Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Memorial Photos

Most memorial pics are solemn and serious, formal sit-down portraits with the life sucked out of them. Is that how we really remember people? For me, it's those casual snapshots that hold the most personality. By transforming them into art, it's possible to elevate and honor the candid moment into something meaningful and fun.

Emmie Bean can transform that favorite snapshot into art. I love the humor (and even cheekiness) of this images. What a great way to immortalize the small yet significant moments that truly capture our favorite memories.

If you know someone who's recently gone through a loss, a gift certificate for one of these works would be a truly thoughtful gesture - much more unique than a bouquet of sympathy flowers, and also less expensive!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mourning Rings

Beautiful and unique mourning rings by Emily Watson. Visit her Etsy store at emikw.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Remember Me

What do you do with a photo of a grandmother, a great-grandmother, a person from another era who's part of your history yet you hardly knew, if you knew them at all? Somehow, frames don't seem to be adequate. Something else is required to bridge the distance between times.

I came across this Remember Me Sampler by Miniature Rhino at Etsy, and it seems to me the perfect solution. The intimate, handmade quality of needlepoint framing a vintage tintype photo, along with the words "Remember Me, When This You See" feels both contemporary and timeless. It's framed by a wooden embroidery hoop, with archival fabric glue holding the embroidery linen in place.

This piece is a perfect way to think outside the frame, a thoughtfully-crafted reminder to remember those forgotten.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Handmade Urns

These hand-crafted urns by Studio 1212 are beautifully crafted out of Hard Maple, Black Limba and Ebony. Unlike many mass-manufactured urns, these are one of a kind creations, reasonably priced, and as the artist says, "quietly and pensively crafted in our Studio, our heartfelt condolences are built in." Personally, I have a bit of a superstition regarding handmade vs. mass-produced. Call it vibes, but I think that something made with loving intentions (or at least good thoughts) is a much better resting place.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Modern Mourning Jewelry

At first this may seem disturbing. Human hair and ashes used to make jewelry. Although the Victorians popularized hair mourning jewelry, the locks were delicately woven to appear more like fine needlework. They didn't look, well, so hairy.

Design student Anna Schwamborn, who's worked with a couple of my favorite designers (Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen) has created a new vision for hairwork jewelry. Rosary beads, a "tear catcher" watchchain, and other items use human hair as well as ashes embedded in black bone china. Unlike their Victorian predecessors, these pieces don't try to disguise their hairiness - they revel in it.

Of course, there's a certain shock value here, and this concept's not for everyone. In my view, anything that once intimately belonged to someone you loved and lost is inherently beautiful.

Repurposed Jewelry

I have bags of meaningful jewelry, from costume trinkets to special pearls. But I rarely wear them as is - they are either falling apart, or I feel more like I'm playing "dress up". Repurposing this jewelry - taking the best and making something even better - is a great way to honor my family's fabulous taste with a new twist that's specifically my own.

I found Voleur de Bijoux on Etsy, a designer who upcycles vintage jewelry into gorgeous items. I especially love the charm necklaces. She captures the spirits of specific eras, from Boho Chic to Americana Classic. Check out this Nefetia Mata Hari Vintage Bumble Bee with Turquoise necklace:

Or this Margo Edwardian Couture Vintage Brass Leaf with Crystal Prism Necklace:

This Roxy London Glam Antique necklace is especially exquisite. This ravishing neckace has a narrative, a point of view that captures a specific time and place.

Voleur de Bijoux understands how collected pieces put together can tell a unique story. I'm gathering some pieces to have transformed into a signature piece that captures my glamorous grandma's 1940's style, yet feeling modern enough for me to wear everyday. I'll be sure to post a "before & after"!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Memento Mori T-Shirt

Be Mindful of Death ... it's a concept that's been around as long as, well, death itself. From the Romans to Medieval Catholics, Buddhists to Bourgeois Protestants, images of skeletons cavorting with the living, clocks that inevitably count down to our final hour, and even flowers past their bloom are meant to remind us of our unavoidable fate. Depressing, yes, but it's also an important reminder to enjoy life while you can - Carpe Diem and all that.

Where are today's Memento Moris? Hard to find. All we've got are Ed Hardy's mall-worthy skull graphics (I've seen people wearing Ed Hardy with Crocs, enough said.) A depressing thought. Thankfully Mixed Species is up to the task. Here's their Pssttt did you HEAR t-shirt, available for men and women. Here's their description:

We are all going to die!

Here's our very own Face McSpecies showing off one of the many Mixed Species Research & Development Centers around the world.

Face made an interesting choice of shirts as well as he sports one of our newest tees. A nice small subtle almost whisper of a print delivers this dire warning. "Did you hear? we are all going to die"

Good times! Well, we Mixed Species guys have known this little fact for a while and live our lives to the fullest. You should too. Plus it's fun to freak the people out who take the time to read the small print on your shirt!

