Halloween is pretty much my favorite holiday, it’s creative and fun and it inspires me; this year I’ve needle felted several Halloween puppets. Most of these puppets were time intensive and they have lots of details; I want to share some of my techniques and thoughts about needle felting faces in this post. Not all portraits have to be photo-realistic, cartoon techniques and-caricatures are also good ways to make needle felted portraits. My needle felted portraits tend to be realistic. NOTE: This is an advanced project but it can be simplified. This puppet is not a toy because of the hair and eyes which can be choking hazards for children. If you wish to make a puppet as a toy, needle felt the eyes (don’t use glass or plastic eyes or fake eye lashes) and felt the hair firmly so it can’t be pulled out.
These puppets can be used for puppet shows and they can also be conversational pieces of sculpture for your home or business.
My mother always told me not to talk politics or religion in polite company; that’s a tall order when writing or felting about the 2016 American presidential elections! I’ve been working on these needle felted puppets for months, inspired by the news and daily political events. I wanted to name the body of work but I’ve had a hard time choosing between: The Greatest Show on Earth, American Horror Story or Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue! Felting and re-felting the puppet faces for just the right look and creating the costumes for each puppet (mini suits and collared shirts are not easy to make). FYI: each puppets is wearing a handmade designer-suit because I bought designer suit fabric at my favorite fabric store and Hillary is wearing a little red crepe-georgette number of the highest quality!
My conundrum was that I wanted to “put my two cents worth in” but really not offend anyone while doing it because I have dear friends on both sides of the debate. I couldn’t bring myself to trash talk anyone but sometimes just reporting on the behaviors of the nominees was enough. My thing with the election is just how “down and dirty” it has become and personally I find it distasteful and embarrassing for America.
I think I can express myself just by “reporting” on the events or very similar events that have transpired over the last campaign year! Needle felting a portrait is either kind of easy or very difficult depending on your subject. Hillary Clinton has a delicate nose, she has no major defining features except maybe for her pronounced cheek bones; felting Hillary was tedious!
Bernie Sanders was the easiest portrait to felt because he has a pronounced nose, a facial shape that’s easy to recreate and hair that is “free” and easily recognizable.
Here, Donald Trump says that he’s number one; there are abundant poses that can be used and that help with “the Donald” portrait! There are so many familiar physical characteristics that define Donald Trump that one would think felting him was very easy, but not so. Trump’s cotton-candy hair was the easiest part of his portrait but Trump also has a small, delicate nose that was very hard capture.
Barak Obama was easy to felt; his features are not delicate and his look is easy to capture (salt and pepper hair and flying ears). I felted Obama eight years ago at the time he won his first presidential election. Eight years ago I didn’t have the right color of beige-brown to felt him so I had to mix the wool and I called the color Obama-brown. Today I have many more nuances of wool colors which helps immensely. You can see my progress from today’s Obama puppet portrait compared to the first Obama portrait of eight years ago!
I had a lot of fun felting “situations” and even more fun felting the election 2016 video:
My election felting has come to an end and I’ll now be riveted to my sofa in front of the t.v. to see who wins in November. In the meantime, Halloween felting continues and then onto Christmas felting!
Arts Business Institute | Artist Profile: Laura Burch
June 3, 2016
Fiber artist Laura Burch presents her delightful portfolio. We spoke with her about building a business, and her advice for others.
ABI: How did your move to Israel change your life and your art business?
LB: Moving to Israel changed my life completely; I had to adapt to things like the metric system, using Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, using a different currency, a different language and make peace with living as a foreigner.
When we lived in Chicago we bought a lot of Disney costumes because the girls loved to play dress-up and wear pink, sparkly things and those types of beautiful, quality items didn’t exist in Israel. I started making the girls’ costumes as well as classic style dresses for birthday parties and special occasions.
Other parents noticed the costumes and beautiful clothes and asked me if I would make these things for them too; this is how my store, Burch and Daughters, came to be and my entrepreneurial life started. We created a magical store filled with handmade treasures for children. I also wrote two craft books (with patterns) showing how to make some of my most popular toys: Sew Magical for Baby and Sew Magical for Kids.
ABI: You have a new studio and a new direction. Tell us about that.
LB: We bought and historically restored a home in Jaffa, Israel. The building is at least 150 years old, its architecture is Ottoman and it used to be a barn. I have my studio in our home, it has stone vaulted ceilings, stone walls and arches divide the large spaces and serve as the shape for the windows. I am in the process of “fixing” my studio; it is an overwhelmingly ancient looking space balanced out with very modern elements such as the cement floors, modern furniture and modern decorative pieces.
