Glass Cremation Urns, Paperweights and Memorial Jewelry

Remember Through Art

Flower Vase Memorial with Nightwirl Touchstone

Funerary Art, FlowersDavid Blake

I was shopping in HEB and saw a really nice vase and wanted to share a bit of an art project.   I took about 20' of brass wire and wire wrapped the bottom of the vase flange and then added on a small heart pendant.  Below that I took a night swirl touchstone and a bit of museum putty.  Making sure the surface of the vase was dry, I tacked on the touchstone under the heart to make this lovely vase into a memorial vase.

Cost of vase:  $15
Cost of wire: $2.50
Cost of flowers: $20
Cost of Nightswirl: $79

Another variation of this concept is hanging a pendant off of the vase; in this case I took about 10" of silver chain and a flower pendant.

Cost of vase:  $15
Cost of chain: $3.50
Cost of flowers: $20
Cost of Pendant: $76

vase with keepsake flower touchstone

Just one of the many ways you can work our pendants and touchstones into existing home decor themes.

Diamonds from Ashes

interviews, The Industry, Jewelry, howitsmadeDavid Blake

You've likely heard of where companies can turn human cremains into beautiful diamonds.  Attached is an article re-posted(with permission of course) from Heart in Diamonds

The Ultimate Post-Life Hack: Turning Human Ashes Into Diamonds

In Western society, the notion of death is very difficult for many people to cope with. Arranging an appropriate farewell for someone who has recently passed away and who is still very much cared for can be distressing and difficult. This is especially so when those closest to the person who has died are confronting their grief head-on in its initial, painful stages.

Simply put: Accepting the death of a loved one and letting go is probably one of the hardest things we’ll ever need to do.

The Familiar Customs of Mourning Are Concrete Actions that Ease Grief.

Psychologists do have a suggestion for making the process of grief more manageable: Engage in rituals and create memorials that help you to feel connected to the loved one who has died. Concrete actions, such as J. William Worden's tasks of mourning, can make you feel more in control of the grieving process and help you to keep your loved one's memory alive, even long after they have died.

Certain customs and rituals around mourning (e.g. burial, scattering of cremation ashes, etc.) have existed for as long as people have been dying. These customs fulfill the need to actively remember a loved one who has passed away. And they are a comfortable, well-known way to deal with a loved one's remains.

Some People Are Taking Concrete Action a Little Further by Turning Their Loved Ones' Ashes into Diamonds.

Some people, however, want to move beyond the comfortable and well-known. They need to handle their grief a little more creatively. And they want a tangible way to remember their loved one. To that end, one segment of the funeral industry has begun offering the opportunity to turn human ashes (called cremains) into real diamonds.

The premise behind this new trend is pretty simple: A beautiful diamond is a good way to keep your loved one's remains and memory close. And, being able to pick the color, cut, size, and jewelry setting for your diamond means you get exactly the kind of memorial you want.

But this trend obviously isn't for everyone. To help you decide, here are a few facts about turning human ashes into diamonds.

Turning Human Ashes into Diamonds Is the Latest in a 400-Year Tradition of Keeping People's Remains as Jewelry.

Turning human ashes into diamonds might be a little unusual (some might say strange). But, it is also kind of a tradition. Holding onto a piece of a deceased loved one became common practice about 400 years ago, when blood, nails, ashes, or hair were placed inside jewelry.

People as esteemed as Queen Victoria, and as humble as the average soldier's wife during the Civil War all used this method to keep the memory of their loved one close.

The diamonds from ashes industry operates on the same premise: Giving families a piece of their loved one to hold onto. Today, however, they do so in a way that is a little less macabre (because fingernails don't exactly make for fancy evening wear).

It's No Scam: Real Human Ashes Are Actually Used to Create Memorial Diamonds.

You might think that turning human ashes into diamonds sounds a little unrealistic. Cremains don't resemble diamonds very much, after all. But they do contain quite a bit of carbon, which is the same element you find in a diamond.

The difference between the two is (1 The cremains contain other elements besides carbon and (2 The arrangement of the carbon atoms is different between ashes and diamonds. The diamond consists of pure sets of four carbon molecules bonded together in a rigid, unmoving pattern, while the ashes contain somewhat less organized carbon molecules mixed in with other elements.

The process of turning human ashes into diamonds involves isolating the carbon from the cremains and forcing them into the rigid and brilliant form of the diamond. As a result, under the right conditions, cremains can indeed become a diamond.

The Diamonds Made from Human Ashes Are Real. They Just Take a Different Route than Do Diamonds Mined from the Earth.

