Paulina Howfield talks to a man who is quietly revolutionising the way we can guard the ashes of our loved ones.
A few years ago, a man in Scotland told me what he did with the ashes of his mother. He said that throughout her life, she’d always wanted to travel into space, get close to the stars, and experience the sensation of weightlessness. As she never got to do this while she was alive, he wondered after she died, what he could do to fulfil her wish. He pondered on the idea and came up with a solution.
One month later, on a sunny day, he gathered with his family at the edge of his mother’s favourite Loch where they put her ashes into a very large rocket-shaped firework. They each said their goodbyes and he struck a match and lit the fuse. Seconds later her ashes were airborne, trajecting high above the Earth, as close to the stars as he could get her.
When the rocket exploded, her ashes dusted down across the length of the Loch, out over the banks and into the heather. They also landed on each of those present, and while some were a little disturbed at being covered in her ashes, he heard a loud whoop of joy in the ether and he knew she was happy. She was at last travelling in space!
I was reminded of this story, when I recently met Dan Bugitti, a hand blown glass-maker, at a conference in Forster where he was one of the organisers and also had some of his glass creations on display. While he still uses skills that he was taught by Lismore-based glass artist Alan Ussher, in the past few years Dan has perfected his own style and technique, and now creates glass pendants and orbs that look like the cosmos and swirling galaxies from his Glass Punk Studio
“I received the actual vortex design of the galaxies and cosmos during my daily meditations, when I had a vision of a completed orb,” he says. “Initially I didn’t include ashes in the vortex patterns, but then I was asked by a couple of people if I could place ashes inside the glass vortex.” After some experimenting, he created a way to do this, and the glasswork he now creates in his ‘Glass Punk Studio’ (so named because of his commitment and love of punk music) have taken on a more cosmic frequency.
Since completing those first two orbs, Dan has had requests from people around the world for his cosmic ash receptacles.
What Are They Made From?
Dan makes the orbs and pendants with borosilicate (Pyrex) glass which is a lot tougher than normal soft glass. This means that if they are dropped onto a tiled floor, the tile itself is more likely to break than the orb or pendant.
Not all of Dan’s creations contain ashes, but those that are designed to hold ashes make a beautiful and cosmic keepsake of your loved ones. The orbs weigh 250 grams and are about the size of a tennis ball, the pendants are 2cm across and can be worn around the neck, to keep the energies and memories of your loved ones close.
Dan can use whatever colours you like to create an ornament that both reflects the light and displays the way our deceased loved one may be travelling across the night sky. I got up close and personal to red orbs with swirls of yellows and orange and my personal favourites were the two cobalt blue ones with swirls of gold and silver. His pendants were in reds, greens, turquoise, cobalt blue, orange and yellow, and the vortex pattern and technique is the same for orbs of pendants – only the size is different.
How Does He Make Them?
Dan sifts a teaspoon of ash to make sure that the particles are really fine. Then he melts the glass into a particular shape and encases the ashes. Next he adds your choice of colour and creates the vortex pattern that becomes more stabilised with more glass.
After he has stabilised the pattern, he backs it with more glass – to create the orb shape – and then uses black glass to finish. To create depth and give the orb its final shape, a solid rod of glass is melted on top. Then it is polished and placed in a kiln to anneal (or cook) overnight, which removes all stress from the glass and prevents it from cracking.
There is something else that happens with these orbs and pendants that makes them extra special and very unique and is the reason why they were on display at a spiritual development and galactic consciousness Conference.
While the man in Scotland symbolically helped his mother’s essence return to the stars, Dan’s orbs and pendants enable a deep energetic connection to the stars for those who are living or dead, and help us to recognise that our essence is eternal and that healing is not defined by physical form. It also embodies the energy of glass, sand, fire and water – connecting us back to the four fundamental elements of existence – earth, air, fire and water – that the Buddhists study in order to safely navigate the Bardot after death.
These are teachings that western culture are really only just starting to explore and Dan is perhpas a bit ahead of his time. But as we know marvellous creations reach into our hearts and give us a direct experience of something that words and thoughts cannot always define. Dan’s vortex creations and ash receptacles do just that, and their design and shape create a symbolic and powerful sense of connection between the living and the dead, as well as the cosmos that we are all a part of. He is in Nabiac near Forster in New South Wales, and is happy and honoured to be able to facilitate your connection with your loved one. As someone at the Conference said. ‘I wish these were around seven years ago when my son died’.