Any time Sandra K. Hansen called the Carroll County Rape Crisis Intervention Center for help, she got it free.
Now she wants to pay the center back.
Ms. Hansen realized a dream when she opened Aegean Art Glass Ltd. at 236 E. Main St. on Oct. 1. She sells her own art-glass creations and the works of other local artisans, as well as antiques and collectibles.
Through the Christmas season, she is donating 10 percent of the proceeds from her art-glass sales to the center.
She also will create a large art-glass screen for the agency to auction or raffle off next year, and annually after that, she says.
For Ms. Hansen, the gifts are a way to pay back the private, nonprofit agency that helped her through her own anguish.
"I was assaulted by a stranger several years ago," she said. "I went to one of their sessions. I'm also a survivor of incest, and they helped me. They have the 24-hour hot line, which I need a lot. It was all free."
The center, which serves Carroll residents, operates on money from donations and government grants.
Ms. Hansen, 37, grew up in Finksburg and worked as a seamstress in several area clothing factories and independently.
She always had spent her spare time painting, mostly in oil, and employed other art media. But when she discovered art-glass, she was smitten.
"I actually love the sand-blasting part of it," Ms. Hansen said. "It's so similar to sculpting to me.
"I've just fallen in love with the process. Each piece of art is completely different from the last."
She has worked on mirrors, panels for kitchen cabinets, transom and side-light windows, half-walls and display cases. The glass in her display case is etched in green ivy.
To produce her work, she covers a panel with a clear plastic contact paper, then outlines the design. Flowers and ivy are popular, but she also uses geometric designs and drawings of human figures.
She cuts small pieces one at a time and uses a sandblaster in her studio across the street to etch the design in different depths. Once she has etched the design, the look is similar to frosted glass.
Ms. Hansen can stop there, but often paints color into the panel with an air brush and inks that leave the design translucent.
"It still lets the light through. Light is very important with glass," she said.
The process dates to the 1840s, she said, although artisans used other methods such as acid etching and copper wheels for centuries before that to turn glass into art.
She learned her craft from Sharon Wolf of Millers over the last 18 months before she opened her shop.
"It's very exciting," she said. "My biggest dream was to make my living as an artist."