Modern Art, No Calories

For me the thrill of wool is being able to create an object from fiber, from which one would never have guessed it was made. It’s a bit magical!

Needle felted-waxed chocolate cake with strawberries and blueberries. This cake and berries are needle felted from wool! The cake was constructed by making a rectangle-shape of felted brown wool then connecting the ends to make a circle, a separate felted circle was placed on top making a hollow cake. I covered the cake shape with brown and pink colored wax for icing.

“Most recently, I’ve started to create felted-waxed food. The felted-wax process is perfect for many types of food.  I continue to challenge myself in this medium concerning texture in search of realism. “

Laura Lee Burch
Each berry was needle felted from wool, waxed with bee’s wax and the strawberries were varnished. The little seeds in the strawberries are sesame seeds. I had to dig a little hole for each seed, pick it up with a needle and lay it in place: time consuming!!!

Material Engagement interviews Laura Lee Burch about her Needle Felted Sculptures

“I started experimenting with different aspects of wool. It bothered me that hooves, a nose or a beak were still slightly fuzzy, even when finely felted. I started waxing areas of my felting that should be smooth. “

https://www.materialengagement.com/posts/blog-post-one-lauraleeburch

Needle felted-waxed Cheese Plate by Laura Lee Burch.

Thank You Jennifer Hoyden.

Encaustic Needle Felting

Winner of Fiber Art Now’s Excellence in Fibers VI 2020, Needle felted and waxed sausages.
Vegan Sausage detail. I’ve been using bee’s wax in my felted sculptures for about the 10 years; it started out as a way to help make the horns, hooves and noses of the animal sculptures that I felted more realistically. As my felted sculptures became more realistic, it bothered me to see something that I knew should be very smooth, appear a little fuzzy.

Needle felted wool, waxed pumpkin. Private collection: Dr. Aya Hadass. It also became a challenge  to create innovative ways to alter my sculptures. Each time I used the encaustic method, I learned something new. It has become a game of sorts, a challenge to myself to come up new techniques to alter the textures and colors of my sculptures. Keeping in mind that this is textile art, the appearance become quite unbelievable! Combining the felting technique and the waxing method have helped me to create a new outcome.

Needle felted-waxed pomegranate and beads. I like incorporating other elements into my pieces, of coarse making them mixed media. Beads , stems, glass eyes and embroidery are some of my favorite extra elements.
Needle felted-waxed fish and lemon.

Fresh Paint Exhibit 2019-Kuchinate

Curious Passenger

This spring Tel Aviv had their annual art fair: Fresh Paint with a main pavilion and satellite galleries all over the city. My exhibit “We’re All in the Same Boat” was exhibited at Kuchinate, African Women’s Refugee Collective, curated by Tamar Lamdan and Carmite Shine of Two Curators.

Kuchinate was founded by Dr. Diddy Mymin Kahn and Sister Aziza Kidane to provide a community of support, employment and guidance for these women. Kuchinate makes beautiful woven, handmade baskets to sell and they are adding more handmade items to their collection. http://www.kuchinate.com

My life-sized boat and ten life-sized dolls greatly impacted the viewers; the scale of the piece helped the audience relate to the refugees and their situation. I also believe that we’re not used to seeing “dolls” sad or suffering or life-sized rather small, delicate and beautiful; large dolls were also a shocking sight which helped convey the plight of refugees. The 2.5 meter long row boat was made from cardboard, wood and duct tape, the refugee dolls were needle felted from wool; the project took 2.5 months to create. The refugees were depicted from many different countries and different periods in time. Many viewers shared their own stories of displacement and hardship, making us realize that all of us are at risk for one reason or another.

Feeding Baby on the Journey
Sida Beck Levitas, Polish refugee
Something from Home

The only doll in the boat that I didn’t leave for the audience to decide for themselves the ethnicity or situation of the refugee doll was the young Polish refugee girl. The only real interaction and deep understanding of a personal situation with a refugee I’ve ever had is my mother-in-law, Sida Beck Levitas. Sida was a hidden child during WWII, because of her big blue eyes and very blond hair she passed as a Christian during the Holocaust. Most of the stories we know about her from this time period are from her brother, Arther Beck who was also a hidden child. Sida doesn’t like to talk about this time in her life because it gives her nightmares for weeks. We’ve seen how the refugee situation she endured affected the rest of her life and I’m sure all refugees suffer similar long lasting effects. Sida is 92 and lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Heartbroken Refugee Child

The life-sized dolls were needle felted over a wire and wood armature, the larger dolls used a wooden-easel method to help them sit sturdily. The sculptures have glass doll eyes and polymer-clay teeth.

A Chance at Life
A Hard Journey for Refugees

I wanted to represent various situations in the boat, depression, seriousness, fear and even hope. One of the big questions I had was what do the children do during these long, dangerous journeys, do they run about, peer over the sides of the boat or play with other children? I was told by one of the African refugees that the smugglers would yell at anyone talking or making noise. Everyone including the children would be hit with a stick to keep them in line.

The purpose of “We’re all in the Same Boat”
A Hard Journey
We’re All in the Same Boat
Hope
The little girl asked “why is he sad?”

I know that many of the refugees around the world are religious, so I made the praying boy at the front of the boat as a sign of hope. 

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.