Top photo by Steve Shay. Bottom photo by Gail Ann Photography.
West Seattle business Belli Vita belongs to Laura Marie, left, who casts the pregnant belly of Ashley Wolfe. Bottom photo show finished porcelain dish made from belly mold.

Pregnancy art form, plaster & porcelain experiencing growth

By Steve Shay

Next time you're heading to Endolyne Joe's or the Original Bakery in West Seattle you may observe some interesting modeling going on around the corner inside the Gail Ann Photography Studio, 4507 Wildwood Pl. And, in this case, nobody is clicking a picture.

That's because Laura Marie Twedt-Leith of Arbor Heights shares the studio where she layers medical grade plaster of paris bandage rolls mixed with warm water on to the bellies or entire torsos of pregnant women. When the plaster dries and is removed, a form is created and made into an art piece, either a finished, painted plaster sculpture, or used as a form for a porcelain belly bowl.

Her business, Belli Vita, is, you might say, expanding, with plenty of womb to grow. Laura Marie, as she likes to be called, was recently contacted by Bravo-TV's "Pregnant in Heels". According to its website, "'Pregnant in Heels' is a docu-drama that follows maternity concierge, fashion designer, and pregnancy guru Rosie Pope as she guides expecting mothers through the joys and perils of preparing to have a baby." Sounds like a perfect fit for Belli Vita.

Also, she has just begun selling plaster kits out-of-state, beginning in New York City, and Los Angeles. Someone has a partner plaster her pregnant tummy, then mail the not-so-heavy form to Laura Marie to finish the piece and mail it back.

She said her customers find the plaster, dipped in warm water, relaxing.

"Pregnancy and childbirth moves me so much and art is such an amazing way to capture moments," said Laura Marie. She has two daughters, Emily, 13, who she home schools, and Anna Marie, 15, who attends Shorewood Christian School. "Pictures are great when you're pregnant because you can 'lock it', but I wanted to add something more, a piece of art you can keep forever, an art piece that may go on your table, and was your baby's first home.

"The appearance of each casting is different," she said. "Every woman's body is different. Every pregnancy is different, and the way the baby is carried is different.

"When I went through my divorce it was such a hard time that I had to figure out a way to focus," she explained. "So I decided to pick up a paint brush and to integrate art with pregnancy.

Laura Marie plans to use her earnings from Belli Vita to take her daughters overseas to serve together in orphanages in Africa, China, and perhaps India.

Bowls start at $250, and torsos at $600. Visit her website or phone her at (206) 841-1891.

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