Seattle artist brings light to cemeteries with glass headstones

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by JOE FRYER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 1, 2012 at 10:50 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 2 at 3:17 PM

SEATTLE – When Greg Lundgren started working with cast glass as a young artist, he never imagined a cemetery would become his most popular canvas. 

He initially used glass to make furniture, windows, doors and other common pieces of furniture.  But ten years ago, Lundgren was yearning to try something else with his material of choice, so he started to explore items typically made of granite.

“I went by one cemetery and that light went off, and you say, ‘Why not have a cast-glass headstone?’” Lundgren said. 

So he made his first glass headstone in 2002, something that was not quickly accepted in a conservative industry accustomed to marble and granite. 

Even today, some question if something so seemingly fragile can hold up during cold winters and hot summers.  But Lundgren said the headstones, which are at least four inches thick, are surprisingly resilient. 

“You look at skyscrapers or you look at streetlights or you look at car windshields, and these are all things that we live with on a day-to-day basis and have a lot of faith in,” Lundgren said. 

Lundgren hopes to start a dialogue about death, getting people to re-imagine what a cemetery can be. 

“You can’t walk into a cemetery and see 5,000 granite headstones that all look the same and imagine that every single one of those people had that type of commonality,” he said. 

Lundgren is currently designing a memorial, which will feature a mix of glass, marble and granite, for Carolyn Butler’s family.

Butler’s daughter, Angie, was killed in a car accident in 1989 while driving home after a night of drinking with a friend. 

“Her friend was driving and drove off the road into a tree, and Angie was killed, they tell me, instantly,” Butler said.  “For a parent who loses a child, I think there’s a particular grief that’s unique and it lives with you the rest of your life.”

A marker at the scene on Novelty Hill Road in Duvall reminds passersby about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Immediately following her death, the Butlers were forced into a decision about Angie’s grave marker, something that never felt right to them. Now plans are underway to build a new memorial, using Lundgren’s glass design. 

“It’s just so we can feel at peace in our hearts that we have done best by her to keep her memory,” Butler said. 

When the memorial is finished later this year, the sun will shine through the glass, “like a glowing beacon,” Butler said.  It will be a powerful, symbolic image.

“Especially for a parent losing a child, you think of that child as the light of your life,” she said.

The Butlers had to get permission from their cemetery association to install the glass memorial. 

Lundgren said the cost for such memorials can vary, depending on how much glass is used, but the price can typically fall on the higher end of the memorial spectrum.  

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