Valarie Birch’s art is something of a smorgasbord - with some unusual source material.
The full-time artist and owner of Other Curiosities paints, photographs, and creates everything from tiny stickers, jewelry, and suncatchers, to tiny vials holding treasures from nature. But the most eye-catching pieces often begins as roadkill.
“I aim to create with items, especially in nature, that would be discarded or aren’t looked at by people in everyday life as something that would be art,” Birch says. “But something that’s really important to me — giving things a second life.”
Birch collects animal skulls, whether from the side of the road or from friends. She cleans them and then applies various finishes and decorations. At times she carves them in what looks like hieroglyphics, painting, attaching flowers or semi-precious gemstones or other decorative items.
“I’ve done horses, bears, fox, coyote, beaver,” she says. “They’re cleaned and some of them are lightened and some of them are natural. I usually take a gilded gold, which is a type of liquid gold leaf, and I will paint them.”
Birch also accepts skulls from people whose pets have died but wish to keep a memorial.
“It’s so important and treasured to me that they thought of me and sought me out to make such an important memorial for them,” Birch says.
Another art form Birch offers is photography for high school seniors and wedding. All have her signature approach for those who can’t afford expensive photo shoots: she'll do them for donations or even free-of-charge.
“Affordable art is so important,” she says. “I grew up very poor, and everyone deserves just a little bit, everyone should be able to consume and be around real art.”
Birch, a native of Paw Paw, earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Central Michigan University while starting a business called V.B. Bruzer Designs, after her maiden name, Bruzewski. She later renamed her business Other Curiousities that she now runs full-time from Studio 216 at Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo. Birch also sells online through Etsy, and her work can be found at Elements and other shops around Kalamazoo.
Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.