Seattle company makes art from ashes of the departed

Seattle company makes art from ashes of the departed

SEATTLE, Wash. -- You can spend the afterlife anchoring a coral reef; give your loved ones a show as part of a fireworks display; even have your remains pressed into a vinyl record.

And now, a Seattle company will even take the ashes of a loved one - and create art.

"The memories will be there forever. That's about all I can say," said Kurt Murphy of Tacoma, who spent Monday morning watching the cremated remains of his daughter and father be swirled into glass hearts. "My daughter was a fireball and she was a ball of fire down there."

The idea is the brainchild of Greg and Christina Dale, a Sammamish couple, who faced tough end-of-life questions a few years back when Greg's father needed surgery. Greg's dad survived - and so did the conversation.

"We just realized that everyone is looking for a way to hold onto the memories of their lost loved ones," Greg Dale said. "The clients that buy these - it brings up the happy thoughts and the happy times."

Together, the couple created Artful Ashes, which will create a glass heart or orb in a variety of colors and incorporate the remains of a loved one. Customers can go in person to see the object being created by a team of glassblowers in a Fremont studio.

Each object takes about six minutes to build. Artists use long steel rods to mold the glass, and then press each object into a tablespoon of the remains of a loved one. The contents are then spun together, creating a swirl of different colors.

Murphy was at the company's studio Monday, which would've been his daughter's 42nd birthday, watching artists mold several hearts for his family. His daughter, Tami, died in January after a long battle with brain cancer. His father passed away one hour earlier.

"The two of them together were just a huge part of my life," said Murphy's sister, Sharon Storbo. "We believe dad went ahead of (Kurt's daughter) to show her the way to heaven."

The Dales said they can create up to 100 hearts and orbs each day, and typically are in the studio twice a month. Orders require at least one week's advance notice.

Teacher Crystal Flint of Seattle chose two hearts for her grandparents, who died within about a week of one another. Flint often brings the heart she made for her grandfather to work, because he was a huge supporter of education. She brought the heart made for her grandmother, Linda, to the Super Bowl, fulfilling a longtime dream for a lifelong Seahawks fan.

The back is stamped with a raised '12' - for the ultimate 12th Fan.

"I think the Seahawks may have been the most important thing in her life. (I was) second," Flint joked. "The first couple of days (before the Super Bowl), I took her all around New York and saw all the sights. Luckily all went well, and she got in (to the game), no problem."

Each object costs $185. Artful Ashes recently expanded to offer a similar service for pets called Rainbow Bridge Hearts.

"We created something in the symbol of love that would feel like a hug in their hands," Christina said. "They see all the love that they feel in their heart."