California-based artist Merry Coor has been making glass beads since 2000, but everything changed last year when a young couple asked her if she could incorporate some of the ashes from a dear friend lost too soon into a bead as a keepsake.

“My bead making now gave me a new purpose, and a way to honor others, both living and passed,” writes Coor on her Etsy. “It was 80 degrees in my studio that day, but I had the chills the entire time I was making the beads.”

Coor makes each of these memorial Ash Beads by hand, one at a time in her own studio in Eureka, California.

“If you decide to have me create an ash bead, I will send you a padded, pre-paid envelope, along with instructions and a small tin where you will place the ashes. Send me about ½ teaspoon of ashes for each bead and any photo, letter, or story about your loved one. When your bead is complete, you will receive within 2 to 4 weeks.”

Read on for some of Coor’s answers to Bored Panda’s questions about her work!

More info: Etsy (h/t: laughingsquid)

“When I was first approached, with making an Ash Bead, it was a very big honor and a privilege to do so,” Merry Coor told Bored Panda. “It was a huge responsibility on my part, holding someones ashes. It’s a very intimate experience, to work with loved ones ashes”

“The beads that I first made for my first customers were not like what I make now. There is a learning curve. I wanted a design that I could easily reproduce, and I wanted a glass that I could use, that I could control”

“People are giving me the responsibility with their loved ones’ ashes. The letters and stories that I receive with the ashes are sweet. There are some very nice memories that people share with me”

“The glass is melted and formed it into a round bead. The ashes are incorporated into a spiral design on the bead, then the entire design is sealed in a clear layer of glass. The ash becomes part of the bead and can always be kept close”

“The ones left behind are so full of grief, and making this bead for them means so much. I know what I do helps them with the loss. So many people have told me that the bead has helped in the grieving process”

“I did not invent this, a lot of glass makers have made beads with ashes. My design and the imagine of the galaxy or heavens, or a planet, is a design that people can relate to”

Memorial ash beads are available on Etsy.