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.

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