The Verve: Spokane Valley artist creates fanciful fairies

Susan Burger has a lot of friends, ones she met as a child in the pages of the “Golden Book of Elves and Fairies” (Jane Werner and Garth Williams, 1951). They are elves, fairies, jesters, witches, mermaids and other playful characters brought into existence by Burger’s imagination.

Burger has not wandered far from her youthful expressions. “For me, art has always been a staple in my life. It goes right up there with eating and sleeping,” she said, “At times it even comes before and along with the sleeping, as I will often draft ideas and jot them down. Since I use many mediums, I still ask for school supplies as an adult.”

While many adults, at one time or another, find themselves in search of their inner child, Burger seems to frolic with hers, and her work emulates that notion through her use of wild mixes of color and added elements that become wings, untamed hairdos, shimmering effects and endearing personalities. Even Burger’s witches, who to some may be “dark,” contain no darkness but an inner contentment.

Each face is hand-painted by Burger and reflects an array of joyful expressions that draw you in, almost urging you to converse with it. Some seem thoughtful and wise, others keep secrets, and some look as if they’ve just heard a joke. Some can sit in the palm of your hand and others can sit in a chair next to you.

Burger, who lives in the Spokane Valley, has been creating her dolls for more than 20 years. She learned to sew and knit as a child. When she became a single mother, she made clothes for her children and Halloween costumes that often won prizes at parties.

She married and eventually the time came when she got tired of sewing practical things. “My husband has his own business. I needed something of my own,” she said, “I think it’s important to have a hobby. Something to fill that free time, once it presents itself where you can get lost and lose total track of time. Filling my hours with art was great when it came to children moving out and those hours that the husband is working late. Art is something to be passionate about; it is something to pass on to children so that they can fill their time constructively.”

Burger made her dolls a business about 14 years ago and began selling her creations online and in shops in Washington and Idaho. She has also done craft shows where she sells well. She belongs to a local doll group and currently shows at the Local Marketplace and Gallery, 122 N. Argonne Road.

“We met Susan at a craft show at the fairgrounds sometime last year,” said marketplace owner Michael Peterson, “The variety of fairies, witches and circus characters drew us in. The whimsical detail brings out the child in us all. Our customers and fellow artisans stand in front of her display smiling, laughing and admiring each one.”

Burger has been told that some of her dolls resemble her and though she does not have pointy features and is not multicolored, she does have an inner sparkle, one that perhaps comes from staying good friends with her inner child.

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail jlarue99@hotmail.com.

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