The quilt hanging on Kris Wasmer's Joppatowne dining room wall beckons closer examination.
You want to touch the intricately designed floral squares and admire the delicate stitches.
But when reaching out to pull up a corner of the quilt, you don'tfeel the smoothness of cotton fabric between your fingers, only the coolness of a painted wall.
The quilt is a trompe l'oeil -- an eye-deceiving wall mural -- painted by Kris and her partner, Kelly Lundahl. The illusion the two artists have created is so effective that even after realizing the quilt is a painting, you still can't resist the urge to reach for the imaginary fabric or touch its "wooden" rack.
Kris and Kelly aren't really surprised at that reaction. They're used to it by now. "I've had so many people wanting to touch the quiltor flip its corners," says Kris.
Kris, 30, and Kelly, 32, owners of Wallcapers, have been in business to create imaginary scenes for walls in homes and commercial offices for the past three years.
They formed their company in 1988 after being laid off by the graphic design firm they both worked for.
The idea for their business was born from the doodles on scrap paper both used to draw during slow times at work. Kris drew mostly in realistic and detailed lines, while Kelly's work displayed a more whimsical style.
"After passing the doodlings back and forth, we realized how well the two styles fit together," said Kelly.
Today their work can be found in private homes, doctors' offices, restaurants and day care centers.
Both say theirwork can bring a blank wall to life, and that murals are an alternative to wallpaper.
They have created borders for doorways, painted a pig on an oven door, brought the walls of a child's room to life using the letters of the alphabet and characters from medieval fairy tales, and painted an imaginary porch with a view of Harford County's rolling countryside on a family room wall. They have decorated the walls of an auto body and fender shop, created busy-looking and comical scenes for the walls of a dentist's office to distract patients from the sound of the drill, and designed a fishing scene in stormy watersfor a seafood restaurant.
They will work from clients' suggestions and photographs or develop their own designs.
A farm scene on the cathedral ceiling of Marcie Canella's Fallston kitchen is a perfectexample of work that incorporates suggestions and the artists' design.
"Living in a country setting, I wanted a serene farm scene," says Canella. Her husband, a hunter, preferred some flying geese, and their two daughters requested horses and rabbits.
"All our wishes were incorporated in the design," said Canella. "We have a quiet country scene with a red barn, fields, horses, geese flying overhead and rabbits."
Canella says she really enjoys working in her kitchen since the addition of the mural: "I look at the mural and feel I'm rightout there in the field."
And she says the mural has become a great conversation piece with guests.
Before approaching any assignment, Kris and Kelly spend hours researching the project.
"For the quilt, we spent about a week reading magazines and poring over books atthe library learning about quilt history and designs," says Kris.
For a job at an auto body and fender shop, Kelly says she's learned everything about cars she's ever wanted to know.
Once they get started, they say they get in and out of the job site as quickly as possible, creating minimal mess and disruption to the house or business.
Depending on its size, the job could take a few hours or weeks. The cost for each project is based on a rate of $25 an hour and the detail of the design. A border around a doorway can run about $100, while a 25-by-five-foot mural of a country scene would cost between $2,500 and $3,000.
"We can work within anyone's budget," says Kelly.
In addition to murals, the artists also create stand-ups. These life-sized characters can be animals or caricatures of someone you know.
"They are constructed of durable lightweight composition, are free-standing and can be great eye-catchers at conventions and conferences," says Kelly. They also can decorate a garden or can be used for sidewalk advertising for small businesses.
"Who could resist a charming 6-foot bear beckoning them to try the pancakes at a local cafe?,"says Kris.
The artists also have designed business cards and T-shirts, and have drawn caricatures of guests for dinner parties and place cards.
"No job is too big or too small," says Kris.