Woman helps others remember lost loved ones through 'Cremation Glass'

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It’s an unusual form of art that's helping to put one Illinois artist on the map: beautiful pieces of hand-blown glass called "Cremation Glass."

The artist says her business, ‘Starved Rock Hot Glass,’ is booming. 

“This table here is where I have my colors, and I’ll have your ashes set out on the table,” said Laura Johnson.

For seven years, at her Starved Rock Hot Glass studio in Ottawa, Johnson has created hand-blown pieces of art glass and jewelry. One of her specialties? Helping customers like Carole Peters.

Peters wants to remember her late husband with jewelry containing some of his ashes.

“It was something I could wear and be with me all the time. It’s just a way of remembering him,” Peters said.

“I have a lot of people that will come in and do like one item for every member of the family, also that way each person kind of gets their unique piece to take home,” Johnson said.

She calls her pieces "Cremation Glass." Her customers provide her with small amounts of a loved one’s ashes. Then, she fuses them at two thousand degrees into keepsakes like pendants for necklaces or paperweights.

And she doesn't just handle human ashes.

“I've done, you know, rats, I’ve done hamsters, I’ve done horses, so you know all sorts of different animals, which is pretty fun,” Johnson said.

She also says so far she's received no orders from families of cremated celebrities, but she has received orders from as far away as Australia and Scotland.

“It has just exploded. I now work with ashes almost every single day,” Johnson said.

Many of her pieces sell for around $20 or $30 dollars. She can swirl the ashes so they're very visible, or hide them. And she's gotten used to storing lots of baggies and test tubes filled with ashes in her studio.

FOX 32: Does it ever give you the creeps?

“No, you know, it doesn't, and I know some people it does, some people are very put off by it,” Johnson said.

Peters wasn't put off. She selected a blue swirled pendant and a jellyfish paperweight. When completed, they'll help keep the memories of her late husband alive.

The Starved Rock Hot Glass studio is about 90 minutes southwest of Chicago. Johnson’s work can also be seen on the studio’s Facebook page and website.