Monday, July 18, 2011

Personalized Urns

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the cremation rate in the United States in 2009 was 36.86%, that's up from 25.04% in 1999.  The NFDA also predicts that the cremation rate will be just shy of 59% in 2025! With the rising trend in cremations, it's about time we did a post on urns.  We already know that we can be creative, as explored in our post on custom coffins, so it should be no surprise that custom urns also exist.

The urn itself is simply a vessel or vase without handles. The urn was used in ancient Greek and Roman times for oils, as well as cremation ashes.

Today after cremation, the options are quite diverse on what is done with the ashes. Many people scatter ashes, so have no need for an urn.  Other people use the urn for the ashes and have the entire thing buried in a cemetery plot or placed above ground in the cemetery columbarium (a specific place within a mausoleum for urns). Just like eco-friendly coffins, they also make bio-degradable urns. Another choice is to bring the urn with the ashes home, keeping the departed's remains with you at all times.

When an urn is used, there really is no industry standard. The typical size for an individual may be to hold 170-350 cubic inches, whereas the popular couple urns hold 400-500 cubic inches of ashes. Materials used range from paper, glass and wood, all the way to metals, ceramics and marble.  And if you thought shape mattered, this too is up for negotiation. Urns can look traditional and vase like, or look like an item. I even saw examples for photo frame urns and music box urns.

Looking around online I found several types of urn dealers.  First there is the mega market dealers.  These urns offered on these sites can be very unique, like these cowboy boot urns, and it's true that these mega market dealers have a lot of inventory, but you can also find these same urns on multiple sites. Therefore, the uniqueness is more in design and not truly a one of a kind urn. The urn's from these large scale dealer's are some of the most economical.


Next are the hand made artisan urns. These urns are made individually by artists. Sybil Sage, for instance does mosaic urns, embedded with personal items such as business cards and photos.

Portrait urns like the kind done by artist Ruby Lindell, are hand painted ceramic urns such this example on the right.

Then, of course, there are the eco-friendly urns. Traditionally eco-friendly urns are made of paper. Though I did find sand  urns meant to place in water.  There is also company known as the "Great Burial Reef" which designs an urn made of natural concrete. The idea is that the urn can be placed on the ocean floor and can foster marine life for future generations.

Unlike coffins, urn's offer an extremely wide variety of creative options, allowing a very personalized urn if desired. What I find interesting is that some of the urns look so much like traditional home decor, that the memorial could easily blend in, completely disguised to house guests.

1 Responses to “Personalized Urns”

Pam Harris said...
July 19, 2011 at 4:25 AM

Great post, Amy. 

Unfortunately, I have never been able to "get" keeping cremains in the home--perhaps because of the movies that show mishaps involving the urns (e.g. "Meet the Parents").  [From a practical standpoint, the cremains are usually sealed in a bag inside the urn when they come from the mortuary, though.]