A long while back, Brenda had mentioned a repeating competition held out
of the USA for contemporary designs for funeral urns. The story goes that
a major funeral company in California was having a difficult time getting
attractive containers for the ashes of those cremated. As the 'Hippy'
generation gets older, more and more people are wanting cremation for
their remains. Along with this is an increasing number of North Americans
who have embraced other religious paths than main line Christian. To remedy
this, a competition was started, with prizes given for outstanding work.
On top of this, the sponsoring company would also purchase a good number
of the top works for the use of their own clients.
Very interesting, I thought. Latter I had one of those late night conversations
with David, concerning work, life, the universe (everything). Both of
us were floundering a wee bit and running out of ideas and inspiration.
I mentioned those other two conversations, and we started thinking about
using forged steel as a material for 'containers'.
Hmmm... Now it turned out that Diane (who works in marquetry) had actually
created some specific containers for ashes in the past. She was able to
pass on some information about sizes and other requirements. At the time
we also discussed an idea for organizing a group artisan show - specifically
of funeral urns rendered in any number of mediums.
I then got side tracked into pulling together a different concept exhibit
- Out of the Fiery Furnace. That group exhibit showcased the
work of artists who 'directly manipulate their materials while those are
incandescent'. David, it turned out, had not only remembered those late
night ramblings, he had acted on them. One of his contributions to Furnace
was 'Forged Vessel', his first crack at creating a urn using blacksmithing
Grave Goods came about as an expansion of that original concept of an
exhibit of contemporary artists creating funeral urns. That particular
class of object remains as a kind of hidden subtext to the larger exhibit.
It may be a wee bit crass, but the truth is we all need to sell some of
our work to survive (!) As the current generation of 'post war babies'
ages and dies, there is an increasing demand for not only cremation -
but also less traditional containers for those ashes. Put together this
looks like an excellent opportunity for we artisans to exercise our creative
abilities. These objects by their very nature require the best quality
workmanship, inspired designs - and for once the cost of the object is
not a serious limitation. On top of all that, these objects are sure to
be treasured and preserved into the future, perhaps the best reward for
the artist of all. According the to information on the Cremation Association
of North America web site, in Canada over 45 % of all burials involve
To that end I am suggesting to contributing artisans consider making at
least one of their submitted pieces a container that might be used to
hold ashes. This obviously will apply most easily to those people working
in the 'hard' media.
the Cremation Association of North America
A few technical details:
This web site certainly worth a look, there are a number of fact filled
articles available in PDF download format.
"... a general rule of
thumb when choosing an appropriate size of urn is to match the weight
of the individual at the time of death with the cubic inch capacity. For
example a 175 pound individual would require a vessel of 175 cubic inches
or larger. "
Earthen Vessel is a gallery store run by John Reid in Calgary. It specializes
in funeral urns - original art objects by Canadian artists.
Information from Diane Edwards
"...from a funeral service company (actually from Waterloo, Ont)
was for the standard cardboard box, containing a plastic bag with a variable
size of burnt offerings inside. I think the box size was determined by
the largest size necessary. The size I was given was 9" wide, 4 3/4"
high, and 5 1/2 " deep. "
Of course that standard box that Dianne refers to would be the 'take home
container', the plastic bag inside would certainly fit into different
proportions. Remember that often ashes are divided into smaller containers.
This may be to share them amongst family members (a matched set of containers?)
. Of course it may not prove necessary to hold all of the ashes - perhaps
just part of the total (after the rest have been scattered at some significant
location would be a good example).
" FUNERIA promotes and sells original, finely handcrafted urns, vessels,
and personal memorial art made by artists, to those who seek art to honour
a beautiful life. "
This is the company which holds the biannual design competition mentioned
earlier. Worth a look to see what is available on the commercial end,
at least in the USA.