CATHLAMET - Somewhat fittingly, reggae legend Bob Marley's 1973 album was called "Catch a Fire," so what better to listen to while stoking the flames of a 1,000-plus-degree oven of molten glass?
The island anthem "Stir it up" played over the speakers of Treasure Collupy's Cathlamet studio last Friday as he prepared to make a blown glass paperweight in the shape of a jelly fish. He's been sick for a week and needs to replenish his stock of items in the studio he shares with fellow glass blower Kyle Gribskov as well as fill special orders.
"Today, tomorrow and the next day I'll be filling orders and then hopefully I can get back to filling the stock," he said, dark eye-protecting sunglasses still on. "This time of the year there's not going to be a whole lot of traffic (through the studio)."
A good assortment of his work is currently on display at the Redmen Hall in Skamakowa, where he is the feature of a one man show.
"Everything from small little ornaments to a wide range of vases and bowls to some nice, big sculptural pieces," he said.
His beautiful blown glass art is available at a variety of galleries around the West Coast, including Campiche Studios in downtown Long Beach. But perhaps the work that has been garnering him the most attention of late is his infusing of ashes into blown glass objects. What makes this special is that it is not just any old ash, but the actual cremated remains of people and pets.
His Web site, (www.enduringreflections.com), explains that process as "an alternative to burying the ashes of your beloved pet (or loved one) or simply leaving them in that plain wooden container on the shelf, by allowing you to create a unique piece of glass artwork that integrates the ashes of your (loved one) into a personalized piece of art."
Odd? Maybe, maybe not. The work is done with the best intentions and with the utmost respect and care. Collupy said he was first approached by someone curious about it at an art show he was attending.
"A customer came up and asked if I'd ever put ashes into the glass. I said no but I had heard of it being done," he explained. "She wondered if I wouldn't mind trying a custom piece and I said sure."
Since that first try, a pendent and a paperweight using the ashes of someone's father, Collupy has gone on to do several ash-infused designs for people. Like color-infused glass pieces, he lays the ashes down on a steel countertop which he then rolls the red-hot, soft glass through. He said that the ash is perfectly visible under the glass as it dries and cools, looking like gray specks. He says it also causes little bubbles in the glass as well.
"It adds to the glass. You can see the ashes and what they have done to the glass inside each piece," said Collupy, who said the pieces are less about art, and more of an eternal memento, passed down to generations. "It's custom-made to the colors and dimensions and shape of each customer. It's definitely something that's probably cherished more by each family."
And in the 18 months in which he's been offering the service it has been fairly popular. In fact, it even recently garnered the attention of Showtime's "Penn and Teller Show."
The notorious magicians host the show which centers on oddities of the world. A film crew from the program visited Collupy's studio two weeks ago to film him creating a piece of ash-infused art.
"They contacted me, said they wanted to come up. They kept calling and told me what it was about. I knew who Penn and Teller were and I knew they were comedians. So I knew going into it that there was a probability that they'd be making fun of this," he said. "But I can understand that, it's not for everyone."
All in all, Collupy took the old adage that any publicity is good publicity.
"You can't beat it. It's Showtime, and how many thousands of people watch Showtime?" he said. "I don't have it yet but I'll have it before the show's on."
He said the segment about him is supposed to air sometime in April when the new season of the show returns.
Collupy first got into glass blowing about nine years ago, when by chance he came across an artist doing it in Skamakowa who asked if he wanted to try. Upon doing so the man said he was a natural and asked if he wanted to work with him. Collupy was living in Seattle at the time, but decided to come back to his hometown to take on the job.
"After five years I was ready to be done with traffic lights and come home and learn the art of glass blowing," he said.
Being out in rural Cathlamet has not been a hindrance to the sale of his art said Collupy, who noted that when he got started he was in a barn out past Skamakowa, so being in the "bigger city" has got to be better.
"We were out in the middle of nowhere, so it's definitely helped in that aspect," he said. "I mean it's not Cannon Beach, that's for sure. But I'm surprised how much (traffic) we actually get here in the summer."
You can reach Collupy at his studio in downtown Cathlamet, across the street from the hardware store on Broadway, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or (360) 795-3663. You can also view pieces of his art at (www.collupyglass.com), for art glass, and (www.enduringreflections.com) for ash-infused pieces. He is also being showcased at the Redmen Hall in Skamakowa and has pieces for sale at Campiche Studios in downtown Long Beach.