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.
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!