My Art Studio by Laura Lee Burch

Louie keeps me company in my studio.

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. 

Ottoman architecture, vaulted ceilings

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 keep my wool, fabrics and finished sculptures in my storage cabinets.

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.

My sewing table has an inspiration board behind it. I have many memories stashed inside the studio; the chair was my grandma Burch’s sewing chair.
Sewing has been a handed-down activity. From my grandma Burch and from my mother to me, from myself to my daughters.
My father made this wooden tool chest when he was just starting his career.

 

 

 

I’m holding Alice’s needle felted flamingo.
Needle felted-embroidered mask.

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. 

Studio before:

Studio space before: stucko walls and ceiling.
Studio before: small space made into a bathroom.
Studio before: space during demolition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studio before: Second cubby hole, now used for storage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studio after the walls and ceiling were sandblasted and the cement floor was layed.

A Dogs’ Life: Bull Terriers and Pit Bulls in 2015

Louie loves to sit on us!
Louie loves to sit on us!

We recently  adopted a dog and because of my new experiences with our dog  I’ve been paying closer attention to dog issues.  I’ve read about the dog meat festival in Yulin, China, to the challenges that animal rescuers and shelters deal with world wide and the dog fighting industry. I had no idea how many dogs and cats are purposely abused till I started to follow a few animal rescue sites. I also had no idea about the dog fighting industry, which is of a concern to me now because of the breed of our new puppy. Dog fighters prey on the bully breed of dogs, our dog Louie belongs to this breed; the dog fighting industry specifically contributes to the demonization of the Pit Bull/Bully breed of dogs which in turn leads to the glut of Pit bulls in shelters and rescue centers.

Louie lounging around.
Louie lounging around

Louie was 9 months old when we met him, by chance my husband and I saw a young man walking a white Bull Terrier (you know, the dog that looks like a pig, Spuds Mackenzie or the Target dog!).  I excitedly urged my husband to go talk to the young man to ask him about his dog because we had always wanted a Bull Terrier since our beloved Quill died (Quill was a Chow Chow who was with us for 19 years). We read reports that Bull Terriers were friendly dogs that make good pets. The man immediately asked my husband if he wanted the dog, as he was moving to Australia and couldn’t take the dog with him.  All of the young man’s friends and family already had dogs and Louie was on his way to the dog shelter if he couldn’t find him a home soon. Chances are Louie would have soon been adopted at the shelter because he’s rare and prestigious here, but chances were just as good that someone would have adopted him for dog fighting.

Snuggling
Snuggling

We brought Louie home the next day to see how we all got along; Louie LOVES people and dogs as well, he’s even made friends with our smallest cat Runty who accompanies us on walks (the rest of the cats are afraid of him). The moment we brought him into our apartment, he chased Kitty upstairs, jumped on the couches, knocked me down, ran around in circles and bit his tail till it bled; big, strong, untrained Louie was an adorable “hand-full”. It was up to me to decide if we would keep Louie as I would be the one with him most of the time; I cried the first day I was with this sweet, super strong, big puppy because I didn’t know if I could handle him but at the same time I couldn’t bear to let him go to the dog shelter. I said I’d give it my best shot and Louie became a new member of our family, much to the dismay of our 4 rescue cats who had the run of the house up until this time.

Smiling
Smiling

Louie is really funny and he’s a cuddler, he loves to be near us, he especially loves to lie on top of us! He talks to us with a voice that sounds to me kind of like a “dinosaur” and I know when he’s been bad (peed on the floor or chewed something to pieces) by the look on his face. He is STRONG and very athletic; it has been a joy to watch him run and play.

