Many people are so used to seeing stained glass in ancient buildings they think it can only be done by master craftsmen. "But nothing could be further from the truth," declares Val Harmes, who teaches the craft in Kew, Surrey. "The basic techniques can be learned very quickly and most people achieve quite professional results within just a few weeks."
Leaded stained glass, just one of the techniques she teaches, has been around for 1,300 years and is the best type for doors or windows that are likely to get wet. Two other common techniques are Tiffany work, in which the pieces are joined by soft copper, stained black, and applique work - a glass mosaic cemented with grout. The Tiffany method is ideal for lampshades and boxes, while appliqued glass (the first method taught to beginners because it is so simple) can be used for decorations or "light catchers".
"Ideally it's nice if students can create their own designs, but lots of people have no confidence in their design abilities at first, so I have patterns and illustrations they can copy. Stained glass is such fun that I'd hate anyone to be put off just because they think they can't draw."
The glass, from specialist suppliers, comes in 500 colours and types. Students learn to cut it to shape and assemble it in their chosen design.
Ken O'Connell, a 43-year-old EFL lecturer, began a year ago and is now working on the second of two panels for a Victorian double door. "It's extremely therapeutic to focus on something that's nothing to do with my everyday work," he says. "It's also very satisfying to produce something that looks beautiful and professional, even though you're not a professional."
Graphic designer Joanne Dobson, who started in September, is making a stained glass fish. "For me the appeal is the wonderful colour. I love seeing light through coloured glass."
This class takes place at the Shaftesbury Centre, 123 Kew Road, Richmond, Surrey. Tel: 0181 891 5907 or 0181 940 0170