The Ballet, my Muse

Emili and the Little Ballerina in white (needle felted)

 I love to make dolls and puppets more than anything else, so it makes sense that the ballet, my muse has inspired me to make needle felted ballerina dolls. Before I started to make the white ballerina doll, I watched the video: Etoiles, Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet  by Nils Tavernier. It was interesting to listen to the thoughts of the young ballerinas, these dancers were living their dreams and their lives were only about ballet. They spoke in terms of their passions needing to be fulfilled, it was like they were addicted to their craft. I wondered how many people are able to experience something so overwhelming and meaningful in their lives. The ballet dancers spoke of a very ego-centric life and of the loneliness that went with it.

Needle felted Little Ballerina in white

 The dancers in the video were nimble, twisty and bendy in ways that I can only dream of being; these virtues attributed to the many flexible joints that I gave the Little Ballerina in white.  

needle felted doll parts/joints

 The many joints gives the doll the ability to move like a ballerina. If you hold her by the waist and jostle her, it looks like she’s dancing! 

The ballerina dances

To say “it’s my life (ballet), nothing else matters” , as one of the dancers stated in the video, is a profound statement. It makes me wonder about the line between throwing yourself into your work and the point where your work becomes you. It makes me think about how an artist, who is a parent juggles their priorities and how much self control one needs to have not cross the line of artistic passion, so as not to be consumed by it.

Needle felted Little Pink Ballerina, satin and tulle ballerina outfit

 The little pink ballerina has more movable joints than the little white ballerina (elbows and knees) which makes her more suitable as a marionette.

Needle felted V doll ballerina

The simplest of the ballerina dolls, I call this little ballerina a “V” doll because of her shape. The legs of this needle felted doll are indicated, but not made and attached separately like the arms. There are only three shapes needed to make this doll (circle, long oval, V) and four pieces (head, 2 arms, body). The tutu is made from a piece of gathered felt. This doll is a Waldorf inspired toy, made from the natural material, wool and felt.

face detail

Inspired by Beauty and Elegance

tutu on a rainy day

Writers and artists talk about creative blocks, a loss of inspiration and a lack of ideas from which to create. I usually have so many ideas that I never have time to explore all of them, but I always look for inspiration. One theme that I’ve seen appear repeatedly over the years in my work is ballet, I’m inspired by the beauty, elegance, colors, music, costumes and backdrops of this dance. Here is one of the videos about sewing ballet costumes that I love! Recreating a tutu\’s splendor

Elli's ballet recital

I’ve never taken a ballet lesson in my life, but my mother did make me take tap dancing lessons when I was a kid because I was so clumsy! I hated taking those tap dancing lessons and they didn’t work because I’m still really clumsy! My girls, on the other hand have loved ballet; Lili started wearing a pink tutu at two and half years old and refused to take it off for about three years.

first ballet class

Due to my girls’ love of ballet, I was inspired to make  tutus and ballerina costumes in my store. I knew that many little girls shared a love for this beautiful form of expression; tutus, ballet outfits, ballerina dolls, ballet bags and pretty ballerina crowns were some of the most popular items that I made and sold in my store. I researched how to sew a “real” tutu because I wanted to make a tutu that stood up and bounced when danced in. A “real ballerina tutu” uses several layers of tulle; not all of the tulle is the same, the bottom layers are stiff, the top layers are light and fluffy. The gathered layers of tulle are sewn to the waist band in different directions  (some layers are sewn upside down) to give the tutu a lift.

classic tutu

Mothers swooned over the the ballerina costumes and tutus hanging in the store and their the little girls pleaded to try them on. Outfitted in the finest pink tutus, the little girls flitted across the floor on tippy-toe to the mirror, where they started to twirl around in circles.  I always loved to watch this happen, when a child transformed into the character of the costume they were wearing; I think it’s one of the magical moments of childhood! To add to the wonderment, I created a little bag that looked just like the ballerina outfits. The instructions and pattern for this bag can be found in my book: Sew Magical for Kids.

Ballet Bag
The ballet bag looks just like the ballerina outfit!

To be continued…

Kids and Moms love Teddy Bears

Emili and the big teddy bear

Over the years, I’ve made about everything you could think of for a child as with a  teddy bear theme. I have many teddy bears that were childhood toys and I still have them; My girls received many as newborn presents and they still have them too. When they were small, I made teddy bear bibs…

Teddy Bear bib

I made teddy bear blankets…

Sleeping with a bear blanket

 I made teddy bear bags of all kinds to keep things in…

Teddy Bear Bag
Teddy Bear Bag
Teddy Bear Tote bag/Diaper Bag
Teddy Bear Backpack
Emili wearing a teddy bear backpack

 I made teddy bears to play with…

classic teddy bear toy
heirloom teddy bear toy
Big Toy Teddy Bears
Tiny, ornament sized teddy bears

and teddy bears to wear…

teddy bear sunhat
Let’s see what else I can come up with…

Writing Craft Books

Sew Magical for Kids by Laura Lee Burch

My second craft book, Sew Magical for Kids just came out; it’s the second in a set of two sewing craft books full of my favorite projects that I’ve designed for children. The first book, Sew Magical for Baby introduced projects for babies, and both books contain sewing patterns and illustrated instructions.

