Fun with Needle Felting, Photography and Puppies!

Pitt the bulldog
Pitt the bulldog puppy chasing the girls.

I‘ve decided to make Fridays a day to post photographs-related or not related to my work. I’ve always taken a lot of photographs and I’m now experimenting with having my digital photos printed in book or magazine form so they’re accessable. I have many of my photos on Flickr, but for some people, like my aunt who dosn’t have a computer, I still need to print some of the photos.

The main photo is Pitt (with an Israeli accent it sounds like Pete, which is what I thought his name was untill just recently); he’s chasing Lili and Elli and trying to bite their feet!  He is the cutest little bulldog, fiesty and sweet. He just looks like a puddle when he lies down! Pitt was the inspiration for one of my first needle felted tiny dogs.

needle felted pets
Man's best friend in miniature.
Needle felted Pitt
Tiny 3" tall, needle felted Pitt the bulldog

I’m working on more tiny dogs now….

Waldorf Needle Felted and Felt Mushroom Houses

doll houses
Red spotted Mushroom houses

Welcome to the fungi neighborhood! I’ve wanted to make a habitat for awhile now, so I started with the mushroom houses and this is what I’ve come up with. I had some industrial felt sitting around, I decided to use this because I needed a firm material for the base of the house. The industrial felt is so hard you can’t felt into (it is about 1/4″ thick and comes in many thicknesses) but it’s perfect for “building”.

needle felted and felt mushroom house
Needle felted and felt Mushroom house.

I really got into the felt details of the mushroom stem, in this house I’ve added a rabbit, deer and owl into the flower and vine design.

felt owl
An owl in the forest, felt detail
felt details
Deer in the forest, felt detail.

  I had needle felted the tops of the mushrooms earlier as hats, so I reused the hats for the mushroom caps. The houses have 2 floors; you enter the bottom floor by entering the front door and you can access the top floor by lifting off the mushroom cap.

hello neighbor
There are two floors in the mushroom houses.
upstairs
The upper floor of the mushroom house.

The mushroom houses are the perfect size for my wood-felt-wool dolls!

mushroom houses and wooden dolls
Imaginative play with mushroom houses and wooden-felt-wool dolls.

You can find both of these mushroom houses for sale on my Etsy site: http://www.etsy.com/shop/lauraleeburch

Needle felted Rabbits; Teaching History with Puppets

needle felted puppets
Needle felted puppets: Three bunnies?

When I first made my Easter puppets, I set them up to look at them as I always do, to see/feel if they were finished or if they needed a little something extra. Many things came to my mind, the first being that the chick, so different from the bunnies wanted to fit in with the crowd, so I needle felted the chick a bunny hat. Now the chick looks like his friends, more or less. This reminds me of my girls, dressing in “IN” clothes and having the right shoes or accessories to be in style. It also reminds me of myself  in college, I usually dressed “artsy” or differently as a statement of individuality. The chick dressed as a rabbit struck me as sad; I felt sorry that he needed to be like the others.

needle felted puppets as teaching tools
Needle felted chick puppet: in disguise

 After my thoughts of “fitting in” and my musings over my slightly humorous photo of “three rabbits” had passed, my light-hearted Easter puppets moved in a more somber direction, a different idea came to me. What if the chick needed to pass for a rabbit, what if he is in disguise, a disguise to save his life? 

