Mary Brown sorts through her stained glass creations on display at the Community Art Center in Vevay. Brown, a self-taught stained glass artist, tries to continually move beyond her comfort zones in her craft. (Staff photos by Ken ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Mary Brown sorts through her stained glass creations on display at the Community Art Center in Vevay. Brown, a self-taught stained glass artist, tries to continually move beyond her comfort zones in her craft. (Staff photos by Ken ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Switzerland County resident Mary Brown saw a stained glass piece at a shop several years ago, but the piece wasn't made to hang as she thought it should.

The artist didn't want to alter the piece to her specifications, but Brown wasn't deterred.

"So I thought 'Alright, I'll just make my own,'" she said.

And she did. That was 16 years ago.

She's never taken classes or had formal training, but little by little she learned the techniques needed to create stained glass works - both large and small.

First, she learned where to find the glass used to create her works. Then she learned how to cut the glass.

Brown had to learn how to use copper foil around the edge, flux and solder along the seams to fuse the pieces together. Then she learned to apply patina and clean the pieces.

"You put it back together like a puzzle," she said.

She started with designs she found in books for stained glass pieces. At first, Brown just made window hangings.

After honing her skills, she branched out with her own designs and recreating portraits in stained glass.

"I saw a picture and thought that would be so pretty in glass," Brown said.

Brown also began memorializing pets in stained glass. Those works often became wall hangings instead of being placed in the usual window or door for light to shine through.

"Stained glass doesn't have to hang in the window," she said.

Take a fire screen for example.

Brown created a stained glass fire screen for the 2014 Flair for Wine event in Vevay. She doesn't expect the piece to sit in a window - it's too large.

Instead, the piece can be illuminated by the flames of a fireplace or lights.

Although Brown began creating pieces just for herself and friends, her stained glass hobby has grown since 1998. Her work has become known throughout the area, so much so that a lot of her more recent stained glass work has come from custom orders.

Customers sometimes request pieces Brown has never tried before, yet she's usually up to the challenge. Brown recently worked on a wedding bouquet of stained glass flowers, which was a first.

She's also worked on other small stained glass pieces - like earrings.

Brown also has worked on large stained glass project over the years as well. The fire screen Brown created had about 200 pieces of glass.

She's also worked on custom stained glass cabinet doors in kitchens and transom windows, as well as other window display pieces.

Still, one of the most difficult things about her work can be attempting to replicate another work she's already completed.

Brown's customers sometimes request pieces with just slight differences than pieces she creates and displays at the Community Art Center in Vevay or Madison Table Works.

The colors in the glass she uses have streaks, lines and designs that make each piece one-of-a-kind. And each piece tells the artist where it needs to go in the stained glass creation.

"The glass tells me what it wants to do," Brown said. "It works through you."