ROSEBURG — Inside each one of the colorful round glass stones that Kathy Presnell creates in a small studio at her Roseburg home is what looks like a light dusting of gray sand.
It's this powder, suspended perpetually in glass, that makes the stones memorials. Each stone, which Presnell makes by hand, contains a sprinkling of a loved one's ashes.
Since they can be held in the hand, the glass stones provide a way for her customers to feel connected to a departed loved one, Presnell said.
Presnell started making the stones, which she calls "Bobrocks" in honor of her late father, Robert Williams, about a year and half ago following his death of a heart attack at the age of 72. Presnell and other family members knew he wouldn't have wanted his ashes to be left in just one place, she said. Williams, who lived along Rock Creek for 30 years in Idleyld Park, was an avid fly fisherman who loved the North Umpqua River and traveling, she said.
The family discussed fusing his ashes into a glass sculpture, but relatives wanted to memorialize Williams in more than one place. So Presnell went to Bryan McCrea of the Art of Glass Studio in Roseburg for ideas. McCrea helped Presnell come up with Bobrocks. Presnell sandwiched a small amount of finely ground ashes between two round pieces of glass and baked them in a kiln until the glass fused, encasing the ashes.
Williams' ashes have been embedded into more than 300 Bobrocks, Presnell said. At Williams' memorial service, the stones were offered to mourners to take home.
"Some people were freaked out by it and some people loved it," she said.
Some of those who took a Bobrock or two have taken the rocks on trips, Presnell said. One of the best parts of giving the stones has been tracking where they go, she said.
"He went all over the world," Presnell said. "That has been wonderful. It's helped us heal. It's helped us celebrate Dad."
Presnell often gets requests from friends or family to take a Bobrock with them when they go on a trip, she said. She has a map of the world posted in her studio with tacks marking everywhere the stones have been. Bobrocks have traveled to places such as Japan, Santa Fe, N.M, and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
Many Bobrocks are in rivers and lakes where Williams once fished or would have liked to fish, Presnell said. Before she threw a Bobrock into a fishing hole near Mount Shasta, she cradled the stone in her hands and talked to her father about the beautiful place she was going to leave the stone.
"You have this meditative moment," Presnell said.
Presnell said she's also brought a Bobrock with her to special family events, such as when Williams' first great-grandchild was born.
"Those kind of things he (wasn't) able to participate in, he's able to be present for," she said.
Just holding a Bobrock comforts her when she misses her father, Presnell said.
"Sometimes it just feels like I'm holding his hand," she said.
Wanting to share the solace that Bobrocks gave her and her family, Presnell started to make the glass stones for others. Presnell said she has made hundreds of the stones in memory of about a dozen people and half a dozen dogs. Most clients find out about her business through word of mouth or from her website, mybobrocks.com.
Roseburg resident Deborah Stoffal had Presnell make Bobrocks to hold the ashes of her dog, Tomas. At first, Stoffal said she thought it was a little odd, but when she got the "Tomas Rocks" back she was immediately struck by their beauty. She said in an e-mail she has one on her office desk, another on the window sill and plans to put some in a fountain because her dog loved water.
"Sometimes I just hold one and reminisce," she said. "Tomas was a special dog and friend. His presence has been etched in our hearts, and now we have a part of him that we can take with us wherever we go."