SDA Book Club: “My Bed” Behind the Scenes with Salley Mavor

This month’s SDA Book Club features a behind-the-scenes look into My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep Around the World by Rebecca Bond, with art and BTS from Salley Mavor.


My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep Around the World

I’m happy to share how I approached illustrating my latest picture book My Bed, from the initial sketches to the many stages of creating the 3-dimensional scenes that are reproduced in the book. In this post, I highlight different aspects of my working methods and give glimpses into my thought processes as I make choices along the way.

Salley Mavor in her studio.

Sketch and dyed yarn to embroider the rug in the Afghanistan scene.

Sketches

When I first read Rebecca Bond’s manuscript, I imagined scenes jam-packed with patterns and textures that created a warm sense of home. I kept this vision in mind when I studied reference photos of children, buildings and landscapes from different regions of the world. I drew sketches and used them as guides for the finished artwork.

Aged-stained linen used to represent a tatami mat in the Japan scene, 5” x 7”.

Fabrics

For each scene in the book, I selected just the right fabrics from my supply. Some I’ve held in storage for decades, such as age-stained linen passed down from my grandmother, which I used to replicate the texture of a Japanese tatami mat.  When I couldn’t find printed patterns that were tiny enough for some scenes, I embroidered designs on fabric in miniature scale.

Embroidered tree branches in the South America scene, 5” x 3”.

Stitching

I stitched the artwork for My Bed entirely by hand, using a variety of techniques I’ve developed through years of experimentation. Sewing machines can’t replicate the look and feel that I want. Manipulating materials in my hands is the best way I’ve found to translate what I imagine into something real to share.

Sewing beads onto the Iranian scene, 3” x 5”.

Beads

To add a touch of 3-dimensional whimsy and help bring out the charm of the little environments, I sewed on beads of all types. The bead selection process was like an audition for parts in a play. I combed through my collection of beads, searching for the precise type and size to make the scenes more true to life.

Forming the letter “B” for the front cover, the letter is 1.25” x 1”.

Wire

Besides fabric, thread and beads, the most essential element in my artwork is wire. I used it as a structural framework to keep limp materials firm and upright and to form free-standing shapes. I covered all of the visible wire with thread and incorporated it into the overall design.

Figure for the North America scene, 2” x 1.75”.

Figures

As I painted the children’s faces on wooden beads, constructed their bodies, formed their little fingers and sewed their pint-sized pajamas and nighties, I fell in love with them. Then, it didn’t matter how much time it took to build the places they call home.

Making a bicycle from beads, wire, snaps and hook & eyes for the Netherlands scene, bicycle is 1” long.

Found Objects

When I find objects with special features that I think will convincingly replicate something in miniature scale, I put them aside and occasionally, they make it into my artwork. These items are like exclamation points used for emphasis, as a way to enhance the storytelling.

Figure and home for the India scene.

Salley Mavor creates narrative scenes in bas-relief, much like miniature, shallow stage sets, with figures imposed on embellished fabric backgrounds. Ms. Mavor has illustrated many books, including her most recent publication,My Bed: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World. She lives and works in her home studio in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

  • “Salley Mavor: Bedtime Stitches,” the touring exhibition of the original artwork for the book is traveling around the United States. Its debut at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit, Massachusetts is on view through December 22, 2020. To see the tour schedule visit Salley Mavor’s website. 

  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (buy it here)
  • Date: September 2020
  • ISBN: 9780544949065

If you’ve read this book, leave a comment and let us know what you think!


Do you have a recommendation for a recent fiber-related book you think should be included in SDA’s Book Club? Email SDA’s Managing EditorLauren Sinner, to let her know!

2 Comments

  • Tamar Drucker says

    November 6, 2020 at 7:14 am

    What a fascinating article! Incredible art work! Thanks for sharing, Tamar Drucker.

  • Tamar Drucker says

    November 6, 2020 at 10:30 am

    I am in awe of your work!

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