Unusual Pottery For Holding Ashes

Ann Bates tells us about her bespoke pottery for bereavement, we would like to introduce you to her work.

“I have been working with clay for almost 25 years. I’m a hand builder and all of my pieces of bespoke pottery for bereavement are either coiled or slab built. I chose this way of making during time at college and university because I felt that it gave me greater freedom of expression than using a wheel.

My partner encouraged me to pursue my love of making things by supporting me through university. After graduation he and I decided to become self- employed. We shared a building in Cromford, Derbyshire; for him to run a quantity surveying practice and for me, my own workshop and showroom. This worked well until my partner unexpectedly died. I was unable to carry on renting the building on my own and decided to work from home creating bespoke pottery for bereavement.

Working with clay helped me through bereavement and I wondered if there was something that I could make that might signify this. Through research, I found that commercially produced funerary urns often left me feeling cold and empty. There seemed to be little or nothing uplifting about them. They were simply a container for ashes, often smooth or shiny and without much character.

I thought I could improve on these designs and began working on one-off, hand built contemporary funerary urns and memory boxes that I hoped , in a discreet way, might celebrate the life lived and may be of comfort to those who remain.

Inspiration for decoration, and often the shape of an urn, comes from the natural world. Seed pods, leaves, and shells have all been used in one way or another in my designs. The study of rock formations and ancient standing stones, with their carved decoration and symbols, have also been used to inspire some pieces of work. Of particular interest is the spiral, the natural form of growth and symbol of everlasting life; I use it as my mark.

Requests for urns and memory boxes and other pieces of bespoke pottery for bereavement usually come either by word of mouth, via my website or through taking part in gallery exhibitions.

Before embarking on a piece of work , it is important to establish the size of urn that is required. Some are full size, containing all of the remains, whilst others are smaller, containing only a portion, the remainder being scattered in a favourite place.

It is also helpful to find out whether the urn will be sited inside or outdoors, the type of clay for outdoor pieces needing to be more robust to withstand the weather.

The Poppy Seed Head urn, featured, was a commission piece and is situated in a garden. It has been slab built in six sections and has a sealed lid.

Editors  note

Ann’s ‘full set of ashes’ urns cost between two and three hundred pounds. When I first saw them I immediately linked them to the All Cannings Long Barrow. When I mentioned this I was not surprised to hear that some have been used there. You can find more out at www.annbates.com

This article was orginally published in More to Death, the official magazine to The Natural Death Centre.