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.

The Three Little Pigs Fairytale Dolls

the three little pigs fairytale dolls
The Three Little Pigs have got the world by the tail!

Things have changed for the Three Little Pigs, fairytale characters extraordinaire, they’ve got the world by the tail these days!  Long ago their nemesis the Big Bad Wolf was caught and jailed for stalking and destruction to private property. The pigs now live together in a posh condo with a doorman to keep out the riff-raff.

laura lee burch needle felting
The flying Piginski Brothers

After the traumatic stalking episode with the Big Bad Wolf, then trying to collect from the insurance companies for the destruction of 2 of their houses, the lawsuit the wolf laid on the pigs for getting hurt on their property and trying to rebuild their lives again, the fairytale gig didn’t suit the pigs anymore.  So, the pigs joined the circus and became the Flying Piginski Brothers, high-wire acrobats!

art dolls
On top of the World!

The Flying Piginski Brother’s Act has become a swine sensation , the pigs are really “on top of the world  now!” Who Knew?!

ADO
The Three Little Pigs 2011

 Moral of the story: Embrace change!

needle felt
The End

Fairytale Footnote*The Three Little Pigs are needle felted from wool, they are posable and they have glass eyes. The pigs range from 6.5″ to 7.5″ tall. I’ve updated their story with a modern twist, but the Three Little Pigs has always been one of my favorite classic fairytales! I guess we all like it when the underdog wins and the bad guy gets what’s coming to him, aka:  karma rules!

The Three Little Pigs
Emili and The Three Little Pigs

Needle felted Green Onion Doll & Tutorial

Bunch of needle felted green onions

 

I was chopping vegetables for a salad the other day and I was inspired by the green onions! Holding up the long, thin, onion  it looked like a little person to me; the white bulbous end of the onion was the head, the spiky little roots looked like hair and the long green scallion stems were the body! Sure, why not!? So I got out my felting needles and went to work.    

Needle felted green onion dolls

 

 If green onions had a personality, I’m sure they’d be giggly like little girls and cheeky when you pulled them from the ground. I’ve been trying to create a series of natural toys for kids and my imagination snuck up on me and came up with these. Surprisingly, this was a lunch salad I was fixing, so there was no alcohol consumption involved!    

Emili and needle felted green onion dolls

 

 After I make something, I sit and look at it for quite a while. I need time to see if anything needs to be changed or altered before I decide if I’m happy with it. I was sitting in the living room holding and contemplating the bunch of dolls when my oldest daughter came in the front door. ” Are those ONIONS?” she asked. “Yep”, was my reply. I had already become comfortable with my new, slightly odd creation: green onions as dolls. “Oooookaaay”, she said as she went into the kitchen, because she’s used to seeing odd things sitting around our house like giant needle felted tarantulas, boxes of doll eyes, doll body parts or 7 foot tall paper mâché mushrooms.    

needle felted green onion dolls with personality

 

 Surpringly simple to make, my green onion dolls seem to make everyone smile. See the following tutorial to make your own!  These dolls are also available to purchase from my website shop: http://www.lauraleeburch.com/?page_id=3&category=3&product_id=35 or my Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/listing/60075734/green-onion-dolls 

Happy green onion doll

 

Green Onion Doll Tutorial: This tutorial shows how to make one needle felted green onion doll. 
Tools: felting needles, sponge for felting surface, embroidery needle, scissors
wool: dark green (body/stems) I prefer felting a course wool like shetland or New Zealand
bright green-felted in the center area, visually connecting stems and the head
white (head)
core wool or fiber-fill (base shape)
white curly yarn (hair)
thread (for wrapping core wool or fiber fill to make base shape)
green embroidery thread (for the face and securing stems and yarn hair) 

Continue reading “Needle felted Green Onion Doll & Tutorial”

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

Childhood Friends

Needle felted teddy bears, 16"
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Torn and tattered
You were my friend
when it really mattered

These needle felted teddy bears were easy to make. Each bear was made by felting together wool shapes.

  1. The teddy bear head is made from a ball, a cone (snout), a tiny ball (nose) and 2 half circles (ears). Two dolls eyes were inserted and glued above the snout.
  2. The body is a big oval, the arms are  long tubes, the legs are longer tubes, the feet are short tubes that are attached to the ends of the legs.
  3. The head, arms and legs are wrapped with curly, brown mohair yarn (2 skeins), then felted securely into the shapes.
  4. The head, arms and legs are sewn onto the body with a doll needle and embroidery thread. Voila, Best Friend!

    Best Friend