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STREETSEEN  |  Sharron Barrett

Photo by Steve Roberts

Sharron Barrett: Glass Artisan 

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Sharron Barrett grew up in Jackson, TN and after living in several places around the country, returned to West Tennessee to be near her family. After relocating to Memphis,  she went back to college at Memphis State and majored in art. Also, she worked for several graphic arts studios and that combination led Barrett to approach her hobby as a profession.

“I studied with several local and regional glass artists,” recalled Barrett. “When I had an opportunity to go to Italy for three months to study with glass artists in Siena with Vertrate Artistiches Tuscane, I knew I had found my calling. Those artists primarily build stained glass cathedral windows. I had the chance to paint on one they were working on for a 300-year-old church. When I returned from Italy I started doing more glass fusing. Previously I had done some leaded glass work and I went to Italy to learn to paint on glass. I fell in love with fusing and now I have four bathtub-sized kilns in my home studio.”

“My style is different,” explained Barrett. “In my technique I use an inlay method, instead of layering. I cut precise pieces that fit together much like a jigsaw puzzle. Most people are more familiar with seeing this inlaid technique associated with woodworking.”

From her home studio in Germantown she produces items like Christmas ornaments that were recently featured in Winter Arts, a local art show. Year-round she makes serving platters and wall-hangings. Materials include special glass from a foundry in Portland, OR, and dichroic glass from a supplier in California. The latter she uses to highlight details. Barrett applies 22 karat gold, a luster in liquid form, to surface decorate. Her process is time intensive as all pieces have to be fired multiple times in the kiln.

“One large platter can take up to three days to make, not including the firing time in the kiln,” said Barrett. “Kilns that are made for glass fusing have heating elements in the top and the sides that work together. Glass cannot be stacked like pottery because each surface of the glass has to be exposed to the actual heating elements and fired in a single layer.”

Barrett is a member of several professional organizations including the Tennessee Crafts Association and the group’s local chapter, Tennessee Crafts Southwest. She also participates in Artworks Foundation, a group of artists who work in a variety of mediums.

“There aren’t many fusers in this area,” said Barrett. “So, I’m a member of several online groups as well. We keep track of each other — sharing ideas and finished work so we can be supportive of each other.”

Barrett shares her love of glass fusing by teaching children’s classes in the summer through a local art camp. She also gives private lessons at her studio to both children and adults. And Barrett continues to be a student herself.

“You never stop learning when you are an artist,” exclaimed Barrett. “This summer I plan to take a glass-fusing class in NYC.”

Some of Barrett’s work on public display includes a hanging called “Vertical” at the Sutherland Clinic on Wolf River Boulevard, made of 75 glass ribbons, all suspended from the ceiling. Additionally, she has an on-going commission with Le Bonheur to make 10-inch glass hearts. They are given as awards for accomplishments or retirement gifts.” 

To learn more about glass artist Sharron Barrett, go to barrettglassstudio.com.


STREETSEEN  |  Dennis Paullus

Photo by Steve Roberts

Dennis Paullus: Woodturner

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Dennis Paullus is a native Memphian who began working with wood when he was a teenager.

“When I started high school I wanted a car and some pocket money,” recalled Paullus. “So, I started working after-school and summer construction jobs.”

After graduating from Frayser High School, Paullus said he went straight into full-time construction work. 

“I was in construction of one kind or another all of my life and eventually I started working with green reclaimed logs to create art,” said Paullus. “When I was 42 years old, I got my first lathe and started working with green wood. What was a hobby 21 years ago, became a full-time profession. Seven years ago I started making my living as a professional woodturner. I enjoy taking reclaimed wood and giving it a second life.”

Paullus lives in the county in Arlington. He said that he spends a lot of his time looking for wood, mostly wood that has come down after a storm. Often people call him when a tree is going to come down.

Paullus said, “Instead of being cut down and mulched or hauled to a dump, folks call me to reclaim the wood as art.”

To begin his artistic process, Paullus takes found wood and turns the fresh green wood into bowls and sculptural pieces. Then the items are dried for six to eight months. Next the pieces are finished.

“My favorites woods are cherry, maple and walnut,” said Paullus. “Almost everything I work with is a type of domestic wood, not an exotic. Some of my designs are whimsical in shape and I try to bring patterns to life in my work.”

Paullus developed a signature style about 10 year ago that involves carvings and textures as embellishments for his work. He described it as a “tears pattern.”

“I enjoy incorporating all kinds of tactile and visual interpretations that make my work look like it is in motion,” said Paullus.

As an artist, Paullus is often on the road, traveling across the country to teach at regional and national symposiums. There are many woodturning schools, a regional one is the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. He also teaches at woodturning clubs around the country. Other travels include going to art shows to sell his woodturnings.

Paullus, current president of the Mid-South Woodturners Guild, explained, “I’ve been a member for 21 years and the associations with the guild has helped bring me to my current level. We learn from each other and teach each other — then at some point we become the teachers.”

Paullus is also a member of three other woodturning clubs; the Tennessee Association of West Tennessee Woodturners, the Ohio Valley Woodturners and the American Association of Woodturners. He is also a member of the Tennessee Crafts Association, an artisan club.

“The value of these types of memberships is the association with like-minded people,” said Paullus. “Being a part of a group that specializes offers the chance to share techniques and experiences.”  

To learn more about Dennis Paullus and his designs, visit his website www.dennispaullus.pro/. Information about the local guild can be found at www.midsouthwoodturners.com.