What makes a diamond a diamond? The right combination of carbon atoms. So it doesn't matter if the diamond came from the ground or from a lab. If it has the right arrangement of carbon atoms, it is a diamond.

Of course, the process of turning the carbon from your loved one's ashes into a diamond looks a lot different than the process the diamond on your (or your spouse's) engagement ring went through. The cremains are grown over a period of time that can last up to several months and that mimics conditions in the Earth (high temperatures of more than 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit and high pressures of about 60,000 atmospheres). Natural diamonds, on the other hand, often take millions or billions of years to grow, and they are formed within the Earth, where the pressure and heat are occurring naturally within the rock, not within a lab machine.

At the end of the process, however, both memorial diamonds and natural diamonds receive a grade based on what are called the 4Cs (cut, color, clarity, and carat-weight). If you decide to opt for a memorial diamond, it is this grading, and not the process your diamond went through, that will tell you what the quality of your diamond is.

Turning Human Ashes into Diamonds Is not for Everyone. But It Does Help Some People Grieve More Effectively.

New customs, particularly those associated with death, can be inherently challenging to adopt. But, like death, change is inevitable. People love to honor those who have passed with dignity and tradition.

Cremation diamonds may seem unusual, but the idea is spreading throughout many different cultures, allowing adoption of an alternative to the old ways of honoring the deceased. It isn't for everyone, but it is something you might want to consider if more traditional options are leaving you feeling dissatisfied.

After all, at the end of the day, honoring your loved one and moving through your grief is a personal journey best navigated by paying careful attention to your own desires regarding how to honor, remember, and cherish your loved one.

David Miller, Hearts In Diamond

 

Turning Ashes into Glass

howitsmadeDavid Blake

Glass with cremains mixed into the ash is a lovely way to remember a loved one but how does it actually happen?  For hot glass, it's somewhat akin to making a candle (except with 1800 degree molten glowing glass!) 

The first step is laying cremains onto a steel table in a pattern, such as lines or hashes.  Crushed colored glass, also known as Frit, is laid down as well.   Then, using a long hollow tube a 'Gather' of glass is collected from the furnace.  It's rolled over the cremains and/or frit and then given a little bit of time to cool enough so it is no longer viscous.  At this time certain tools may be used to impart additional physical designs onto the molten element.

The above steps (from laying down the cremains to imparting physical designs) is repeated a few more times, with each layer of new glass fusing to the old one.  Once completed, the artist will then break the memorial from the long tube and place the glasswork into an annealer to slowly bring the temperature of the glass down over 24 hours to minimize cracking and glass stress.

Once the glass is cool enough to handhold, the artist will generally use an industrial sander with diamond grit to smooth down any rough spots left from where the memorial was joined to the pipe.  Once smooth and polished, the memorial is ready to ship.

Travelling On Airlines with Cremains and Crematory Urns

The IndustryDavid Blake

I was asked the other day 'can we take cremains on a plane' and I figured this would make a good article :)  So in short, the answer is yes, you can do so, however it's important to understand your individual airline's restrictions.  Some airlines are quite lax on the subject where others don't allow urns to be a carry-on item. 

But for many, the bigger concern is simply getting past security.  For this, let's take a step back and understand the underlying concern many organizations (i.e. postal service) has with cremains.  Generally it's not an issue with the emotional aspect but one of safety.  Cremains is a rather abrasive substance and also has an electro-static element to it.  If it gets loose, it is very difficult to remove from the environment if the environment is industrial in nature (like the inside of an airplane.)

As such, the primary concern for most industries that might deal with cremains is one of the cremation ash being secured in a seal-tight container.  Coming back to security, as long as the cremains are in a seal-tight container they won't open it.  They may still X-Ray it and handle it, but they won't open it as a general policy.  However, if they can't determine to their comfort level the urn indeed contain ash, it won't be allowed on the plane.  For this reason we suggest bringing documentation of some sort.

For smaller amounts of ash, the only consideration to make is make sure it's 'double bagged' so it won't get loose.  We would suggest putting this in a clear bag so it can easily be inspected by TSA.  This link and this link have some more information on the subject.

As always, comments and statements in this blog are meant as guidelines rather than legal advise.

Hummingbirds with Infused Ash

Figurines, howitsmadeDavid Blake

For a good part of 2016 we were looking for a contributing artist who could infuse ashes into the hummingbirds themselves.  Big fail - until now!!  Charles, who makes our lovely turtle pendants, also can make lovely hummingbirds with infused ash!!

These lovely creations have amazing spirals wrapped around the ashes of your beloved departed.  These hummingbirds are assembled in three parts; the body, wings and heads.  Here's a video (abeit a bit long) of how the wings are created.

