They bring a bit of colour to family homes. CIARAN KELLY finds out how one woman's passion for creating stained glass has turned into a successful business.

FOR centuries, stained glass has been associated with churches.

Indeed, throughout its 1,000 year history, the term for this coloured glass has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches, mosques and other significant buildings.

Yet, while the making of these beautiful windows has not changed all that much since the 12th century, the use of stained glass has.

One Newport-based artist, Many Anne Constance, 50, has been leading the modern interpretation of the craft with smaller, movable pieces at her workshop in Beechwood since 2004.

Taking on everything from natural landscapes to snakes and dragonflies, Ms Constance’s two dimensional pieces range from just 20cm in length to a whopping four feet.

Making the panels adaptable and home friendly, she crafts sun catchers, light catchers, bird savers, hanging panels, and small window panels for doors, furniture and dividing walls.

Ms Constance obtained a BA Hons in graphic design from Gwent College of Higher Education in Newport in 1987

A former graphic designer and archaeological illustrator, she began taking evening classes in stained glass in St Julian’s in 2004.

The medium perfectly suited her linear style of illustration and Ms Constance established her own business, the 'pewtermoonsilver', in September 2006. Such has been its success, it became her full-time job in 2008.

The process used to make pewtermoonsilver glass is known as the copper foil technique and is believed to have been introduced in the USA by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the son of a New York jeweller, in the early 1900s.

Each piece of glass is hand-cut, smoothed, washed and edged with copper foil. It’s then put together like a jigsaw to create the design and the glass is skilfully soldered together.

Remarkably, no machinery is used in the process.

Ms Constance, who is originally from Bristol, said: “I always wanted to be an artist and it was my dream job as a child.

“It was always my ambition to earn a living by doing something creative and it took me a long time to find something right.

“I’m inspired by nature and tribal art, and it’s very seasonal. You don’t find the pieces in shops.

“Working with stained glass is a craft rather than an art and you express yourself through colour, shape, and design yet are making study, usable objects at the same time. It’s very therapeutic.

“Like any craft, it’s a long process and even by doing it for 10 years, there’s always more to learn and improve on in mastering it. It’s a real challenge.

“It can be stressful as there’s a lot of pressure and you have to order specific sheets of glasses. You only have one chance to cut it perfectly, with the customer on the other end of the phone all excited.

“It took me a long time to have the confidence to do it and to do larger pieces.”

It takes Ms Constance around a day to put together an average piece. Alongside the customer, she draws up an idea in her sketchbook and then painstakingly transfers it onto graph paper.

The glass will already be coloured, making it dazzlingly bright. It is then cut with a little hand tool similar to a tile cutter.

Rather than dramatically breaking the glass, Ms Constance lightly scratches it and then taps it to remove each piece.

The process relies heavily on her imagination and instinct to achieve the jigsaw effect. Once the glass is cut, it is cleaned.

It’s then put onto a wooden board and finally put together with the 100 watt soldiering iron, before being polished. An optional chain is added if the customer wishes to hang the piece.

Yet, the work does not stop there and the piece has to be carefully packaged to be posted to destinations across the world.

Foam, polystyrene, bubble wrap, and packing beans, are all used to ensure a safe transit and despite tough economic times, Ms Constance is constantly in demand for commissions from abroad.

She said: “It was three months before the recession that we started up full-time and this would be a luxury for most. For most new businesses, it’s been difficult but it’s a very cheerful thing to do.

“People might not be able to afford a car or kitchen, but something small like this could brighten up their day and make a difference.

“I originally thought it would just be craft fairs and that it would be a long hard struggle, but eBay and Esty have been brilliant for reaching out to customers.

“I love online as you build up a real relationship and get to know your customers. I’ve even got a lot of regulars.

“It’s a big collaboration between the customer and me, and they come to see me with a design idea and we go from there.

“I have to keep making them all the time to keep the online shop stocked up. We get about one order a day on average from as far away as Japan, U.S, Australia, Canada and across the UK.”

Prices on Ms Constance’s online shop range from £20 to £80, while commissions are priced at £100 to £300.

Typically, between October and February, she is busiest with online purchases for Christmas and Valentine’s Day as she can also etch messages on glass for those special, permanent tributes.

In the second half of the year, with customers looking to freshen up their homes in spring and summer, Ms Constance receives more commissions.

Yet, far from being focused entirely on her business, Ms Constance’s artistic passion has never left her and she is also helping to bring through the next generation of stained glass window makers at her workshop.

Running one day courses, that take place between 10am and 4.30pm, budding artists can learn the step by step process in a basic way for as little as £80. Attendees do not require any experience, or even drawing skills, and go home with a finished piece every time.

For more information, visit or call Ms Constance on 075 00625212.