These days anyone searching online for discount funeral services can easily discover freelance morticians, hearses and chapels for rent, and… funerary glass artists? Yes. Evolving rituals around how Canadians dispose of their dead now more frequently includes art glass urns and sculpture.
In some ways the trend is the result of how Basic Funerals cremation service has changed the funeral home service landscape, mushrooming in size in just a few years by delivering the innovations desperately sought by a new generation of web savvy Canadian consumers. Their model is so successful its now being copied all over the world..
“By saving an average of $6000 on service fees, bereaved families have greater capacity to commission original art through which they may honour the deceased.” Eric Vandermeersch CEO Basic Funerals
Memory glass is a sub category of Funerary Glass and refers to solid glass sculptures and keepsake jewelry that feature cremated remains visible right inside the glass. The term Funerary Glass includes this art form, but also encompasses the beautiful coloured glass urns made to contain the ashes of the dead. Ontario glassblowers make both.
Funerary Glass Artist, Eric Davy grew up in Toronto exposed to a wide diversity of art and culture and came to study glassblowing under Alfred Engerer, the legendary glassblower at Geisterblitz which was then located at Queen and Dufferin. Years later Eric was formerly trained at Sheridan College, and then went west in 2009 to help Robert Held in Vancouver make solid glass pieces and assist younger blowers in his studio gallery, which is still well placed among the best glassblowing studios in British Columbia.
When Eric returned to Toronto a few years later he started Davy Glass with the intention of making some breathtaking pieces that would forever emboss his name among the great glass artists of our time. And he’s doing that right now. At age 29 in the summer of 2015, he’s paying for propane and studio time by putting his skills to work making funerary glass urns, paperweights and memory glass jewelry.
Here is Eric Davy at work with his assistant Alex Wilson at a glassblowing studio he rents in Mississauga making a funeral urn to be delivered in three days time. Eric relates that most of his business comes word of mouth from people who have seen his work; he has a lot of repeat customers who are patrons on his art.
Eric and Alex race to complete the top and bottom of a funeral urn while the object is still hot. The trickiest part of the procedure is transferring the hot glass from the blow pipe to the ‘punty’, and then opening the bubble to make the urn. In this case Eric labours to make the lip of the object level and as circular as possible.
The vessel will be sold for approximately a thousand dollars, and must be delivered ready for a post cremation ceremony in just three days time, in Ottawa. As an experienced vendor, Eric knows this is the best size to perfectly contain all of the ashes of the deceased (placed inside in a clear plastic bag) yet still be small enough to rest safely on a bookshelf, window sill or furnace mantle. The urn could be further customized to include the name of the deceased, different shapes, colours and closures. Below is another example of Eric’s work.
Angelo Rossi is a Niagara Falls Attraction at Skylon Tower
Maestro Angelo Rossi is the foremost master glassblower in Canada and regularly makes custom funerary urns and memory glass sculptures when not performing for enthusiastic crowds as one of the many Niagara Falls tourist attractions at Skylon Tower.
As a very young man, Angelo Rossi was trained in Europe on the legendary island of Murano in Venice Italy which is still widely considered to be the art glass fashion capital of the world. Here he learned techniques honed and perfected by glassblowers hundreds of years ago, and after many years of practicing the art himself he emigrated to Canada and set up a gift shop studio in Niagara Falls to wow live audiences with his skill and craftsmanship (and sell boatloads of beautiful art glass vessels to wealthy tourists).
Angelo has dozens of specialized glass shaping tools which he uses to makes very complicated highly detailed shapes. One of the most popular requests is The Angel with its mournful face, halo and open hands pressed together in prayer. This is the face of the angel.
The Angel with human remains in its robe is the most coveted piece, but his White Dove and Bunny Rabbit are also among Angelo’s top selling memory glass sculptures.
Custom memory glass ornaments have become Angelo Rossi’s most popular local requests – its a service he does for his own friends and family here in Canada, and its catching on in the community. Angelo has developed his own method of fusing cremated human remains right into the core of his commemorative glass sculptures. He can make any animal you desire; he has a hundred different patterns stored away in his head. Most such items are $500 each, and Angelo signs every piece. The white coloured items work well with the bone ash in the body of the piece.
Angelo Rossi is the founder of the original Rossi Glass from Cornwall; he’s had a long and accomplished career in Canada. His studio has created commissioned works for the Bare Naked Ladies, Sir Elton John and James Cameron to name just a few of his celebrity patrons. Each piece is signed by Angelo Rossi with a certificate of authenticity; Angelo is an elite glassblower and his pieces are highly prized collectibles.
Other Funerary Glass Artisans in Ontario
Kitras Art Glass at 530 Dickson Drive in Fergus, Ontario Canada will do custom funerary glass in many different shapes and styles and specializes in wind chimes and sun globes.
Skytree Smith of Elemental Glassworks in Glen Williams, Ont. incorporates cremated remains into blown glass designs.
Glass artists, Mischka Alexi Hunter and Mariel Waddell are the principle glassblowers at Kingston Glass Studio & Gallery located in downtown Kingston Ontario, in the oldest section of this historic city. MJH Glass Designs offers a wide selection of both functional and sculptural art glass and makes custom funerary glass on request.
Canadian’s attitude toward honouring their dead has changed a great deal since the 1960s when fewer than 5% of all deceased were cremated. Today that figure is closer to 60 percent*, according to the Funeral Association of Canada. A growing number of Canadians are choosing cremation after death, leaving loved ones to search for fitting resting places or personalized services to honour the ashes. Economically practical families might sprinkle their loved one’s remains in idyllic places, or dump them into famous water bodies or near landmarks. More cultured folks buy art glass vessels to keep their loved ones close at home and use the bright coloured object to cheer-up dreary rooms, much like the person they remember inside.