Friday, January 30, 2009

IKEA Coffin?

We live in an era when our taste in furniture is transitory and disposable, fun yet economical. Should death be any different?

This tongue-in-cheek yet earnest coffin, designed by artist Joe Scanlan, provides the perfect DIY delivery to the big Ikea in the Sky. And at only $27.50, it's quite a deal! And of course, some assembly required. Available at

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Keepsake Lockets

Another Etsy find, this time by MStevensonDesigns. These contemporary/vintage keepsake lockets are very sweet, especially this love letter:

Keep a private momento inside the locket - a picture of a loved one, a button from a favorite shirt, a lock of hair, or a few handwritten words. These lockets allow for discreet mourning, so you don't have to wear your grief on your sleeve.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My Life as a Book

I have always loved the metaphor of books as a life well lived. Every day is like a new page, and at critical junctures in our lives we close old chapters to begin new ones. As objects, books are like our bodies - they grow old, weathered, and are eventually destroyed, but their words live on in the hearts of others.

It's no coincidence that Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, the largest bookstore in the world, is also a coveted destination for dearly departed book lovers. Apparently many people have requested to be buried here, and according to Powell's blog, there are ashes beneath the Pearl Room (and I'm sure many others are surreptitiously scattered throughout the store.)

Yet it's the legendary Pillar of Books, a nine foot high column on Powell's northwest entrance, that stands as the ultimate memorial. This impressive column is carved to represent a stack of world classics. But it's actually an elaborate urn - an reader's ashes are interred within. It's hard to pass by this column without reflecting on ones own mortality, which I suppose is the point of any good book.

I hope to see more urns or memorials that make use of books. So far, I've only found this expensive and stoic book urn, but it's a start.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Flower of the Week: White Roses

Flowers speak a lost language. Each week I'll profile a different flower. According to the Victorians, the White Rose symbolizes purity. Although this attribute was typically reserved for children and unmarried (and presumably virtuous) young women, I believe purity also applies to the nature of our love for someone.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Modern Memento Mori

Since when did skulls become a fashion statement? And when did they become so cute? You see them on t-shirts,


even Skechers.

This seems to be a modern take on the Vanitas, a Dutch tradition of painting from the 16th and 17th centuries. Times were good, and a new merchant class with expendable income flourished (sound familiar?) Instead of paintings featuring religious scenes, they painted stuff - opulent crystal, gold watches and abundant food. Yet embedded in this imagery was a message - this is temporary, and you are going to die. The ripe fruit will soon be rotten. The prestigious watch is counting the passing minutes as they march toward your death. To drive the point home, some still life painters featured skulls.

Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull and xx's paintings tap into this tradition.

But my favorite is this concept from Oh Boym - a DIY Vanitas mirror to start your day off right.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Morbid but Cute

I'm trying to stay away from all things "morbid", but these little plastic cameos from Etsy seller Cathysjewels are kinda cute. Think of them as charming momento mori charms. Frame them next to your mirror to remind yourself of the transience of time : )

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Greetings. I am hoping to create a new language of mourning, which seems all but lost in the modern world.The Victorians understood the importance of grieving, and created a beautiful lexicon of melancholic imagery. Art, jewelry, and poetry that embraced the pain of loss, entwined with hope for an unknown yet eternal reunion. Today we live in a denial of death. We are embarrassed by the grieving process. Trite hallmark cards, plastic flowers, and a uninspired scattering of the ashes by the seaside is our current paltry legacy.

I hope to resurrect a meaningful way to grieve. From contemporary urn cozies to mourning jewelry, sewing a quilt from a loved ones' favorite clothes to inventive and personalized shrines.

Why I'm doing this: I unexpectedly lost a close member of my family. I searched for ways to honor her, but everything felt antiquated, inappropriate, or hollowly "goth." I am not morbid, yet I found myself going back to the Victorians and their culture of mourning. Why can't we have something like that? Why must we act like the deceased no longer exist?

I work in television production, and wrote a Discovery Channel show called "Extreme Funerals". Though the methods of mourning were sometimes wacky (shooting ashes into space, turning remains into artificial coral reefs) I was moved by personal stories. I was also disturbed by how few options are out there. As I write this blog, I hope to find new ways to honor our loved ones, and even consider our own mortality.