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When Christine Johnson and her husband had their goofy Lab mix, Riley, cremated, they wound up with two containers full of ashes. As time passed, Johnson was bothered by the fact that her dog’s ashes sat around in what looked like soup cans without labels. She felt that there had to be some more graceful or attractive way for grieving pet owners to preserve their pet’s cremains.
Johnson wasn't alone in her desire to properly memorialize her pet. Fortunately, companies across the country, from Tampa, Fla., to Bend, Ore., are working to help pet owners do just that — with art. They are incorporating pet ashes into paintings, pendants, marbles, bowls — even glass tennis balls. These artists want to give pet owners the chance to remember their pets every day, in very public, and yet still personal, ways.
A few years after Riley's death, Christine Johnson started Pet Art Memorial, which incorporates a dog or cat's ashes into an original painting. Her company, based in Prospect Heights, Ill., creates pet portraits or abstract paintings that represent the animal. The artist mixes a small amount of the pet’s ashes into one of the darker colors in the painting, which gives the overall work a little more texture.
If you choose a more abstract painting rather than a portrait, the artist will take inspiration from your pet's personality — perhaps bold, sharp lines for a rambunctious pet, or soft, neutral colors for a calmer and more docile animal. Paintings range from $165 for a work that's 4 inches by 4 inches to $1,540 for a 20-by-20 painting.
Was your pet a rocker? Remember him in song — or at least in vinyl. A United Kingdom-based company called And Vinyly promises to help your departed pet “live on from beyond the groove.” The business incorporates a small amount of pet or human ashes into vinyl records. You supply up to 24 minutes of audio for the record, whether it’s a favorite song, a reading of a poem or just a recording of your late pet's bark or purr. Cover art is also personalized: Submit your own photograph or cover image, or pay extra for one of two artists — one a street artist and the other from Britain’s National Portrait Gallery — to create customized artwork for the album cover. Prices start at £3,000 (approximately $4,800).
Memorial jewelry has long been a favorite of families who have lost loved ones, both humans and pets. Chicago-based LifeGem transforms ashes into diamonds with a variety of cuts and colors. The process captures carbon from cremains (or even hair) and turns it into pure graphite to create the diamond. Prices start at $2,490, and color choices include blue, red, green, yellow and colorless.
If diamonds aren’t your style (or in your price range), a company in Bend, Ore., creates glass cremation pendants. Artist Mark Hamilton started the business after he buried his big gray tomcat, Leo. The glass artist began to think of ways he could have kept Leo with him physically, and came up with the idea of small pieces built around cremains. Some designs at Psyche Cremation Jewelry are visibly pet-related, like the paw print pendant; others, like the spiral and sunrise designs, are more abstract. Glass cremation marbles cost $97, and pendants start at $67.
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