Alice & the flamingo

Alice and the flamingo dolls

This Alice in Wonderland piece is two dolls (Alice and the flamingo) put together. The Alice dolls were pretty much like a lot of other dolls that I’ve felted, except that she has hand-painted (beads) eyes and I used colored pencils to color parts of her face.

hand painted eyes

One of my goals for this set of Alice in Wonderland dolls was to felt expression into the faces of the dolls. I needed to hand paint the eyes of all my Alice in Wonderland dolls to give them the exact expression that I wanted. Alice needed to be looking at the flamingo, the direction of her eyes are looking sharply to the left. I wanted to color parts of Alice’s face (also parts of the Queen’s face) but I wanted the coloring to be subtle so I used high quality colored pencils to color parts of the lips, under the eyes (of the Queen), the cheeks and lines in the face. The eyelids were felted over the painted beads (eyes) after they were set into the eye sockets; I embroidered the edges of the eyelids to better define them. The Alice doll is made of up of 6 pieces (the head, body, 2 arms and 2 legs) The arms and legs are jointed by sewing them onto the body with embroidery thread. Alice’s hair was made separately, then felted onto the head, so it would have a 3-D, puffy look and not appear flat on the head. I made the traditional blue dress and white apron for Alice because I love the original costume. Alice’s legs are felted white (as stockings) and her black MaryJane shoes are felted onto her feet.

Needle felted Alice in Wonderland doll

The flamingo had to be made after the Alice doll was finished in able to achieve the proper proportions of the flamingo to Alice. The body of the flamingo fits into Alice’s arms, his neck loops around and the head comes face to face with Alice. The flamingo’s neck stays in this position because there is a heavy gaged wire inside the neck allowing you to bend the neck so it comes to exactly the right spot to stare at Alice.

flamingo detail

My favorite part of the flamingo are his legs. His legs are boning sticks (for sewing), wrapped in black wool yarn. The flamingo feet are pieces of black felt. How many people can say that they’ve made a pair of flamingo knees?!”  I sewed the flamingo into Alice’s arms. Stay tuned for more Alice in wonderland dolls….

Needle felted Alice and flamingo dolls

The Queen of Hearts

 

 I‘ve been working on Alice in Wonderland dolls off and on for over 6 months.  There is so much work to be done on one of these felted pieces, I needle-felt till I’m burned out, then I stop for a few weeks, then I continue till I finish. I felt to a point that I’m overwhelmed with the piece because I think about it and work on it constantly, till I get to a point that I can’t go on. At the point that my interest wanes, I take the doll home, I put the doll on my kitchen table and I look at the doll for a week or so. In the week that I stare at the doll on my table every day, new realizations come to me. I’m able to see what’s wrong with the piece, what needs to be changed, what will make it better…Maybe if I worked on one doll at a time, it wouldn’t take me so long to finish, BUT when I start a project, I have so much energy for it that I can’t do just one design, I start two or three pieces at a time. I really need to focus my energies or I can start multiple projects and not finish any of them. 
Queen of Hearts collar detail

My goal for this project, something that I felt would bring this group of dolls to a new level in my work, was the abiltiy to convey expression on the dolls’ faces. In previous felting projects, my doll faces were pretty, but not expressive. 

The dolls are all about expressions.

 The characters in Alice in Wonderland, especially the Queen of Hearts are so expressive that I didn’t feel the dolls would be successful if they didn’t convey the feelings of  the characters in the book by Lewis Carroll, original illustrations by John Tenniel. I took Emili, my  most expressive daughter and I asked her to “act out” specific feelings.  I took photos of the “feelings”  she acted out and I used these photos as the base for the expressions of the doll faces. The secret of the crazed anger of the Queen of Hearts, the slightly inquisative, amused look of Alice, the clearly pissed off look of the Flamingo and the bulgy eyed enthusiasm of the Rabbit are all in the eyes. 

The Queen's eyes, expression

Normally, I needle-felt the eyes or use doll eyes or beads. None of these methods could convey the feelings that I was looking for, so I had to make the eyes of each doll. I took beads shaped like eyes (fresh water pearls were the right color, shape and size for the Queen and Alice.) I put them in the heads of the dolls, marked where the pupils and irises should be for the expressions, then I painted each eye with acrylic paint and sealed it with semi gloss varnish. The eyes of the flamigo are small, round pearls with pupils painted on them. I couldn’t find beads or pearls suitable for the rabbit’s eyes, so I made balls of paper clay to fit into the head, painted them with acrylic paint and sealed them with semi-gloss varnish. I made Alice’s clothing just like that of the book, but the Queen’s dress is an original design. I made the patterns of the dress to reflect card designs, but in an origianal way. 

The dress is tailored to the doll form.

