Little Shirleys are to honor, raise hope for others

Creativity comes naturally for Lauren Burman: from pottery to printmaking, jewelry-making and photography, she has a knack for art. It was therefore fitting for her to sit down at the potter’s wheel in order to raise $2,900 for cancer research as a participant in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Team in Training Vancouver Marathon.

Lauren Burman shows off one of her ceramic flower vases

Lauren Burman shows off one of her ceramic flower vases

Creativity comes naturally for Lauren Burman: from pottery to printmaking, jewelry-making and photography, she has a knack for art. It was therefore fitting for her to sit down at the potter’s wheel in order to raise $2,900 for cancer research as a participant in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Team in Training Vancouver Marathon.

“I quickly realized that [$2,900] is a lot of money,” said Burman, 24.

Contributions from friends were not enough, so she decided to sell flower vases, “Little Shirleys,” for $20 apiece at Mercer Island Florist.

The shop is owned by Burman’s mother, Diane Larson, and the vases were named in honor of her grandmother, Shirley Lou Larson, who died in February of liver cancer. The florist shop has offered the vases for sale since March.

“It was a combination of wanting to do something in memory of my grandma and training for the marathon, raising money for cancer research,” said Burman of her inspiration for the Little Shirleys.

Burman grew up four blocks away from her grandparents’ house on the west side of Mercer Island. Her grandmother was one of her best friends, she said.

“She always supported me in every way. I know she would be so proud of me.”

When Shirley Larson was diagnosed with liver cancer and chose not to receive treatment, Burman moved back to the area from Atlanta, Ga., to aid in her grandmother’s care. She described that time as a stressful time. Preparing for the marathon and making pottery brought some relief.

“I started training to run a marathon as an outlet,” said Burman. “I did it — the whole thing. I never really thought that I would be able to do it.”

She ran the 26.2 miles with her father on May 3 after six months of training.

Four years ago, Burman enrolled in pottery classes at an art studio in Atlanta, Ga., where she attended summer school. “I needed a creative outlet and then it just stuck; I love pottery. I love clay and all the firing techniques.”

Now, the sociology major who graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif., with a minor in biology, spends about 10 hours a week creating pottery at Pottery Northwest in Seattle — aside from working a full-time job at the Pacific Science Center.

Burman found a way to make the vases quickly while maintaining quality, she said. The pottery process begins with throwing three-quarters of a pound of clay onto a wheel. The clay is then hardened through bisque-firing and a glass-based glaze is added before the pot is fired again.

“I never know what it’s going to turn out like. I never have a vision,” said Burman. But, she pointed out, there are similarities in rim and size, and each vase is flat-bottomed. She makes 10 to 20 vases per batch in colors ranging from pale blue to earthy greens and browns.

The Little Shirleys come with a tag that reads:

“Little Shirleys are made in memory of one of the most amazing women in the world, my grandma, Shirley Lou Larson. They are meant to be cute, a bit sassy, colorful and make you smile, just like she did. ”

Mercer Island Florist is giving away a free flower with each vase purchased during the month of June in honor of Larson’s birthday, June 18, when she would have been 80 years old.


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