Color Style Kyle

Combining art, creativity, design, family, health, humor and books.

Farewell to Jewelry Maker, Painter, Artist Laurel Burch

Posted by Kyle Design on September 23, 2007

I want to comment on San Francisco Bay Area artist, painter and jeweler Laurel Burch who died September 13 at the age of 61 from osteopetrosis, a rare congenital bone disease.

When I saw her obituary in the paper today, I actually cried out and my daughter asked, “What’s wrong, Mom?” In the mid 80’s, when I was producing my hand-painted silk jewelry line, she was a huge company and a source of inspiration for me.

Laurel Burch was known for her colorful cloisonné jewelry and especially her cat designs. She also designed coffee cups, tote bags, blankets, pillows and many, many other gift items in an updated folk art or tribal style. Her work was ubiquitous and a constant reminder to keep at it, keep designing, don’t give up.

I went to a lecture she gave at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in the early 1990s and came away with a renewed sense of passion and creativity. She approached me after the lecture to compliment me on the colors of my outfit – the highest praise, coming from her. I was on cloud nine!

I started my business 25 years ago this month while a senior at U.C. Berkeley and IKyle Design Hand-Painted Silk Earrings of Cats assure you, those early years were tough. Eighty hour weeks, no money for anything, not even a haircut or the dentist. Trying to find my way, develop a style and figure out what would sell. And keep my spirits up. Certainly, my style has evolved over the years, but simply put, I guess I would describe my look is contemporary, colorful and detailed – here are my cat earrings made of hand-painted silk in 23K gold-plated settings. Please visit my Unique Cat Gifts page to see other pieces.

Laurel Burch left her home in the San Fernando Valley at 14, moved to San Francisco at 20 and began making jewelry from unusual things – bones, coins and beads – to support her baby daughter. The disease she battled from birth caused her bones to break very easily and caused pain and fatigue. Despite all this, she still managed to build a multi-million dollar business in what was traditionally a man’s world because of her passion and skills as as artist.

Cat Ornament for Christmas HolidayAfter listening to the challenges Laurel Burch faced her whole life, I could put it all in perspective and know that this was only a challenge to see how committed I was to being an entrepreneur, to life as an artist. Being creative is something I have to do: I believe it is somehow part of my physical make-up. I have so many new products and ideas in the works – I’m always behind getting them up on the site. Check here to see what is new each week: What’s New at Kyle Design.

So here I am, twenty-five years and counting…. Thank you, Laurel Burch. I will miss you.


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