Glass Cremation Urns, Paperweights and Memorial Jewelry

Remember Through Art

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

74.00 84.00

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.

(more below...)

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.

149.00
Quantity:
Add To Cart

New Pictures of Confetti's and Glimmers

OrbDavid Blake

Glass Orb with Infused Ash from Cremation.

It's hot here in Texas and it's getting harder and harder to make it through a tennis match unless you play super early in the day.  And it's gonna get hotter!  But fortunately it wasn't yet 105 degrees by the time I finished playing with my Saturday morning crew at Travis Park in Austin so I was able to get some new pictures in of Confetti's and Glimmers. 

We have a new mix we're now using that has more reds and oranges to offset the greens; above is an example of this mix.   You can see small ropes of cremation ash within the matrix; we have a few more pictures in the product listing you can see this effect better of the ash in the glass.

Below you can see a picture of one of the glimmers; it's a blue & green glass option which is a popular option for people.  There's a little bit of extra sparkle in this one as we were experimenting mixing dichroic glass with the cremains, however we won't be offering dichroic glass as a standard option; for special request only.

glass orb with infused ashes

glass orb with infused ashes

More pictures

Glass orb with infused ash from cremation
Glass orb with infused ash from cremation
Glass orb with infused ash from cremation

Glass Hummingbird Figurine with Silver Keepsake Urn

Figurines, Funerary ArtDavid Blake

Handmade glass hummingbird with silver keepsake pendant

Before I started Spirit Pieces Memorials I started Spirit Piece Ornaments; at this point in time (mid July 2016) I have over 1500 sales with 500 5 star ratings - go me!!   The reason these lovely little dabbles sell so well is because they look so amazing and lifelike!  As they're handmade extra detail can be paid to making them look life-like. 

So now I have this memorial business and decided to see if I could work them in.  I addedglass loop to the bottom and now we can hang our silver keepsake pendants; above is an example.  These are popular (most of our first batch sold out in 2 weeks) so if you like the ornaments as home decor please check out our Etsy store at spiritpieces.etsy.com

Garden Ceramic Acorn Keepsake Urn

Funerary ArtDavid Blake

Glass is a beautiful material to work with but it's only one of many amazing materials out there.  We're excited to announce our first foray into ceramics with our acorn keepsake urn.  This wonderfully unique way to remember a loved one ships in two parts along with a steel keepsake pendant to hold the actual ashes.  The keepsake is suspended internally via a hook and the two parts are sealed together with any waterproof glue.

This is a great way to remember someone who loved the outdoors.  Hang off any tree or outdoor feature.  Size is 5" in diameter and 4" in height.