I went to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and decided to major in Photography. My freshman year, our university created a Glassblowing studio and opened it up as a major. I took the class as an elective and ended up falling in love with the material and how mesmerizing it was. So I switched my major after the first month of the class. After I graduated with a BFA in Glass, I moved to Seattle and worked at Dale Chihuly's summer glass school called Pilchuck Glass School. After the summer program, I got the opportunity to work at Seattle's Glass Eye Studio and on Fridays a team I work on makes paperweights with human or pet ashes for their family and friends. I absolutely love my job and love seeing all of the families and friends who come in to watch.

My website for my artwork: www.justinkernglass.com The Glass Eye Studio: http://www.glasseye.com/ Artful Ashes (Human or pet ash paperweights): http://www.artfulashes.com/

Edit 1: Wow! I did not expect to get this many kind and interested comments. I thought it'd be a bunch of glassholes asking me technical questions. I think the reddit hug to www.artfulashes.com caused some problems, so here is their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ArtfulAshes

Edit 2: I don't make pipes, nothing against them, i just don't make them.

Comments: 1200 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

huehuelewis1738 karma

Could you turn someone's ashes into a "tobacco" pipe if it was what they would have wanted?

kernalz581 karma

The company I work for only makes round or heart paperweights. The main difference between a pipe and a paperweight is that the paperweight is solid and doesn't require any blowing. The ashes cause the glass to get very bubbly and cold, so if you were blowing it up the bubble wouldn't blow out correctly causing it to be really thin in some spots and very thick in some spots. so I don't think it could be done and look nice.

MundiMori230 karma

Could you make a pipe and use ash-glass as decoration, though?

kernalz309 karma

Yeah that sounds like it could totally be done!

h1p1n3155 karma

So, you're a glassblower that doesn't blow glass?

kernalz315 karma

I do blow glass, but on Fridays we make the paperweights. The other days, we make a different paperweight, ornaments, vases, bowls.

igotaratidea20 karma

What if you added the ashe as a last step?

A layer of ashe burned in after the piece has been blown.

kernalz49 karma

The ash has to be encased with hot glass, it doesn't stick very well to the glass, but once it's encased, you're good to go!

SteveNashedPotatoes58 karma

Is this the most common question that you hear when you tell random people what you do?

kernalz386 karma

When I lived in Indiana, people would be like "What do ya do as a glassblower, make bud light bottles er sumtin?" In Seattle, where I live now, people always say "Soooo uh you gonna make me a bong brah?"

Baeocystin117 karma

As another glassblower: Yes. Good god, yes.

And it gets really, really old. And I don't have any problems with weed at all. But when you want to talk about artistic expression and the creative aspects of glass design, and 99% of the people you meet think you're just in it for making trippy pipes, it sucks.

kernalz51 karma

love this comment with all of my heart

Madoff_Hitler420796 karma

Has someone ever asked to make a bong out of a dog?

kernalz1531 karma

Only today... on this reddit post.

Sir_Whisker_Bottoms601 karma

How did you get into molding ashes into glass?

Also, those websites may be getting a reddit hug of death soon.

kernalz366 karma

I started working for a company who already had it set up with their business. I hadn't heard of it when I started and I thought it was the coolest thing ever!

It_Crawls402 karma

Do you ever get back story on the person before doing the actual blowing? Any designs based on that? (A glass horse for a lifelong horse lover, etc.)

kernalz467 karma

The only thing I know about the ash, is whether it is a pet or a human, but i just usually base that on the name on the canister of ash. The friends or family get to choose any colors they want and the shape (round or heart). I could definitely make one into a horse, but the company doesn't offer it. But it can definitely be done.

jackdaw_t_robot200 karma

Have you ever mixed up the ashes for different orders?

kernalz394 karma

No, we have a person who puts out the color and ash in trays. She is very organized so that's never happened.

