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.