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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!

See a detailed timeline here.

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 and her daughter Aarin, born in 1965, and her son Juaquim (Jay), born in 1969.

See a detailed timeline here.

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.

See a detailed timeline here.

storybook success

one enchanted business

Upon founding Laurel Burch, Inc. with three investors in 1979, Laurel made frequent trips to China and introduced her uniquely original, contemporary cloisonné to the U.S. Orders poured in and the business flourished. Her imagination gave birth to paintings of Fantasticats, ethereal birds, and mythic figures—all portrayed in a rainbow of brilliant hues. Her flair for art and design became a $20 million retail empire of original earrings, necklaces, 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."

See a detailed timeline here.

paradise lost & reinvented

comfort in creating

After 1980s’ phenomenal 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 and she returned to her folk-art roots where the artist within once again took wing. 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."

See a detailed timeline here.

family matters

love, life & legacy

The story of Laurel and her children is a mixture of early hardships, many celebrations, and a colorful life. It’s a story where frying pans were for making jewelry instead of breakfast but one in which Jay was publishing a magazine at 12 and Aarin grew up to run her own film company. From the time Aarin was 18, mom and daughter attended tradeshows together and when Jay joined Laurel as 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.

See a detailed timeline here.

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.

fantastic felines!

"Felines are my favorite messengers of goodwill, painted purely to bring bright spirit and delight." Fanciful, imaginative, and boldly charming, Laurel's vivid, vibrant cats burst with the lively energy and good spirit of their creator. While her fans naturally believe that Laurel must have owned many cats, in fact she never did. Nevertheless, her love for fantastic felines and their whimsical personalities inspired endless variations of cat whimsy and wisdom sparkling behind indigo eyes, purple tails, and brilliant rainbow bodies.

Laurel Burch fantastic felines painting

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