Artist Bob Barrow almost didn’t become an artist due to a Junior High teacher that criticized him so severely that he felt like “an idiot.” Luckily, Bob also had another art teacher in junior high. Walter Ehlert encouraged Bob so much that Bob calls him one of his greatest artistic influences.
Over the years, Bob has had his hand in dying fabrics and selling clothes, creating beautiful ceramic creations, and teaching theater to teenagers. Through all of this, his creativity was weaving in and out with the ebb and flow of his life.
When Bob started college at Midwestern State University (MSU now, but MU then) it was to become an English teacher, but once he took a pottery class, he fell in love. “When I was in my first senior year, I asked Wanda Cole, the ceramics teacher, if I could take ceramics as a play course,” he said with a smile. He counts her as another of his major artistic influences.
Bob ended up expanding his education by participating in a “dream come true”, around the world by ship, college sponsored trip. Chapman College in Orange, California, in partnership with World Campus Afloat, allowed Bob to see much of the world and study art and culture in many world ports. Art was quickly becoming a major part of Bob’s life.
During his college days, Bob also took some time off from higher education to move to California. At one point, he had a booth at the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival. “During that time, I did everything I could to sell art,” he said. There, he and a couple of friends dressed as hippies and sold ceramics and other forms of art. Not having access to a kiln, limited his artistic output, but that did not deter him. He learned of a cold water dye called Procion that reacted chemically and with the cold water you could apply it like paint. I said, ‘Let’s try it on velvet and it worked!” Bob explained, “I wound up making clothes and stretching velvet and dying them. I went to JC Penny’s and I bought a Simplicity sewing book and a sewing machine and started creating and selling my wares myself,” he said. “I even sold clothes to Neiman Marcus and Dillards.”
I eventually came back to MSU, was here for a spring semester, but then decided that I wanted to change my major, so I moved back to California again,” Bob said. Three more years of being immersed in a thriving art community paid off. Bob was ready to move on with his formal education, so it was back to Texas again! He eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Science of Education from MSU. He was certified to teach all levels of art classes, and had a Bachelor of Fine Arts in ceramics and painting.
“The year I graduated from MSU, though, the Texas legislature decided to do away with art in the elementary schools, and the music teacher would usually take over the art,” he said. This put a damper on securing a job as an art teacher, so Bob worked at retail clothing sales and real estate sales. This did not stop Bob from pursuing his art. He eventually procured an art show at the Backdoor Theater and became very involved with the theater. In fact, it was there that he met his wife Debbie during tap lessons for the show Anything Goes.
His love of theater eventually led to a career of teaching drama and theater at Burkburnett High School. He was also inducted into the Texas Thespian Hall of Fame. These events took him into his retirement and more time with his art. He enjoys dying silk scarves and working with his beloved ceramics. Bob shows his ceramics at the Wichita Falls Art Association Gallery and sells his works at fairs. Bob is also a featured artist in the upcoming Art & Soul Festival.
“From back in the 60’s my goal was to get people to stop and look at my art. I like for people to pick up my art. I think picking up things is good.” he said. Words from a true artist!
-Cindy Kahler Thomas