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 Dolls for 3-D Illustrations-Today’s Political Issues

He’s an innocent child, separated from his parents and held in a detention center.

These dolls are needle felted from wool; they are 3-D political illustrations.
I feel that the words of Elie Wiesel can best explain my thoughts on speaking out on the immigration problems that the world (not only the United States) has today:

“And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
Elie Wiesel

I ask myself a lot of questions that I think have a lot to do with people who view immigrants as law breakers, criminals and rapists:

  1. Have you ever met an immigrant and their family?
  2. Can you imagine yourself in an immigrants situation?
  3. If you were an immigrant one day, what would your plan be, where would you go, how would you get there, would you take your family?
Two of my favorite comments from a Facebook thread:
“Laura, gaddammit. Look what you did. You used your art to stir emotions and get people to talk. What a shit show you are for making people think and feel something uncomfortable. Fuck.”

 
“Art used this way helps us get past the verbal sparing and goes to the emotional heart of the issue.
Thank you, Laura Burch.”

 

Mama!

Solutions: Since the world is dealing with immigration more and more because of political unrest, war and a changing climate, why don’t we set up more think-tanks to deal with immigration issues? Young people are often very insightful and have recently brought new energy and ideas to today’s problems; let’s introduce these issues to students and let them try to solve the issue. Maybe we should start taxing religious institutions and use that money to help immigrants AND others. Perhaps we should teach people the art of debate so we can better discuss these issues in a more productive way. I’m sure we should have better leaders, people with compassion who want to help people and solve problems humanely. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Needle Felted Camping Playscape Tutorial

Camping Worls-blue and green e

Let’s Go Camping! The needle felted camping tutorial shows you step-by-step how to felt a pine tree, a blazing fire pit, a tree stump, a fishing pole with a fish, a fox, a tent and a little owl. This easy tutorial provides hours of felting fun as well as a delightful playscape for kids! lauraleeburch Camping Playscape Tut. 

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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