There is no way to make sense of the way Susan Spiller died.

So family and friends of the beloved north Minneapolis glassworker, teacher, grandmother and community builder are remembering Spiller for the way she lived — with joy, generosity and beauty.

Spiller was killed in a home invasion July 16. She was 68.

Last week, Spiller’s friends and fans crowded into her small, cheery bungalow for a literal opportunity to embrace her beauty. The two-day estate sale, featuring Spiller’s vibrant glass plates, jewelry, beadwork and ceramics, was bittersweet for many.

Holly Deering, a friend of 20 years, almost didn’t attend. Ultimately, she decided to make her way over, buying one of Spiller’s large, colorful plates and a little painted linoleum box. Deering had given the box to Spiller years ago.

“She was like a mother to me,” Deering said. “But if she knew I was saying that, she’d say, ‘I’m not old enough to be your mother. I’m only old enough to be your sister.’ ”

Deering and Spiller worked together in the diamond lab of a jewelry company beginning in 1995 and quickly discovered they were neighbors. “We were immediately friends after that,” Deering said.

“She was the kind of person who would do anything for anybody. She was whimsical, funny, kind.”

Within an hour of the estate sale’s opening, Spiller’s home was crowded with people moving quietly from room to room, many pausing reflectively at tables covered with the artist’s sunny creations.

“I didn’t know [cause of death]. … ” said a woman from Wisconsin, admiring Spiller’s color-drenched pieces. “I wish I hadn’t asked.” The woman bought several pieces.

All proceeds from the sale of Spiller’s artwork will benefit her family, which includes a son and daughter-in-law and three young grandsons, and a brother and sister-in-law.

Friend Connie Beckers carried Spiller’s glasswork at her north Minneapolis retail gift shop, Goddess of Glass. Spiller’s pieces sold out within days of her death, Beckers said.

“She used a lot of dichroic glass, which has a unique reflective quality to it,” Beckers said. “She had a skill at using that well.”

Spiller also taught classes at Becker’s shop and, after retiring, “threw herself into the Northside Arts Collective,” which promotes community building through art.

“She left a void that is real unexpected,” Beckers said.

Spiller loved spending time with her grandchildren, gardening and going to art fairs. She also was active in Greyhound Pets of America, which connected her to photographer Duane Atter.

“We’re all pretty shocked,” said Atter, who was carefully wrapping up three glass pieces during the first morning of the estate sale. Two of the free-standing pieces are heading to a health clinic in Minneapolis as window art.

“I cannot believe that someone so beautiful in spirit could be taken from us like this,” Atter said. “She did so much for her neighborhood. Her art really did reflect who she was.”

Police are asking for the public’s help in solving the crime. Please call Call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

 

gail.rosenblum@startribune.com

612-673-7350

Follow Gail on Twitter: @grosenblum