The transom above Kyle Baughman’s bedroom door is a stained glass sunrise of his own creation. “That way I’ll get a sunrise every day, no matter what time I wake up,” said the artist. It’s that sunny happy feeling that helps Baughman create – whether it’s a beautiful stained glass piece, music, scenes in a movie or doing hard labor.
The Hattiesburger is a jack of all trades and he likes it that way, dabbling in a lot, but not tied down by any.
These days, Hub City Stained Glass is a passion he’s designing and putting together, one colorful piece at a time.
The Music Man
In his younger years, Baughman was into music.
At the age of 12, his grandmother bought him a classical guitar and paid for lessons. “She wanted me to play classical, but I didn’t want to,” he said. “I wanted to play Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Willie Nelson and such. So, I played guitar.”
At Petal Middle School he joined the band, where he was a member of the drum line. Later, at Jones County Junior College he would play with the drum line, but he also played electric guitar in the Jones Jazz Band.
He went on to play bass in a rock band that was invited to Bristol, Tenn., to play at a festival there. “The music was mostly bluegrass,” Baughman remembers. But it was there that he fell in love with it, came home, sold his bass and bought a mandolin.
One night while at a bar, he was talking to a girl, telling her he’d been playing for a couple of weeks and wanted to play bluegrass. Luckily for him, her husband had just started a band, which had held its first practice the week before.
It was one of those ‘all right,’ moments for Baughman. And the Pine Belt Pickers were formed.
It was while a student at JCJC that he accidentally on purpose fell into art. Needing an elective, he signed up for pottery.
“I figured not many dudes were going to take pottery and it would be full of girls,” he laughed.
He never really considered himself artsy. “I never drew, but took an art class in middle school, but none in high school before getting into pottery,” he said, admitting he wasn’t very good at pottery, although he does have a few pieces sprinkled throughout his house. “I was more of a musician, more into music than art, until I saw them playing with fire.”
The art of glass
As it turns out, there was only himself and two other guys in that pottery class. He made friends with one of them, who invited him out to his dad’s shop. The dad happened to be John Witt of Sweetwater Stained Glass.
“John Witt had been doing stained glass for probably 40 years or so and had gotten into blowing glass, so I helped him with that,” Baughman said. Intrigued at that point, he hung out long enough for Witt to put him on the payroll.
After college, Baughman went into the medical field. His last job was in the urology lab at Hattiesburg Clinic. When he felt like he’d had enough of that, he quit and went to work at a granite company.
“It was in the middle of the mortgage crisis and I quit my job with insurance benefits to do this,” he said. “It was that bad.”
After working with granite for about 18 months, Witt called, saying he’d lost his right-hand man, the one who built all his windows for him, asking if Baughman could come work for him.
“It was a ‘Sure, I’d love to’ moment,” said Baughman, who worked on and off at Sweetwater for about 10 years, the last stint was for about five years.
“Not only did we do art glass, but whatever else was needed,” said Baughman. “Some days I might do yard work or feed the chickens, whatever he wanted me to do.”
Baughman said Witt lives on a “beautiful property in Jones County” and had built a greenhouse out of lumber he had sawed. However, after about four or five years the wood timbers in the roof of the greenhouse had started to rot and needed replacing.
The art of recovery
On the morning of Oct. 14, 2014, Baughman, went to work and was a little uneasy. He remembers Witt going to get some tools. Baughman took to the roof of the greenhouse. He was on about the third rail of the roof when he stepped on a spot where the panels met. It couldn’t support his weight and he fell about 20 feet.
He broke his clavicle, three ribs, one of which punctured a lung and fractured the entire right side of his face/head.
Baughman was rushed to Forrest General, but they tell him they had the helicopter ready to take him to Oschner’s in New Orleans. But after 48 hours, the blood in his brain started to reduce.
“It was a miracle,” Baughman said of the traumatic brain injury. He was in ICU for four or five days and in the hospital for almost two weeks. He remembers nothing about it, however, friends and family tell him he was “quite the patient.”
“They tell me I tried to climb out of the fourth-floor window,” he said. “They tell me the stories, but I have vague memories of January, February and into March. It was June before I could start remembering stuff.”
And he had to relearn how to play guitar. He also had to move from the area of the accident. “There were just too many memories and it was a constant reminder,” he said.
Baughman moved to Oak Grove and bought a small studio and began working his way back into his art. “During my recovery was the first time that I had drawn and designed my own stained glass art,” he said. “The rest of the time I was building church windows for John Witt. During my recovery I was very focused on that. It gave me something to do and I’ve been doing it off and on ever since.”
These days if Baughman doesn’t have commissioned stained glass pieces to work on, he might be working with a friend’s construction company. His studio is currently a corner of the company’s headquarters in west Hattiesburg. Couches, ping pong and pool tables, and a television mounted on the wall provide a respite from a long day’s work.
