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 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!

Watching Over Me

Steampunk Raven watches us
Steampunk Raven watches us

I miss the black, shiny Raven that always sat on my gate; he and a few of his friends were always sitting on the gate or the phone wires or the branches of the big tree that spilled into my yard. As I entered the big metal gate to my courtyard, he would cock his head to the side and look at me, as we looked at each other I always had the feeling he watched over me. I came to look for this guardian of my “castle” as I came and went; his familiar presence gave me a peaceful feeling. We were friendly acquaintances for 13 years; I recently moved and I contemplate if he wonders where I am.

looking right at you e

I have recently become familiar with the Steam-punk style and while searching for a subject for my first Steam-punk inspired sculpture, my friend the Raven came to mind.

key e

Steam-punk-“Steam-punk is a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where STEAM POWER is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date.” Wikipedia  Steam-punk elements include: gears, watch-parts, watches, velvet, cameos, wings, aviator goggles, Victorian clothing, top hats, hot air balloons, locks, keys and metal parts.

the other eye e

 The Raven is a needle felted shape, with shiny black satin quilted on top of of the wool. His eyes are a blue, blinking-doll eye and a red, glass taxidermy eye. There is a wind-up key on his back that serves as the handle to a lid, the lid covers a hidden compartment which contains the typical watch parts and gears of the Steam punk style. The Raven’s sharp talons are tiny watch hands, His pivoting neck is encircled by a thick row of black feathers and over the feathers is a stiff cardboard collar, collaged in vintage Italian train tickets. He sports a Victorian Saks-style collar that makes him appear a gentleman, as I imagine him to be. His large beak is waxed to make it very hard and a different texture than the rest of his body. The head rotates and tilts so he can be positioned as a real bird, his legs, wings and tail are poseable. Raven on cage

I learned a bit about watches while researching Steam-punk, like the little sapphires and rubies in the watch movements are real (also some watch crowns for winding contain real sapphires! Vintage watch hands can be very ornate and beautiful and some watch movement parts are intricately engraved.

inside hidden compartment e

Needle Felted Dog Art

needle felted art
"My Chair"

How many times has this happened to you? You get up from your comfy chair to get something and when you come back, your pet is sitting there, looking very comfortable and looking at you like “WHAT?” It happens in the blink of an eye (or the wag of a tail) and it makes me laugh every time!

wool art
"His" chair

I”ve been needle felting dogs again, the dogs are telling a story; it’s the everyday, mundane actions of dogs that make them so humorous. It’s the “human” things that dogs (and cats) do that I find the most interesting. My dog Quill used to jump into the bed next to me, when my husband came into the room and stood by the bed, Quill would be sprawled over the bed and look at him with a face that said “where are you going to sleep?!”

wool and needle felting
Relaxing

There are several small details in this piece that I think make it more interesting, the leather collar with a copper buckle and the piping around the chair.

needle felting details
Leather Dog Collar with Copper Buckle

 

wool art
Needle Felted Dog Chair

 

laura lee burch needle felting
I'm Comfortable

Sometimes animals surprise (and delight) us with the things they do!

textile art
Needle Felted Dog and Bead Bug

Much like children, dogs (and cats) can occupy themselves with the smallest, everyday things; they don’t need fancy toys to play. It’s like that saying: it’s not what you have, but what you do with what you have that’s important.

textile dogs
Observation

I think the stance of this bug conveys a little attitude; the bug is standing his own ground.

textile dog art
The Stand Off