when craft was looked down upon. People couldn’t understand why I enjoyed it. Now crafting is a cool thing. I think maybe our increased connection to technology makes us long for and appreciate handmade things.

Do you do other needle crafts?

I sew clothing to give as gifts to my friends’ children. I really like to make children’s clothes, and I occasionally make clothing for myself. I also make potholders!

Felt Wee Folk and a nice selection of 100% wool felt are currently available at Brooklyn General Store. Many thanks to Salley Mavor for this little peak into her creative process. Read more about Salley and her work on her blog

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