Working with clay helped me through bereavement and I wanted to make something to acknowledge this. Through research I found that commercially produced funerary urns, of a permanent nature, often left me feeling cold and empty. There seemed to be nothing uplifting about them. They were simply a container for ashes, often smooth or shiny and without character.
I thought I could improve on this and set about designing and making bespoke, hand built contemporary funerary urns, that I hoped, in a discreet way, might celebrate life and be of some comfort to those who remain.
An interest in ancient standing stones with their carved decoration and symbols gave me a starting point. This led to research into burial mounds of the Neolithic period and consequently to investigate the newly built barrows that have chambers with niches to hold funerary urns containing cremated remains. The Long Barrow in Wiltshire is constructed in a similar way to those built in Neolithic times and is the first to be built in Britain for 5000 years. Some of my urns now rest in this barrow, a place for contemplation where people come together to remember their loved ones, spend time and share memories.
More of these structures are being built as people search for meaningful and alternative ways to commemorate the dead. Sacred Stones have built a round barrow Willow Row in Cambridgeshire and Soulton Hall Long Barrow in Shropshire is under construction. In Warwickshire, work has begun on Mid-England Barrow and is due for completion later in 2019.
Each funerary urn is made using the slow and considered technique of hand building. This method is the earliest form of pottery-making and it feels natural for me to work in this way. Through it I feel a deep connection to the material and, by adopting markings used in the Neolithic period, to our ancestors. The spiral, the natural form of growth and symbol of everlasting life has captivated me and I use the symbol as my maker’s mark. To ensure suitability for indoor or outdoor location all work is made using stoneware clay and is fired to 1250C.
This website has three galleries: lidded vessels, open vessels and tiles. I hope that you will find them of interest and that they might give an insight into my working methods and the inspiration that compels me to work with clay.
I am a member of the Heritage Crafts Association, Northern Potters, the Good Funeral Guild and the Society of Bereavement Practitioners.