Throughout the year we'll be adding new colors to our infused hummingbird list. Next up to do, butterflies with infused cremation ash - coming March 2017!

Welcome to 2017

business ofDavid Blake

2016 ended up being a great year for Spirit Pieces.  We launched over a dozen new products, got invited to showcase our goods at a number of local shows, and made a lot of Christmas Mornings a huge success.  So we're super excited to start off 2017 with a bang with a number of new products.  Today we finished launched Rachel's new paperweights. 

We also finally launched our long awaited bullet line.  We're still working on some awesome stands for these but they can be purchased separately

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And we're just getting started!  By the end of January we hope to have launched our Hummingbirds with Cremation Ash along with some higher end jewelry products.  At some point, we'll start splitting this site up a bit to make it easier to navigate. With so many wonderful products people are starting to get lost and that's the last thing we want.  And as always, if you're looking for a product you can't find, please email use at hello@spiritpieces.com

Thank you for a great 2016 and looking forward to a wonderful 2017

Team Spirit Pieces

Memorialize Me

business ofDavid Blake

I had the pleasure to talk to local Austin company called Memorialize Me.  Jaan Leemet, the founder, started MemorializeMe to help solve the problem of survivors identifying the various legal and social accounts held by the departed.  By having a centralized document location, the family doesn't have to go through the painful experience of painstakingly searching through desks and drawers for statements (made even more difficult now that so many places do electronic notification.)

Additionally, MemorializeMe allows for users to record audio and video messages to be released on a timed schedule to family members and friends.  This is a great service, especially for those who know they won't be around for a big event like a wedding or birthday.

Finally, for survivors, MemorializeMe has a series of tools to help create online multi-media memorials to those they loved and lost.  These can be shared with others and can be a wonderful exercise to help the grieving process along.

Check it out!

Dave

Perkins Memorial Tower Photo Shoot

OrbDavid Blake

One of my favorite places up in NY is Perkin's Memorial Tower on the top of Bear Mountain Park.  To get there, you need to take a long steep winding road up to the top of the mountain up Perkin's Memorial Drive.  While a bit on the scary side if you don't like steep roadside drops, the destination is well worth it.

I went up at the very peak of Fall and was rewarded with a simply amazing view of the Hudson Valley in full Fall foliage.

The terrain is semi-alpine with a lot of shorter trees and bushes.  A lot of side trails weave in and out of the entire mountainside if you so do desire you can find ample places for solitude.  The main parking area, though, is very popular and can become a bit crowded.  You'll also want to try to go in the early morning if possible to minimize haze.

Rainbow Confetti Orb in front of Perkin's Tower

Rainbow Confetti Orb in front of Perkin's Tower

All-in-all I'm very happy I was finally able to do this shoot, especially in such lovely weather.  I've been trying to do it for a while now so that's one shoot that's over the bucket list.

And bonus story; this is where I did my very first product shoot for the previous version of Spirit Pieces (no longer available.

early-spiritpieces

Interview with Sondra from Alexander Art

interviewsDavid Blake

How did you get started doing Ceramic Portrait Tiles?

I have always drawn from a very early age. According to my sister, I didn't do any color pictures until I fell off my horse when I was 20 and was knocked unconscious. And that sounds about right!  I started doing pastel portraits of people and then migrated to animals. I also experimented with watercolor, acrylic and oil. I prefer the permanence of acrylic and oil over pastel after my 2 year old niece destroyed one of my paintings in a matter of 2 seconds.

In 1988, I put my art on hold to pursue a career as a pilot for the airlines. I flew everything I could get my hands on from Cessna 120 tail dragger to Boeing 727 Jet. I still retain my CFI Certified Flight Instructor Certificate. I taught from 1990 to 2005 and some of that was flying for a local Ski Diving company. After 3 years of instructing, I started flying single pilot charter in twins and quickly moved on to a commuter flying a Beech 1900 -19 passenger turbo-prop for US Airways Express feeding US Air. I went on to Dallas to fly the B-727 as a Flight Engineer and then upgraded to First Officer flying passengers in the US and Mexico and then for USPS flying the US mail from New York to LA.

But, I always wanted to own my own company. So after a 10 year flying career, I started Alexander Art LLC. I took a sculpting class in Taos, NM with a well known artist. I did a whole series of baby horses in bronze. I was then commissioned to do larger horses in bronze.  When the price of bronze went up 30%, I decided to work in a medium more affordable for a larger audience.

I started making the 3d ceramic animal portraits after designing a walk in shower for my Greyhound "Serena". I personalized the shower by making tiles of my Boxer "Garvey" and my Cat "Salvador". Everyone that saw the tiles loved them and I started getting orders!

