Friday, December 18, 2009

Vintage Mourning Cards

I mourn the loss of traditional mourning cards! We have mastered the art of the sympathy card, but for some reason mourning cards have fallen by the wayside. Mourning cards were handed out by the family to the community to let people know of the loss. Perhaps it's due to contemporary mode of communication - when someone passes away, word travels by phone or email (and even Facebook).

Victorian mourning cards were traditionally black, with gold or silver print. Their tone was somber and sentimental, typically decorated with birds, wheat (a symbol of resurrection), willow trees and often a cross. While these cards address all the pertinent symbolism, they sacrifice the specific spirit of the lost one. Here's the card for my my great-grandfather John Nor, who died at a young age during the 1918 Flu Epidemic:

That's why I love these vintage French mourning cards, sold by Cool Vintage. They are sweetly matter-of-fact, as if these were passports into another world:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pool of Tears

"'I wish I hadn't cried so much!' said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. 'I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears!'"

For those who grieve, the chapter "The Pool of Tears" from Alice in Wonderland expresses a familiar sentiment. It seems that we will never see our way past our tears, that we might indeed drown in our own grief. Despite her pool of tears, Alice finds her way back to shore. Alice becomes a symbol of hope when our sadness hits us like a tidal wave.

This Pool of Tears Charm Bracelet, created by Ghost Love Jewelry, is the perfect momento for those in the depths of grief. The bracelet features an image of our heroine Alice, two tear-shaped charms, and a heart-shaped lock and key. A lovely reminder to keep swimming.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Porcelain Wing Necklace

Here's a lovely porcelain wing necklace by Monkeys Always Look. The delicate porcelain wing hangs on a 20" chain. I think this would be a lovely gift for someone who's grieving, or a delicate reminder that our lost loved one is always close to our hearts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mourning Portraits: New Orleans

Hair has a long history in its association with mourning. It's the one part of the body that can be held onto after death. It's both physically intimate, yet as a small piece of that person, it also reminds us how they are truly gone. Hair is both sentimental yet haunting, enticing yet foreboding. The Victorians used the hair of the departed to create mourning jewelry, yet the hairwork is very stylized and loses its sense of physicality. It's almost disguised.

In the series Mourning Portrait sculptor Loren Schwerd has found a way to use human hair in a series of works that evoke the loss of home - in this case, homes in New Orleans that were destroyed in the flood. The use of human hair plays on the persistence yet fragility of these homes - still there, but barely. It's all that's left. In some cases the hair spills out of the frame, refusing to be either contained or forgotten.

Here is the artist's statement:
Mourning Portrait, is a series of memorials to the communities of New Orleans that were devastated by the flooding which followed Hurricane Katrina. These commemorative objects are made from human hair extensions of the type commonly used by African-American women that I found outside the St. Claude Beauty Supply. The portraits draw on the eighteenth and nineteenth-century tradition of hairwork, in which family members or artisans would fashion the hair of the deceased into intricate jewelry and other objects as symbols of death and rebirth. Working from my own photographs I weave the hair into portraits of the vacant houses of the Ninth Ward neighborhood. By documenting private homes, I venerate the city's losses, both individual and collective.