Laurel Burch

The number of moving stories about the giving, receiving and sharing of Laurel Burch art are a reflection not only of the woman herself, but of all the collectors who are drawn by her spirit as well as her designs. Many of them know and have been deeply touched by her life story.

At the age of 14, Laurel Burch left her tumultuous home life in Southern California with nothing more than a paper bag of clothing and the rare bone disease osteopetrosis, that she was born with. Cooking, cleaning, and babysitting for her room and board, she embarked on a search for some stable ground to support her fragile body. With no job, no money, and no dreams, Laurel Burch reached the Golden Gate of San Francisco.

Laurel’s search for connectedness was evidenced in the jewelry she began to make for herself and wear – old coins, bones, and beads arranged into earrings and necklaces. Wearing them gave her a sense of belonging, if only to an exotic world of her own making. Fascinated by her adornments, people on the street began to ask her where she got them. Her creations became bridges to friendships and patrons. Through trading, selling, and giving them away, these artifacts found their way into the lives of people all across the country, and the phenomenon of collecting Laurel Burch began.

Laurel was a self-taught painter. She saw herself as a folk artist, telling stories. “In our fast-paced, changing world,” she said, “we need symbols that are a reminder of the ongoing world of the spirit.” On some level, her work was always about bringing different cultures together, and about our connection with the earth and all living things, ideas that have only increased in relevance today. Laurel was always incredibly prolific. Even during her long periods of convalescence, when she was forced to paint from a bed or wheelchair, she seldom put her brushes down. Laurel said, “I refuse to have anything in my life that I can’t turn around into something magical and beautiful. I just refuse.” Her art will forever convey a sense of joy and passion and lightness. There is an inner strength in her figures, with their bold lines and sinuous curves, and something irrepressible in the explosion of her colors. The universe of her imagination was fertile, burgeoning, uplifting, egalitarian, a place where every flower and dragonfly was transformed into something...magical and beautiful. 


Laurel performed hundreds of speaking engagements around the country. For obvious reasons, the subject of healing was always close to her heart. “Being physically vulnerable is, in a lot of ways, a tremendous advantage in terms of human wisdom. My bone disease was my gift,” she said. Laurel always lent her talents to a long list of charitable causes, designing book covers, posters, and murals around the issues that were of special concern to her. 

On September 13, 2007, Laurel passed away due to complications from the bone disease, osteopetrosis. She will be greatly missed, but her spirit will continue to brighten our world...

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