Stained-glass artist Sharon Earl Burridge brings fond memories and captivating images to life
by Meagan McGone
After a social gathering at a home on South Merritt Island, one of the guests, Mr. Scotty, was still feeling the effects of his last cocktail. He decided to stay overnight.
Mr. Scotty woke in the middle of the night to the sound of a woman calling out in distress. With no time to spare, he rushed outside to help, locking himself out of the house in his hurried state. Once he made it to the scene, he realized there was no madam in distress – only a noisy peacock.
The memory of that funny, treasured tale lives on through a beautifully colored window located at that same Merritt Island home.
When it comes to taking fond memories or captivating images and transforming them into long-lasting stained –glass works of art, Sharon Earl Burridge is a mastermind.
A LIFELONG LOVE OF GLASS
Earl Burridge says she can remember being passionate about art since elementary school. “To me, happiness was getting to make something with my hands, whether it was yarn, watercolors or pastels,” she recalls.
In 1978, she was introduced to stained glass. “I saw it at art shows and couldn’t afford it. My children were young, so I took a class on stained glass, and I was hooked.”
The rest is history. “If I wanted to be happy, I would play with glass,” she says.
Earl Burridge has enjoyed the lifestyle of a stained-glass artist, as it allowed her to work from home and raise her daughters: Amber, 37, and Daisy, 35. Her husband, Peter, a former engineer at Kennedy Space Center, is also supportive of her career.
But her true love of the art lies in the material itself – the glass. “I love glass – the different colors and textures of it, the way it changes colors from day to night, and using unique pieces of glass to recreate beautiful images.”
Earl Burridge currently works out of her home studio on Merritt Island alongside her black poodle, Bertie. There, she can spend hours sifting through her impressive collection of dazzling glass and manipulating the pieces into windows, lamps, room dividers, doors, skylights and mirrors for her clients. “It’s really fun,” she says. “I can truthfully say my job is fun. There’s nothing I’d rather do.”
TRANSLATING MEMORIES & IMAGES
When she begins a new project, Earl Burridge meets with her clients to obtain a personal grasp of what they are seeking.
“Recently, one of my customers described to me her girlhood memories of India,” she explains. “She recalled elephants decorated in ceremonial gear and coconut trees and a love of peacocks. So those words of hers – those memories – translated into a window.” The finished window features vibrant and meticulous finishes.
When Earl Burridge was working on the project, if she could not find the exact color she was looking for in her glass collection, she would make it herself. To say the artist is detail-oriented might be an understatement.
“The eyes of the peacocks are fused glass melted in a kiln,” she explains. “The elephant is painted and fired on both sides. There are so many details. It took me forever.”
When Earl Burridge is not bringing the visions of her clients to life, she is busy making her own dreams come true. For personal projects, she draws inspiration from the beauty of nature, and she is intrigued by all things underwater. Additionally, she appreciates the stained-glass artwork of acclaimed American artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, and she enjoys pouring over images on the photo-sharing website www.Flickr.com.
“Once you’ve done art as much as I have, it’s just sort of an automatic pilot in the brain to look, in terms of artwork, at everything,” she says.
Although the artist has a knack for looking at a piece of glass and immediately recognizing the various ways light will filter through it, she claims anyone can sharpen his or her artistic ability with practice. “I tell this to people all of the time … Art is about doing it. It’s not about this talent you’re born with. It’s doing your homework.”
Even with more than 30 years of experience, Earl Burridge is still learning every day. “I’m always adjusting my work,” she says. “You’ve got to make mistakes. That’s how you learn. This job takes a lot of dedication.”
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To learn more about Sharon Earl Burridge, visit www.SharonStainedGlass.com.