Laura as Marie Antoinette

marie antoinette
Laughing Marie Antoinette

I decided to change my Laura Lee Burch Studio Facebook page photo to something fun, so I donned my Marie Antoinette felt wig and asked my oldest daughter Lili to shoot some photos of me. She must have taken 50 photos of me or more, none of which I thought did Marie nor I justice. I just felt like I had a plastic face (my girls make modeling look so easy-it’s not), then Lili told me she thought I looked like a drag queen in this wig, which made me laugh really hard and voila-I like this picture. My kids say the darnest things to me like, you know mama, if you dyed your hair you wouldn’t look so old and if you put more cream on your face you wouldn’t be so wrinkly! My youngest daughter asked me recently if I voted for Abraham Lincoln and she asked if I had  ever seen a real dinosaur!!! She also once told me that I was a real mother felter, which I wasn’t sure was a compliment or a misguided insult disguised as a compliment.

felt wig
I'm trying not to laugh

Are those train tracks around your eyes? Lili assured me that I didn’t look bad and that I’d be 28 this year on my birthday (since I was 29 last year-I have a Jack Benny/Benjamen Button thing going on). We decided that if the wig was blue, I could pass for Marge Simpson; that gives me an idea for the upcoming Halloween costume! All I need now is a doughnut for Doron and we’re set as Marge and Homer.

Emili wearing a Marie Antoinette wig
Emili wearing a wool Marie Antoinette wig

Marie Antoinette has played a major role in my artwork for the last several years. I made this wool wig for Emili to wear in a fashion show; it was so big she could barely walk in it! The Marie Antoinette dress was the most popular princess costume in my shop.

princess dress
Marie Antoinette princess costume

I think it’s the elegance and excess that appeals to me about Marie, she was something that I’m not. I don’t wear makeup or big puffy dresses. The last time I wore a big,  puffy dress, the girls were little and they crawled up under it and used it as a tent, while I was wearing it! Even my puppets have gotten into the action.

Marie Antoinette puppet
Needle felted Marie Antoinette Puppet and Emili in matching wig and dress.

This Marie Antoinette puppet is one of my favorite pieces; I woman bought her last year after she persuaded me to sell her. I was paid a pretty penny for her, but I had this emotional attachment to her. I felt terrible after I sold this puppet. I said I’d make another one, but I haven’t yet…..I will.

Marie Antoinette puppet
Needle felted/sewn Marie Antoinette puppet

Waldorf Costumes: It’s Not Easy Being A Carrot!

rabbits like carrots
Everybody, especially rabbits, like carrots.

Emili the carrot dosen’t know it yet, but she is being admired by the hungry bunny, carrots and bunnies are of course, natural enemies. As I was needle felting the carrot hat, I had a vision of the carrot being chased by a rabbit, is that wrong?

carrots don't like rabbits
The carrot notices an unwanted admirer.

I think my warped sense of humor took over during this photo shoot of my Waldorf inspired costumes. Elli really got into role of the over enthusiastic rabbit; I love the leering look the rabbit gives the carrot. Of course you don’t have to promote the predatory idea like I did, but it made me laugh. Carrots should be hanging out with their fruit and veggie friends, it’s much more wholesome!

fruity friends
Emili the carrot and her fruity friends, Lili the strawberry and Helen the apple.

Waldorf Costumes

Waldorf gnomes
The gnome couple are wearing needle felted gnome hats.

I said that I wasn’t going to make any costumes this year…..and look what happened. Gnome hats! I’ve been needle felting everything lately and so many people have asked if I’m going to make costumes this year, that I decided to needle felt a few key accessories-Waldorf style. I prefer to make my accessories from wool now, it saves me time. Even though needle felting is very time consuming, I don’t have to run all over Tel Aviv buying all the little things I need to make these accessories as I would if I were sewing them. I buy or order all the wool colors I need, and many felting strokes later I’ve finished my little creations. 

lady gnome hat
Elli the gnome has been out mushroom picking.

I love the photos I took of Elli and Emili today. We had a lot of fun at our photo shoot, several passers-by asked to take photos with the girls, like they were characters at an amusement park! I dressed them in their regular clothes (well, Emili is wearing my blue shirt) and added the needle felted, wool, Waldorf accessories. I’ve always thought that the accessories were the most important part of a costume and the base pieces can be found in some one’s closet at home or maybe a thrift shop.

little gnome
Emili the little lawn gnome!

I needle felted a gnome beard for Emili’s costume to give her that authentic gnome look. I think the process of thinking about what you want to be, then looking for pieces of clothing in your closets or the thrift store is a very creative process, similar to “the good old days” when families made their costumes together. Many mothers told me at my store that they missed this good old fashioned activity with their children, but they just didn’t have the time. I completely understand that feeling, so I guess my advice to those time challenged mothers and fathers would be to plan way ahead when preparing for Purim or Halloween. 

bouquet of mushrooms
He woos her with a bouquet of mushrooms!

