Death isn’t pretty. But some designers have at least managed to give it a romantic sheen, offering alternatives to a hulking casket or gaudy urn. I was particularly struck by design student Margaux Ruyant’s Poetree, a funeral urn that doubles as planter for a tree, which can then be planted in a garden or park; a ceramic ring around the base of the trunk acts as a headstone. (The IDSA gave the concept a Student Design Award this year.) Similarly, Patrycja Domanska has found an elegant way to pay homage to the dead and honor the memories of the living with objects that reinterpret ancient burial rituals.
Although each object borrows from a different tradition, handmade and glazed in off-white and soft black, the delicate ceramic pieces read as a collection. The Sea Urn is modeled on the boats used by many cultures to bury their dead. Rather than sinking immediately after being placed in the water, Domanska’s boat is meant to float and gradually fade into the horizon. It’s constructed of clay that dissolves after a few days at sea. Figure Urn, based on Egyptian shabti statuettes, features a group of figurines on its lid, one of which can be removed and kept as a memento of the deceased; the jar itself can be placed in a mausoleum or on a mantel. The other two pieces are more symbolic than functional: Tear Jug was inspired by the vessels used by professional mourners in ancient Rome to collect their tears. And Coins is an allegorical riff on the Greek practice of placing coins on the eyes of the dead, for paying Charon to take their souls across the river Styx.
Domanska decided to call the collection The Last Minute, because, she tells Co.Design, she was looking for a name that wasn’t tied to a specific religion. It also stemmed from her dismay at seeing traditional burial boats unceremoniously flop into the water while the mourners look on from shore. “It seemed so unemotional to me,” she says, “so I developed one that is ‘swimming away.’ I think that the last minute mourners have should also be special for them.”