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Memorial Urns and Our Folk Art Ancestry

by J. Malec

Image from page 86 of "Peasant art in Sweden, Lapland and Iceland" (1910)

Be inspired by folk art when selecting a cremation urn

Contemporary artists tend to broaden the landscape of tradition. Remixing historical themes with fresh expressions of a multiethnic urban landscape, they develop new vocabularies of expressive art. Traditionally we might view decorative objects as folk art, such as a finely painted piece of Norwegian Rosemaling. Why not expand our horizon of tradition and folk art?

Folk art is the art of the people. It’s your Grandma’s quilts, your Grandpa’s whittling, Dad’s painting hobby and Mom’s guitar strumming. It’s very likely that someone in each extended family is talented at creating reflections of the times. Wikipedia defines folk art as:

“Art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic... Folk art expresses cultural identity by conveying shared community values and aesthetics. It encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more. If traditional materials are inaccessible, new materials are often substituted, resulting in contemporary expressions of traditional folk art forms. Folk art reflects traditional art forms of diverse community groups — ethnic, tribal, religious, occupational, geographical, age- or gender-based — who identify with each other and society at large.”

You too have a claim on folk art. Look to family traditions and ethnic-cultural symbols and craft for inspiration when selecting a cremation urn. For example, the Celtic Cross urns, or the Hand Painted ceramic urns suggest the basis of a cultural identity that can be a root of inspiration. The Artisan Indigo urn leaves room for engraving and inscriptions that could reflect a specific family or cultural identity. Our blog on The Art of Cloisonné Memorial Urns collection provides information on the ancient art of cloisonné that is traced to the Middle East should this be a part of your heritage.

Family artists: inspiration for a memorial urn

You may have an artist or craft person in your family who may be able to help shape an idea or direction for an urn that speaks to tradition. Think about your family’s heritage, the stories about where you came from and how you got here. Look into visual references at a library or on the Internet and search for themes that resonate with you. Pinterest offers a variety of digital ‘pin boards’ showcasing various images and links to traditional European, Mexican and African folk arts, just to name a few.

You may find that searching through collections of images will spark a memory or idea leading you to an heirloom at home that could serve as a suitable and meaningful cremation urn. You may decide that it’s important to find an artisan in your area who still practices a cherished craft that was once in your family. Or maybe you were struck with the thought to ask a friend to decorate your keepsake mementoes with you, or for you, if you are planning ahead as a meditative act.

In choosing to embrace family traditions that are rich with artistic heritage, you may find comfort in reconnecting to those who trod this earth before you. What better way to be remembered and preserved than in a manner that speaks to your own personal history through intimate and beautiful expressions. 

J. Malec is a visual artist and writer whose work often deals with themes related to loss and healing. She lives in Minneapolis, and spends much of her time practicing permaculture in the city.