Saturday, February 28, 2009

Remember Me Ring

As symbols of devotion, rings are among the most personal and heartfelt forms of jewelry. Rings inscribed with a name or a few meaningful words is a poetic way to honor the "gone but not forgotten." Delias Thompson has created "Secret Poetry Rings", available on

I think these can work as a lovely modern interpretation of the Victorian Mourning Rings.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Offline But Not Forgotten

"Candy Darling on her Deathbed" by Peter Hujar

For those who want to plan ahead, there are new web services that allow you to compose your "final" email, and have it sent after you pass:,,, and all offer this service. These sites also will also send instructions, final wishes, anything that you wish to communicate when you no longer can.

If something sudden happened to me tomorrow, there would be so much I wish I could have said. My friends and family know I love them, and while calling them today to tell them so isn't a bad idea, I think that having some special words after I die would be extremely meaningful. From words of encouragement, a private joke, even a confession. Let's face it, final words are a privilege that not all of us will have - surrounded by family and friends, passing on wisdom and words of encouragement. It's a romantic idea that rarely happens. Yet these sites give us the opportunity.

I especially like You compose your messages ahead of time, and give a friend a "key" - when you depart (it's never "if" but "when") this "keyholder" can log in and unlock the messages and send them to the people on your list. If you're struggling with what to say, they even have "message suggestions" for specific relationships. Jilted lovers and online gamers included, even MySpace messages.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ghost Bikes

We've all seen roadside shrines. They mark the place where a fatal accident has taken place. These makeshift memorials have their roots in a pioneer tradition - when someone died on the trail, the family would be forced to bury them on site, mark their grave, and sadly move on.

This "death on the road" tradition's latest incarnation is the Ghost Bike. It began when San Francisco artist Jo Slota spray-painted junked bikes. Cyclists soon appropriated this idea to mark the place where a cyclist was killed in an accident - a haunting warning to both motorists and cyclists.

Memorials make the invisible visible, and Ghost BIkes remind us of those who are no longer here. But these streetside memorials also make the dangers of everyday life visible. Be mindful, they seem to say. A modern day memento mori.

Click here to see the New York Times photo essay on Ghost Bikes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

T-Shirt Quilts

Quilt from Don't Quit Your Day Job

What do you do with the closets of clothing left behind? When my grandmother passed away, I sorted through her 60's era dresses, coats and sweaters. The materials were gorgeous, and I lamented about what to do with them. After keeping them in bags tucked in the back of my closet for ages, I finally gave them up to the Salvation Army. Now I wish I had transformed them into something I could have remembered her by. I would have especially loved to have made an apron!

Mourning quilts are a longtime tradition. Back in the day it was common to transform the clothing of a loved one into a patchwork or crazy quilt. (I'm not sure, but I think part of this had to do with the scarcity of cloth - throwing it away was considered a waste.) But now that clothing is cheap and abundant, we've lost that tradition. Time to bring it back!

I'm currently looking for quilters who can transform clothing into something meaningful. Grandpa's sweaters into golf club cozies. A father's old flannel shirts into fireside floor pillows. A mother's winter scarves into a tote bag. Quilts, pillows, aprons, laptop covers, anything. I'll report what I find, but in the meantime here are some T Shirt Quilts from Etsy's QuiltTees that capture the spirit.

Monday, February 9, 2009

For the Dearly Departed Artist

Did you know that the ashes from an average sized person provide enough carbon to create 240 pencils? London artist and product designer Nadine Jarvis has created "Carbon Copies", a unique urn that transforms ashes into the act of writing, material remains into ethereal musings.

The pencils are stamped with the name of the person whose ashes they contain. This beautiful wooden box also contains a sharpener, so every time the pencil is sharpened, the shavings return to the box, symbolically recreating the cycle "ashes to ashes". When the final pencil has been sharpened, ashes are once again resting in this box. But this time, they've also literally left behind written musings and memories. Imagine having a pencil of this significance! Every word I'd write would be meaningful, at least in gesture if not in thought. Every doodle would seem doubly inspired.

