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When you first hear of turning cremation ashes into glass art, it might be hard to imagine what that process looks like. Or what sort of beautiful and touching pieces can be created.
Like any art form, the quality of glass artwork ranges from simple mass-produced items all the way to stunning masterpieces.
At its best, glass art is an elegant and gorgeous medium. The glass serves as both canvas and paint when given shape and substance in the hands of an expert.
A glass art creation may combine elements of both sculpture and painting. Yet it’s an entirely unique arena. The form can have both two- and three-dimensional elements; the glass takes on a shape, with color and effects woven throughout.
How are the cremated ashes—also known as cremains—of a loved one incorporated into glass? Well, we’ll discuss that in more detail below. But it isn’t simply a matter of depositing the cremains into a locket. Rather, they are infused into the artwork in a unique and beautiful process.
That’s what we’ll review in this guide: the creation of glass art from the cremated remains. Let’s see how it works and what options you have as you explore an ashes-into-glass memorial.
After the loss of a loved one, those closest to the deceased bear the special responsibility of managing the after-death process. In the choices we make during this stage, we continue to love and honor the person that we’ve lost.
Disposition of physical remains typically includes the choice between two basic options: cremation or burial.
Cremation has been practiced around the world for thousands of years. Ancient Greeks, for example, practiced open-fire cremation on the battlefield. Ashes could then be gathered and taken home to the fallen soldiers’ families.
Modern cremation occurs in an industrial furnace. Inside, temperatures rise high enough to disintegrate the body.
Dry bone fragments remain after incineration. These are then processed into the material known as ashes, cremated remains, or cremains.
In 2015, cremation replaced grave burial as the most common occurrence for remains. Since then, its popularity has continued to grow. It’s estimated that more than half of all Americans that passed away in 2020 were cremated.
This represents a major shift—back in the 1960s, only about four percent of Americans preferred cremation to burial.
Why the change? Well, experts point to two main factors: first, rising costs associated with grave burials. Second, a decrease in strict religious instruction regarding choices for grieving families.
Sometimes, the deceased leaves behind instructions for how to deal with their remains. In other cases, loved ones are left to make those decisions. Either way, if cremation has been chosen, then the next step is selecting a final resting place for the ashes.
After choosing cremation comes a second decision: selecting, or creating, a permanent home for the cremains.
Cremation results in several pounds of ashes. The cremains are given to the bereaved in a container. This is usually either an urn or a simple snap-locking plastic box if a more expensive option has not been chosen.
Being left with the ashes of a loved one is a special responsibility. For the cremains’ final resting spot, there are many options. These include:
It should be noted that cremains are slightly acidic. Therefore, the frequent scattering of ashes in the same place can be harmful to soil and could potentially negatively impact certain environments.
So, before you scatter ashes, you should always make sure that it’s allowed in your intended location.
While traditional cremains storage in urns remains common, in recent years more surprising and creative options have emerged.
It’s also become more common to cremate the remains of a beloved dog, cat, or other pet.
Some bereaved opt to incorporate ashes into the growth material for a tree, thus helping the deceased to “become a tree.” Another interesting option involves loading ashes into fireworks, to send off the departed in one last colorful display.
When it comes to dealing with cremated ashes, it’s a unique choice based on the wishes of the deceased and their loved ones. There’s no right, wrong, or best way.
For those who seek a lasting memorial, glass art is one beautiful way to remember someone you’ve lost.
Let’s take a closer look at the process that turns cremation ashes into glass artwork.
Ashes into glass—how is it done?
First off, let’s explore the basics of glass art, i.e. artwork made entirely or substantially from glass.
Glassblowing is a well-known technique that involves the use of a blowpipe to inflate molten glass. There’s also lampworking, in which glass is melted with a torch or a lamp, then blown and formed.
The difference between glassblowing and lampworking is the primary heat source. Glassblowing uses a furnace, while lampworking uses a torch or a lamp.
Glass has a less rigid molecular structure than most solids. It can behave more like a liquid when properly heated.
This enables glassblowers to coax the glass into new shapes. The artist blows into their pipe while rotating the workpiece to achieve the desired form.
Glassblowing and lampworking both involve the use of heat to shape glass. Both techniques can be used to create art pieces, often in the form of paperweights, sculptures, beads, jewelry, or other small items.
Cremains can be incorporated into the glass art process while the glass is in its hot molten form. The artist can prepare the ash on a flat surface and press the molten glass onto it, as shown in the image below.
The ash is typically arranged in lines or streaks. Those patterns are then captured and preserved when contacted by the molten glass.
If you’d like to see the whole process in action, have a look at the video below. Artist Jonathan walks us from start to finish through the process of making a glass blue moon pendant.
Cremation ashes can be added into the glass so as to remain visible when the work is complete. The cremains are typically preserved as a thin white layer, often appearing as wispy and foamy streaks within the glass.