“I have some fantastic friends who I can call up and say, ‘Let me come sweat for you. I’ve got to pay this bill,’” said Baughman. “But I haven’t done construction in about a month, so that’s nice. I’m getting there. But because I’m also a musician, I’m able to supplement my income that way too.”
Finding his niche
About five or six months after his accident, he had begun getting back into his art. A friend of his, Greg Prine, walked his dog around downtown all the time, and on a particular walk noticed pieces of glass that were from a washout. The glass was from old Coke bottles. Prine followed the trail and found a spot where the deposit bottles at the old Coca-Cola Bottling Company (BOCO) that were busted or broken, chipped and couldn’t be filled, were dumped near Gordon’s Creek. After a big flash flood, Prine might pick up half a dozen old Hattiesburg bottles. He told Baughman about them, who scooped up some and tried to decide what to do with them.
These days he uses the bottoms of the bottles in his stained glass artwork, cutting the bottom on a diamond wet saw before beveling them on a grinder, so he can wrap lead around them.
“I’ve eaten up about four of these bits at $60 each,” he said, noting those and the saw blades are the most expensive part of the art. “It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to grind down each one and then I incorporate them into my pieces. It’s kind of my niche.”
He dons safety glasses and an apron as he chisels away on a bottle, a plastic shoe box holding an assortment of pale green and clear Coke bottle bottoms still awaiting the turn of Baughman’s hand.
“I knew I could do something with them,” he said.
Brian Saffle has also let him use his laser engraving machine for some of his pieces.
Baughman got commissioned to craft a transom for someone’s house. For their “706” address they wanted a Coke bottle bottom used in the middle of the ‘O.’
Baughman’s goal is to create the old Hub City sign that was once on top of the America Building.
He has found a bottle for every city in the sign, only having to buy two off Ebay. “I’ve got New Orleans, Mobile, Jackson and Hattiesburg and bought Gulfport and Natchez.”
It’s a project he’s excited about and anticipates it being possibly six-feet square. He’s also trying to figure out if he’s just going to use the bottles or use vitreous paints on glass and fire them in the kiln, a project he’s done several times.
“I’ve got the gears still turning and haven’t quite got it figured out yet,” he said.
In his own abode, an older home downtown, he’s outfitted the transoms over the doors, in addition to the sunrise, in his own style.
One is in a prairie style, along the lines of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work Baughman finds amazing. The four colors he used came from a French door he did. “I like to play with the extras,” he said.
He notes that his first commissioned piece for Josh and Jill Slaven also had the same Frank Lloyd Wright styling.
Another transom in his house uses a Coke bottle bottom and agates. Because he’s an artist, each of the transoms is unique and doesn’t match, and that suits him just fine. He prefers the abstract and funky.
The biggest piece he’s ever done is a bathroom window for Jessica and Gabe Shemper, which measures about three by five feet. Jessica gave him creative license, he came up with a design and colors and she approved it. A mixture of brown and blue, the window has a perfect spot in the powder room of the Shemper home. A large pane of glass on the outside the window protects it from an errant rock being slung and breaking it. “It’s a lot cheaper to replace the clear glass than the stained glass,” Baughman said, noting that the blue he used in the window is no longer being made.
Baughman said it took about six hours to draw up the design, another day to cut all the patterns and another 50 or 60 hours to put it together. “That doesn’t include the time to research and call around to find the glass.”
He ranks it in the Top 5 pieces he’s ever done. Another was a 4 foot by 2 foot lighthouse, which was on display at a show. A storm blew up and as friends tried to help him save his pieces, the lighthouse got stepped on. “I cried on that one,” he said. He still hasn’t had the heart to put it back together.
Baughman said he’s learned something different from every piece he’s created.
The amount of time he spends on each work of art depends on his schedule and the intricacy of the piece.
“The time for each piece usually depends on how intricate the cuts are,” he explained. “Something with a lot of curves or if he has to cut patterns or trace on glass adds two or three hours to each job. Straight lines go pretty quickly. There are just too many variables to assign a time to each piece.”
It also depends on what else he has going on. He has to take into consideration that what might take three days, will require more time depending on how many practices and gigs the band has going on
But one of the joys of the job is the pleasure of being flexible. While he works every day, it may not be but for four or five hours, while at other times he may start at 9 a.m. and not finish until the wee hours of the next morning.
“I don’t watch TV, but I stay busy,” Baughman said. “I don’t want this to become an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. I want to work on it when I want to work on it.”
Baughman has a nice assortment of glass on hand. For special projects, he orders from a wholesale distributor and has even bought from people who used to craft their own glass. He can also purchase glass, up to a 12-inch by 12-inch piece at Hobby Lobby. Larger pieces of glass must be ordered.
