It took a long time to finish my studio, after we bought the 150+ year old Ottoman-era property in the ancient port city of Jaffa, Israel; we had to design the space and then rehab it with the help of ancient architecture specialists (architects, engineers, builders and carpenters) because the building is historic and required many special details in its restoration. The building has been many things over the years but it’s original purpose was as a barn. The building is located in Shuk Ha Pish Pishim (the flea market); in ancient times herders kept their livestock in the area below our apartment and slept in the rooms that are now our house. The herders sold their livestock in the market that still exists today albeit with a very different look and feel! The flea market today is a very hip and gritty place with many bars, restaurants and boutiques.
There are 2 outdoor spaces in our house now but years ago the rooms were built around an indoor courtyard, a very common feature of Arabic architecture. The rooms are designated by the vaulted ceilings, one of the most striking features of the house.
It took us a little more than 3 years to rehab our home in which my studio is located. My art studio has a mid-century modern look; it contains 8 large storage cabinets with transparent backs so you can see the stones behind, a card catalog for storing tiny supplies like threads, tape, felting supplies, knick-knacks etc., two mid-century style tables, my aquarium of turtles and a little sofa. There were two niches in my studio (we don’t know what they were for); I now use one as a storage area and one as a bathroom.
I have a mid-century style handmade, walnut sewing table and a matching taller table with my computer on it; this is where I felt because all my wool is in the cabinets behind me. As I sit and work I can watch my turtles in the aquarium that separates my studio space from the rest of the house. Louie and Shmoopy (my dogs) often visit me in my studio, Shmoopy is currently banned from the studio because she has eaten too many of my felted pieces; she jumps up on the table and cabinets and steals them.
I’ve added many family heirlooms in my studio; they give me inspiration and they are reminders of quality, old-world craftsmanship. My fiber-art is needle felted, many times with embroidery, beads or textiles incorporated into the work.
At one point in my needle felting I began to wonder how I could make the surface more interesting, so I began to experiment. I needle felted a mask using a large felted ball as a mold to help me obtain the curved shape of the mask. I felted the mask face as I’d felt any doll face but as I started to apply the colors of the face I became bored with the felted outcome. I decided to start the long, arduous process of embroidering the mask.
It took me several years to finish this project because many other projects became more important and I put the mask away, time and time again. Because of the tediousness of the embroidery I wasn’t excited to finish it.
As I progressed with the mask embroidery, the shape of the mask changed and I had to keep reshaping it. Getting the needle through the center part of the face was very difficult. By this point (above) I was anticipating adding color so the process became more exciting!
The mask came to life with the addition of each different color that I added. The more colors applied to the surface, the faster I worked!
I compare the many colorful thread stitches of my mask to brush strokes; the outcome reminds me of an impressionistic painting.
I sewed/glued a chop stick to the side of the mask for a handle; I felted a handle, embroidered it black and inserted the thread-wrapped chop stick into the handle. I sewed black beads around the mask to compliment the handle.
The feel that the messy, inside of the mask is as interesting as the outside! I’m looking forward to my next needle felted-embroidered mask and I’m sure I will finish it in record time!
Q: Who is the smartest pig in the world?
Q: Why did the pig cross the road?
A: He got boar-ed.
Q: What do you call a pig with laryngitis?A: Disgruntled.
Q: What do you call a pig who won the lottery?
A: Filthy rich.
Q: What do you call the story of the three little pigs?
A: A pig tale.
A policeman in the big city stops a man in a car with a pig in the front seat.
“What are you doing with that pig”” He exclaimed, “You should take it to the zoo.”
The following week, the same policeman sees the same man with the pig again in the front seat, with both of them wearing sunglasses. The policeman pulls him over.
“I thought you were going to take that pig to the zoo!” The man replied, “I did. We had such a good time we’re going to the beach this weekend!
Q: Why should you never tell a pig a secret?
A: Because they love to squeal.
A man in a movie theater notices what looks like a pig sitting next to him.
“Are you a pig?” asked the man surprised.
“Yes” the pig replied.
“What are you doing at the movies?”
The pig replied, “Well, I liked the book.”
Q: What do you call a pig that’s not fun to be around?
A: A boar.
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!”
Many of my friends have told me that I am very disciplined as far as work is concerned and I tend to agree, but it’s not easy. Everyday I get up, get the girls off to school, clean up, do the dishes, start a load of laundry, clean the cat box and do other sundry jobs like perhaps going to the post office to send out Etsy purchases or pick craft supplies that I’ve ordered from abroad. After the little daily jobs are finished, it’s down to work for me creating art. My husband teases me as he leaves for work in the morning “I wished I could stay home everyday, don’t eat too many bon-bons!” and I ignore him and try to put myself in creative mode.
