Tammy Pilger is the owner and glass artist at Tammy’s Stained Glass Treasures, 348 Adams Ave., Scranton. She teaches classes and sells numerous types of glass treasures. A graduate of Knock Junior-Senior High School in Saxenburg and Allied Technical School, she lives in South Scranton with her husband Bill and their children, Brittany, 23, and Brandon, 17.
Meet Tammy Pilger…
Q: Tell me about how you discovered your love for stained glass.
A: There used to be a glass store in Dickson City called Tingley Glass. I went in, and I loved it. I bought all the tools and equipment to do it at home in my basement. I started working on it and then was going there purchasing glass. The owner saw some of the pieces I was working on and actually hired me. I worked at that shop for a while and made things and sold them on consignment. I helped her with a lot of custom orders, created new pieces, and eventually I started teaching a couple small classes. She ended up closing, so from my home, I started making more things and doing shows.
Q: You teach stained glass and fused-glass classes. What are the classes like?
A: I give a brief safety overview and explain the glass to them. Stained glass and fused glass are different things. Stained glass, specifically, is glass with different chemicals mixed in; that’s what makes the colors. It goes into a very hot furnace and comes out like liquid glass. It’s rolled or hand rolled. The fused glass is made pretty much the same way, but it’s tested to make sure that all the colors and pieces are compatible. It’s called the coefficient of expansion (COE). Anything that’s fusing and goes in the kiln, you have to use a specific number of COE, because if you mix the wrong glasses, they could crack. They don’t all expand and contract at the same rate. It’s mostly understanding the different temperatures of the kiln and how that works and relates with the glass.
Q: Making stained glass is a heavy-duty process. Can you describe what goes into it?
A: Stained glass, to put a piece together, has a lot of steps. You start with a pattern, cut it out, the pattern gets glued to the glass, (and) it goes on the grinder to ground the edges. We use copper foil, which is the Tiffany method. The copper foil only sticks when you grind the edges and it has something rough to stick to. You copper foil around all the edges, put it back together in the pattern, (and) it has to be soldered with soldering iron and cleaned. After you put the foil and get it back together in the pattern, you use a chemical called flux and brush that onto the copper and then start soldering.
Q: What is it like teaching a craft that many people don’t know much about?
A: I enjoy teaching. People will sign up online, and they have no idea what they’re in for. I warn them when they come in, because it’s a lot of work. The intro class is a four-hour class, and you’re working from start to finish. The thing that I’ve noticed is when they take an initial class, they either absolutely love it and they’re addicted and they come back to do more, or they grow an appreciation for what I do. They understand why it’s expensive and why it’s so hard to do.
Q: What is one of the most memorable custom pieces you’ve created?
A: I do a lot of pieces that are special to people for lost loved ones. I do a “mom angel”; just like you would buy a mother’s day ring where all the kids’ birthstones are on the ring, the wings (of the angel) are the color of the mom’s birth month, and her hands are holding a circle of life that represents the children’s birthstones. One of my most memorable ones was for a family who lost their daughter. She committed suicide. They wanted her birthstone filled on the circle. I started this recently: I also can fuse cremains into pieces. These can be made into pendants or pocket stones or tie tacks or things like that. I put them in a nice little box. That way, if people don’t want to wear them, they still have a nice way to display it.
Q: What makes you so passionate about your job?
A: I love the teaching aspect. I’ve had probably 250 to 300 students in two and a half years here. They’re so happy, and they really enjoy coming here. I’ve made a lot of friends since I’ve been here. It’s just fun, and it’s relaxing for me too. I feel like somebody’s bartender; they come in and tell me their problems, (and) I talk about my problems. It’s just really cool. I love doing the custom work, too, because most of it is my own creation, and I like when I get to collaborate with others.
Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A: I read. I love to read. I’ve always been a craft person and done different types of crafts. The other thing about glass, I used to do a lot of folk art painting. Now I can incorporate enamels and paint on glass, and it’s something permanent. I think all of the different hobbies that I’ve had have really been helpful with the glass work.
Q: Are you part of any community organizations or groups?
A: We were foster parents for several years. We adopted Brittany, who’s my daughter, when she was 15. We haven’t done it for a few years. We had 75 kids in and out of our house in seven-and-a-half years. It all started when we first got married. We had my son and Bill’s daughter. A week after we got married, Bill’s daughter was killed in a car accident. We were going to try to have another baby, but that wasn’t going to happen. We looked into (being foster parents), and we knew people who were foster parents; they told us about their experiences. We decided to be foster parents with Lackawanna County Children and Youth. It is pretty interesting, and we learned a lot, that’s for sure.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today?
A: I would say since Bill and I have gotten together. We’ve been through so much since we got married. In addition to losing his daughter a week after we got married, then we took care of his parents — they lived with us — then my dad, they’ve all passed away. We took care of them in hospice, and of course the foster care. The boys were in baseball, T-ball and karate, and we would go to all those activities with the kids. We had eight total kids at one point. We still hear from some of them every once in a while.