Honor Your Loved One With A Glass Keepsake

Doug Hanks, a glass artist in Lincoln, Nebraska, creates one-of-a-kind glass keepsake items that can help families find beautiful ways to memorialize and remember their loved ones who have passed.

Glass Keepsake

Doug Hanks, a glass artist in Lincoln, Nebraska, creates one-of-a-kind glass keepsake items that can help families find beautiful ways to memorialize and remember their loved ones who have passed. From the first moments that Doug walked into Roper & Sons to show his art samples, the staff recognized the sincerity and beauty in each individual glass piece. After a brief conversation and learning more about Doug Hanks’ journey, Roper & Sons knew they had just connected with a local artist who would serve their families with care, respect, and love.

Since he can remember, Doug has always been an artist. From a young age, his mother taught him how to sew and make costumes. He loved Renaissance fairs and she didn’t want to be constantly sewing costumes for him. This started a curiosity for jewelry making, weaving, and leatherworking. As the years continued and Doug grew as an artist, he discovered glass art and realized it was more than a craft; it had a much greater potential than any of the other mediums he had worked in.

In 2017, Doug acquired a lot of wine bottles with the idea of creating original artwork. Unfortunately, that project didn’t work out as he had planned. In an effort to repurpose the bottles, he turned to the internet. Doug’s first discovery was a process called bottle slumping, a process that utilizes gravity and heat from a kiln to mold glass into various shapes. Since he didn’t have access to a kiln where he lived, Doug continued his research where he found demonstrations specific to creating beads and jewelry. He found a large online community of glass artists who use a small torch instead of a kiln, a process called lampworking. He was immediately drawn to the art form and uses it to create his art today.

Honoring Loved Ones

An active member of the glass art community, Doug saw that one of his friends had used pet ashes and mixed them in resin to make a keepsake for his family. Intrigued by this, Doug researched the process and found that any cremated remains could be included in glass work in meaningful ways. In early 2021, Doug took his first glass blowing classes at Lincoln Hot Glass. Over the next two years, he honed his skills with the sole purpose of creating products specifically for the funeral industry.

When Doug’s mom passed away in 2015, he felt the loss more than he could have imagined and understood the depths that others also feel who had experienced the loss of a loved one. “For years, my mom was a member of the Patriot Guard in my hometown of El Paso, Texas. They offer funeral services to the homeless and fallen veterans, who didn’t have a family or couldn’t afford a funeral,” Doug said. “When my mom passed, so many people from that community came to support me. That really amazed me.” Touched by the life work of his mom and the people who helped him with her loss, Doug is proud to have his own way of helping others experiencing loss. “Knowing that ashes could be used in the glass, I knew that this was what I was meant to do and was a way to honor my mom and her legacy.”

Encasing Memories

It takes a very small amount of ashes – ½ to 1 teaspoon – to make anywhere from six to ten glass pieces. When he first receives a loved one’s ashes, Doug puts them in a small, metal container and then in the kiln. The ashes are baked at about 1,000 degrees to reduce bubbles from forming in the glass. Doug noted that a small amount of bubbles do occur during the process but he tries to minimize the amount so you can see the ashes more clearly. One thing to note: if cremains aren’t available, a small amount of hair can be turned into ashes.

Once the ashes are treated, he takes a glass rod and melts it into a small liquid ball, then dips the rod directly into the ashes. He then applies a layer of glass over this and dips into the ashes again. This process is repeated many times until a small rod of ash and glass is formed. From there, he spins and pulls it into a thin rod called a stringer which is used to create dots and lines on the piece.

Each Piece is Unique

The ashes look like white speckles encased inside the glass. To make the pieces unique, Doug uses glass powder, called frit. The ashes are encased in a larger, clear ball of glass and rolled in the glass powder. Even if he uses the same color combinations, no two objects will ever look exactly alike because the frit creates a random uniqueness to each design. This allows every piece he creates to be one-of-a-kind.

Designs currently available for families to select from include:

  • Infinity or Forever Marbles – glass marbles ranging in size from 1.25 inches to 2 inches. These are commonly referred to in the glass industry as Vortex Marble.
  • Pendants that are heart-shaped, teardrops, and round cabochon.
  • Memory stones or pocket hearts that are flat and range from 1 inch to 2 inches in diameter. These are designed to be carried around with you.

Memories Live On

Happy tears from just about every person he has created a glass piece for is why Doug continues to find purpose in his work. “People have said to me that their loved one is now somewhere beautiful and with them always,” Doug added. “As an artist, I’ve always wanted to create things that can last, and these glass pieces give families something to share for generations.”

If you are interested in creating a lasting memory of your loved one, contact Doug Hanks via
Facebook or Instagram @hanxglassart.

Roper & Sons also has various pieces of Doug’s work on display at all of its chapels. Please talk with your Funeral Director during the funeral arrangements meeting if you are interested in having a glass piece made, or call Roper & Sons at 402-476-1225.

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