Bored
Bored

The second day we had Louie I received a $200 ticket at 7 a.m on our morning walk because he wasn’t wearing a muzzle; apparently in Israel he is considered a “dangerous breed” and needs to be neutered, chipped and wear a muzzle at all times. We found out quickly that people believe that many of the Bully breeds are aggressive and very dangerous, the most dangerous thing about Louie is his fast-wagging tail. Just let me say that quite a few unmuzzled dogs-large and small- have snapped at us on our walks; Louie always startles and quickly continues on his way; he doesn’t snap back! We soon noticed that people would cross the street when we were walking Louie, they gave us dirty looks and some even make hateful comments to us. Many dogs have attacked Louie, many dogs don’t like him because he is an alpha-type of dog.

Louie LOVES Emili
Louie is smitten with  Emili

A muzzled dog makes people weary of him, it does not help a situation when you’re trying to socialize your dog; people often ask me why Louie has on a muzzle. Dogs and people go out of their way to show us that they don’t approve of us; I now feel as if I’m wearing a fur coat made from puppies while walking my pet alligator down the street, I feel like an outcast. Owners of Bully breeds often stop to chat and lament at how badly others treat them and their dogs. Louie’s previous owner had socialized him well; the entire dog park community knew and loved Louie when they knew him as a puppy.

Leapin' Louie
Leapin’ Louie

We soon found out as Louie was now growing older and didn’t look like a puppy any more that the dog park was a terrible place for him; he was attacked twice (needed stitches from the unmuzzled dogs and was once attacked by a woman who kicked our muzzled-Louie repeatedly till my husband pulled her off him). Most Louie-haters assume he is a Pit Bull, they knowingly inform me that “he is a weapon“. It has become very clear to me that most people are extremely uneducated about dogs in general and especially about the Bully breeds (I was part of this group before Louie even though I grew up with and have always had a dog). I think Ceasar Milan’s t.v. show- Ceasar’s Way– about training dogs and his son Calvin’s new dog show for children on Nickelodeon-Mutt and Stuff– are having a very positive impact (in America) on dog education; GO CEASAR!

Laughing
Laughing

In my research I found out that the Bully Breeds (American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Boxer, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, French Bulldog, Olde English Bulldogge, Victorian Bulldog ) have a bad reputation because organized crime and street thugs use certain “pit bull” dogs for dog fighting; Dog fighting is a highly profitable blood sport.

Awww!
Awww!

Dog fighting is a breeding ground for the exchange of illegal drugs, gambling and the desensitization of young children who are often present at these Roman coliseum type family events. There are different levels of dog fighting from dog street fights run by gangs to professional level fights where dogs are “professionally” trained and taught to fight. Much of the abuse of dog fighting befalls the bait dog (often stolen dogs), the smaller or more timid dog used to train the stronger dogs to attack and kill. Bait dogs are often the dogs found maimed and scarred at dog shelters. Dogs and the communities where the fights are held are both losers in this “game”. I also feel that the media takes delight in demonizing the Bully breeds as they did German Shepards, Doberman Pincers and Rottweilers in previous years.

Sleeping
Sleeping

We never go to dog parks any more, we try to keep Louie away from bad situations. We moved from Tel Aviv, Israel to Jaffa (just 5 minutes away) a few weeks ago; the dog situation is worse in Jaffa. We’ve learned of the deaths of 6 dogs in our immediate area by poisoning in a month’s time, four of these cases happened in a nearby dog park. Louie must always wear his muzzle now not just because it’s the law here but so he doesn’t snatch and eat poisoned food off the street, no exceptions. We’re deeply saddened that Louie’s life and so many other dogs like him are fraught by hate and ignorance.

Playing
Posing

It’s important to properly train a dog, it makes all of our lives easier when everyone’s dog mind their manners! We learned that the best training comes from positive reinforcement, teaching your dog to want to behave in a certain way because it benefits him. We wanted to send Louie to dog training camp and receive back a well trained dog but we learned from our dog trainer that that’s not how it works. Keeping your dog well trained is an on-going process, you must consistently reinforce positive behaviors in your dog even after he’s learned the behavior. Please note: any dog can be aggressive especially if they’re not properly trained and socialized. Dog owners have a responsibility for their dog’s behavior and a dog owner can easily be the reason a dog is deemed dangerous or actually is dangerous. NOTE: please keep your dog leashed! Even if your dog is obedient and well behaved he may curiously wander over to  a dog who does not like other dogs and this will result in a bad situation!