hidden children of WWII
Needle felted puppet: Jewish chick

In 1940, my mother-in-law was 12 years old and her parents sent her to live with a family, in a small village outside of her town of Krakow, Poland. She was to live as a Christian because she was/is a Jew; later in history, we refer to the “hidden children” of WWII as those living with a different identity, different names, in foreign towns and with people who were not always a part of their family. These children were hiding from Nazis or in the case of Poland, they were hiding from every day Polish citizens who would turn them into the Nazis, who would kill them. The little girl (my mother- in- law) was given a different (Christian) name and she needed to be careful to answer to it when called, she remembers going to church and tells of how much she loved the stained glass windows. Luckily for my mother- in- law, she had white-blond hair as a little girl and big blue eyes, she easily passed for a Christian child in 1940. I can’t imagine the trauma of sending a child away to save their life or the trauma the child must have felt living away from the family; I have a 12 year old daughter now. I imagine my mother-in-law’s parents were grateful beyond words that they had found someone who would take their daughter in (I’m wondering if they paid the family to take her in). The people who took in my mother-in-law were helping to save her life, but the lady of the house wasn’t very nice to her and she used her as a maid. The man of the house noticed that the little girl read a lot, so he started to cut out all the articles related to the war and what was happening to the Jews from the newspaper. He told her this after the war, he said he cut out the articles so she would worry less. He told her he always knew she was a Jew because of how much she read (sterio-type?). She lived in hiding (as a chick amongst rabbits) for about a year and a half. We don’t know a lot of details from the war time about my mother-in-law’s life because she can’t bring herself to talk about it. She says after she talks about this time in her life, she can’t sleep for weeks afterwards, so we don’t ask a lot. Sometimes after a few glasses of wine at dinner, she starts to talk about the war and this is the time that we listen very intently, to hear her fascinating, heart-breaking story. She moved on from the small village and continued her journey through the war with her brother who had been in hiding in another town, working and living on a farm. The brother and sister never saw their parents nor their home again and from the stranger’s homes from which they worked, they moved on to live in the forest, accompanying and fighting with the Polish partisans….

Needle felted Barnyard Puppets-Peanut Gallery Critique

needle felted puppets
Barnyard puppets

I started needle felting puppets again, I haven’t made any in about a year. I used to make a lot of puppets and the girls and I would play with them together. I used the puppets to help tell bedtime stories and I would put up my doorway puppet theater and the girls would put on puppet shows for me. My girls are a little old for that sort of puppet play now, but we still use them to help teach English to our little students. I think the puppets prolong the attention span of the kids and help them to be more interested in what I’m saying when I’m teaching them English. The puppets also prompt the kids to participate more than usual; they’re really a very helpful teaching tool.

cow
Needle felted cow puppet

Sometimes I finish a puppet and I don’t like it, so I tear off the parts I don’t like and start again. As I was working on one puppet imparticular, one of my girls walked by and said “WHAT…….IS……..THAT????!!!!!” I indignantly answered “it’s a cow“. She went on on to tell me that she really didn’t like the way it was turning out. “OH MY GOD, is it a mutant cow or something?” Did you ever see in the movies when an artist was working on a painting, they would always cover it with a cloth until it was finished and ready to show to the world, there was a reason for that. The problem with working at my kitchen table is that everybody and their brother (my husband and kids that is) see everything I’m working on and they coment on it.

needle felted pig puppet
Needle felted pig puppet face detail

Now I’m not opposed to contructive critism, but  overly truthful, premature comments sometimes rattle me: “that is really ugly“, “that’s scarry” and “whoa!” are not usually helpful. I also get alot of “awwws” (said in a very high pitched voice) from them, so their feedback is not always critical.

needle felted puppet
Needle felted Rooster Puppet

But I will have to say that I took a good, hard look at that scarry, alien cow puppet and I went back and changed it and now I like it better. Thank You peanut gallery!

Grand Puppet Reunion in the Mushroom Forest

gnomes hide under mushrooms
Tiny gnomes hide right under our noses!

I tried to build a “magical world” for my needle felted gnome puppet to hide in the other day so I could take his picture. I set up my photo like I usually do, on a white piece of cardboard on my front porch. I set up my small mushrooms, positioned my gnome puppet behind the big orange needle felted mushroom and started to shoot. Something was missing. It’s hard to shoot  magical, mystical worlds when you live in the middle of a city, another reason to be more creative I guess. I stood back and looked at my set up and I noticed the vines clinging to the side of my house, creeping along and nearly covering the facade. I pulled some of the vines into my shot and positioned them so the green leaves filled in the empty spaces, I think that did it!

Little gnome says "hi"
Peek-a-boo

My needle felted puppets usually end up acting out scenes and telling stories (like my Little Red Riding Hood post: http://www.lauraleeburch.com/blog/2010/04/the-adventures-of-little-red-riding-hood/). The mushroom forest set up inspired me to finish two other needle felted puppets I’d been working on and set aside for several months. I set out to finish the Rose Princess puppet and the Little Red Mushroom puppet because I was sure that the Little Gnome puppet would  be delighted to run into them in the mushroom forest.

handpuppets
The Little Gnome puppet, the Rose Princess puppet and the Mushroom puppet meet in the Mushroom forest.

I was right, it was a grand reunion of old friends.