At R Barn Stable & Studio in Bethlehem, artist Sharon Curran lives a focused life training and boarding horses, while creating beautiful ceramic sculptures of her equine friends.
“I guess you might say I run a boarding house for equines,” says Sharon Curren, owner of R Barn, a laid back, small, and friendly stable that caters to owners who “really love their horses.” She boards, rides, and trains the horses and their owners—and she is passionate about it. “A few of the horses are retired and don’t get ridden; but most are ridden, and their owners take weekly dressage lessons.” Unlike many boarding facilities with high turn-over rates, the older horses that come to R Barn live out the rest of their lives there.
You would think that taking care of 13 to 15 horses would be a full time job, but somehow Sharon finds time to pursue her other passion: art. Within her cluster of stables, the training ring, and her home, is an art studio where she lovingly creates sculptures of horses. Most people with more than one passion end up choosing just one, but Sharon Curran has combined her love of horses with her love of art and turned them into two successful, intertwined careers.
Sharon’s mother ran an obedience and training school for dogs in New Jersey when she was growing up. To her parents’ surprise, when Sharon was 3 years old she got on a pony for a photo and wouldn’t leave. She tried to go home with the photographer and his pony—she was hooked! By age 8, she had signed up for riding lessons and learned how to ride her first horse. Later, she was able to pay for more lessons by working in the stables, cleaning and taking care of the horses. She bicycled to a nearby stable for her lessons after school. The first horse she ever owned was given to her when she was 13, by the owner of the stables she worked at. This was just the beginning of a life long passion.
As a teenager, in 1965, Sharon wrote an essay for Seventeen Magazine, in which she was quoted as saying, “I’m mad about horses and mix them into everything I do, including my art studies. Wanting to make pictures of the horses I loved so much was what roused my interest in drawings, and then all forms of art. If it weren’t for horses, I probably wouldn’t even be in art school. I’m paying my tuition with money I have earned—and am earning—grooming, training, and showing horses.”
Sharon attended a three-year art program at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, and then received a Ford Foundation Scolarship to the Art Students League in New York City. She was able to convince her art teacher to let her draw, paint, and sculpt only horses.
Her ceramic horses have a distinct style—not too folksy, not too modern. She fires her pieces first, to take the water out from the clay; this is known as bisque. Then she fires them a second time with a glaze in either an electric kiln or a raku kiln (a Japanese method). She also at times uses a gas or wood kiln. Each method delivers its own result. And each piece is unique. Sharon also works in wire, wood, glass, copper, cast stone, acrylic paint, and mixed media. She explains that her approach to her art is unusual because she depicts one subject matter through a variety of styles and media. Most artists find a style and medium, and their subject matter varies.”
Sharon’s work has been exhibited at the Tremaine Gallery at Hotchkiss School, at the Salmagundi Club in New York City and at the Mattatuck Museum. Her horse creations are priced from $80 to over $3,000 and have been purchased by private art collectors in the United States and around the world.
Sharon has lived and worked at the property in Bethlehem for over 30 years. Her home is a testament of her love for everything horse-related—decorated with horse pillows, paintings, memorabilia, and vintage crops, whips, etc. She even has an adorable foxhound for a pet. The charming house is connected to the art studio, which is connected to the stables, which are connected to the indoor ring, which then leads to the outdoor ring. “It’s really great not having to go outside in the bad weather to feed the horses or check the kilns. With the indoor ring attached I can even go ride a horse without going outside! Now that’s spoiled!”
Sharon’s clients come from Washington, New Milford, Roxbury, Woodbury, and New York City. The owners of the horses range from teenagers to some very active senior citizens. She also has a couple of her own horses and shows them. “I train for dressage and sometimes show an 18 hand warmblood named R Frodo.”
Last October, the Dressage Foundation, a national organization, recognized Sharon as a Century Club Member. To qualify, the combined years of the rider and the horse must reach a 100 years or more. The Foundation also requires that horse and rider perform a dressage test at a show, judged by a dressage professional. With her thoroughbred, Slick, whom she has owned for over 30 years, Sharon passed the test. The club was formed in 1996 and there are only 174 Century Club Members. Sharon is #156.
If you would like to contact Sharon, sign up for training lessons, board your horse, or purchase a sculpture, you may contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
R Barn Stable/Studio
16 Hard Hill North