Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Matthew Olian, founder and principal artist of Grateful Glass, explains how this image represents his business.
Grateful Glass, located in Port Richmond, one of Philadelphia's oldest manufacturing neighborhoods, creates custom cremation jewelry and memorial keepsakes to honor the life of a loved one or beloved pet. A small amount of cremation ashes are encased within layers of hot glass, and then manipulated into different forms such as pendants, rings, bracelets, keychains, and paperweights.
The company began with a single commission from a patron at an art show, where a customer inquired about having a custom memorial pendant made with the cremation ashes of her late husband. Having never worked with cremated remains, I cautiously took on the commission hoping to meet expectations. When I hand delivered the finished pendant a few weeks later, both the customer and I shared tears of joy. It was at this moment that I decided to dedicate using my glass working skills in order to bring happiness to others.
After doing a bit of research, I concluded that much of the memorial jewelry available was cheaply made and mass produced, often in factories overseas. I felt Grateful Glass could fill an unmet demand.
This photograph represents a glimpse into our unique production process. Rods of optically pure Pyrex glass are manipulated over an open flame at nearly 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the glass is molten hot, a small amount of cremation ashes are carefully encased and suspended from within.
The entire creation process from start to finish is done entirely by hand using minimal tools. Both traditional glassblowing techniques as well as our own proprietary methodology are utilized in our process. Our unique encasement process transforms ashes into a beautiful array of striking white flecks and organic bubble patterns, often reminiscent of a starry night scene.
What we do with ashes and glass is such a new and novel concept that most people are not aware it exists as a memorialization option. Because it is such a sensitive and emotionally charged product, we choose to limit our advertising. Instead, we rely on our clients to spread the word about our keepsakes through word of mouth advertising and social media outlets. By providing a high quality product along with exceptional customer service, our clients are happy to share our brand with friends and family.
Grateful Glass represents the latest generation of skilled Philadelphia-based craftsmen who use old world techniques to create beautiful contemporary objects. We are extremely grateful to play an active role in perpetuating that artistic tradition.
Edited for length and clarity by Sammi Caramela.