As the girls have grown up my interests have changed; I still make some of the things I used to but now they are more geared for adults. I base my artwork on the dry-felting, textile technique of needle felting. I’d like for my work to make a difference; I’ve recently become somewhat of an animal rights advocate so I’d like to make a body of work to promote awareness about animal rights and I’d like to show it in galleries.
There are many needle felted dogs and animals on my studio shelves, I’ve been needle felting these miniature sculptures, selling them and taking custom orders on my Etsy and Artizan Made sites. I donate proceeds from specifically designated sales of the dogs to my favorite animal rescue organizations.
ABI: Given your extensive background as an entrepreneur selling her art and other products, what advice would you have for new artists who want to follow their dreams?
LB: When I was in university, business of art classes weren’t offered. I would highly recommend learning the ins and outs of business pertaining to art. I’ve found that Etsy has many helpful postings on all business related issues for artists. Business skills are not only knowing what to sell, how to sell, negotiation, how to price your work, where to find the best sources, how to deal with business loans, what the difference between a C corp or an LLC is. It’s also knowing what your rights are as an artist and how to protect yourself.
Copyright your work, negotiate royalties and make contracts at the beginning of business ventures. Also layout your goals and course of action in writing. The more experiences you have, the smarter you’ll be (art contests, art shows, classes, seminars and lectures on your chosen subject, attending and/or participating in craft trade shows and jobs).
Learn everything you can about your chosen medium! Most importantly: participate in everything you can because you will become recognized and doors will open because “one thing leads to another!”
Wiener dogs make me smile because they’re full of moxie; every Dachshund I’ve ever met was brimming with attitude! I’m please to present a free needle felting tutorial: Moxie Doxie. This tutorial lists all the materials you’ll need to felt one brown (short haired) Dachshund.
We recently adopted a dog and because of my new experiences with our dog I’ve been paying closer attention to dog issues. I’ve read about the dog meat festival in Yulin, China, to the challenges that animal rescuers and shelters deal with world wide and the dog fighting industry. I had no idea how many dogs and cats are purposely abused till I started to follow a few animal rescue sites. I also had no idea about the dog fighting industry, which is of a concern to me now because of the breed of our new puppy. Dog fighters prey on the bully breed of dogs, our dog Louie belongs to this breed; the dog fighting industry specifically contributes to the demonization of the Pit Bull/Bully breed of dogs which in turn leads to the glut of Pit bulls in shelters and rescue centers.
Louie was 9 months old when we met him, by chance my husband and I saw a young man walking a white Bull Terrier (you know, the dog that looks like a pig, Spuds Mackenzie or the Target dog!). I excitedly urged my husband to go talk to the young man to ask him about his dog because we had always wanted a Bull Terrier since our beloved Quill died (Quill was a Chow Chow who was with us for 19 years). We read reports that Bull Terriers were friendly dogs that make good pets. The man immediately asked my husband if he wanted the dog, as he was moving to Australia and couldn’t take the dog with him. All of the young man’s friends and family already had dogs and Louie was on his way to the dog shelter if he couldn’t find him a home soon. Chances are Louie would have soon been adopted at the shelter because he’s rare and prestigious here, but chances were just as good that someone would have adopted him for dog fighting.
We brought Louie home the next day to see how we all got along; Louie LOVES people and dogs as well, he’s even made friends with our smallest cat Runty who accompanies us on walks (the rest of the cats are afraid of him). The moment we brought him into our apartment, he chased Kitty upstairs, jumped on the couches, knocked me down, ran around in circles and bit his tail till it bled; big, strong, untrained Louie was an adorable “hand-full”. It was up to me to decide if we would keep Louie as I would be the one with him most of the time; I cried the first day I was with this sweet, super strong, big puppy because I didn’t know if I could handle him but at the same time I couldn’t bear to let him go to the dog shelter. I said I’d give it my best shot and Louie became a new member of our family, much to the dismay of our 4 rescue cats who had the run of the house up until this time.
Louie is really funny and he’s a cuddler, he loves to be near us, he especially loves to lie on top of us! He talks to us with a voice that sounds to me kind of like a “dinosaur” and I know when he’s been bad (peed on the floor or chewed something to pieces) by the look on his face. He is STRONG and very athletic; it has been a joy to watch him run and play.
