Where I work. Meet my torch – a GTT Lynx, fueled by propane and oxygen. As you can see, my workbench is filled with prep work, test beads, lots of tools, frit cans, glass rods, and glass stringers. It may look like a mess, but everything is exactly where it should be!

How do you make memorial beads and hearts?
To create a memorial bead or heart, I use a tiny portion of cremated ashes and encase them in molten glass. The ashes react with the glass and may create bubbles – the results are lovely, but unpredictable.

Once I receive the ashes, I sift them to get the smallest particles possible – this makes it more likely that the glass and ashes will play nicely together (they’re not naturally compatible materials, so it’s a little tricky). What I actually use in the glass is about 1/8th of a teaspoon – more than that increases the risk of cracking or complete failure. Any ash I don’t use is returned to you with your beads. In the extremely rare event that a bead decides to crack on me, that bead is returned to you as well.

I prepare the ashes before I begin a memorial bead. I make the base bead, and then melt the tip of a rod of glass and use that to pick up a tiny amount of ashes. I allow the ashes to bond with the glass a little, then add the ashes to the base bead, along with extra glass so that they are safely encased.

Once I’m done creating your bead, it goes straight into my digitally-controlled kiln, where it is annealed (controlled cooling). This vitally important step of the process allows the glass molecules to re-organize themselves into a more stable, durable structure.