laurel's life & art: a timeline

imagine a world of color

The art of Laurel Burch is bold, bright, and joyful – perfect for today. Inspired by her desire to give and her passion to create beauty, Laurel Burch created art embraced by collectors and kindred spirits around the world. Despite her lifelong struggle with osteopetrosis, a rare bone disease that caused her to suffer more than 100 fractures, Laurel lived with extraordinary joy, undiminished gratitude, and a contagious positive spirit. Transcending cultures and crossing boundaries of age and race, Laurelʼs exuberant designs reflect a love for life!

The early years

Laurel's story begins

Born in 1945 in southern California, Laurel Burch began crafting her iconic one-of-a-kind necklaces in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s. Gathering old coins, bones, and beads, she hammered metal on the back of a cast iron skillet to create beautiful adornments for herself and her friends. Struggling to make ends meet after separating from her husband, her entrepreneurial artist spirit emerged and she began selling her designs at street fairs and galleries to support herself, her daughter Aarin, born in 1965, and son Juaquim, born in 1969.

In vogue

crafting magic with art

Passion and perseverance eventually prevailed. One day in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square, a folk art gallery owner became entranced with Laurel’s jewelry and the phenomenon of collecting Laurel Burch began. By 1970, Laurel had left Haight Ashbury for Nob Hill and her small business bloomed. She wove found objects like stories into artful ornaments that found their way into the lives of people across the country. Laurel’s bold signature chokers appeared in Vogue magazine, exotic travels fueled her imagination, and her first to China inspired drawings she transformed into artful jewelry, her trademark cloisonné.

Storybook success

One enchanted business

Upon founding Laurel Burch, Inc. with three investors in 1979, Laurel made frequent trips to China, inspiring her to create uniquely original cloisonné jewelry. Orders poured in and business flourished. Her imagination gave birth to Fantasticats, ethereal birds, and mythical beings —all portrayed in a rainbow of brilliant hues. Her flair for design became a $20 million retail empire of jewelry, tote bags, sweatshirts, and mugs showcased in 5,000 stores, museums and galleries. Meanwhile she was breaking bones and raising her children. “I had no partner, no soulmate. I worked all the time."

paradise lost & reinvented

comfort in creating

After 1980s’ business growth, many honors, and Laurel’s philanthropic giving back, she became sole owner and chairman of the board in 1989 and launched two Laurel Burch Galleries in Sausalito and Carmel. In the early ‘90s, however, the bubble burst. Struggling back from the dot-com crash, a fall, and broken bones, Laurel reinvented her business and reimagined her art. Trading in her briefcase for a paintbrush, she partnered with licensees to create her designs, returning to her folk-art roots. Like the mythical phoenix, Laurel was back. “I try not to allow broken bones to break my spirit and for the most part I succeed."

Family matters

Love, life, & legacy

The story of Laurel and her children is a mixture of early hardships, celebrations, and a colorful life – where frying pans were for making jewelry instead of breakfast, one in which Jay was publishing a magazine at 12 and Aarin ran her own film company. Mom and daughter attended tradeshows together and when Jay became company president from 1999-2001, the circle was complete. In 2005, Laurel broke her right arm and rather than stop making the art she loved, she learned to paint left-handed until death found her on September 13, 2007 at age 61. Her myth and magic live on.

Live colorfully, shop colorfully!

Laurel Burch Studios

The number of moving legends about the giving, receiving, and sharing of Laurel Burch is a reflection not only of Laurel herself but of all the people drawn to her spirit as well as her designs. After Laurel’s death, Aarin launched Laurel Burch Studios in 2012 to continue to make her mother’s vivid, vibrant artwork available to all. Laurel’s stream of ideas, her whimsical creatures, the wonders she created for so many decades in her paintings, jewelry, and writings are now part of her legacy. The boundless imagination of this extraordinary artist place her among the most treasured creative spirits of our time. Enjoy!

Find out how Aarin continues her mom’s legacy here.

Featured collections

laurel's art themes


“Envisioning this theme, I wanted to create images celebrating the heart, soul and spirit of the Women of the World ... symbols that could remind us of our connectedness to one another and express the beauty and importance of our own inner blossoming."  It is in honor of sisters, mothers, daughters, elders, and friends that Laurel’s Spirit of Womankind paintings and adornments emerged from her heart – they are Laurel’s “love songs” to all women.

Explore more of Laurel's Art Themes here.


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