After adding the ashes, the artist then completes their process. This can involve adding color, which can be swirled into the glass to create patterns and designs. The addition of color into the glasswork is an art form within the art form, allowing the artist to infuse light and energy into the piece.
The final shape is then formed, using a variety of tools and techniques. When glass is made malleable through high temperatures, it’s an art form unlike any other. In the hands of a master artist, incredibly detailed, smooth, and beautiful shapes can be formed.
When true artistic methods are used, every piece of glass art will be unique. Even as an artist recreates a previous design, the handmade process will result in slight differences and imperfections every time.
The love and mastery that glass artists bring to their work is part of what makes glass art special. The individualized process is also what makes a piece of glass art a fitting memorial to a loved one.
Every piece of glass art with ashes is different. And each artist specializing in this field brings their own special style and talents.
Gave this to my mom on mother’s day after my brother passed away this past Thanksgiving. She said it’s the most beautiful and precious gift she’s been given. - Chris C. on the Ghost Heart Pendant with Infused Cremation Ash
Choosing a handmade glass memorial provides the opportunity to create a beautiful final resting place for your loved one’s cremains.
Before deciding on what sort of glass artwork you would like, you can review the work of various expert glass artists.
Those artists that have chosen to work with cremated ashes tend to be some of the most creative and thoughtful craftspeople that you’ll find. They understand the trust and hope that is placed in their work each time they’re tasked with a new memorial.
In the words of glass artist Charles:
“Working on Spirit Pieces is pretty special in the fact that you’re having a positive impact on people’s lives. You’re giving back something that reminds them of their loved ones. Something that they can feel, something that they can see, something that they can handle.”
Charles is an award-winning glass artist whose specialty is borosilicate flamework. He uses simple handle tools to sculpt and shape, creating stunning blends of colors and depth.
You can find the artist whose style most speaks to you. Some work is more colorful and features intricate shapes. Other pieces are more subtle and unembellished, but nonetheless elegant and beautiful.
The dynamic art form, the mastery of the artists, and the special task of infusing cremated remains result in one-of-a-kind creations that provide lasting and cherished tributes.
The imagination of an artist brings incredible ideas to life. For example, the Tree of Life collection by Susan, as pictured above, features glass orbs held by the roots of a hand-twisted copper tree.
There are few words to describe the beauty of the Tree of Life with the Orb, and I see my daughter every time I look at it. I know this was the right decision for me. I cannot thank the artists enough. This is a beautiful way to memorialize a precious loved one. Thank you so much. - Heidi J. on the Reading Tree of Life with Tranquil Swirl Orb
Tree of Life memorials combine two art forms, glasswork and copper winding. Up to hundreds of feet of wire are meticulously arranged by hand to shape the tree. Each tree is a masterpiece and a labor of love that evokes thoughts of eternal life while remembering a life that has ended.
There are numerous categories of glass art that can be infused with cremains:
...and more. With this versatile and exquisite art form, you’ll find something that feels just right.
The finest instances of this glass artwork bring light and hope to our mourning.
One lovely example is the Baby’s Breath Teardrop Earrings, pictured above. Along with cremation ashes, contained in each earring is a real flower bloom. The ashes sharing their small resting place with the bright red flower pieces creates a poignant juxtaposition of life and death.
My sister and I used to go out to lunch with our mom every Saturday, now I wear the earrings with her cremains every Saturday so that she is still having lunch with us. - Sherry V. on the Statice Flower Earrings with Cremains
For some, the most obvious memorial shape is a heart. An ashes-into-glass memorial heart takes this simple symbol and creates a gorgeously layered and patterned design.
The teal heart shown below, by artist Ted, showcases the depth that can be achieved through adding swirls of both ash and color into the glass.
For many of us, there’s a certain color that holds special meaning and connects us to a lost loved one. Perhaps it’s the color of their eyes. Or blue, for someone that loved the ocean.
By selecting an artist, a design, and a color, we begin to form a memorial that honors our love for the person that we’ve lost.
This was a gift for my sister. My nephew, her son, passed a couple of months ago. He was a huge Green Bay Packers fan, hence the green and yellow. This memorial heart is an amazing way to have a piece of Eric with her always. - Cheryl K. on the Glass Heart with Cremains - Standing
Mom and Dad are now together… two hearts, one green and one blue, reflecting their love of the woods and the ocean. Thank you for giving me a tasteful remembrance. - Steven S. on the Ocean Waves Giant Heart with Cremains
It bears repeating: there is no right or wrong way to honor someone that you’ve loved and lost. However you choose to use the cremains left to you, that choice represents your own personal outpouring of love.
If glass artwork feels right, we hope that you’re able to find a piece that touches your heart and helps you warmly remember the loved one that you’ve lost.