NaturalisticAsHell169 karma

That's good stuff. When I watched your video, it made me realize how much is needed to get a glass blowing operation of the ground. I also saw how critical it is that the proper tools are ready to go at each station. How many times have you gotten a lump of hot glass going and realized you can't find the tool you need?

Also, that video has a real Mister Rogers feel to it. Was that what you were going for?

kernalz142 karma

We have these rollers you can set the rods on and they turn so the glass doesn't fall off. So if I realized i didn't have the tool, i'd set the rod on the rollers and run to our tool room and grab the right one, come back, and reheat the glass.

Lumpyguy158 karma

How much human remains do you think you've accidentally inhaled?

kernalz175 karma

hopefully none! we have ventilation above the tray we roll it up on.

Rylyshar122 karma

As a Chihuly fan, I'd love to know more about his summer glass school. Does he teach or just oversee? What was something you learned from him that you did not expect, and/or made the class worth it?

FYI - ArtfulAshes site hugged to death - will definitely check out later.

kernalz111 karma

He doesn't teach anymore. He actually doesn't blow glass anymore due to a shoulder injury he had. While I was there I got to meet him because he and his team of glassblowers came and demoed some of his current work. He's the idea man now though.

allsymbols31 karma

I thought he never did his own glass blowing because he lacked depth perception with only one eye.

kernalz67 karma

He still blew glass after the car accident when he lost his eye. I think he was surfing or something a few years later and messed up his shoulder really bad, after that it was too much pain to hold the rod.

249ba36000029bbe9749121 karma

How much does it cost? I didn't see any prices on the website.

kernalz220 karma

They are $185, they also come with a nice box, stand, and light to put under it.

Making_moves799 karma

If you could have some friends move to Seattle in the next couple months, how pumped would you be?

kernalz112 karma

SO PUMPED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! nice username, real life friend.

MundiMori65 karma

What would happen if you broke the paperweight prior to delivery?

kernalz89 karma

That's never happened. But if it did, we would remake it for them.

Ga1apagO39 karma

Just remelt it?

kernalz105 karma

No, we save some of the ashes, just in case we need to remake it

Mostly-Sometimez66 karma

How many peoples ashes do you have hangin around?

kernalz109 karma

we send them back with the paperweight, once it is QC'd and packed up.

SemiColonInfection54 karma

Wow. How interesting and morbid and unique. Has anyone ever changed their mind after you give them their paperweight?

kernalz57 karma

Not that I know of. We also have a quality control person, so if it doesn't look right, we have to make it again.

PartizanParticleCook50 karma

How much of the ash do you put into the materials, is there a perfect ratio? Also, slightly morbid, but does any of it end up around your workspace, making you surrounded by dead people? This is a fairly touchy subject for society as we revere our dead so how do you deal with this, if it is a problem.

kernalz43 karma

We don't need very much, maybe like an 1/8th of a cup or something. Yes, it definitely gets everywhere, we clean our tools at the end of the day and vacuum our area.

FeelingCute43 karma

Have you ever made practice weights with people's remains? How'd you get the ashes and how does it feel to regularly work with peoples' remains? I'd imagine it has some next level taboo feeling to it

kernalz115 karma

No, they ashes are a one time go. Our team is very efficient and doesn't mess up very often. Luckily, if we do mess up, we usually save a little bit of the ash, just in case. The families go to our website and orders the ashes and then they send us a baggie or container with the ashes in it. It was really weird at first. Our studio is set up so that there is a viewing area above it and some of the families come in and watch us make their loved ones into a paperweight, seeing how happy it made them made it not so weird for me anymore, I'm just happy to help their grieving in some way.

doddlert40 karma

Do you pick up a lot of scratches or cuts and burns from working with glass? I imagine you wear PPE and are careful, I'm just curious.

kernalz57 karma

Yes, lots and lots. Luckily your hands build up calluses very quickly, and the burns go away fast. We just wear safety glasses, that's usually it. Some people wear a kevlar sleeve on the arm that is closest to tank when they gather the molten glass.