Louie and Doron
Louie and Doron
Needle felted Bull Terrier and stick
Needle felted Louie and Wooden Stick by Laura Lee Burch

I’ve been needle felting dogs for several years now but recently I decided to try to educate and promote as much awareness as I can with my art. I’m donating the sales of specific felted dogs (Bully breeds) to a few dog shelters and dog rescuers that have won my heart with their bravery and kind hearts. There are so many dogs (and cats) in need, I can’t felt fast enough…….

Louie loves a good stick!
Louie loves a good stick! Needle felted dog by Laura Lee Burch
smiling Isaboo
Red-nosed Amstaff  Needle felted dog by Laura Lee Burch
Pit Bull and Kitty
Pit Bull and Kitty Needle felted dog and cat by Laura Lee Burch

It is a MYTH that Pit Bulls and Bully breed dogs have locking jaws!

Pit Bull MYTHShttps://www.petfinder.com/pet-adoption/dog-adoption/myths-and-facts-about-pit-bulls/

Learn about dog fightinghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_fighting_in_the_United_States

Report dog fighting to the Humane Society or your local animal control agencyhttp://www.humanesociety.org/issues/campaigns/cruelty_fighting/hsus_rewards_animal_fighting.html?credit=web_globalfooter?referrer=https://www.google.co.il/

ASPCA: Ten ways to help stop dog fightinghttps://www.aspca.org/fight-cruelty/dog-fighting/ten-ways-help-end-dog-fighting

Help Ban Breed Specific Lawshttps://www.aspca.org/fight-cruelty/dog-fighting/breed-specific-legislation

Good Dog training Video siteshttps://www.youtube.com/user/zakgeorge21  and https://www.youtube.com/user/kikopup

Dog Educationhttps://www.cesarsway.com/

Our New-Old Home in Jaffa

view to the sea e

The ancient, Biblical port city of Jaffa

One of my newest artistic projects is restoring, designing and furnishing an 150 year old-historical piece of vernacular, Ottoman architecture. Basically, we bought a fixer-upper! We’re moving “down the street” from Neve Tzedek to Jaffa (a 15 minute walk) where we will adjust to the very different sea-side city, it’s inhabitants and all Jaffa has to offer. I’ll be documenting the 2nd floor, one story residence through it’s restoration. We’ve hired the architects Paritsky and Liani because we like their clean, modern style; together we will design the house to highlight the original shapes and materials of the structure and combine modern architectural elements that will blend with the ancient. After a brief history of what best illustrates Ottoman architecture,  you will see the interior of our new-old house before any work has started.

studio-courtyard-dining eTurkey ruled the area that is now Israel from the earyly 16th century to 1922; we can see numerous example of vernacular Ottoman architecture throughout Israel. Ottoman architecture can be recognized by a few basic characteristics common to the style: vaulted ceilings, domed ceilings, semi domes, pointed arches, columns, inner and outer courtyards and ornate tile decorations. Ottoman period courtyards were influenced by the Paradise of the Koran; so the garden (courtyard) or Earthly Paradise was designed to represent heaven, a serene place. Decorative motifs were based on nature. Vernacular Ottoman architecture retains the basic Ottoman style but the residential architecture is built with native building materials, forms, and spatial arrangements.

Positive elements of Ottoman architecture are:

  • Thick cement walls to aid in resistance of the vaulted ceilings (arched).:
    Non-combustible, low heat transfer in fires
  • Does not rot, termite-proof at prescribed densities
  • Non-toxic, insulating, creates a healthy micro-climate, feels warm
  • Sound absorbing, neighbors cannot be heard through the walls.
    dining room and front courtyard area e

 front court-yard, studio, dining area bedroom eroots growing in ceiling efront staircase efront steps to the roof eIMG_4138view e

corner room efamily room into a bedroom e

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Au Revoir 2012-Needle Felting Tutorial Gift

reflection
Bear with me while I reflect on the last year……..

