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.

Needle Felted Halloween Puppet: The Bride of Frankenstein Tutorial

needle felted puppets
Needle felted Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s Puppets by Laura Lee Burch

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.

Needle felted Bride of Frankenstein
Needle felted Bride of Frankenstein

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Needle Felted American Presidential Race 2016: President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

2016-presidentiql-candidates
President Obama introduces the 2016 American nominees for president. Needle felted puppets. See this piece on the Huffington post: If this Art Could Vote:

http://ifthisartcouldvote.huffingtonpost.com/

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!

bunny-ears-e
Needle felted Donald Trump and President Barak Obama “goofing around”. Titled: Bunny Ears

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.

hola-hillary-e
Needle felted puppet portrait: Hillary Rodham Cliinton

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!

peace-bernie-e
Needle felted puppet portrait: Bernie Sanders. Titled: Peace Out

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.

no-1-e
Needle felted puppet portrait: Donald Trump. Titled: I’m number one!

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.

hello-barak-e
Needle felted Barak Obama puppet portrait, 2016.

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!

barak-obama
Needle felted Barak Obama portrait, 2008.

I had a lot of fun felting “situations” and even more fun felting the election 2016 video:

get-out-of-the-way-e
“Donald you’re in my spotlight!” Puppet portraits.
sickly-e
“Tissue Hillary?” puppet portraits.

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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! the-gangs-all-here-e

You can buy my needle felted puppets here on my Etsy site: https://www.etsy.com/shop/lauraleeburch?ref=pr_shop_more

Attack of the Needle Felted Alligators!

needle felted puppets
Just when you thought it was safe.....

Moments before the alligator attack, Kitty and I were sitting in the kitchen minding our own business….

wool toys
imagine the du-da-du-da-du-da suspenseful, foreboding "Jaws" music

….and BAM, the needle felted alligator puppet jumped off the table and attacked Kitty!

wool toys
but don't worry, Kitty was victorious!

…oh, I was just daydreaming! I started making some puppets the other day, I intended to make a dragon like this one:

needle felted dragon puppet
Needle felted dragon puppet

….but at one point it started looking like an alligator, so I “followed the shapes”. The simple puppet I set out to make became more complicated, with fairly sharp fimo teeth and finger slots to put your hand so the alligators mouth can be opened and closed. This isn’t s step-by-step tutorial, but I did shoot a few of the creation stages, have a look!

needle felted alligator hand puppet
needle felted alligator hand puppet

I made the alligator’s top jaw first, his lower jaw second and the body sleeve last. I inserted glass doll eyes into the sides of his head. I connected the two jaws with a thick, flat piece of wool that acts as a hinge.

handmade toys
mouth hinge

The tricky part of making the finger holes in the jaws is making them deep enough for your hands so you have real control over the motion of the jaws. I used a pair of scissors to cut deep holes in the top and bottom jaws, I pulled out as much wool as I could so that it was still snug when I put my hands inside the holes. I felted the holes as best as I could to make them smoother.

alligator handpuppet
finger and thumb holes for the alligator puppet

 

making a hand puppet
My hand fits snugly in the finger holes

Here is the gator without any teeth, he looks pretty pitiful. I made the alligator teeth from off- white fimo (the photo shows an example of the teeth placement).

wool toys
toothless alligator puppet

I shaped the alligator’s teeth so that they’re slightly rounded, those are shark’s teeth at the top of the photo, for a future project. I baked the teeth at a low temperature for about 7 minutes, then took them out to cool and harden.

fimo alligator teeth
fimo alligator and shark teeth

With scissors, I cut deep slits in the jaws (following a photo of a real alligator with his mouth open) and glued each tooth in with fabric glue.

handmade toys
teeth placement

I needle felted a sheath to cover my arm; I wrapped the sheet of needle felted wool around the end of the alligator’s head and needle felted it on.

wool toys
Flat felted sheath to cover your arm
needle felted hand puppet
Felting the sheath onto the head

Now I have a fairly realistic alligator puppet with which I can use to help tell fairy tales or stories, use as a conversation piece at dinner parties or chase the cat around the house with!

handmade hand puppet
Needle felted alligator hand puppet

Needle Felted Finger Puppets Tutorial

finger puppets
The puppy licked my nose!

Finger puppets help bring out the imagination in our children; the imagined worlds and characters of children are fascinating to watch! With this simple tutorial, you can make animals, monsters, aliens, sea creatures, people or whomever your imagination might introduce to you. Adults and children alike,please be careful with the felting needles, as they are very sharp, please supervise your children while felting.

playing with finger puppets
piggy tail

The secret to needle felting is SHAPES! You determine the shapes that make up an object, felt each one and sew and/or felt them together-Voila-easy as pie! I will show you step-by step how to make the frog finger puppet in this tutorial, but there is a shapes guide that can be printed for the cow-pig-rat-frog and dog at the end of the tutorial to help you determine the shapes that make up the other animals.

figer puppets
pig, cow, rat, frog and needle felted finger puppets

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