Grieving Your Departed Pet? Remember Him With a Piece of Original Art
Published on April 16, 2012
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 Portrait of Your Pet
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.
Let His Groove Live On
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).
Keep Him Close to Your Heart
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.
Remember Him at Play
Some pets are best remembered for their devotion to a particular activity or toy. Jack Brown's Border Collie, Java, loved to play fetch. When Java passed away last spring, the family cremated him with some of his favorite tennis balls. But they also went one step further and asked artist Bob Burch of Art From Ashes to create a tennis ball piece from the Border Collie’s cremains. Burch formed the piece from clear glass with Java’s ashes incorporated on the inside, and then painted the outside. To give it a chewed-up feel, he sandblasted it and added seams with a grinding wheel. The tennis ball costs $300. The company, based in Amherst, Mass., also makes glass and sandblasted dog biscuits, beads, jewelry and other tribute pieces.
Honor His Favorite Garden Spot
A memorial piece doesn't have to be big or elaborate; it can simply mark a place or activity that reminds you of your departed pet. If your pet was a backyard digger who enjoyed uprooting flowers or burying toys, mark the spot with a garden cremation urn. One marker reads, "In memory of a faithful friend and companion." Another says, "Forever in my heart, forever remembered and forever missed." The stone serves as a grave marker for buried ashes, or you can use its small compartment to store the ashes aboveground. Companies like Perfect Memorials and Dearly Departed Pets offer an assortment of marker urns with the option to write custom text or print a memorial passage. Prices for the marker urns start at approximately $50.
Art From Ashes Tennis Balls
Artist Bob Burch created these glass tennis balls for Art From Ashes in Amherst, Mass. The original piece memorialized a Border Collie named Java who loved to play ball with his owner. Each one-of-a-kind tennis ball costs $300.
Pet Art Memorial Abstract Painting
Artist Joy Bliss created this abstract painting, which included cremains mixed into the paints, for Pet Art Memorial in Prospect Heights, Ill. Original paintings range in price, from $165 for a 4-inch-by-4-inch work to $1,540 for a 20-inch-by-20-inch painting. Custom sizes are also available.
Psyche Cremation Jewelry Marble
Psyche Cremation Jewelry also offers a Spiral Galaxy Cremation Marble made with ashes. Artist Mark Hamilton says the most rewarding part of his work is giving people the opportunity to heal by talking about their pet when people comment on the pendants and marbles. This marble costs $97.
Lorie's Inspirations Wirewrapped Pendants
At Lorie's Inspirations, Lorie Marsh offers keepsake pieces with ashes fused into the glass art. She started the company after she unexpectedly lost her beloved Sheltie, Sable. Prices for these customized wirewrapped pendants start at $110.
Purple Cloud Studio Bowl
Michele Palenik's Purple Cloud Studio creates bowls that incorporate pet ashes. Not long after starting her business, Palenik reconnected with an old friend whose 18-year-old dog had recently passed away. Palenik integrated the dog’s ashes into a bowl with a peacock-feather design, and delivered it just before Thanksgiving. As the woman’s family gathered around her table for the holiday dinner, the woman clanged her glass and told everyone that the deceased Zippy was still at the table with them — in the bowl with the cranberry sauce.