At work with Alison: stained glass artist

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Penelyn Van Orange is a local artist and co-owner of the Appalachian Gallery in Morgantown. While she creates art in several different mediums, in recent years, Penelyn has developed a talent for stained glass.

"I always wanted to do glass. Since childhood. I have always loved color," she said.

Her inspiration can come from just about anywhere. However, Van Orange creates designs that have a coloring book quality which is perfect for filling in the lines with glass.

"I have an idea and just start working with it and see where it takes me," she said.

Her pieces can be as small as an ornament for a Christmas tree or large enough to fill a window, but all of them start the same way...with hand-cut rainbow-colored glass. The pieces are arranged like a puzzle, then Van Orange fuses them together.

"I use the copper foil method which is basically a copper tape that, using chemicals, will bond the metal solder to it," she explained.

Although the glass looks fragile, there's a surprising power to stained glass.

"It's architectural. You're building something that's going to be around a long time. It's glass, so it's not permanent, but there is a sense of permanence to it that gives it a lot of strength."

The most difficult thing about Van Orange's craft is that there's little room for error.

"You can't go backward. Once you've put something can't just take it out and replace it."

While she works relatively quickly, some frames can take weeks to complete. However, in the end, all of the hard work is worth it.

"Being able to pick it up off the table for the first time and seeing what it looks like in the light is really an incredible experience."