Laurel in Her Own Words

Welcome! This biography uses Laurel’s own words to tell her story – words that first appeared in
printed interviews and profiles published during her lifetime and words transcribed from
recorded interviews with Laurel by her daughter Aarin for the documentary “The Art of Laurel Burch.”

Beginnings

“On New Year's Eve in 1945, I was born Laurel Harte. Not surprisingly, my mother, father, sister, and I put hearts on everything as I was growing up. This seemed to be our special family symbol of love. Because I was a New Year's baby, mom changed my childhood birthday celebrations to Valentine's Day so my friends would be more available. I felt like the "Harte of Hearts," an honor I've always cherished. I simply love to create beauty and color that can brighten the spirit of the world – no wonder my drawings often portray messengers of joyful and loving hearts."

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To San Francisco

“As an 19-year-old young mother-to-be in San Francisco during the 1960s, for me it wasn't about putting flowers in my hair. I had a very separate experience. When my daughter Aarin was born, her father wasn't there. At first, I was scared to death but then I found courage and comfort in realizing that women the world over were giving birth at the same moment as me. I felt connected to the magical tribe of womankind ... and I began to feel brilliant colors blooming in my soul. That's how we came into the world of San Francisco together. What a start!”

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Single Motherhood

"Because I grew up with a bone disease, I constantly had to meet the challenge of conjuring up in my fantasy world a better way of feeling than I felt in reality. What my children Aarin and Jay grew up with, instead of them seeing the side of my suffering and what it took for me to persevere, I strived to make certain that what they saw was that I was this superhuman 'I-can-do-anything' person.The upside is that it gave them a way of thinking that they, too, could do anything. The flip side was that with a mom this superhuman, how could they find their own place in the world?”

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Glimmers of Success

“One day while I was passing The Chair House, a folk art gallery in San Francisco’s Ghiradelli Square, the owners stopped me to admire the necklace I was wearing. Lois and Smitty became the first to sell my creations and I made pilgrimages to The Chair House for 20 years. Each time, I left hours after my arrival, having unveiled each individually wrapped piece of jewelry inside its Japanese mulberry paper and yarn. The orders became larger and my ritual visits longer … in this way my fetish-like artifacts found their way into the lives of people across the country and the phenomenon of collecting Laurel Burch began.”

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Expanding on a Passion

"By 1977, I became sole owner of my own company Tsuru Inc., which means crane in Japanese. I began creating jewelry and greeting card designs based on my original paintings. My drawings and paintings are the most intimate expressions of all that is precious to me. The originals were offered to art collectors, and many of the images were also published in an array of paper products such as posters, wrapping papers, gift boxes, greeting and art cards."

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The Art of Healing

“My own personal evolution as a woman has been tremendously inspired by a battle with an extremely rare bone disease I was born with, Osteopetrosis, in which your bones harden and become denser and break very easily. I was eight years old when I was first diagnosed after breaking my leg while roller skating. This disease has repeatedly inspired me to learn that my continuously breaking bones and my frequent inability to stand upright has nothing at all to do with my ability to create and contribute. If I had to choose between good health and my artistic gifts, I would choose my art —in a second, in a heartbeat.”

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As I Dream, I Paint

“I didn’t go to school to learn painting and drawing. I learned to rely on my intuition and passion, believing I could speak from my heart and all else would follow. I am really a folk artist, telling stories.That seems to be the motivation behind everything I do or touch, no matter where I am. I live within the vivid colors of my imagination … soaring with rainbow feathered birds, racing the desert winds on horseback, wrapped in ancient tribal jewels, dancing with mythical tigers in steamy jungles. As I grow, so grows my passion to dream and as I dream, I paint.”

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Heart of Womankind

“I know there is great wisdom within the heart of womankind. I listen to this heart and as I listen, I think of my images as if they were an offering that expresses a hope, a dream, a vision for all of mankind and womankind to share together. I envision each piece if art as if it were a single petal from the flower of the world we all wish to live in. Common threads tie mothers, daughters, sisters, elders, and friends to each other, weaving a timeless tapestry rich in the colors of life and legacy. We are here for each other, and this is the thought that most inspires me to continue to create."

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Fantastic Felines


So many of my creatures have emerged by surprise – line by line, color by color, whisker by whisker. An eye becomes a face, a face becomes a feline, and a feline finds friends! There is often an entire family of friends by the time I get up from the drawing table. The first time a cat appeared on my drawing paper, I was quite surprised. I did not own a cat, had never owned a cat, and did not even dream of owning a cat. Why, then, did this brightly colored free-spirited creature creep into my imagination? It took me years to answer that question.”

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