Shelter For What Remains
This summer I was lucky enough to be approached by my good friend Kate Husted to collaborate on a series of funerary urns for a project funded by the City of Calgary in collaboration with Blank Page Studios and curated by the amazing Tyla Cosgrove. The directive was simple and daunting. Make new objects for the dead that are respectful, thoughtful, meaningful, and beautiful. Kate and I began with the idea of creating stoneware vessels that were simple shapes with no obvious top or bottom, and then covering their surfaces with carvings that referenced the Southern Alberta land. We chose a spare pallet of white, grey, and black to keep the pieces elegant and quiet. The more we thought about the different ways in which people grieve and care for their dead, the more we wanted to make something that would feel comfortable both in a living person’s home and buried in the earth. We left the clay unglazed with the thought that over time the elements might seep through the stoneware walls of the vessel and the ashes of the departed would once again become one with the earth. We also integrated concave surfaces and a small receptacle for holding flowers or mementos, encouraging a grieving ritual. The carvings on the surface of the vessels act as a link to the land in which they will be interred. Each urn references a specific place in Southern Alberta, with delicate lines describing the land in geologic terms. Though drawn from historical maps, the mark-making becomes swarm-like when removed from its context, rendering the images unidentifiable and thrusting them towards abstraction. They are rooted in the familiar and yet appear mysterious and unknowable.
As aesthetic objects, these urns are minimal and spare. They leave space for those grieving to project the energy of the departed onto their surface and into their form. There is a quiet power in them that feels appropriately monastic and yet they do not blatantly advertise their function. They can exist gently with the bereaved, either in the home or in the ground, allowing for whatever ritual is practiced.
These specific pieces are on reserve for exhibition but we have decided to accept custom commissions for anyone interested in purchasing an urn.
It was such a privilege to be included in this show and I met so many incredible artists and craftspeople. I highly recommend checking out their work!
Kai Owens hand wove a tiny and beautiful willow casket for an infant - email@example.com
Peter Freeman built a gorgeous cabinet to house an urn or memorial and carved a momento mori of his own death to fill it - @conscious_wood
Chantall Lafond hand loomed the most incredibly soft, simple, and beautiful shrouds - firstname.lastname@example.org
Lane Shordee and Nikki Martens created a beautiful and mysterious vessel combining a felled tree, ceramics, and woven cloth - laneshordee.com
Joseph Brocke built a boat-like coffin that references the funerary practices of Norse mythology - email@example.com
Al Urlacher took the stunning photos for the catalogue - @alurlacher
Tyla Cosgrove brought everyone together and will continue to be a champion for the dead as a newly minted Death Care Practitioner - firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are the maps referenced for the carvings.