Ashes into Glass was founded in 2006 but it's history dates back to 1979. James Watts and Bill Rhodes met at school in Southgate, North London at the age of 12. Little did they know it would be the start of a long friendship and they'd one day start their own business.
The boys did everything together from skating in the local parks to travelling on holidays together. In 1999, Bill married Jane and shortly after, James married Josephine. Today, each couple has three children who are also good friends.
Throughout this time, Bill and James have shared a love of craftsmanship and the pride that comes from making things with their hands.
After leaving school, James was given the rare opportunity to work as the assistant to Ron Wilkinson at "The Glasshouse" in Covent Garden, London. Ron, once the head glassmaker at the world-renowned Whitefriars Glassworks, was well-respected in the industry.
Ron taught James his glass craftsmanship and techniques, which otherwise might have been lost forever when the factory was closed in 1980.
James shared much of what he learned with Bill. Both men were drawn to the craft. "We fell in love with glassblowing. We built a small glass furnace in James's back garden and took it to local events where we put on glassmaking demonstrations."
As the honed their craft, they were invited to show off their skills at many prestigious venues including The Victoria & Albert Museum and Kew Gardens in London.
In 1996 they founded their own specialist workshop, where they produce their work to this day; Barleylands Glassworks in Billericay, Essex. They quickly gained a solid reputation for finely skilled workmanship and a commitment to quality. Within a few years they were at the very top of their trade, specialising in antique restoration and production. Commissions included the restoration of the antique lights outside Buckingham Palace and along The Mall.
Ashes into Glass was founded in 2006. The concept for the businesss came from a client, who asked if they could incorporate her mother's ashes into glass as a memorial to her life.
James and Bill Knew it was indeed possible. When they saw how much the item meant to their client, they knew they'd stumbled into something beautiful and important. Ashes into Glass was born.
Bill explains, “We found our vocation with Ashes into Glass. It combines our love of crafting glass with the opportunity to create something meaningful. Right from the start, clients told us how much comfort their Ashes into Glass Jewellery bought them, and this gave us a great sense of purpose and satisfaction in our work that we still feel today.
The quality of their unique service was recognised and a string of awards soon followed, culminating at the National Business Awards in 2009. In the same year, the Ashes into Glass Facebook Page was started, which today has more than 600,000 likes and hundreds of messages of gratitude from satisfied clients.
With over 30 years experience, James and Bill are now considered true masters in the fields of glass and jewellery making. They take great pride in creating the highest quality of work for clients around the world.
Ashes into Glass has grown over the years. Bill and James now have 30 staff, including apprentices and production assistants. They have started the process of passing along the skills of their craft to the next generation.