In conversation, preferably in person rather than over the phone or by e-mail, I try to get a feeling for the person who will be memorialized. The friend or the relative calling usually appreciates the opportunity to talk about the person they lost. I support this by asking questions like what they loved most in the world, what made them happy, where and how they grew up, what their tastes and style were like and about their relationships. I make sure to let them know that I can appreciate the difficult challenge of accepting what they are faced with. I ask for photographs of the person the marker is for which then sit on my work table while I am working on the marker.
I usually end up with a fairly distinct feeling for this person that guides me and inspires my creative proposals and decisions. My goal is to design something that the person would have liked, and something that evokes that person’s memory for the people coming to visit the grave.
But the creation of bronze markers follows a long artistic and historic tradition. Today we admire and preserve bronze pieces from centuries back, parts of traditions and rituals from times long gone, witnesses that survived due to their strength and durability. When I take walks in old cemeteries, I marvel at old markers, the older they are the more amazing they are to me.
The funeral industry could contribute by including artists’ work within the range of products offered. It also requires more creative contractual agreements: an artist is unable to work with a funeral home on a wholesale basis like the big foundries do. When you double the wholesale price the piece is usually way out of the financial range of almost any customer. A referral fee arrangement or a referral percentage would make it possible for the funeral home to offer more unique work alongside their traditional offerings, and for the artist to have his or her work exposed to people at the places where they go when a family member or friend passes on, the funeral home or cemetery. I think it is a good solution for all, the funeral service provider, the consumer and the artist.