Flat, Textile Hamsa by Laura Burch

Flat, Textile Hamsa by Laura Burch

  • $140.00
  • Availability: 1

This delicately crafted Hamsa—a popular Middle Eastern and North African amulet, believed to provide protection against the “Evil Eye”—integrates an intricately embroidered pattern of colorful flowers and symbols from the natural world with silver beads that invoke an abstract eye at the center of the open palm. The inherently feminine materials, conveying an air of ornament and playfulness alongside a precise craftsmanship of care, offer a stark contrast to the seriousness and rigidity found in the silver and gold metalwork more commonly used for the talisman.
Materials: Cloth, embroidery, beads.
Dimensions: 8.2in tall x 5.5in wide

Hamsas are popular amulets in the Middle East and North Africa, and are believed to provide protection against the “Evil Eye”: a malevolent stare causing illness, death, and bad luck. The “hamsa”—meaning “five” in Arabic, and referring to the five fingers of the hand—is considered to be a talisman of blessing, fortitude and good luck in Judaism, Islam and Christianity, and is also known as the “Hand of Fatima,” after the daughter of the prophet Muhammad; the “Hand of Mary”; and the “Hand of Miriam.” The symbol depicts an open right hand, often with an eye in the middle of its palm—countering the evil gaze with a benevolent one. It is often linked specifically to women, used to boost fertility and lactation, promote healthy pregnancies, and ensure a happy marriage and home. Traditionally, a hamsa talisman is hung on the doorway of the room of an expectant mother or new baby—or even painted in red onto the walls of the home. The symbol appears in Ketubahs (marriage contracts), and is a popular wedding gift. 

Hamsas are ubiquitous in Israel, a popular collectors’ item due to the symbol’s positive associations and its local roots. They are traditionally made of silver and gold to reinforce their purity and are often incorporated into high-end jewelry, but the talisman can also be found as a “good luck” charm on keychains, lottery cards, and postcards.

Burch takes this well-known tradition and makes it her own, creating unique sculptures and wall hangings. The inherently feminine materials she uses in crafting her pieces stand in stark contrast to the metalwork of the traditional hamsas, bestowing a new meaning onto the timeless talisman. This delicately crafted piece combines intricate patterns of white and gold beads with bold and lighthearted shapes of jewelry, integrating a doll’s eye into the center of the open palm. The materials and forms are all taken from the feminine world, with an air of ornament and playfulness alongside a precise craftsmanship, offering a stark contrast to the seriousness and rigidity found in the common silver and gold metalwork. This is femininity taking its destiny in its own hands: reminding us that the powerful hand bestowing its blessings is the delicate hand of a woman.

Laura Lee Burch

Burch is a multimedia artist living and working in Jaffa, whose work has spanned the fields of graphic design, illustration, photography, and puppet-making. She founded a gallery store in Tel Aviv where she designs, produces, and sells her handmade products, and cofounded Lullubee, a company that creates and markets craft kits for children. Burch also teaches needle felting seminars in her Tel Aviv gallery.
Read more about Laura here