What were your early challenges with your business?

Well I had never run a kiln before, so I had to learn all about that and I'm still learning! I have evolved since I started making the tiles in 2004. The eyes have become life like and I think that's why my tiles have become so popular. I've had people ask me where I buy the eyes.  At first I would take my tiles to a local ceramic store to be fired, so it was nice when I finally got my own kiln so I could experiment. Also, when the clay dries, it shrinks and even more so when fired. I've had to learn to overcompensate on ear and nose length because they tend to shrink more in length than in width. That can make a Greyhound look like a Jack Russell in short order.

What is your process?

When I was learning to sculpt for making bronze, we used an oil base clay and that's what I use for my tiles. I love it because I can reuse the clay over and over. After the piece is sculpted, I make a mold using plaster. The plaster pulls the water out of the water based clay so it will release from the mold. When the tile is completely dry, I fire it for 24 hours. Then after the piece is cool, I paint and glaze it and put it back in the kiln for another 7+ hours. Usually my favorite piece is the one I'm working on at that moment, because I learn so much with each tile. As a wise woman once told me, If I'm not growing and learning with each piece, then I'm not advancing.

How long does it take to make a portrait?

It depends on the picture/s that are sent to me and how much detail is available. I have to do my homework and Google or search through books to find out more about bone & muscle structure before I start. The sculpting on average for a 6"x6" tile takes around 3 hours. The whole process with drying and kiln time is around 3 weeks.

What's your favorite customer story?

I love working with my customers. It's so much fun to be able to create with them something that is so near and dear to them. This is something that they will have for a life time to cherish their beloved pet. I never knew this journey with my customers would be so emotional for me. I received a commission from a man for a tile of a Golden Retriever "Shamus" who had cancer at the time. While I was working on the order, he called to tell me Shamus had died.  I never met either of them, but I got a lump in my throat and then the tears just started rolling...for both of us while on the phone. Later, I found out he was a retired airline pilot and we still keep in touch exchanging Christmas cards. The picture is of Shamus.

What else do I sell?

I have branched out and started making Tissue Box covers and Treat jars using the tiles as the front. And the great thing is, customers can choose from any of the tiles I have sculpted already or commission me to sculpt their own pet for their own creation. I also make the memory box that can be used as an Urn. If the customer has an imprint of their pet's paw, I can make a mold of it to press in the Urn as well. I still do custom bronze.

What do you see as the main challenges of memorial art?

The main challenge is getting a good picture to sculpt from. But since it's so easy to use cell phones as cameras now days, it's getting to be less and less of a challenge. If anyone is interested in memorializing their animal, they need to start taking pictures that best depict the pets character now not later.

What is the favorite part of owning business your own business?

And my most favorite thing is who I work with in my studio...three cats and three dogs! It's the best job in the world!

The Making of Our Glass Flowers with Infused Cremation Ash

howitsmadeDavid Blake
glass flower with encased ashes

Our handmade glass flowers with infused cremation ash have been a big hit with several people buying memorial bouquets to remember loved ones by.  We decided to show you how these lovely creations are made!

Laying out the color and ash

Laying out the color and ash

The first step in making our glass flowers is to layout the bloom.  We add cremation ash into the channels between the petals - in this case made up of Light Powder Pink Frit.  Our flowers use around a tablespoon of ash each.

We gather green glass around the molten clear core to create the stem.

We gather green glass around the molten clear core to create the stem.

Now that we have our petal prepped, it's time to start working with 1800 degree molten glass!  Taken from a crucible, a gather of molten glass is rolled in green frit to make the stem.  Several layers of frit are added as we build up our flower stem.

spinning the flower petal

The Molten form is then turned to widen the edge.  Both gravity and tools work to make the end of the molten blob flat with a lip.  At this point, the glass is still 1600F+ and is viscous.  Special care is needed not to either touch anything flammable or non-graphite as molten glass is super sticky.

Applying the blossom colors and cremains to the flower base

Applying the blossom colors and cremains to the flower base

Of course, being super sticky has it's advantages when you're trying to pick up the petal design we laid down earlier.  The gather is inverted and applied to the pattern with light pressure.  Both the colored frit and cremains (well defined in the photo above) are picked up.  the frit slowly melts into the glass base; the cremains don't melt but become infused in the glass matrix.

Forming the petal ripples

Forming the petal ripples

Using additional tools, a light ripple pattern is applied to the blossom.  With a gravity assist, the outward edge of the blossom curls inwards.  At this point the glass has cooled significantly to be barely viscous but it is still hot enough to glow a dull red.

