A few months ago I was asked by a friend if I could make her a bead or something in glass incorporating her Grandmother’s ashes as a memorial piece. My initial (private) reaction was ‘Oh gosh’ (or something like that), my reaction to my friend was ‘of course’! Deep inside I was nervous, for one thing it wasn’t something I had ever done before and I had no idea how the ashes would react in the flame or in the glass and to be quite frank was a bit squeamish about handling human ashes (I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you reading this are making a face or think, eugh!); what I did know is that this type of memorial is now quite common. I know of another lampworker in West Cornwall who offers this service and I believe that one of the Devon crematoriums has a lampworker or glass maker who does this for them, so it is not uncommon, just uncommon to me.
I started working on a big hole bead idea using wood ash from our wood burner to start with so as not to waste the precious material I had been given, I was and am very very concious of treating the cremains with respect as if they were from my own family or pet. The bead idea I started with was the type that fits on charm bracelets, I found the process to be very tricky and although it will be something I could do in future will require a lot more practice to get the bead looking perfect. In time and with more practice there is no reason why other bead shapes and designs can’t be made, ie heart shaped pendants. So as I was struggling to get something I was truly happy with and after further discussion with my friend we decided to go for a ‘galaxy’ style paperweight, a bit like this one.
My friend liked the idea and wanted it in green, so the practice started (again using wood ash for the practice). In the end I made two for my friend, one for her and one for her Granny’s best friend. This is the one that was given to the best friend. It is about an inch in diameter and very tricky to photograph, but I hope you get the idea. You can’t really see in this photo but the ash is suspended in the glass and looks as if it is floating, it appears as white or grey specks in the glass and sometimes you get bubbles too, there are also sparkles of green in the piece as I used some lovely sparkly glass inside as well. It is a perfect round marble shape except for a small flattened surface on the bottom so that it stands on it’s own, a shape that is lovely to hold in the hand. My friend was very pleased with these (her paperweight was even harder to photograph) and gave the one below to her Granny’s best friend. I have just had the most lovely email from her to say thank you for this piece, in her words ‘now I can hold her in my hand and well as my heart’, a very touching email.
So after some thought on my part and quite a bit of encouragement from my friend who started me down this road I have decided to offer memorial paperweights to my portfolio of work. I can do this for any cremation ashes including pets and in a variety of colours. To start with I would be offering the round marble shape up to about 2 inches in diameter and can do this as a paperweight or marble and would include a stand for a marble. In time I shall look at increasing the range of items that I can offer, beads as mentioned above, and maybe different shaped paperweights, but need some time to practice different shapes (work to be done over the next few quiet months). So if you would like a forever memorial of a loved one or pet but don’t want to keep the urn on the mantelpiece and like glass drop me a line and hopefully I can work with you to create something beautiful to remember your loved one by. I will shortly put together a page on the website with more information.