by Kirby Lindsay, posted 24 February 2014
A local grandmother, and Seattle Seahawks superfan, dubbed ‘Grandma Seahawk’ by her family, passed away last Christmas. Still, a part of her joined in the journey to that amazing 48th Super Bowl win earlier this month. A local business, Artful Ashes, preserved a small portion of Grandma Seahawk’s cremated ashes in a special blue & green, heart-shaped glass keepsake, marked with the number 12, and carried to the game by her granddaughter.
Married couple Greg and Christine Dale, began Artful Ashes with an understanding of the need, but only the smallest grasp of how profound the impact that these cherished glass hearts, rounds and tea lights would have on those grieving a loss.
‘Proud Of This Collaboration’
A few years ago, while in Florida to discuss end-of-life choices with his father before a serious surgery (which turned out fine,) Greg Dale set himself to look at all the options. His father talked about having his remains placed in the reef, and Dale researched the spreading of ashes. After he returned to Seattle, on a visit to a Made In Washington store, he saw the beautiful art glass created by Glass Eye Studio, using Mount St. Helens ash, and an idea clicked.
With Artful Ashes, the Dale’s help families convert ashes from a loved one – even a beloved pet – through a very carefully monitored and respect filled process into a piece of glass art that the family can treasure forever. Artful Ashes has the glass made by the Glass Eye artists, in the Fremont Studios, through a step-by-step process that honors the ashes of each person, and painstakingly preserves the ash in an individually marked piece of beautiful glass. Even better, the Glass Eye Studio have a viewing area overlooking the workshop so grieving families can safely and clearly watch the ashes they provide transformed into a beautiful treasure.
“Not all attend,” Christina Dale acknowledged about the Artful Ashes clients. Greg Dale encourages their coming in. “People feel it’s going to be too emotional,” he observed, “but we offer them a lot of support, and sealing the ashes inside the glass starts the healing process.”
Plus, the skill and competence – and utter professionalism – demonstrated by the four Glass Eye artists involved in this detailed process can instill a sense of trust and wonder in even the most skeptical client, or potential client. “They’re really proud of this collaboration,” Greg Dale said about Glass Eye. “We’re part of the family,” Christina Dale observed.
‘Comfort To Your Hand’
For 18 months, Artful Ashes has been offering these treasured keepsakes, and they’ve already helped thousands of people memorialize loved ones, and even make them portable. Some clients have found comfort from carrying an ash-instilled round or heart in their handbag, or carrying the TSA-friendly piece of glass to a football game in New Jersey. Others sleep with the solid glass pieces in their bed at night.
“The shapes were carefully designed,” Christina Dale explained, “They were designed in weight and feel to bring comfort to your hand.” In the Glass Eye Studio product line, the company does offer a similar looking heart, and its round paperweights, but the Artful Ashes pieces have a deliberately different design, to encourage them to be held, fondled, clutched, passed from hand to hand, and, in this way, give comfort to the bereaved.
“We ship them all over the country,” Greg Dale said of the finished glass pieces, “everyone wants to hold on to the memory of a lost love one.” The pieces, with their subtle identifying mark, are shipped (it takes three weeks to create and cure each piece,) with a velvet pouch and a certificate of authenticity. Best of all, due to the small amount of ash needed to create the pieces (about a teaspoonful,) multiple pieces can be made. “We had an order for 19 glass pieces,” Christina Dale explained, “with the mixed ashes of mom and dad.” Every child, and even grandchild, can be have a piece to display, treasure, and/or pass on to the next generation.
Greg Dale noted the shift in attitudes and traditions that have made Artful Ashes possible. Fifteen years ago cremation only accounted for 20% of funeral plans. Now, nation-wide, 45% of those who pass away will be cremated – and in Washington State it is 75%. Also, the trend is away from funerals and towards celebrations of life, and finding healing through positive, life-affirming actions – like creating a piece of beauty out of a great tragedy.
‘Something More Fulfilling’
Since August of 2013, Greg Dale has been able to give the new business his full-time attention. “This doesn’t feel like a ‘job’ at all,” he said. Christina joined him, full-time, in mid-October. “We were looking for something more valuable to do,” she said about their new work. “Something more fulfilling,” Greg Dale explained, “We get to make a real strong difference in people’s lives. Most of our customers are really appreciative.”
Artful Ashes can preserve the ashes of parents, children, and pets. The company works closely with most funeral homes to safely and securely transport the ashes of the recently deceased. However, they can also preserve ashes long stored in an urn or other receptacle. “People can bring their urns here for us to do the separation,” Christina Dale explained. Some families have had one or two pieces made, then returned to have more rounds, hearts or tea lights made as other family or friends requested their own cherished keepsake.
Christina and Greg Dale welcome anyone interested in learning more to contact them about viewing the art glass creation process. At Glass Eye Studio, in West Fremont, they have a display of hearts and rounds that will be similar to what clients commission. They can also give a reassuring demonstration of the careful process they will follow to memorialize the cremated remains of your loved one, in a long-to-be-treasured memento.
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©2014 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.