MANCHESTER — Looking for a way to brighten your kitchen, bathroom or foyer? Or how about that one-of-a-kind wedding or birthday gift?
One suggestion, offered by Peg Silloway of Manchester, might be a stained-glass creation.
In addition to fashioning windows, Silloway -- who just expanded her business to concentrate on commercial and residential commissions-- creates cabinet doors, pencil and card boxes, and other noveltiesout of colored glass.
"I took an informal poll, and when most people think of stained glass, they think of church windows and old Victorian or Tiffany lamps," the 47-year-old artist said. "I see it as a more contemporary medium."
A craftswoman all her life, Silloway said she became hooked on stained glass when she took a class on it about six years ago.
"I was an art major when I finished college," said the Towson State graduate. "I tried a lot of things and I loved itall, but nothing grabbed me.
"When the course was done, it was done."
But stained glass was different. After finishing the class, Silloway -- a juried member of the Carroll County Crafts Guild -- began creating small objects and mirrors and selling them at craft shows.
"I really love craft shows," she said. "You meet interesting people and it's good for the artist's ego. People are always saying 'I really love your work.' "
Recently, however, Silloway decided to focus on commercial and residential commissions, partly because she enjoys creating a piece that will please others and not just herself.
"The design process is the most fun for me, but it's the part I have the least control over," she said, explaining that corporate commissions often require her to use logos in her work.
But she also enjoys working together with someone to find a perfect mix.
"It's a lotof fun to work with people on a design, to do something that people really want for their home or business," she said. "The creative process is hard to describe, it can keep you up at night.
"But that's part of the fun."
Among her recently completed projects are two 25-foot signs for the Nutcracker Sweet in the Hunt Valley Mall and the corporate logo for Marine Enterprises Inc. in Baltimore.
"One thing I think stained glass is really good for is bridal party gifts," Silloway said. "Special, one-of-a-kind things that you're not going to see anywhere else."
Although Silloway says that she will incorporate colors or a design from wallpaper or curtains in decorating a room, she stresses that all the patterns are her own.
"One thing I insist on is that everything is my own design," she said. "Sometimes, I might adapt a design from a piece of fabric or wallpaper, but they'reall still original."
To begin, Silloway draws a full-size sketch of the design and then makes pattern pieces out of paper or cardboard. Patterns for production pieces, ones that she makes again and again, are cut out of plastic so they are more durable.
Silloway then chooses the colors for her design, laying them out on a light board, since the colors change dramatically when light comes through them, she said.
Glass also is chosen for its appearance, which may be textured, smooth or filled with little bubbles.
"There are almost infinite combinations," she said. "That's part of the fun."
After choosing the pieces with her client, Silloway then traces the patterns onto the glass and cuts them with a special instrument that scores the material rather than cutting it all the way though.
The pieces arethen broken along the outline with a pair of pliers, numbered and placed in position on the full-size drawing.
"Glass wants to break in a straight line," she said. "If you want it to do anything else, you have to encourage it."
Silloway, who practices the Tiffany method of stained-glass creation, then wraps copper tape around the glass pieces after smoothing the edges. The glass is welded together with lead, which may be colored afterward with a chemical patina.
Lead also is placed around the edges to make it smoother and safer.
"Stained glass isn't something that gets handled a great deal," Silloway said. "But still, you don't want someone to cut their hand on it."
The finished product is then buffed with wax to keep it from becoming dull.
Prices are quoted based on the individual item, Silloway said, explaining that two creations of the same size might require different amounts of work because of the number of pieces involved.
"Pricing is probably the hardest thing to do," she said. "Many people like us to price per square foot, like $50 to $100 per square foot. Iprefer to work with a specific design."
A love of stained glass, watching other people "get turned on to it" and showing others how versatile the medium can be is one of Silloway's greatest pleasures.
"It's like a friend said to me. Stained glass isn't just for windowsanymore."