Scholars will probably debate the definition of art until the end of time and still have nothing more concrete than the definition as it stands currently: art is in the eye of the beholder. That same law applies, of course, to the curious world of cremation art. Whether it be a carefully designed cremation urn, a piece of cremation jewelry, a ball of blown glass incorporating a small portion of cremation ashes or a painting in which an artist has mixed cremation ashes into the hues of creative color, cremation art is indeed an art – so long as someone is willing to call it that. Regardless of the style, art in ashes offers a unique and discreet visual remembrance. Fortunately for the art lovers of the modern world, a good number of practitioners who create cremation art have every intention of continuing to refer to their craft as art for a long time to come. And their work is an intriguing example of the kind of thing human ingenuity can create when left to its most creative devices. This article will explore just a few of the many amazing ideas that now permeate the ever-growing world of cremation art.
Glass artists are discovering an ever-increasing popularity for a type of cremation art in which a glass blower simply pours a small amount of cremation ashes into his or her hot bubble while forming a piece, and the ashes them become forever encapsulated in a beautiful work of art. No one is sure who was the first to device this unique method of cremation art (chances are strong that it was several glass blowers simultaneously, all reacting to the strong demand for new and increasingly creative ways to memorialize a person who has been cremated), but that is not a strong concern. Plenty of artists all across America and the world now offer this service, a handful even do cremation art exclusively now, and all of them are sure to create their work with the utmost of respect and dignity. It may be surprising to know that most of these artists work with their customers through standard United States mail. The customers simply place their order via telephone or the internet, and the artists will then mail a packet with instructions for returning a tiny amount (usually a teaspoon or less) of their loved one’s cremation ashes. The artist then usually begins work on the cremation art very soon after the packet arrives at his studio. Many potential customers are wary about this service because they fear that the United States Postal Service will refuse to handle cremated remains in the mail. But that fear is unfounded. While it is true that some other private mail carriers (such as Federal Express or United Parcel Service) have policies against delivering cremation remains, the USPS has no such rules. Occasionally, some artists have noted, a misinformed USPS clerk will tell a customer that cremation remains are not accepted by the post office, but customers should understand that such statements are simply erroneous. A polite visit with a supervisor is usually all that is required to assure that the ashes are delivered properly to the artist.
But glass blowers are not the only artists who have begun to find that cremation art is a popular new tradition for memorializing a loved one. Painters, too, now will often honor requests to mix cremation ashes with paint that is used for a special picture designed to capture the loving spirit of the deceased. Many customers may feel bashful about requesting such a service from a professional painter, so most of the artists who offer this form of cremation art will advertise themselves via websites. One such example is a German born artist who lives in Corpus Christi, Texas and creates what she calls “Art in Ashes.” On the website in which she offers her wares are pictures of many of her most recent abstract paintings. Customers are invited to explore this online gallery to find the painting that best suits their loved one’s personality. Once they have made their decision, the artist simply sends a packet similar to the one described above that comes from the glass blowers who create cremation art. Once the cremation ashes arrive at the artist’s waterfront studio, she then tenderly and lovingly mixes them with one of the colors that appear in the painting selected by the customer, and then adds a few final strokes that are sure to make the painting the most memorable in any family’s collection.
Another form of cremation art is cremation jewelry. These amazing pendants or bracelets are typically designed to look like any other piece of jewelry, but they have one special twist: a small hollow compartment intended to hold a tiny portion of cremation ashes. (Some are also designed to hold locks of hair, too.) This type of cremation art is limited only by the imagination of the designers who create the art. Many pieces feature elaborate designs made from elegant gold or sterling silver metal, and they are so meticulously crafted that they could sometimes be thought of as miniature sculptures in their own right.
And, finally, another form of cremation art is cremation urns, something that many people may be surprised to see referred to as art. Art urns are available in a variety of styles and materials. For example, anyone who has ever seen the meticulously crafted wooden urns made by a particular West Coast artist will not be hesitant about calling those urns art. This man’s beautiful pieces feature elaborately colorful, three dimensional scenes created using no paint whatsoever. The artist simply creates his art from hundreds of varieties of exotic woods that occur naturally in every color from green to orange. These are just one type of cremation urn that can also be thought of as cremation art. Still other artistic designs of urns are made from glorious molded bronze or meticulously hand thrown ceramic. These pieces are often suitable for art museum display, and, in fact, many people have taken up the ever growing practice of selecting their own cremation urn many years before their death so that they can display the cremation art in their own home and enjoy it themselves during the lifetime. This practice, of course, is not universal. Many people are justifiably uncomfortable with the thought of living with a consistent reminder of their own eventual cremation. But, as they say, to each his own: many people find great comfort in selecting, and admiring for years, the very cremation art by which they will be remembered for the ages.
No matter what the type of cremation art a person is interested in, the question often arises as to the legal requirements of those who would choose this method of memorializing their loved ones. Quite simply put, the disposition of cremation ashes is much less regulated than the average person might assume. There are no state or national laws requiring artists who produce the type of cremation art we mention in this article to hold any sort of license or special training, and what’s to be done with the finished product is entirely a private matter left to the discretion of the family members. In general, the laws of respect and dignity are all that apply to cremation are, and it is only the very rare artist who knowingly violates the spirit of such important social traditions. For those who select to use a form of cremation art as a memorial tribute to a lost loved one, there is no doubt the piece selected will offer a stunning and unforgettable visual remembrance.