While Baughman has photos of most of his artwork, photographs really don’t do it justice. “You have to see it in person,” he said.
Baughman has displayed his wares at the Hattiesburg Maker’s Market, when he has plenty of inventory and his schedule allows.
He also does restoration work for people, noting a piece he fixed for a lady in Petal whose parents or grandparents owned a drug store in downtown Hattiesburg in the 1930s or ’40s. She had a piece of glass from there that had gotten broken and he was able to fix it.
When he worked for Witt, that’s all he did, even helping Witt with the restoration and re-creation of the windows for Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg following the 2013 tornado.
When asked if he can do this or that in stained glass, his answer is always, “Of course, I can,” he said. “Then I have to figure out how I am going to do it.”
Commission work is keeping him busy these days.
For a friend he crafted a logo piece from the Viking television show and a piece for Slow Boat Brewery in Laurel. And “Bertha,” who hangs in the front window of Gratefull Soul in downtown Hattiesburg is one of his creations.
“I was talking with Grant (Ford, who owns the eatery with wife, Carmen) about another Grateful Dead piece, when he said, ‘Can you do Bertha?’ Of course, I can.”
He worked on the creation, which has 174 individually handcut pieces, for about 90 hours, enlisting the help of local artisan Tosha Messer for the flowers in Bertha’s hair.
For Christmas, Baughman created stained glass candy canes, for Valentine’s Day, hearts and he’s also created small birds with painted details, which he describes as a learning process.
One of his most recent commissions is a piece he did for the Moreno family in Petal, who lost their daughter, Toni, earlier this year after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Toni had drawn her own self portrait during art class in school. Baughman recreated the piece into stained glass.
“It wasn’t the difficulty of the piece that was hard,” he said. ”It was all the emotions involved that made it tough. I didn’t know her or the people involved, but it was a very emotional piece for me to build. I have children and couldn’t imagine the loss. It was definitely tugging on my heart the entire time. From what Anna (a friend and Toni’s art teacher ) told me about her, the spirit she had during her fight brought the community together. All I wanted to do was perhaps bring a little happiness during a troubling time.”
An artisan’s way
Baughman’s home is that of an artisan with special touches here and there, not to mention the incredible flowers and green plants that welcome you to the yard when you pull up, the work of a lady friend with a green thumb. His latest creation is a piece of stained glass for the yard.
As Baughman talks about a stained glass piece hanging in the kitchen window, he offers cold Artesian water infused with strawberries and lemons that came from a well along the roadside in Quitman. “I get tired of drinking just water,” he said. Colored bottles placed in some of the windows of the house echo his own stained glass creations. When tooling around town, he’s in a bright blue jeep, sans air condition, with an antique license plate and a variety of unique stickers sprinkled here and there. And at times there may be a Catahoula hound riding shotgun. He more than likely will be wearing Chacos, shorts and a cool shirt, his long hair pulled back in a ponytail and sporting shades, not to mention that beard.
Baughman believes the art of stained glass is most definitely a dying breed, noting that in the Pine Belt area there are only a handful of glass artisans.
Delving into another art form, Baughman has also done some acting.
While recovering from his accident, he had some friends who were looking into being extras for the “Free State of Jones” movie filming in the area. They talked him into going. Because he couldn’t drive yet, he caught a ride and made friends quickly with a guy from Ellisville. The two trucked back and forth or camped out. They were among 300 Confederate soldier extras. They then got picked to be in the Knight Company, which went from 60 to 30 to 20 to 10.
“We were in that group,” Baughman said. “I’m pretty sure they hired the beard.”
The work made him eligible for his Screen Actors Guild card and a bit part in “Roots,” where he played a banjo and sang in the last episode. It’s something he’d like to pursue again down the road.
The Pine Belt Pickers recently performed during the first night of the 10-week Levitt AMP Hattiesburg Music Series at Chain Park. Baughman said they usually play twice a month, or if out of town maybe three times. “We don’t want to oversaturate our crowd,” he laughed.
Baughman is quick to say he doesn’t want a real job. “I’m staying busy with the way things are going. It’s really huge, thanks to the people around me. If I didn’t have this support system that I’ve got and the network I’m developing, I would not be in this position. Not that it’s a great position, but I haven’t worked construction in a month. And my bills are paid and I had some extra money, so …
“I’ve done a lot of beautiful art and I think Hattiesburg is on a steady uphill climb.” Baughman is eager to see the arts center downtown come to fruition.
“I’m anxious to see what our new mayor does for the city; he’s got decades of people’s messes to clean up, but there are a lot of people who really care for this community. So, I’m thinking with the downtown area on an uphill swing, I want to be one of those young professionals Toby Barker was talking about.”
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