Stained glass artist searches for dedicated apprentice
Tracy L. Brady, Hartselle Enquirer
A fragile find
Balancing with arms outstretched as I trip along the step-stone path through a secret garden, I stop to peak through a workshop window.
Waiting patiently for a final coat of paint and one last voyage to the kiln, several stained glass circles lay on a table.
Christ, His disciples, and children of every color and size peer back at me. Behind them, hands gnarled by time and artistic labor consider the task before them.
The hands eventually motion me to come inside and have a better look. As I open the door, a flood of more than 40 years worth of time-honored skill and craft bursts forth.
Always an artist
Betty Vereen of Hartselle has spent the better half of her life researching, sketching, cutting, painting and firing stained glass murals. From as small as 11.5 inches to as large as 24 feet, each fragile storyboard is designed and handcrafted by Vereen.
"I've always been an artist," she said. "I guess I first realized it when I was seven-years-old and Daddy took us to see the redwood trees in California. They were just so beautiful I had to draw them right then. I've had to draw beautiful things ever since."
Vereen's first job as a stained glass artist was in Statesville, N.C., where she was schooled in the classic tradition of stained glass design that she continues to use today.
For the past 24 year, she has been commissioned by Preston Jones of Birmingham Art Glass to share her special craft with churches across the southeast.
"It's truly been a blessing," Vereen said. "Preston buys my glass, has it cut, and brings it here to my shop. That's proved to be a big help since I've gotten older."
Vereen said Jones' job is much easier since she moved to Hartselle two years ago. She moved from Powder Springs, Ga., to the 130-year-old house on Highway 36 to get a fresh perspective on life.
"I'm here to stay," she said. "I feel like I've found home, and it suits me just fine."
Passing the torch
The aging artist fervently believes a budding stained glass artist will reap the most benefits from a skilled artisan, like herself, than from any class.
"I was taught by the old masters," Vereen said. "I want to pass that on. There's no quick way to learn it, so the process will take years."
In her early 70s, Vereen knows if her knowledge of the craft is passed on, an apprentice must soon be found.
"They must be an artist first," she said. "And good at drawing people. I would prefer to teach a lady, since stained glass artists don't usually make enough to support a family, but basically I just want someone who's serious about learning."
Vereen said she is not interested in paying someone to learn or being paid by someone to teach her craft of old. She simply wants to pass the torch to the right person.
"Whoever it is, I hope they love it half as much as I have," Vereen said. "My art has been very good to me, and for that I am thankful."