Laurel Burch's Childhood
Laurel Burch's childhood was not an average one. She had many challenges and obstacles that she had to be overcome in order for her to move forward in her life. Because the early years had pain and discomfort, she built a place in her mind where happiness could be found. This place is expressed in her art work as time passed into adulthood.
Laurel was born on the last day of the year in 1945 in the San Fernando Valley of California. At the early age of 7 she was diagnosed with osteopetrosis. This is a rare and debilitating bone disease that she had to deal with until her death. In her life time she had over 100 bones that would break, but she never lost her spirit or joy for life.
The early years had Laurel Burch visiting the hospital and clinics often. It was in these times being restricted to a bed that she came up with the images that the world would now love and appreciate. She has always had a giving spirit that was evident from early on. While in the hospital bed she would write and tell stories to the other children that were also there recovering from a variety of illness. This sharing brought joy to others, which is something Laurel Burch instinctively did. For a few special friends she met there, she even made small gifts for them from the material she had available to her. In her creations she would use bright cheerful colors that would eventually become her trademark.
Her home life in those early years was not a happy one. Her parents would separate and by the age of 14, Laurel had decided it was time for her to venture out into the world alone. She left with all of her worldly belongings which only consisted of a paper bag and a few cloths.
Laurel knew she would have to find work in order to eat. Because of her illness, hard labor was out of the question so she took odd jobs of cleaning houses, babysitting and cooking in exchange for food and a place to stay out of the weather. In her travels to find her place in life she went in a northerly direction. Eventual she ended up in San Francisco. Along the way north, she would stop and pick up old coins, buttons, bits of wire and other discarded items she would see in the roads. Since she had no money, she would fashion these items into jewelry using an old frying pan and hammer to flatten the metal of her creations.
Laurel Burch had a natural gift to be able to take what was in her environment and turn it into something that would bring joy and happiness to those that would see it. This is how she began making jewelry. What she was not prepared for was that others admired her creations to a great extent. In the early years of her career as an artist, she would give her creations away to those that appreciated them. This was in the true spirit of a 60s flower child of which Laurel Burch was.
by Douglas Gray
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