- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

OTTAWA, Ill. (AP) - Veronica Kroeze’s mother died in 2004, and since then, her mother’s ashes had been displayed in an urn on her credenza in her living room.

She recently heard of an option she felt would better memorialize her mother, Genevieve Shipp.

“A friend of mine had her father’s ashes (used for cremation glass). I was thrilled at the idea of being able to do something like that in remembrance of my mom.”

Kroeze, of Buda, delivered her mother’s ashes to Laura Johnson, owner of Starved Rock Hot Glass, who specializes in hand-blown glass art and jewelry. Kroeze had two orders for family, including necklace pendants, heart-shaped paperweights and an egg. The art infused with her mother’s ashes was for her brother, sister, niece and herself. Some family she told of her plans beforehand, and others she surprised them as gifts.

“I thought it was a great way to display the ashes,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”

It’s about an hour drive from Buda in Bureau County to Johnson’s shop in Ottawa, but Kroeze didn’t mind.

“I would do it all over again. It was wonderful.”

Johnson said it’s common to have people travel for her services. The closest custom glass businesses are in the Peoria and Chicago areas. She opened her business in 2009 and added cremation glass a few years ago after a few clients expressed an interest.

“And it just exploded from there. Now I work on ashes every single day. I have a list of orders. It keeps me very busy.”

Each cremation glass piece takes her about 10 minutes to design. Throughout the process, Johnson doesn’t stand still. With each step, she’s heating, cooling and shaping the piece that includes just a sprinkle of ashes. To view the process, a video is on The Times website at mywebtimes.com.

In addition to other glass-blowing projects, she completes one to two cremation glass orders a day. The orders vary from one to 25 pieces.

“They’ll get one for each child, one for each grandkid,” Johnson said. “That way everyone has their own memorial piece. Each one is one of a kind, even if you choose the same colors, the same shape. Everyone has their own unique piece.”

Sometimes she gets special requests, such as a family who wanted glass blue birds. She’s working with the family to come up with a design. The client’s mother was a fan of blue birds - it was her favorite bird. The family wants a blue bird for each of the women’s children and each of her grandchildren to remember her by with the ashes inside.

The orders aren’t just for clients’ parents and grandparents, though. She’s handled the ashes of furry friends, too, including dogs, cats, hamsters, rats and horses.

Paperweights will display ashes the best - anything solid, Johnson noted. Shapes that are more blown out or stretched will dilute the ashes more, so they’re not quite as visible. However, anything Johnson makes can have ashes added. She also makes a lot of vases, flowers, ornaments and jewelry.

A perk to Johnson’s job is seeing how happy and grateful her clients are to have the creations Johnson makes with loved ones’ ashes.

“Just recently I had a lady pick up some paperweights. She was so thrilled about it she jumped behind the counter and gave me a big hug. She was like, ‘Thank you so much. You don’t know what this means to me.’ To get that kind of gratitude from customers is really great. It’s why I love it.”

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Source: The (Ottawa) Daily Times, http://bit.ly/1VGBO46

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Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.mywebtimes.com

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