By Mark Sandlin
Fire-forged iron works and delicate stained glass pieces glow and glitter at Sweetsap, an artistic collaboration of two talented Birmingham craftspeople.
Working from their studio, metal artist Forrest Millsap and stained glass expert Shana Sweet produce distinctive handmade pieces for people throughout Alabama and the world.
“I’ve been making things since I was a child growing up in Homewood,” Forrest says. “My first experience with metal working was when I got a job as an assistant with the summer youth program at Sloss Furnaces.”
While earning a Bachelor of Arts in sculpture from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Forrest studied with sculptors Brad Morton and Chris Fennell, and later worked at metal fabrication firms such as Heirloom Ironworks and Appleseed Workshop.
The talented blacksmith and metal artist continues to periodically teach classes at Sloss, while also collaborating with other artists on specially ordered items.
A San Diego native, Shana moved to Birmingham about 15 years ago and met Forrest through a mutual friend.
“I was making planters from concrete and agate, then started doing ceramics,” Shana says. “I’d always been interested in making stained glass pieces, too, but I didn’t have the right equipment. So after we met, Forrest made me a glass grinder and some tools.”
Now, in addition to holding down full-time jobs (Forrest with an architectural firm and Shana at an animal clinic), the pair create one-of-a-kind pieces at the Stream, a collection of studios used by designers, artists and fabricators in Birmingham’s East Avondale area.
The couple sell their items — such as Forrest’s hand-forged knives and Shana’s stained glass pieces adorned with rainbows and flower petals — online and at Birmingham’s Pepper Place market. They also produce commissioned works such as a custom-made dining room table Forrest recently built with Alabama artist Tres Taylor for a California customer.
“I love to design and create unique things,” Shana says. “That’s always been a passion of mine, and it’s even better because now Forrest and I do it together.”