The next step (not shown) is reheating the base so it becomes viscous and drawing out the stem.  This further draws in the inner aspect of the flower giving it that lovely look.  Once the stem is drawn out a small tap will break the connection between the rod and flower.

At this point, the flower is still 1000 degrees and the internal structure is under a lot of stress due to the creation process.  If you were to leave this outside or on a work-bench it would rapidly cool and likely shatter.  To prevent this, the flower is placed within an annealing oven that slowly heats up, then cools down the flower over the period of several hours.  This relieves all the internal stresses.

Hopefully you found this informative.  I would like to thank Barbara for providing me with these wonderful pictures.  If you would like to buy these flowers, click on the product listings below.  Please contact us at hello@spiritpieces.com with any questions.

 

Funeral Flowers Jewelry by Impressed by Nature

interviewsDavid Blake

I recently went to the NY Now show and saw some amazing products (some of which are/will be making their way onto Spirit Pieces

One artist, Kyla of Impressed By Nature, had a very cool jewelry line where she takes the flowers from events (primarily) weddings and works them into necklaces and earrings.  I thought this was very cool and inquired if she did funeral flowers and she does!

Unfortunately for us, her process is super individualized and doesn't quite lend itself to how our company works so we aren't able to carry her wonderful work but I still wanted to share.

In general, if you wish to purchase one of her works, as much as possible it's best to plan ahead as floral products have a very limited shelf life.  She can be contacted off her website or directly at kyla@beimpressedbynature.com

 

How Do They Do That? The Making Of Our Airships

howitsmadeDavid Blake
Our flying airship with wooden keepsake urn - soar to heaven in style!

Our flying airship with wooden keepsake urn - soar to heaven in style!

We get a lot of questions regarding how our beautiful airships are created so we decided to write a blog entry regarding!  Our airship (and hot air balloon) line are produced by Greg, one of the artists we work with here at Spirit Pieces.  See Greg below - he says hi!  Well, he really can't talk, he's focusing on creating one of our airships!

So Greg is looking very stylish with those red glasses of his.  However, it's not just a fashion statement, they're made from Didymium glass.  Didymium is used by glass blowers as it filters out much of the infrared and near-red light.  Without them, all Greg would see is a really bright light and not much else.

He also can't say hello as he's holding a blow tube in his mouth.  We maybe he can mumble 'hllllllloooo' but not much else.  As he needs both hands to shape the glass, having a suspended blow tube is super useful. 

Speaking of the glass, you can see in the first picture a close up of the starting glass tube which already has the rippled texture of the Airships.  The glass is fired under a propane/oxygen flame to 1800 degrees which gets the glass all melty.  Depending how long and hot the ultimate flame is, this can effectively turn our tube into taffy but here it's just enough to be deformed by a pressurized airflow (hence the blow tube) and shaping tools.

This glass is the same type of glass used to make lab equipment, specifically borosilicate glass.  The equipment is the same to blow lab glass; in fact Greg produces quite a bit of lab equipment as well when he's not producing memorial art for us.  So if you're a mad scientist in need of lab equipment, Greg can definitely hook you up!

(more below...)

airship-1

Once the shape of the airship is set, the end is heated and then snapped off with a graphite tool.  Molten glass is very sticky (you DO NOT want to get it on you) but it doesn't stick on Graphite at all; hence most glassworking tools are graphite in construction.  Incidentally, this is the end of the airship which receives the solid brass fins.  They're handmade using both modern and traditional techniques.

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Once the fin side is finished, the nose portion (a much thinner section) is shaped after the airship is broken off a feeder glass rod.    The airship is then put into an annealer where it is cooled down from 1800 degrees to room temperature.  The process of annealing glass acts to relieve all the little stresses that built up during the glass blowing process.  Remember, glass is ultimately a liquid so it will flow at any temperature (more at 1800 degrees than 80 degrees of course.)  The annealing gives the glass a chance to re-organize itself into a much more stable form.

Don't believe me?  Find some really old glass windows (i.e. in old 400 year European churches) and check them out.  You'll notice the top of the windows are much thinner than the bottoms.  Yes, the glass is flowing down the window!

Once the airship is cooled down it's time to add the color!

(more below...)

Shaping the fin

Shaping the fin

OK, unfortunately we can't show you how the color is added as the technique is proprietary but we assure you it's cooler than chocolate covered jellybean ice cream!  All we can say it's a special finish hand-painted on, then fired at 1160F.  The final step is to add the wire-wrapping holding the hand-carved wood passenger pendant for the ashes.

Pretty neat right!  If you're interested, you can find out more information about the airships below by clicking on the picture or simply adding it to your cart.  We hope you enjoyed this entry to 'How Do They Do That' here at Spirit Pieces.

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