As Gary Suidikas supervises his stained glass class, he moves from student to student, helping to refine panel designs, cut or grind glass into shape, and put the finishing touches on a shiny completed piece.
Suidikas, 68, of Westminster, who has been teaching the class at the Westminster Senior and Community Center for three years, quickly found he had a knack for the craft, from the beginning of the process to the satisfying end.
"I found I had a passion for working with glass and … really took to it" after taking a stained glass class at Carroll Community College five years ago, Suidikas said. "I really enjoy it."
When he first got involved with the class at the center — after setting up a stained glass shop in his basement at home — Margaret Glowacki was teaching about eight students. Now he and Glowacki serve as volunteer instructors for the approximately 25 students enrolled in two sessions that meet on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons.
Suidikas said the students are split up so that they can receive more individualized attention. Demand is high: There is a wait list that can have people on it for as long as a year, Suidikas said, and people from other centers have told him they wish their center had a similar class.
The instructors balance teaching beginners with helping more-experienced participants, such as Mary Heine, 83, of Westminster, who has made about seven small panels in about a year and a half, Suidikas said.
"We try to accommodate everyone no matter what their situation is," he said.
He added that Heine made all seven panels as gifts, a common practice for the participants, who get to keep what they make in the class.
The class costs $15 to join and each session then costs $2. Those funds are used to buy supplies and glass from around the area, though about 90 percent of the glass is donated, Suidikas said.
Producing a beautiful finished product is key to what participants in Suidikas' class — himself included — get out of the experience.