Alabama Maker’s stained-glass art colors home and heaven

Alabama Maker’s stained-glass art colors home and heaven
Deborah Strawn has been making stained glass for decades in her Loachapoka studio, but she still loves the moments of revelation the form provides. (Mark Sandlin/Alabama NewsCenter)

Deborah Strawn Glass, Loachapoka

 The Maker: Deborah Strawn

Deborah Strawn’s past profession helped people hear better. Her current one helps them see the light.

“I have a master’s degree in audiology from Auburn University, and used to work with the hearing impaired,” Strawn says. “That was my bread and butter – until I discovered glass art.”

One of the South’s leading stained-glass experts, the largely self-taught artist started making small pieces in the 1980s after a friend introduced her to the craft.

“I learned the basics, made some works and started entering shows,” Strawn says. “Then I won a few awards, and thought I needed to learn more. So I studied at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and the Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle. Pilchuck offers intensive two- and three-week courses, and I’ve taken several of them.”

Alabama Maker Deborah Strawn creates stained glass with built-in surprises from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

From her home studio in Loachapoka just outside Auburn, Strawn creates works ranging from pieces the size of photo slides to inspirational church windows. She sells her art on her Facebook and Instagram pages, by word of mouth and at gatherings such as the Southern Makers show, while also encouraging beginners looking to break into the stained-glass business.

“The first thing I tell people is to have a studio,” she says. “This isn’t something you can do in one day and just leave on the kitchen table overnight. These works take time, and you need to be able to walk away.”

As her glass skills grew, so did Strawn’s artworks.

About 30 years ago I started doing church windows,” she says. “I’ve done some that include abstract bird designs for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church in Auburn, and just finished eight traditional windows for a church in Waverly that was built in the 1800s. It was hit by lightning, and the congregation raised all the money to completely rebuild it. They’d come around while I was working on the windows and give me wonderful support.”

In addition to her spiritual commissions, the artist also creates original windows for residences and businesses, including a funeral home. “The woman who owned it said she had gotten a better price from a man who did glass work. But I asked her who she trusted more to create exactly what she was looking for – a man or a woman – and I got the job.”

And for the past two decades, she has also created three-dimensional artworks by combining found objects with leaded glass.

“Currently, I’m working on a series of portraits of women who have influenced me,” Strawn says. “I call it ‘My Life’s Strong Southern Women.’ The first will be a portrait of my Aunt Hazel. She loved zinnias, so I may call it ‘Aunt Zinnia.’”

Working from a photo, Strawn hopes to create a shining memory of her aunt – especially when the light comes through.

 The Product: One-of-a-kind stained-glass artworks ranging from tiny pieces the size of photo slides to windows for homes, businesses and churches.

 Take Home: A stained-glass piece set in a picture frame ($25 to $65).

Deborah Strawn Glass, 334-329-8034  

Also on  at Strawnglass.

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