I thought about sketching out designs for the dress, then making my favorite design, but I ended up designing the dress as I made it. I am now attached to each of these dolls and even though I want to sell them, it will be hard for me to do so. Someone recently bought my Marie Antoinette puppet and they had to talk me into selling her. She offered to pay the price that I asked, she did not try to bargain with me, it wasn’t the money, it’s just that I had a relationship with the doll. I told myself, o.k., fine, sell her, I’ll just make another one, a better one next time. After the woman walked out the door with my Marie Antoinette puppet, I felt like crying, I was really upset. I’m past that now, but how will I ever part with Alice and the Flamingo, my favorite of the Wonderland dolls? Now that the dolls are finished, I’m thinking of costume designs. I made Emili a Renaissance collar and crown similar to the Queen’s for our photo shoot. The small details of this project took just as long as the felting process. These classic characters abound with beautiful, creative and fun designs for many projects; I’ve fallen to sleep many nights contemplating Alice in Wonderland designs. Stay tuned for more Alice and Wonderland dolls……

The Queen of Hearts

Making dolls and puppets

The first dolls I ever made were made from vegatables from our garden, then I started making dolls from my mother’s fabric scraps. As I grew older, I had to take home economics in school; I learned how to follow a pattern and this allowed me to make rag dolls. As time went on, I started making dolls from paper mache, wood, clay and mixed media. After we moved to Israel, the girls were little and I made puppets for the girls to play with. My fabric puppets, evolved into mixed media puppets and now I;m making mostly felted puppets. I taught myself to neelde felt a few years ago. Needle felting is like sculpting, its additive and subractive like clay.

 

fabric handpuppets

 

mixed media bride doll
rag doll mermaid

 

dolls for boys

 

small felt dolls
bundle baby doll

I still play with dolls!

 

My mother's bisque doll

  Today I make dolls; I love to make dolls and I’m not sure why. Before I started to make dolls, I played with dolls, then I collected dolls and then I bought dolls for my daughters and every now and then I’d buy a doll for myself. Most of the dolls I’ve collected were my mothers. She treasured her dolls and when she gave them to me they were in mint condition. I played with them alot and now they are very used.

embroidery detail

 

antique Shirly Temple doll in her original dress

 

antique Russian doll
Sally Ann doll
sleeping baby from the 60's

 

antique doll dress pattern

 

My grandma Burch used to make dolls for me and my sister and I’ve kept all of them. This is Raggedy Ann, she’s 30-some years old!

My grandmother made my Raggedy Ann doll
Raggedy Ann and Andy rag dolls

This is Andy, Raggedy Ann’s friend. Raggedy Ann and Andy are characters from the Series of books by Johny Gruelle. These dolls are well known by American children.

My grandma Burch had a good sence of humor; she used to make funny things sometimes, like this Dammit Doll.

Damn-it doll

The tag that comes with the doll reads:

When you think you want to climb the wall or stand right up and shout,

 Here’s a little Dammit Doll you cannot be without.

Just grab it firmly by the legs and find a place to slam it.

Then as you whack it’s stuffings out, yell DAMMIT…. DAMMIT…..DAMMIT…..

I remember one of the first dolls I made myself, she was made from a gourd that I picked from our garden. Her body was a gourd, and her arms and legs were toothpicks and my mother made a summer dress for her. I have a photo of myself as a skinny little girl of 7 or 8 years old and my doll in front of our house in Greenfield, Indiana.

rubber flea market friends
little plastic guy
praying doll

This was my doll from the 1970’s. She recited a bedtime prayer when you pulled her string. My mother taught it to me and we used to recite it every night before bed, on our knees.

I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee lord my soul to keep. If I should die, before I wake, I pray thee lord my soul to take. Amen

Indian string doll

We bought this tiny doll in India for something like a penny. She’s about 3″ tall and she’s made of wire and thread. How simple and cute.

Nighty-night

 

My Store

Burch and daughters store sign

Well, here goes… My name is Laura Burch; my husand Doron Levitas and I have three daughters: Lili, Elli and Emili. I opened a store, it’s a children’s gallery; we design and sew everything in the store. I gave it the name Burch and daughters as a feminist twist to the more traditional  naming of businesses such as Smith and sons. My daughters are young, so they don’t actually work at the store yet, but they are my inspiration, models and test subjects for everything we make. I’ve never owned a store before and I don’t consider myself business-minded, I’m an artist. My husband Doron has been guiding me, he is a business man; I’m learning.

Marie Antoinette gown in my store window on a rainy day

 The interesting thing and the most challenging aspect of my store is that it is in Tel Aviv, Israel. I’m a girl from the Heartland, living in the Holyland! Serving this culture and my Israeli customers isn’t the same as if my store was in my town, Chicago, Illinois. My tastes and that of many Israeli’s are very different; I have a very conservative style, their’s is much more flamboyant. Many people come into the store and ask me from where do we import. They think that my creations are from England or France, they don’t realize that everything is handmade in the store (upstairs in our studio). But never the less, everyone seems to love the store. They walk in and tell me it seem magical, like they’re in another time and place and they feel that my creation is a fairyland for children.

costumes by Burch and daughters handmade baby clothes by Burch and daughters

It really all started after we moved here about 9 years ago. I was a graphic designer and illustrator in Chicago and opening a store was never a goal of mine. I came to this strange land, the big city really, but there was nothing to buy here. Everything was made in China or India, cheap, plastic, poor quality and ugly. I started making the girls clothes, toys and gifts for birthday parties they attended. Now, I never really wanted to move here, so I used to sit around in my own little world and make things, many things. I made cute teddy bears, rag dolls, costumes, ornaments, fabric books, stuffed animals, bags….The things started to fill up the house. Doron said to me we’ll have to open a store just to have somewhere to put this stuff, and that’s what we did. 

 
 
 

 

Mama bear and Papa bear

 

camels for sale
the outside of the store

P.S. We closed my beloved store in July 2010 ; I now sell my toys, doll, puppets and costume accessories on-line in my website store: Laleebu. Please come and visit me at my site www.lauraleeburch.com , my store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/lauraleeburch?view_type=galleryor on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauraleeburch.studio