PEDALphiliac35 karma

Thoughts on Snodgrass?

kernalz64 karma

I don't make pipes, but I have plenty of friends who have made a great life for themselves doing it. Great family though and I love they keep the tradition going. Bob did amazing things for the glass world. I fume glass almost everyday, which is a process he discovered. Now it's in almost every glass studio in the U.S.. A true pioneer of glass

TheAngryDesigner17 karma

How much does a typical 'urn' cost?

kernalz30 karma

Do you mean the paperweight? We don't make urns at the company I work for, but I do know of some companies that make really nice urns.

mnmmatt31 karma

Have you ever made a prince ruperts drop from a dead person?

kernalz22 karma

haha, I have not

wowsuchdrum29 karma

I am a student at Ball State and I have always wondered about the glass major.

What's it like studying there in the glass center? Did people make fun of you for studying something that is seemingly "useless?" I fully support the glass major and don't want to downplay that area of study by any means, but with all the push for STEM I can see how you may have been ostracized or made fun of for studying art--not to mention glass blowing. What was that like?

I study literature and religion there so I feel like I can relate to the stigma of majors that others perceive as useless.

Thanks for doing the ama!

kernalz34 karma

That push for STEM is all midwest. The arts are thriving on the west coast. I loved the glass center, it is my all time favorite studio and I can honestly say the professor of glass is one of my best friends now. No one made fun of me for pursuing glass, they just though it was cool. In Indiana, I would not be making the money, I'm making out here. I think the best glass job i heard of around Indiana was like $10/hr

pinkrice227 karma

could you turn the ashes into a pendant or do you guys only make paperweights?

kernalz42 karma

We do most paperweights, but we have a product called a Worry Stone, which is a small disk pendant.

Ga1apagO23 karma

How exactly is the ash integrated into the molten glass?

kernalz32 karma

we have a hot gather of glass and we take it and put on the color and dichro and then roll it in the ash and twist it into a spiral, then we put more hot glass on it to encase the ashes insided.

TT110321 karma

I've seen people work with glass before, and it usually amazes me how they can make art out of the glass.

How long do you get to form the glass before it becomes too cool?

It seems like working with glass is really past paced.

kernalz24 karma

It depends on the type of glass you are working with. We use Spruce Pine at the studio I'm at and it can stay hot for a bit, i'd say 60ish seconds. Then you reheat it in a chamber of fire called a Glory Hole, and it's molten again. It is very fast paced. We usually make around 115 of the artful ashes on an 8 hour work day.

haireeh021 karma

Your title mentions "human or pet ashes" - but does anyone request inanimate objects, like war medals that holds sentimental value, to be made into glass?

kernalz23 karma

Not yet, it would depend on the metal used for the war medal.

young_otis20 karma

Are there any serious health consequences associated with glass blowing? It seems like there could be toxic fumes or something.

kernalz29 karma

There are a ton of health consequences for a glass studio that does not have adequate ventilation, but if you got that and are safe when you work you will be fine!

HS_0020 karma

I'm Ira Glass. Want to come over?

kernalz55 karma


SandD0llar17 karma

How durable are the glass paperweights?

I've thought about doing something like this when my dog passes (hope it isn't for a good while though!), but as someone who moves around regularly, I want something that's somewhat durable.

kernalz27 karma

Paperweights are somewhat durable. Just wrap it up in bubble wrap and you'll be fine. if you drop it, it will break though.

ishabad15 karma

What is the weirdest thing that you've had to create?

kernalz22 karma

Probably the Artful Ashes, but I got used to that after a while. Other than that I haven't made anything that is too weird.

the_cox15 karma

I am from Indiana. I have many friends at BSU. All I have ever heard about the glassblowing studio is that it's people making their own pipes and bongs. How often did you get asked about making "tobacco" paraphernalia?

kernalz21 karma

My professors at BSU always emptied the ovens so they could see what people were making, if it was a bong or pipe , it would be smashed, so don't believe the rumors! I get asked that question as soon as I tell someone I'm a glassblower

d34dl45t13 karma

My best friend recently committed suicide due to severe mental issues. I have some of his ashes, could you turn him into something for me?

kernalz14 karma

i'm very sorry for your loss, we would absolutely do that for you! you'd have to go through the website to place an order.

