Hanging in the window at the art studio at 310 Ottawa Street is a blue, ornament-like glass piece. To an untrained eye, it looks similar to other beautiful art pieces that Sue Regis creates from glass. But for Regis, it is a reminder of someone - a student she had who passed away.
The glass in that piece incorporated the ashes or cremains of the student she lost. That piece is close to Regis' heart because she knew the person whom she was memorializing. Most of the time, though, she is creating glass art pieces to memorialize someone she has never met. Regis works with Tezak's Home to Celebrate Life and Joliet Area Community Hospice on projects that remember those who have passed away.
"I would never have though 10 to 15 years ago that I would be working in the funeral business," she said.
But her work in that business takes place in the glass studio miles away. We first told you about Regis' work with Tezak's in a story on their business.
Regis creates primarily two things for Tezak's - glass hearts that are given to anyone who wakes their loved one at the funeral home and glass pieces that can incorporate cremains - the cremated remains of a loved on.
"I really like working with the cremains," she said. "When I work with the cremains and see the reaction when I put their loved one in the glass, it's a whole nother level."
Regis is especially thrilled when families give her artistic license to create an original piece to incorporate cremains instead of a style she has already used.
In addition to cremain memorial pieces, Regis creates glass hearts for Tezak's. When a loved one's casket is closed at the funeral home, one glass heart is placed in the hand of the person who has passed on and the second stays with the family.
Last year, Regis was the artist commissioned to create the memorial ornaments for Joliet Area Community Hospice. The Lights of Love campaign allows community members to buy an ornament and attend a special night viewing of the Festival of Trees at the Rialto Square Theatre. Regis designed and made the ornaments in 2011 and is doing so again in 2012.
Finding her passion
Regis began glass art in 1996, when she was right out of high school. Not a big fan of traditional school work, Regis attended class at Joliet Junior College when her parents told her she must attend, but gave her the freedom to pick her classes. She landed in a jewelry and metal smith making class, which is where she encountered her first torch. She used it then to design glass beads as part of a class, but learned more and more from her professor and eventually bought her own equipment to work with glass. Her studio was in her parents' basement until about 2008. By then she had been using her glass art skills to make a living for three years.
Regis creates pieces for clients that are custom made. In addition to the ornaments every year, Regis designed trophies for a spring hospice event, with large glass pieces that were attached to trophy bases. When she works on the bigger pieces, her already warm studio gets even warmer and she has to put all her concentration into the piece.
"I can't open the door for people and I can't answer the phone," she said. "It gets very intense, but that's what I love about it."
In addition to her time in the studio, Regis also goes out into the community to share her art. She did a glass art demonstration at Chicago Street Bar and Grill earlier in September and will be doing one starting at 7 p.m., Oct. 5 at The Department.
Regis also offers classes to the public, although she admits her schedule will not allow for any news students until the beginning of 2013. To contact her for classes, send her a message on her Facebook page.