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!
For the holidays, I’ve designed a needle felted winter scene and several needle felted ornaments that utilize NEW FELTING TECHNIQUES!!! The first needle felted project is a winter scene…..
Needle Felting with Angelina fiber
This beautiful winter scene of three pines trees and two snow covered deer use Angelina fiber in the creation of the needle felted trees.
Angelina Fiber: This fiber comes in all different colors and can be blended with many types of textiles; when heated it bonds with the fibers creating a beautiful shiny, sparkly effect. You can find this Angelina fiber here or here. These shiny fibers are the perfect extra little something to make your felted creations festive!
Materials list: 25g. green wool, 4 felting needles, sponge (felting surface), .05 oz. green, .05 oz. white, heat bondable Angelina fiber, felting handle, 100g. poly fiber-fill stuffing (pillow stuffing), thread, iron, glue, paint brush, white glitter.
1. With sewing thread, bind poly fiber-fill stuffing into a cone shape.
Approximate Poly fiber-fill/wool breakdown:
Large Tree: 45g of poly fiber-fill/ 9g green wool
Medium Tree: 30g of poly fiber-fill/7g green wool
Small Tree: 17g.of poly fiber-fill/5g green wool
2. Cone ready to felt with green wool.
3. Felted cone (tree). Needle felting is the art of sculpting raw wool with special needles. The needles mesh the wool fibers together, creating a firm and durable form. This craft is surprisingly simple and fun!
4. Felt (poke continuously ) the wool covered cone with the Angelina fiber; it takes patience to felt the Angelina into the cone because it’s a little unruly.
5. Felt the white Angelina fiber (snow) on last.
6. After the Angelina has been felted into the pine trees set your iron to the silk setting and use an ironing cloth while ironing the Angelina fibers. Iron for only a few seconds.
7. Felted, ironed Angelina tree; the fiber changes color once it’s ironed. The finish is stiff and a little “crispy”.
Felt the trees in different shades of green for a more interesting look.
8. Paint a little glue onto the deer; sprinkle with white glitter.
Add white or silver glitter to a few deer, rabbits or other foresty friends to make the winter scene come alive 🙂 Put them on a silver platter and use them as a holiday center-piece.
I made several hand knotted rugs and wall hangings about 9 years ago; they were useful but seemed to be more artful than utilitarian. In my sewing studio I had accumulated many fabric scraps, organized in bags by color. When I looked at the pallet of colors and textured textiles they seemed like pots of color ready to be woven together to create something beautiful! I was never able to accurately calculate the number of hours it took me to make one 1m. x 1m carpet but I’d guesstimate around 20 hours to cut strips of fabric, knot them onto a plastic grid and trim the fabric.
Because of my earlier foray into textile carpets, the Ryijy (rough and shaggy pile) Rug Exhibit in Budapest last summer interested me. The early Ryijy carpets (as early as the 9th century) weave alternates a knotted pile with a tapestry weave; these carpets are the most famous Finnish textile. Ryijy carpets started as black, gray and white, later plant dyes were used to add color and it was only in modern invention of synthetic dyes that the carpet colors became brightly colored. Ryijys carpets were originally made for a brides trousseau, as coverlets, bedding, prayer carpets and pieces for special occasions that were later hung inside the house. As the carpet evolved it’s beauty and artistry brought it into the realm of home decor. The carpets are works of art, detailed, tactile and colorful!
Early Ryijy carpet
The folk art and Geometric patterned themes of Ryijy carpets of the 1920’s and 30’s was changed by several innovative artists. Eva Brummer was originally a painter, she made water color paintings as preliminary designs for her carpets, she chose the threads and closely monitored the carpet weaving by professional weavers. Ms. Brummer wanted to show feelings and sensitivity, she used soft forms and colors in her carpets. Long and rough piles helped to give the carpet surfaces softness. Her favorite subjects were hour glasses and crosses. Another style changing artist was Uhra Simberg-Ehrstrom, in her artistic infancy her carpets evoked dreamlike feelings, later she wove large strips of rich color, she used many shades of a hue which made the weaving difficult. The artist Ritva Puotila also changed the look of Ryijy carpets by using new materials in her weaving such as paper string, silk and metal. Ms. Puotila often used Finnish folk designs as a motif but made them look very modern, she designed for the Finnrya company who used machines to weave Ryijy carpets. My favorite fact about the Ryijs carpets stated that the longest of the carpets were often hung on the wall, overlapped onto a sofa and continued onto the floor; an interesting look!