The ways in which to physically memorialize a loved one have changed over time. In recent years, it’s become more common to remember someone not through a gravesite, but by using their remains to fertilize a tree or turning them into treasured art objects. Spirit Pieces is an online memorial arts gallery that specializes in commemorating those lost by encasing the cremation ash of people (or pets) into striking glass sculptures.
More than 40 artisans from around the United States have created designs that are available through Spirit Pieces. Ranging in size and shape, some are specific to a type of loss. An artist named Foster, for instance, creates sleeping cat memorials for people who are mourning the death of a furry friend. But most are nonspecific and take the form of hearts, stars, angels, and brilliant orbs that are all infused with some of the ash from those passed.
Dave Blake is the creator of Spirit Pieces, and he had the idea for it after losing his grandmother more than a decade ago. “I'm a big believer that art is a medium that can help people grieve over a loved one as it bridges a gap between the conceptual and physical,” he tells My Modern Met. “In our case, Spirit Pieces' usage of ashes in glass home decor and cremation jewelry gives people a tangible way to connect to the physical body of their loved ones and their conceptual spirit.”
Blake has seen the difference that these objects can have on someone grieving. “We hear all the time that people feel closer and less alone after they receive Spirit Pieces memorials,” he explains. And while his service is novel, it has existed, in many forms, throughout history—and even in the animal kingdom. “We see this type of resonance throughout history with art and tokens of death, be it home shrines to the Egyptian pyramids. Even elephants with their elephant graveyards echo this motif—as such we believe it's a deep-seated need that needs to be addressed when someone loses a loved one.”