I think I relate to the imaginative/creative aspects of the Waldorf way the most. Stay tuned for more imaginative wool and felt Waldorf style costumes. These items are available in my Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/lauraleeburch?view_type=gallery

Playing and Teaching with Needle Felted Masks

Let's play

You know, I like my pieces of art to be useful; save for the specific holiday pieces that will be stored away till next year. I made these animal masks for Halloween, but they’ll be very useful all year round for imaginative play. I’m going to hang them in the playroom and let the girls and their friends play dress up with them and at the same time I think they’ll make interesting decorations. The masks are very strong and they’ll hold up well in the hands of a bunch of kids. 

Needle felted pig mask

I’ve recently started to teach English to a little four and a half year old French girl and my toys and masks have become very useful in teaching her new words. The toys and masks engage her, she wants to play with them and they give me the perfect opportunity to teach her new words and ideas. I think that an activity helps her to remember new words as we use the words over and over again. I also draw with her (she doesn’t read or write yet), so I draw pictures of the words we’re learning (usually one of the toys I’ve made) and then she draws what I’ve drawn and then we play with the toy in the picture. Her reward for studying 20-30 minutes is playtime at the end of the lesson. 

Needle felted sheep mask

We made a game out of the masks. After Matilde found my masks sitting on a table, she put them on and started trotting around the room with a cow mask on her face. I asked her what the animal said (moo) and then I told her the name of the animal (cow). We did this for all six masks. I laid all six masks in a row on the table and told her to choose the correct mask according to the sound or word that I said. Moo, cow,  baaa or sheep, she needed to choose the correct mask for the word or sound that I made. This has been a very successful game, as now she know the words and sounds for cow, horse, sheep, dog, cat and rooster! Next we’ll learn what theses animals do, like run, stand, eat, sleep, walk, etc.

Needle felted cat mask

Needle Felted Halloween Masks

Needle felted cow mask

 Animals are often the subject matter of the art that I make. I have a definite affinity for barnyard animals because they were like playmates of mine growing up in Greenfield, Indiana. I played with the horses and cows specifically, we didn’t really have any “next door” neighbors, but we did have cows and horses next door. Our house sat on a hill in the middle of a cow pasture, my parents actually bought the land from a cattle farmer and built the house right in the middle of one of his fields.  My brother and sister and I learned many life lessons living in the middle of a Pasteur. When we saw the cows “doing it” out the kitchen window, my mom would tell us they were fighting or dancing and then shoo us away from the window. My sister leaned to lick her nose with her tongue like the cows next door and I saw my first “hoo-ha” proudly displayed on the little pony in the field next to our house and I was extremely surprised how small a real boy’s “hoo-ha” was compared to that horse!  

moo

 I saw “my” cows every morning and evening as the school bus drove us noisy farm kids through the countryside, back and forth to school. My grandpa Perkinson raised Charlette cattle on our farm outside Madison, Indiana. My brother, sister and I often accompanied my grandpa to cattle auctions and were privy to many conversations about “cow matters” between my grandpa and the other cattle farmers.

old photo of my grandfather's cows

My favorite bovine memory was one, snowy, winter morning as we were watching for the school bus out of our frosty living room window and a cow (from the field next door) walked up to the window and pushed his big pink nose against the glass to look in at us. ” The cow  is looking in the window at us!” I yelled at my mother. She didn’t really believe what I was saying till she came into the living room and saw our big white neighbor staring in. The snow had drifted so high the night before that the cows were able to walk “over” the fence and into our yard. The whole herd was in our front yard using our fir trees and shrubs to scratch their bellies. The farmer had to replace all of our trees and shrubs.   

Needle felted Horse mask

 I used to groom and ride the horse next door, which is no small feat since the horse was wild. I rode her bareback around the field until she decided that I should get off! As I was riding her through the field, I knew I had overstayed my welcome when she came to a screeching halt and refused to move any more, I dismounted and she trotted away.   

My friend Suger, I'm 9 years old

 I remember trying to get on the horse, jumping off the fence, missing her back and landing on the other side of her. Some of my best childhood memories are of myself and that horse. In a needle felting frenzy, I needle felted barnyard animal masks for Halloween for the last six days straight, the whole time remembering my childhood and the (mostly) four legged friends that I shared it with. I had pet ducks growing up (two legged friends) but I found a bird mask is weird looking with the eyes in the front. I lined all the masks with cotton gingham so they’re not scratchy when you put them on. I think my family and I will go as farm animals this year for Halloween! More masks to come…..