The second day we had Louie I received a $200 ticket at 7 a.m on our morning walk because he wasn’t wearing a muzzle; apparently in Israel he is considered a “dangerous breed” and needs to be neutered, chipped and wear a muzzle at all times. We found out quickly that people believe that many of the Bully breeds are aggressive and very dangerous, the most dangerous thing about Louie is his fast-wagging tail. Just let me say that quite a few unmuzzled dogs-large and small- have snapped at us on our walks; Louie always startles and quickly continues on his way; he doesn’t snap back! We soon noticed that people would cross the street when we were walking Louie, they gave us dirty looks and some even make hateful comments to us. Many dogs have attacked Louie, many dogs don’t like him because he is an alpha-type of dog.
A muzzled dog makes people weary of him, it does not help a situation when you’re trying to socialize your dog; people often ask me why Louie has on a muzzle. Dogs and people go out of their way to show us that they don’t approve of us; I now feel as if I’m wearing a fur coat made from puppies while walking my pet alligator down the street, I feel like an outcast. Owners of Bully breeds often stop to chat and lament at how badly others treat them and their dogs. Louie’s previous owner had socialized him well; the entire dog park community knew and loved Louie when they knew him as a puppy.
We soon found out as Louie was now growing older and didn’t look like a puppy any more that the dog park was a terrible place for him; he was attacked twice (needed stitches from the unmuzzled dogs and was once attacked by a woman who kicked our muzzled-Louie repeatedly till my husband pulled her off him). Most Louie-haters assume he is a Pit Bull, they knowingly inform me that “he is a weapon“. It has become very clear to me that most people are extremely uneducated about dogs in general and especially about the Bully breeds (I was part of this group before Louie even though I grew up with and have always had a dog). I think Ceasar Milan’s t.v. show- Ceasar’s Way– about training dogs and his son Calvin’s new dog show for children on Nickelodeon-Mutt and Stuff– are having a very positive impact (in America) on dog education; GO CEASAR!
In my research I found out that the Bully Breeds (American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Boxer, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, French Bulldog, Olde English Bulldogge, Victorian Bulldog ) have a bad reputation because organized crime and street thugs use certain “pit bull” dogs for dog fighting; Dog fighting is a highly profitable blood sport.
Dog fighting is a breeding ground for the exchange of illegal drugs, gambling and the desensitization of young children who are often present at these Roman coliseum type family events. There are different levels of dog fighting from dog street fights run by gangs to professional level fights where dogs are “professionally” trained and taught to fight. Much of the abuse of dog fighting befalls the bait dog (often stolen dogs), the smaller or more timid dog used to train the stronger dogs to attack and kill. Bait dogs are often the dogs found maimed and scarred at dog shelters. Dogs and the communities where the fights are held are both losers in this “game”. I also feel that the media takes delight in demonizing the Bully breeds as they did German Shepards, Doberman Pincers and Rottweilers in previous years.
We never go to dog parks any more, we try to keep Louie away from bad situations. We moved from Tel Aviv, Israel to Jaffa (just 5 minutes away) a few weeks ago; the dog situation is worse in Jaffa. We’ve learned of the deaths of 6 dogs in our immediate area by poisoning in a month’s time, four of these cases happened in a nearby dog park. Louie must always wear his muzzle now not just because it’s the law here but so he doesn’t snatch and eat poisoned food off the street, no exceptions. We’re deeply saddened that Louie’s life and so many other dogs like him are fraught by hate and ignorance.
It’s important to properly train a dog, it makes all of our lives easier when everyone’s dog mind their manners! We learned that the best training comes from positive reinforcement, teaching your dog to want to behave in a certain way because it benefits him. We wanted to send Louie to dog training camp and receive back a well trained dog but we learned from our dog trainer that that’s not how it works. Keeping your dog well trained is an on-going process, you must consistently reinforce positive behaviors in your dog even after he’s learned the behavior. Please note: any dog can be aggressive especially if they’re not properly trained and socialized. Dog owners have a responsibility for their dog’s behavior and a dog owner can easily be the reason a dog is deemed dangerous or actually is dangerous. NOTE: please keep your dog leashed! Even if your dog is obedient and well behaved he may curiously wander over to a dog who does not like other dogs and this will result in a bad situation!
I’ve been needle felting dogs for several years now but recently I decided to try to educate and promote as much awareness as I can with my art. I’m donating the sales of specific felted dogs (Bully breeds) to a few dog shelters and dog rescuers that have won my heart with their bravery and kind hearts. There are so many dogs (and cats) in need, I can’t felt fast enough…….
It is a MYTH that Pit Bulls and Bully breed dogs have locking jaws!