I started this post by listing what I considered my accomplishments and important “stuff” that happened this last year, but decided that was boring and if you really wanted to know that, you could read several of my past posts. Reflecting back on the past year’s events, I saw a pattern that I’d like to share with you: One thing leads to another. It may not seem very profound, but when something “bad” happens, I try to figure out what “good” -if any-resulted from the event in the first place. When I closed my store almost 3 years ago, it was a big loss for me in many ways but recently I’ve started to see good things come from that 5 year store experience. The life experience, the people I met, the skills I learned and the work that I produced seem to have made a path for me that I’m now walking. You just never know what’s going to happen in life!

I’d like to wish my readers a Happy Hannukah, a Merry Christmas and a healthy and peaceful New Year! Now imagine that I’m handing you a present with a pretty bow on top, open it and you’ll see my gift to you, a needle felted gnome and his pet hedgehog tutorial:)  Needle felted gnome and Hedgehog tutorial

needle felting
Needle felted gnome and his pet hedgehog Spike

 

You can find more needle felted kits on my lullubee site, the kits comes with everything you need to make the projects and detailed instructions.

lullubee logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painting with Wool

wool art
Needle felted yellow guy

My youngest daughter’s school, l’école Marc Chagall in Tel Aviv hosted an art fair and I was one of the guest artists to come in and teach several classes with the students. Parent and community artists came to the school to teach students their specialty medium;  sculpture, oil painting, life drawing, photography, the art of video, intro. to classic movies, sculpting with clay, collage, painting with wool, pastel drawing, oil pastel drawing, fruit and veggie scultpures and drawing with words and music were all taught.  All the student work was displayed at the end of the “studio period” in a wonderful art exhibit, hosted by the principal Phillipe Zarka.

painting with wool
Wool painting of a religious Jew

The students were not familiar with working with wool, needle felting or painting with wool, so they were introduced to a new art medium and had the opportunity to practice their English all at the same time! I had the students “paint with wool” because I thought this technique would be easier than 3-D needle felting more suitable for a larger age-range of students. Painting with wool involves a piece of flat wool as a canvas, a felting needle and colored, coarse wool, such as shetland or New Zealand fast felting batts. I ordered my materials from this website (where I found great wool, a large variety of needles and great prices: http://www.esse.co.il/en

painting with wool
Making a flat felted "wool canvas"

The first step to painting with wool was making wool canvases that the children would “paint” on. I laid out white, wool, tufts all in one direction, then a second layer on top of the first layer with the tufts of wool laid out in the opposite direction (laid out as you would in wet felting). I then needle felted the wool flat with a large handle with 10 needles. I turned the large wool canvas over and needle felted the other side, I did this several times. I applied a third layer of wool tufts and needle felted again. (You can also wet-felt a large wool canvas if you prefer) When the wool canvas was strong and “fabric-like”, I cut it into many squares for the children to “paint on”.

needle felting with kids
"Painting" on the wool canvas

Once the wool is cut into squares, it is ready for the children to apply colored pieces of wool, felted into the wool with a felting needle. I taught the older grades (4th, 5th and 6th grades) as I felt they could deal with the sharp needles the best. I explained how to handle the needles and how not to break them. In all 3 classes only 2 people stuck themselves with needles, one of which was a teacher and only 1 needle was broken out of 50 students! Everyone enjoyed this craft and I look forward to teaching more students and a larger variety of grades at next years art fair.

By the way, for you needle felters out there, this is a great activity to do with your own children with your wool scraps.

painting with wool
The children's artwork

 

children painting with wool
Painting with wool at Le Ecole Marc Chagall

Each child was supplied by a sponge (felting surface), a wool canvas, a felting needle and handfuls of many colors of wool. I showed the children how to outline with a strip of wool and I pointed out the graphic paintings compared to the watercolor looking paintings.

painting with wool
Emili's class paints with wool