Customizing or Decorating Memorial Urns

by J. Malec

Art and painting class taught by Otto Pfeiffer

Photo: Student in an art and painting classes taught by Otto Pfeiffer in New Ulm, Minnesota

Create customized cremation urns for a loved one or pet.

Personalizing a cremation urn for ashes offers many benefits. Decorating a burial urn transforms an inexpensive vessel into a priceless treasure. Whether you want to instill meaning by creating a unique DIY cremation urn or add some personal touches to a designer urn, this article will give you some beautiful cremation urn decorating ideas to honor your lost loved one.

An urn houses the cremains of the departed. When altered by those who loved its intended occupant, the urn assumes a new and vital presence. For instance, family and friends of the departed can share in signing or decorating a scattering urn, investing it with personal, unique and loving energy. Likewise, engaging in memorial painting and decorating activities can be a healing process for everyone involved.

Artistic rituals such as these may help a person process loss. These activities could be included as a focused activity at a memorial service or shared between a few friends over the course of months as a transformative way of grieving. Whatever the intent behind this exercise, it’s a great way to transmute the experience around death into a therapeutic, creative outlet.

What urns are ideal for creative customization?

Various memorial urns and biodegradable urns are well suited for decoration. In addition, certain urn materials make the task of decorating and customizing a DIY urn easier. For example:

  • Softer, warmer materials such as paper, wood or biodegradable polymers offer surfaces that are readily adorned and easy to work on.
  • Paper is easy to alter with permanent markers or acrylic paints. It also easily accepts things glued on.
  • A ceramic-like urn made from vegetable-based gelatin imitates a ceramic finish and provides a surface that is easy to paint in multiple layers if needed.

    OneWorld Memorials' white memento biodegradable cremation urn

    One example of an ideal urn for decorating is the White Memento Biodegradable Cremation Urn. This biodegradable burial urn is often used when a water burial is planned. Ira Woods, president of OneWorld Memorials, says that the urn “invites the engagement of friends and family. Using markers, participants write their comments and farewells on the surface. Each Memento cremation urn includes 20 biodegradable note cards to write on and insert through a slit on the top of the urn.”

    OneWorld Memorials' biodegradable cremation urn

    For an ash scattering, consider the pearl-colored Journey Biodegradable Cremation Urn. This urn features a thick paper envelope that folds around the cremation ashes. The envelope style encapsulates the cremains within an easily compostable container. The outer portion of this urn is a mostly flat surface that is easy to adorn with affectionate notes, doodled imagery or more.

    Biodegradable cremation urn with hand painted finish

    The Pearl Biodegradable Cremation Urn is an option that is both eco-friendly and could last indefinitely on a shelf. It provides an inviting surface to decorate and is made of a biodegradable material that imitates ceramic in texture and appearance. There is no need to be intimidated by the task of painting in three dimensions. On this surface, you can paint over mistakes with synthetic pigments. Doing a test patch on the bottom of the urn is recommended with your intended medium. This way, you can be assured that the medium of choice adheres well. In addition, a clear top coat will help protect surface decoration but will slow down composting when buried. Biodegradable paints could also be used if they adhere to the glossy surface.

    OneWorld Memorials' large bamboo cremation box

    If more than surface decoration is desired, a wooden or bamboo cremation box such as the Large Bamboo Box Cremation Urn provides an optimal surface. The bamboo allows holes to be drilled for screw-on embellishments. Nails and tacks can adhere a collage of photographs, and the sky is the limit from there.

    Personal possessions may be added for even more authenticity. In addition, symbolic objects can be added that speak to personal history, storytelling or dreams and can evoke the presence of the lost loved one. Sometimes a factory finish may not do the trick, which is the perfect time to utilize these cremation urn decorating ideas.

    Can a memorial urn be created from scratch? 

    A DIY cremation urn can be made from scratch from various materials. However, for many, the task is just too daunting at a time of immense sorrow. But if you feel up to the challenge, seek resources on art and craft mediums like woodworking, ceramics or weaving as a jumping-off point and consult with community resources on what it would take to build your own from the bottom up. For example, homemade wooden urn box plans may be found online or through community resources.

    Turning the pursuit of the perfect DIY cremation urn into a journey may serve to salve fresh wounds or assuage old losses. You may be pleasantly surprised.

    Creative Cremation Urn Display Ideas

    If you’re not up for adding your own embellishments to a cremation urn, or it just isn’t your style, you can add a touch of personalization in how you choose to display the urn. For example, a decorative cremation urn display table in your home can evoke fond memories and enhance the urn’s personal meaning and significance. Decorations can be changed seasonally or based on your personal preference.

    Urn displays at funerals present another opportunity to customize your loved one’s burial urn. For example, adding fresh flowers or plush animals is a lovely way to embellish a memorial service cremation urn display table.

    Some people choose to display their loved one’s urn as a cremation pendant or jewelry. OneWorld Memorials offers a wide selection of cremation jewelry made from stainless steel, silver and titanium. These beautiful pendants can be personalized with your choice of chain and engraving. Check out our engraving and personalization guide to learn more about our engraving services.

    However you choose to honor your departed loved one, we hope you find the perfect memorial items at OneWorld Memorials. Contact us today for more information.

    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.

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