Being serious about creating for a living means not going out for coffee with friends a lot during the day, not watching t.v. (not a problem for me) not being distracted by housework, phone calls, taking Hebrew or French lessons (which I should be doing) or other odd jobs that need being done around the house and the list goes on. Keep your eye on the ball and your nose to the grind stone as they say. I need to keep my concentration, to be in a good mood and most of all I need long periods of time and Inspiration to make art. I’ve written about this before, but it’s an on-going search. My long term goals have a lot to do with the energy that I need to plow through the daily distractions and continue to make art for a living. It can get fairly depressing and start to feel like I’m running around in circles and what’s the point if I create things all day and no one notices or buys them. I need to feel that I’ve accomplished a task to feel good and not like I’m “staying home from school and playing” My goals and accomplishments keep me going: Etsy and local store sales, book deals, teaching jobs, my handsome website and plans for future needle felting exhibitions give me strength.
Recently, I took my youngest daughter Emili on a mother-daughter trip, we went to Rome, Italy for a week! I’ve made it a tradition to take my girls on mother-daughter trips, the one on one time with my girls is priceless, the adventure is forever memorable and the photos and inspiration that I get from it is good for my soul. Emili chose to go to Rome, I think because she has been studying Rome in school and maybe because spaghetti, pizza and ice cream are three of her favorite foods! She has several Italian friends in school, so we received lists of the most interesting places to go the best places to eat, maps and valuable travel info. from them-thanks Marcello!
Our favorite time to venture out was mid-day; we shopped, walked around, ate and talked as the sun began to weaken and the best time of the day for Emili and I was seeing the sights as the sun began to set. All the touristy sights were packed with people (not my scene) in the early part of the day, it’s not easy to take great photos when there are throngs of tourists everywhere. But in the evening, St. Peter’s square in the Vatican was empty! and I was thrilled! These long walks afforded us time to talk; Emili and I talked about things that don’t come up on a regular basis at home. Walking through St. Peter’s square and around the Vatican, we talked about religion, it seemed appropriate. Emili had a lot of questions about nuns and priests, about how they dressed, what they believed in and how they were connected to The Vatican. She told me that she and her friends at school have had discussions about religion and religious differences and respecting those differences. I was impressed at this level of discussion for 9 and 10 year olds and the mention of respecting their differences made my heart sing!
We found the small Bertolucci Shop while wandering around the tiny street of Rome; they specialize in wood carving and Pinocchio dolls. This was right up my alley of coarse, I bought I small finely carved Pinocchio for myself. I believe I will needle felt a Pinocchio doll in the future, I’ve always wanted to make one! There was a corner of the store showing the wood carving tools and pieces of wood in different stages of carving, a real artist’s workshop-you don’t see that very often.
After walking around the Piazza Navona area, we started to cross the wide and highly adorned Ponte’ Sant Angelo (one of the bridges with the statues) and Emili started dancing. We were listening to a very talented guitar player, his playing put a pep in our step, we dropped a few coins in his hat because we admired his talent and we continued to boogie across the Tiber River on our way back to our hotel.
I studied in Florence, Italy when I was in university, so Italy has a special place in my heart. Italy was a place of firsts for me and it was a new world that I never knew existed! I’m hoping that our travels will inspire things in my girls. My oldest daughter asked me once why should she read “old classic literature” when she liked “the new stuff” better. The answer to this question was was so obvious to me, that I had a hard time putting my answer into words. But basically, I tried to explain to her that there are a lot of ideas, experiences, thoughts and feelings out there in books and music and foreign cities that have never crossed your young mind and once you find them in one of these places you will be “delighted” and want to seek more.
Classic architecture, crumbly old buildings, ancient, chipping, ochre-colored walls, tiny narrow alleyways, beautiful, tiny shops, tall pointy trees, bumpy, black, cobblestone streets, colorful markets and teeny-tiny cars (all of which Emili had to have her picture taken with) were the sights that delighted us in Rome. It’s good to get away every now and then, away from my daily routine and surroundings, it gives me the time to realize how lucky I am and the chance to make life-long memories. Emili says her favorite part of our trip was the Colusium, because we lied down on a grassy hill outside of it, snuggled up together and took a little nap in the sun after we had roamed around the big circular stadium for a few hours.
After Emili and I had walked, eaten, shopped and sight-seen for the day, we went back to the Casale de Cedri (the ochre colored 19th century villa we stayed at on the outskirts of Rome-owned by an aristocratic family as their summer home). We spent the evening in the living room that over looks the manicured grounds full of vines and flowers, fountains and maze-shaped bushes that Emili described as an Alice and Wonderland type garden. Emili played games and watched Pet Shop videos on my computer, which are her passion right now and I read my book. We sat on the elegant, white sofa together, but every evening, she slowly inched toward me so that our legs touched and our elbows got in each other’s way. I looked over at her because maybe she didn’t realize that she was crowding my space, then she gave me an adoring smile and this was my favorite part of our trip, every evening on the sofa together!