Beauty is eternal for glass artist Lyrl Jensen, who channels whatever she cherishes into stained glass decor and artisan cremation keepsakes. Her flamboyant flowers never wilt, and stunning sunsets never fade.
“Stained glass pieces with their rich and intense colors have always enchanted me,” said Jensen, 56, while working in her studio in Pocatello. “They can change and soften the light in a room yet also make it feel vibrant and energized. For years, I wanted to learn.”
In 1987, while working as a cashier at a grocery store in Pocatello, one of her customers mentioned he taught stained glass art classes.
“I signed up and never looked back,” Jensen said. “I get inspiration from so many sources—my family and nature, especially the mountains in the Lost River Valley. It’s so beautiful and peaceful there; it makes me feel creative and inspired.”
She and her husband, Doug, divide their time between their homes in Pocatello and Mackay in central Idaho’s Lost River Valley. They travel to arts and craft shows and farmers markets throughout central and eastern Idaho, selling her artwork and taking orders from clients who want a loved one’s cremains infused into a comforting, colorful keepsake.
When she travels, Jensen takes a cherished pendant she made. The light brown, semi-circular piece of glass fits in the palm of her hand. It contains a few cremains of her beloved daughter, Andrea, who was murdered in 2011 in Denver.
“After I gave some cremains to friends and family, I wanted to do something special with them—something that would blend my love for her and the beauty of glass,” Jensen said.
Through an internet search, she found a glass artist in Hawaii who was making cremation keepsakes and talked to her about ideas.
“For me, the pendant is a soothing reminder of Andrea,” Jensen said. “It’s helped me deal with the grief of her loss. She was only 27 and had started teaching fifth grade, because she always wanted to help people. She was an organ donor and would have been glad to know she saved six people’s lives.”
People facing similar grief have asked Jensen to make them a keepsake with their loved ones’ ashes as a comforting memorial. She has made glass paperweights or beads for a necklace or a sun-catcher. She places glass in a mold with some ashes and ground glass and melts it in a kiln.
While Jensen makes cremation keepsakes intermittently, she constantly creates stained glass artwork, incorporating beads and wire for texture. A few of her most recent pieces hang in a window—replicas of wildlife, vibrant landscapes and whimsical plants or houses.
“I make whatever comes to mind,” she said, “and before I know it, hours have passed like minutes.”
She shows a photo of a favorite commissioned piece, “Red Roses Floating in the Himalayas,” a 5-foot-long, 18-inch-high stained glass landscape. A path of red roses winds along beneath a silhouette of steel-blue mountains.
A couple asked her to make a piece for their dining room window that would convey their love of trekking in the Himalayas and the Grateful Dead’s song, “It Must Have Been the Roses.”
“It was technically challenging due to its size, but what a trip it was,” Jensen said. “It seemed to carry me along, as if it wanted to be created. I found some clear swirly glass, which was perfect for the sky because it looks like wind swirling around the mountains. It went smoothly from the beginning, and, amazingly, there were no unexpected cracks or breaks. I loved every second.”
Grateful to have taken stained glass art classes, Jensen said she wants to pay it forward and teach others. She posts information about classes on her Facebook page, Studio in the Trees.
Along with teaching the technical process of cutting and grinding glass, wrapping pieces in metal and melting them, Jensen encourages students to make whatever inspires them.
“I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum, so I want them to do that, too,” she said. “The possibilities are endless to make a personalized treasure to last a lifetime. There’s no limit to what you can do except your imagination.”
She pulled out sheets of glass from a storage cabinet.
“Look at this amazing piece,” she said, cradling a sheet of confetti glass and lifting it to the light. The clear glass was freckled with bits of pink and white. Another piece had shades of caramel and blue rippling together like a river.
“I love glass,” she said. “What else is there to say?” ISI