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. 

Needle felting and Mixed Media

The beginning of the long process of embroidery.

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.

Theater Mask: the process.

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. 

Theater Mask, just the beginning…..

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!

Multi-media mask for Purim, Halloween or the theater.

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!

Theater Mask detail

I compare the many colorful thread stitches of my mask to brush strokes; the outcome reminds me of an impressionistic painting.

My Theater Mask has a felted, embroidered handle.

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 inside detail of the theater mask.

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!

Educational and Medical Aides Made by Needle Felting

I do a lot of different commission work in needle felting, it’s usually a doll or a mask or a beloved pet. I’ve made puppets for educational aides in the past but recently I was asked to do a bust of a multi-ethnic young girl; the customer wanted the doll’s mouth to be able to open and close and her tongue to be movable. The customer is a speech therapist who thinks that demonstrating how to move and place your tongue will help her young patients to better follow her instructions. I tried to stay away from the ventriloquist-look as much as possible because I think ventriloquist dolls are scary looking. The very unique thing about this therapy doll is that you can place the tongue in different areas in the mouth to show children more easily how to make specific sounds:)

“Put the tip of your tongue on the bottom of your front teeth.”

Speech therapy aide

From the commentary I’ve received concerning this bust, the speech therapist is onto something!

Bęc Smith I’m a speech pathologist and think this is so cool!

Sabrina Chan That is very cool coming from someone who would have benefited from seeing that as a child.
Laura Burch I’m so happy to hear this!
Cyn Plahuta I agree with Sabrina Chan — I think the speech pathologist would’ve been a lot more effective with me when I was a kid if she’d had something like this. Great idea!
The following photos show the step by step felting process of the Speech Therapy Bust:
 
 

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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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