Check out Mixed Species' Etsy store, you will NOT be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Keep Calm and Carry On

There are so many things NOT to say to someone in mourning (Amy Sedaris has a great list, I'll post it here soon.) Fearing we'll say the wrong thing, we end up saying nothing. I personally am not one for maudlin promises of reunion or syrupy sympathies involving angels, but that's the thing about grief - it's so intensely personal.

These repurposed Scrabble tiles are made by The Gilded Lily through Etsy.I like this stoic and simple statement, originally taken from a British WWII war poster. For the right person, or yourself, it might be the ideal mourning jewelry, especially this black one.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Flowers That Won't Fade

Sympathy flowers are always a beautiful gesture, but their inevitable death and decay is an unintentionally grim reminder of the loss from which we hope to distract. How about permanent flowers? Not plastic, not silk, but soft, touchable, handmade felt.

Pottery in the Round creates some lovely felted flowers, as well as vases and vessels.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Grief, Mourning, and Prayer Beads

Engino Weinert Prayer Beads from Marie Marie

Prayer beads are nearly universal, providing comfort and clarity in almost every faith. They're as old as religion itself, yet they continue to evolve - mediation beads, "purpose beads", even electronic prayer beads for your PDA. Although I've never owned prayer beads, I have always loved both their look and their intention. Whether they are vintage rosaries or simple meditation beads, I think that prayer beads lend themselves beautifully to remembrance.

Custom wrist mala bead deposit by compassionmalas

Seven Gifts by Prayer Bedes

Prayer Beads for Mourning and Grief by Kathleen A. Stewart

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Memorialized on Film

How do we remember those who have passed? When photography was still an expensive novelty, sometimes the only time people would have their family photo taken was after someone passed. It may seem morbid to us now, but think about it - you've just lost someone very dear, and you have absolutely no image of them. Photography is the last chance to immortalize a loved one before they slip away from this world, before they slip away from memory forever.

The Victorian images above break my heart. The daughter has died. Yet the parents pose with her as if she were still alive. The way the clutch at her speaks of their loss - shell-shocked parents not ready to let go. The mother appears almost angry. The father's desperate gaze compared to the daughter's almost peaceful expression is particularly striking.

Today, we have YouTube. I'm noticing many memorials appearing here. They seem mostly to be devoted to those who die young or in tragic circumstances. Yet it's only a matter of time before all loses are memorialized here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mourning Doves

Image by Belli Photography

When it comes to symbolizing the most profound aspects of the soul, doves seem to have the market cornered. And with good reason. At weddings, they are symbols of faithfulness and fertility. At church, they represent the Holy Spirit. And with olive branch in beak, the dove is a worldwide icon for peace. But what about mourning?

Juliane Poirier Locke's article in Bohemian.com is a lovely mediation on mourning doves. Here's an excerpt:

"Somewhere in the throat of a mourning dove resides unfathomable emotion, gathering all that other species can't express, in a voice rich enough to get even a human to feel it. This makes the mourning dove something like those professional mourners at an Irish wake, the ones who "raise a keen" for the dead, moaning a primitive lament. They channel unrestrained grief, helping everyone find within themselves sorrow's universal bell tone. The vibrations of audible grief strike a sympathetic resonance in the chest cavity where the heart is supposed to reside and feel things."

I happen to live in on a hill where a flock of mourning doves gather in the fir trees at dusk. Their cooing is forlorn, yet I'm struck by how they always stick together. If you see one alone, it's not for long. For me, this is an instructional allegory on loss - in our sadness we should seek out the ones we love. And know we are not alone.

Here are some Mourning Dove items I've found on Etsy:

Mourning Doves Gocco Print on Teal by Kaiku

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bird Feeder

This bird feeder by Nadine Jarvis is made from human ash, seed, and beeswax. For other unorthodox urns, visit FUNERIA, the only art gallery devoted to funerary arts.


Pillows by Alexandra Ferguson

I've been wondering what I can say about pillows. They are one of the most intimate yet forsaken keepsakes when it comes to losing someone. I can't quite bring myself to suggest repurposing the pillows from a lost loved one, but I do think that it's a good idea to hold onto them, or at least the pillowcase. Keep it somewhere special, just in case.

In the meantime, I found this "relational pillow" from Sajid Sadi and Pattie Maes, with Fluid Interfaces Group. It's just a concept (demo model available) but apparently loved ones from a distance can communicate through it. If I drew a smiley face on my pillow, my sister hundreds of miles away would see it. 

Still, no need to wait for Pillow Talk. Alexandra Ferguson from Etsy creates pillows with prefab messages, and perhaps can be customized to communicate what you really want to say. Be nice!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

DIY Memorial Charm Bracelets

Could you define someone by a single memory? Nearly impossible. That's the beauty of charm bracelets - they allow for the plurality of remembrance, each charm a small yet significant moment in time. And you can load up as many as you want!

Etsy's Nostalgems offers "do-it-yourself" vintage-inspired charm bracelets. The pieces are themed, and can be expanded upon, adding your own momentos. Nostalgems also offers Dome Pendant Kits, which will hold your own precious pictures and transform them into unique jewelry. All you need is a pair of needlenose pliers.