"I was struck by how some of this ash came from homes," he said. "It was people's lives all around us."
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Later, he saw the ruins.
All the grief, pain,trauma, and remnants sparked an idea. Could he take the ashes and turn them into, if not a positive, at least a comfort?
Hence, the genesis of Gregory's Sonoma Ash Project. He does ceramics.
"I always wanted to be a village potter," Gregory told ABC7 News.
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Now, he is.
Gregory takes bags of ashes from burned homes and turns each into glazed containers based on the Santa Rosa's famous Round Barn. "Even though it seems everything is lost, everything is not lost. It is there, elements of their lives are still there," he said.
Word of his project continues to spread among fire victims.
"Sometimes, the bags just appear on my doorstep," said Gregory, who sifts and prepares each one individually. Many of the bags come with notes. "They tell me how the ash might be saved from specific rooms or special places," he said. "In some cases, the ashes have been from where a pet disappeared, or from where a family stored the remains of a loved one."
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Imagine that -- what might, eventually, have gone into mausoleum urns, is now becoming pottery.
"I just want people to have something beautiful to hold from what they have lost," he said.
He can take a few more, "but not, thousands." Every potter has limits.
Click here to learn more about the Sonoma Ash Project.
Click here for full coverage on the North Bay fires.
Every urn is similar and unique...each slightly different based on the home from which it came, with a different story. Gregory wanted to help. Saw all the ashes falling, thought, "These are from people's lives," and now they will have something to hold. #abc7now #sonomastrong pic.twitter.com/9GIeWHliWY— Wayne Freedman (@WayneFreedman) February 1, 2018