"We seem to always be grasping for ways to hold on when we really should be letting go. These beads seems to bridge the two. Hanging close to one’s heart so we can continue to move about our lives untethered to our grief, but instead accompanied by it, like an old friend or a true love, holding our hand through infinity.”"
The above is an excerpt from a letter I received from a customer. I'm Merry Coor, and I make beads with the ashes of loved ones and pets.
I started making art glass beads in 2000, but when a young couple asked me to make beads with their best friend's ashes, it was such a moving experience that I decided to change my path from making art beads to creating something more meaningful.
It was emotional, sitting in my studio, thinking about their friend. Not only had this couple trusted me to handle the ashes with love and respect, they trusted me with their grief. When the couple came back to pick up the beads, they pressed them to their hearts and cried. That moment changed my life. I witnessed what an Ash Bead did for them; it gave them a bit of comfort and relief. I wanted to continue giving this service to people - it was fulfilling to create something beautiful out of loss.
In the months that followed, I made hundreds of sample beads with crushed ceramic dust instead of ash. I experimented with color and design. I knew what I wanted; a bead that was heavenly in feel, ethereal even. I wanted it to look like the universe, or the heavens. I wanted it to be timeless.
I worked out a process, adding elements to the glass to get the blues and greens that I was hoping for. Next I added the ash, making a spiral design, and then I encased the bead in the best quality clear glass available. The clear glass kept the ash intact, and magnified the designs in the bead.
Each bead is different; like a finger print, no two are alike. I can manipulate the temperature of the flame to get more blues or greens, but really, the beads have a life of their own. Time and again I've been surprised to see what the ashes do in the glass. More often than not, I hear from my customers that their loved ones exhibited certain quirks and personality traits that perfectly mirror the energy of their ashes.
Even after making hundreds of beads over the past few years, I continue to be moved by this work. It can be hard - so very hard - to hear the stories of loss and heartbreak. But hearing how much of a difference it makes to my customers, to have a piece of their loved one to hold close to their hearts - to be accompanied by them, even after they're gone... It makes it all worth while.