MaverickSkye13 karma

Two questions:

If possible, would you shape it into the animal shape who's ashes were cremated: Such as if it were a cat, could you shape the glass into a cat?

Also, would you do engraving? Would you engrave like names, dates and so on on the glass for the customer?

kernalz14 karma

Yes it could be done, but our studio only does heart and round paperweights, and also pendants. We engrave the back with the information the customer gives us

Julio_Cruz12 karma

Have you been to Venice &/or Murano in italy?

what are your thoughts on the Italian style of artistic glassblowing?

kernalz20 karma

I have not, but those guys are absolute gods! they work the glass much hotter and much faster than most of the glass artists in the states. Absolutely beautiful work, dragons on dragons on dragons!

slowlywandering12 karma

who is your favorite glass artist? i really enjoy Paul Stankard's work

kernalz19 karma

Favorite glass artist of all time is probably Stanislav Libensky, absolutely beautiful, enormous work. But my favorite glass artist right now is probably Kerrick Johnson. His work is great!

Spankyman10 karma

Is it possible to put ashes into a pendant? I read your reply your can't blow it with the same results, just wondering if you could make a smaller round for a necklace.

kernalz16 karma

Yes, we have those, they are called worry stones, they should be on the site, they are a small disk that has the same swirls at the paperweights, and we drill a little hole in it.

blueberrycoffee9 karma

Not sure the OP is still around, but here's a question... Justin, are you still able to work on your own designs? Your pieces on your website are intriguing.

I have a largish collection of art glass, mostly antique, but some from mid 1900s as well. Did you study the history of glass making at Ball State as well as learning the art?

kernalz10 karma

Yes I am still here! I still work on my own designs, I actually just started a new piece this weekend. I did study the history of glass, they did not have a glass history class yet, but our instructor was very adamant on us learning the history of glass.

William_wallace_8 karma

Is there a size minimum or maximum that you have on your glass/Ash projects?

kernalz6 karma

they are all the same size.

derangedfriend4 karma

What about, ahem, "other shapes"... Like if someone's male spouse had passed?

kernalz3 karma

just round or heart paperweights, and pendants

PorkRollAndEggs3 karma

You don't find this to be extremely weird?

kernalz8 karma

Not anymore, I've gotten used to it. I just always wash my hands on breaks.

DarraghOc953 karma

Would you be skilled enough to make bongs and pipes?

kernalz12 karma

Yes I could definitely make bongs, but pipes are typically flameworked, which is a little different than I do. Flameworkers use a small torch in front of them, I make glass on a rod and use the heat from the tank or i reheat it in a heating chamber (called a glory hole).

madamestarbeam2 karma

Hey! Thanks for doing this. For someone who's always been interested in the medium, how can I get started, how much am I going to suck at the beginning, and how badly am I going to end up burning myself?

(your stuff is absolutely beautiful, btw. You're also pretty cute yourself)

kernalz2 karma

you will suck at it for a while, especially if you're only doing it a couple times a week. But once you push through that you will progress very quickly. If you take a beginner class that is everyday for 2-3 weeks, you will be surprised by how much you will progress. Where are you located? I might be able to tell you about a place that does classes nearby. You will have little burns here an there but if you're careful, nothing too serious.

Squidwards_Nose222 karma

How did you get into using glass as an art form?

kernalz2 karma

They opened a glass studio on campus my freshman year, i took it as an elective and fell in love. changed my major to glass about a month into the class

Baeocystin2 karma

As a fellow glassblower... Found a solution for back pain while coldworking yet? :D

kernalz3 karma

Hahaha, My own designs are kiln cast and the entire surface is coldworked. There will never be a solution to it. But I did find having all of your equipment and tables at belly button height helps a ton!