When I watched my grandfather pass away in his home it had a profound impact on my outlook. Home is a place that familiar, average, and routine, and his passing in that environment helped normalize his death and ideas of my own mortality. I wanted to create an art piece that allowed other people to have that same experience – confronting mortality in everyday life.
I began collecting human remains off the Internet from bone dealers who typically sell to medical professionals and oddity collectors. I purchased 200 bones, each formerly belonging to 200 different people.
With a background in ceramics, I knew that bone ash was a common ingredient in glaze so I developed a special recipe using typical ingredients like clay, silica, and feldspar, and added my freshly fired, crushed and powdered human bone ash.
I spent the next 4 months designing and producing an 8-person dinner service. Once it was completed, I coated each piece in my human ash glaze and fired the work in a kiln to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, melting the glaze onto the dinnerware. The result was a glossy pale blue glaze covering functional cups, mugs, plates, and bowls. This is where my “Nourish” dinnerware series was born.
To celebrate the completion of the Nourish series, I held a dinner party where I invited guests to dine on wares. I served pork tenderloin, asparagus, and quinoa salad, while my guests discussed their experiences, views on death, and outlook on mortality. The entire glaze-making process and dining experience was documented in a beautiful video.
As I began to tell people about my conceptual dinnerware series, I started to get a surprising request. People began asking me to make custom pieces using their passed loved one’s ashes. Rather than observing a picture or cremation urn on a shelf, they wanted an interactive way to fold the memory of their loved one’s into everyday life. It is a way to keep them close.
Based on this idea, I launched Chronicle Cremation Designs in October 2016, offering custom memorial objects like coffee mugs, cremation jewelry, luminaries, and more. What began as an art project inspired by tragedy is now a business changing how we think about death and memorization.