Nadine Jarvis has other work I hope to feature soon. Although her work is conceptual, I hope that someday this sort of thing is readily available. In the meantime, please check out her website:

Nadine Jarvis photo by Blyth.

Flower of the Week: Chrysanthemum

photo by Dries Buytaert
Chysanthemums, or mums (much easier to spell!) have a few meanings. For the Victorians, a white mum signifies "truth".

In China, mums represent grief, and are a traditional flowers at funerals. Red mums for the Victorians represent "love".

Because mums are so commonly used in funeral arrangements, it's hard to find something innovative (I really need to do an entry on flower arrangements!) In the meantime, how about a mum bundt cake?

Tea & Sympathy

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." - Buddha

Whether it's the act of lighting a single candle or seeing hundreds held in a candlelight vigil, the flickering light surrounded by darkness has always moved me as an act of remembrance - a way of saying "I am waiting for you." This is why I love these tea cup candles at TwilightSpells. Made from soy and available in in a variety of fragrances, these tea cup candles are a precious way to honor someone. I especially think they'd make a considerate gift for someone who has recently lost a mother or grandmother - there's something maternal and comforting here, a quiet and gentle warmth.

Available at

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mourning Headbands

Clothing has long been a signifier of grief. For women in the Victorian era, black represented full mourning, while lavenders grays or white trim represented half-mourning. Veils and headbands in particular seem to be the most iconic mourning clothing, framing (and in some cases hiding) the face. Here are some modern interpretations:

Brit singer Lily Allen was photographed in what some speculated was a mourning garland headband. Whatever it is, I love its whimsical shape, which seems to undercut the gravitas of traditional mourning.

This felted wool Black Roses Mourning Headband with vintage soutache buttons from delightworthym is retro lovely.

And this veil from Altered Events on Etsy is costumely, bordering on playful.

Flower of the Week: Tea Roses

Tea Roses convey the sentiments, "I'll remember, always." For me, tea roses feel like the most "authentic" roses. They usually come from someone's garden, not from the florist. And something that's been cultivated and cared for (rather than paid for) carries with it that sense of loving cultivation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Close to My Heart

Alison Nowlin Ward's RELIC collection offers a modern update on mourning jewelry. Her custom pieces, pictured here, can hold a lock of hair, the remnants of a love letter, or even the ashes of a loved one.

The Victorians' use of hair in mourning jewelry was an amazing alchemy, the transformation of hair's wild, organic nature into a stylized, lasting jewelry. It's like a metaphor for the hopes of an everlasting life after death, from the ephemeral to the eternal. Yet I have to be honest - some of the Victorian hair mourning jewelry was kind of creepy.

Or so stylized it seems the very personal nature of the hair was lost, as in this plaited hair brooch from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

I love Alison Nowlin Ward's work because the hair is not overworked or transformed into something else. Her STORYVILLE collection is a series of lockets that can hide away a secret sentimental treasure.

These lovely pieces of jewelry can be ordered at

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Flower of the Week: Almond Blossoms

According to the Victorians, almonds and their flowers symbolized Sweetness, as well as the Hope of Heaven.

I love this Vincent Van Gogh painting of a blossoming almond branch. Its fleeting beauty makes me think of his quote "Love is something eternal. The aspect may change, but not the essence."

Beautiful Locket

One of the reasons I started this blog was to find mourning jewelry that wasn't dark or gothic. Although I can understand why so much memorial jewelry is dark - it embodies the shadowy cave we feel relegated to when we've lost the "light in our lives" - I think we can also remember our loved ones with light, happiness and warmth. This gold Victorian locket from the wonderful collectibles website Things Gone By is a surprisingly light and gracious token from a usually gloomier era. According to the website, the turquoise symbolizes "Remembrance". Inside the locket is room for a keepsake. Very sweet!