Sew Magical for Baby

The process of writing two craft books was a real learning experience for me, I found creating a craft book a bonanza of creative projects in and of itself:  designing products, making patterns, shooting products, illustrating instructions, designing book layouts, styling products and designing and painting sets. I made many of the props, the clothes the models wore and used things from my antique stash so the photos would have the look that I wanted. I had my own ideas about how everything should go, but the publishers made most of the design decisions like which photos to use, which projects to cut and the book titles.  If anyone else out there in blogland has experience with publishers and writing craft books, I’d love to hear about it.

My working process for the books went something like this:

  • I chose one of the many ideas floating around in my head and I sketched it out…
  • I made a rough pattern for the prototype. Once the prototype was the way I wanted it (many times it took 2 or 3 or 4 prototypes till I got it right) …
  • I made a final pattern (with several sizes if it applied) and then…
  • I made the final sample. At this point I looked at the fabrics and materials I already had or I went out and looked for the right materials and bought according to how many items I wanted to make.
  • I shot the finished piece so I could use the photos in my blog and promotional pieces…
  • I shot the step-by-step process of making the project and I used these photos as guides for the illustrations…
  • I wrote what I was doing as I made a project
  • I matched up the written directions with the illustrations and sent them to the editor for corrections. 

    making ducklings

I think my book writing experience has been different than the norm, at least in the beginning. Because of the reputation of my store ( in Tel Aviv), I was asked by a publisher if I wanted to write a craft book and this means that I didn’t go through the whole process of writing a proposal and submitting it to publishing companies. Yah! To the publisher, I proposed my favorite things I’ve designed and the things that people liked (bought) the most from my store. Writing a book like this takes an inordinate amount of time and that’s not including the editing process. I’ve spent many hours going over the instructions with the editor Shoshana, but these were enjoyable hours since Shoshana is such a patient and fun chick! I don’t think Shoshana could sew on a button in the beginning of this project, but I think she can now single handily sew a custom tailored wedding dress from the sewing information she’s gleaned from our conversations over the last year!

bedroom set for Sew Magical for Baby

I wanted the projects in my book to be very unique and to be something that people could really use. Because there are so many craft books out there, unique and useful projects are very important. One of my favorite aspects of my books are the detailed, step- by-step illustrations that accompany the written instructions. I don’t usually read instructions, I  look at the photos or illustrations when I make something and I know that most other arty people do the same. I know that Japanese craft books are super popular these days, partly because of the detailed illustrations that accompany the text. The illustrations or photos are so clear that mostly anyone can follow the steps without having to read them; I think my books have the same clear, step-by step visual instructions.

Stick horse and western backdrop

After the products were designed and sewn, it was time to photograph them. I had wanted to do the photography, but the publishers wanted otherwise. So, for the first book, I made the sets for the photos by creating a space in my store that looked like a baby’s room. I placed the products in the room and the photographer shot them in natural light. The effect was very soft and elegant and I am very pleased with the outcome.

Puppy hat photographed by Laura Burch

Photography for Sew Magical for Kids was different, we used a photographer’s studio and backdrops. I painted several backdrops to use with a variety of of the products, modeled by my two youngest girls and several friends from school.

I'm painting the dragon backdrop for the princess and knight items

I thought the backdrops added a lot to the photos. I didn’t want the book photos to look like pack shots.

The princess and my dragon backdrop at the photo shoot

My girls helped me to paint the backdrops because the deadline of the book fell during my absolute busiest time, preparing (designing and sewing costumes) for Purim.

Elli helps paint backdrops

I was looking for my books in American book and craft stores over the summer and I couldn’t  find them:o I assumed that they would be distributed to the bookstores that do business with the publisher, but I think I have a lot of  marketing to do; I’ll keep you updated on this phase of writing craft books.  So now I have two beautiful craft books that I’m very proud of and now I’m looking into publishing them internationally.

Maxi in the snake t-shirt

Peace Felt 2010

Peace Man

I just finished my piece for the Peace Felt 2010 event. The “V” hand signal and the white dove with an olive branch in it’s beak were the first two peace symbols that came to my mind after I decided to join the Peace Felt group. I put the two symbols together for a stronger impact. My piece was made with a combination of wet and needle felting techniques.

Peace Dove detail

Peace or the lack of peace is something I think about almost every day here in Israel. I read about attempts at peace negotiations on the front page of the newspapers, I see how a lack of peace effects the economy here and I see how the lack of peace effects the social atmosphere around me.

back/wrong side of peace symbol

Not only does Israel have peace issues to deal with but many refugees from war torn countries come to Israel seeking asylum. I see people looking for peace, looking for peaceful lives and peace of mind in ways many people take for granted. I’m not sure what my little felt sculpture can do to help make peace but perhaps it can be a small reminder of how important it is and that we should all strive for peace and try to influence our own governments to attain it.

Peace symbol for Peace Felt 2010