Making Memorials with Cremation Ashes
One of the most satisfying products made at Glass Eye Studio are glass memorials containing cremation ashes.Today we are making these in the hot shop, one at a time by hand. It takes a team of four people to create the keepsakes. Each craftsman has a specific job to do.
The “Starter” begins each piece by gathering glass from the furnace. Rolling the glass on a marver he creates a solid cylinder in preparation for decorating the piece. Glass is added by picking up preheated dichroic sheets, reheating in a glory hole then dipping the work in pulverized glass color.
“The marver is a flat steel table used for rolling and shaping hot glass,” explains Staff Designer Bri Chesler, “the word marver means marble, which was the original material used to make the tables.”
At this point the cremation remains are carefully adhered to the piece by heat. Each set of remains is different, just like the people they represent, and require the Starter to use skill and great care to get the desired result.
After reheating, the piece is pressed in an optic mold, then worked by the artisan on a glassblower’s bench. Using a specialized mold called a “block” made from fruit wood, he twists the piece to create the design effect, clips it to termination and works in into a semi orb.
Zeus, the "Starter" shapes the piece in a block
When the “Start” is complete, it goes on a rotating rack that keeps it centered while it cools prior to the next step. The next team member, the “Shaper” picks it up from there.
Tommy, the "Shaper" works this piece into a heart
The Shaper starts by returning to the furnace to gather more glass over the top of the piece.Using specialized tools, he shapes the memorial into its final design. The tools consist of shears, wonder blocks, picks, tagliols and tweezers. There are some tools that were invented by Glass Eye Studio, and only are used here. This is a big reason why our products have been so consistent for over 35 years. After shaping, the piece is fire polished in a glory hole, jack lined for eventual removal, and handed off to the “Finisher,” the third glassblower on the team.
Edgar, the "Finisher" cools the piece down with air
The Finisher cools the piece down with compressed air, then gently taps the pipe until the piece comes off into a set of waiting tongs. He removes any excess material with tweezers and polishes the memorial with a torch until it shines, just like the soul it represents. He flattens the piece and stamps it with identifying marks. Now complete, the item is placed in a bed of sand in an annealer to slowly bring the temperature back down over a period of two days.
Bri, our resident Designer and team "Coordinator"
The maestro of the team, the “Coordinator” keeps all the processes flowing. She manages the ash containers and the master production list, personally confirming that ash is handled accurately and with care. She also keeps the standard colors sorted out for each piece, and designs custom color combinations for special requests.
The memorial team at work
Since this product line began, Glass Eye Studio has produced over 12,000 glass memorials. Consistent product quality and secure handling of ash are our hallmark.