Artist and glassworker Merry Coor creates one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces in her California studio. The beads in her pieces look like marbles or tiny planets, with swirls of rich, jewel-like colors. Yet upon closer inspection, you can see something else scattered over their surfaces. It looks like land formations or strange clouds, but in reality, it's something much more profound.
The lighter-colored, granular substance you see flowing over the surfaces of the beads like weather patterns is actually ash. It's a portion of the cremated remains of people's loved ones, carefully incorporated right into the glass of the bead. Coor creates these ash beads, as she calls them, as a way to help people memorialize those who have passed on in the form of art.
Coor has been making glass beads for 15 years, but she only began incorporating ash into her beads last year. A young couple asked Coor for a piece using the ashes of their deceased friend, and she obliged. Coor describes the experience of working with human remains as deeply moving, and wanted to provide others with the same service.
To make the bead, Coor first creates the base layer from colored glass. Then, the ashes are added, usually in a swirling pattern, and the whole thing is sealed with a layer of clear glass; this is done so the ashes are a permanent part of the bead. Each bead takes about half a teaspoon of ash. Coor also encourages clients to send her a picture or a story about the deceased, as she likes to meditate on the person while she creates the bead.
Coor makes each bead by herself and by hand. It takes time, but Coor doesn't mind. She feels that creating these unique and intimate pieces gives a new dimension of purpose to her art. She also hopes that her work can help people through their grieving processes.