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Hand-carved oak memorial glass shrine.

I've always been curious about the rituals and attitudes around death and memorials. I know this isn't a subject that everyone wants to talk/read about, and it may be too raw for others, but I'm open to conversations, and I am interested in creating pieces that can help celebrate the lives of our loved ones.

When I was first entrusted with some precious ash to encase into molten glass. I felt such a connection to the process and I loved the results. Cremation ash sparkles and dances within the glass, and looks beautiful, you can see photos of some of the pieces I have made on my memorial glass page.

The miniature urns and jewellery I make are a perfect self contained work of art, but I wanted to create something that could be a home to other miniature urns, if more than one loved one has gone, or let them sit with treasured possessions. I'm still unsure what to call these little hand-carved wooden sculptural shelves (that's a bit long winded), my googling hasn't gifted me the perfect name yet. Shrine, nook, niche, tiny temple, memorial home and memorial block have all been thought about, but nothing's settled yet.

I'm very fortunate to have a father skilled in carpentry, with a workshop I can use. I mentioned what I was hoping to do and he offered a few blocks of wood to try. I opted for the small block of oak to start with, not too expensive, so less intimidating to learn on!

I used the band saw to roughly cut the shape I wanted, then moved the block into a vice to start working it with chisels. 

Cutting and shaping a block of oak with a band saw.

I used a small flat and a curved chisel to carve simple hollowed shelves, just big enough for a mini glass urn, memorial pebble or other keepsake. I liked the tool marks from the curved chisel, so I shaped the whole block face with it.

Using a chisel to carve shelves into an oak block.

The oak's natural colour was nice, but I also wanted to try out a different patina, so I ebonised it with iron infused vinegar, I was impressed how well the solution worked, as soon as the vinegar hit the wood it turned black, and as it dried the colour became a beautiful deep indigo, but reverted to rich black when I waxed the surface. You may know I'm partial to a little dash of gold, especially with black, so I gilded a couple of the hollows with 24 carat gold leaf.

Ebonising oak with wire wool infused vinegar and gilding with 24 carat gold leaf.

I made a few glass urns and memorial pebbles using glow powder for an ash substitute, it's not as beautiful, but demonstrates where the ash would be in the glass for a display. 

Gilded ebonised oak shrine, shelves for memorial glass and keepsakes.

This is the first of many hand carved memorial glass shrines/temples/blocks, I have some different woods to try, and I'll experiment with other shapes, textures and finishes. They're not just for memorial glass, my ash free pieces look great in them, and so would your favourite little things, making a collection of special tiny things into a bigger work of art.

If you read my last blog post you'll see that I've been held back a little over the past couple of weeks trying to shift a chest infection, it's still holding me in the slow lane, but hasn't stopped the ideas gathering.

Instead of listening to books this week, rest has given me the opportunity to sit down with a physical copy! Keeping to the above theme I've been reading You Are Not Alone by Cariad Lloyd, I'm not quite finished but I've really enjoyed (yes enjoyed!) it. We will all encounter grief at some point in our lives and this book helps navigate the rollercoaster and stay on the rails. It's written by a comedian, so there's a good helping of humor in there too.

Fingers crossed for total chest infection elimination to enable me to get back in the shed and workshop next week!

Tiddly pom.

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