Sunday, October 22, 2006

Urns: There IS something better than Tupperware!

Notes from the Floor of the Annual National Funeral Directors' Convention, Part 3

As a UU minister, I took particular interest in the urn displays of the annual convention of the National Funeral Directors’ Association. With the majority of UUs choosing cremation, and the paucity of appropriate and UU friendly container choices in my region, I was on a mission to find some good urns. Mission accomplished.

There were many absolutely beautiful urn displays on the floor of the exhibit hall. Glass is big this year with Italian and Czech styles being the most beautiful and least likely to scream from your mantle: “Granny’s in HERE!” Metal continues to look cold and sterile, and even sometimes like a bloated martini shaker. Wooden boxes are still wooden boxes. But I am pleased to say, there is more out there. Much more. Below are the best urns I found and the artisans who create them. I have included contact information and web addresses.

In the Pottery urn category, I was incredibly impressed by the beauty of the burnished urns of Pennsylvania’s own David Greenbaum. David has been a potter for decades, but has only recently turned to making urns. Instead of glazes, he uses a burnishing technique best known in Native American pottery and created by rubbing a stone across the surface of the pottery to bring varying degrees of polish out.

Some of his urns have carving that has a Southwest Native American feel to it. But his vessels are not copies nor are they derivative. In the firing process Greenbaum burns leaves and other natural products to give the clay effects that look like grass as seen through water, or curly maple patterns, or even markings that look like Japanese calligraphy. What I liked about these vessels was their unique beauty (no two are the same), but also how they are evocative of living things. See David's work on his website or at his store in Milford, PA.

In the wood category, there was a Georgia wood artist who made stunning urns from recovered wood. His card has disappeared but I'm checking for him via NFDA. There was an Italian company making urns out of inlaid wood that were unlike anything I have seen on these shores. They can be found at Most of the big urn companies have a lot of wood selections, but none were very striking this year. 2006 is not a smashing year for wooden urns.

The most amazing find and the one I want everyone on the East and West Coasts to order TODAY are the salt urns from Marcs Urnas Bach. These look like marble urns. They are geometric and stern looking. I wouldn’t have fallen for them on appearance alone. But I saw the words “Eco Sal” and stopped. These urns are made from salt and are made solely for the purpose of interment at sea.

I am an ash scattering expert. It is a tricky business, and it should not be done at sea unless there is NO WIND. Trust me on this point. This is why in Barcelona, Spain (the home of Marcs Urnas Bach) they drop ashes still in the urn over the side of the boat. But as Ruben Tamarit, the Marcs Urnas Bach representative pointed out: urns often float. In Barcelona there are so many urns, floating or sunken, that they have to be gathered as sea debris. Garbage.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything less meaningful and closure shattering than the idea of my beloved’s remains floating back to shore, or being caught up in fishing nets to be returned to land in a trash heap.

So the good people of Barcelona’s own MUB invented the sea salt urn. It sinks with a satisfying plop and then it dissolves. Everything is dissolveable: the sides, the lid, the glue, and the bag in which the cremains are stored. It all dissolves in forty minutes. No garbage, no flying ash, no contamination.

Upon hearing these details, I was ecstatic. I tried to communicate my excitement to Ruben who then tried to translate it in Spanish to his business partner. My Spanish is not what it used to be but I caught the basic gist of Ruben’s translation, “In her religion, most of them cremate. She likes… A LOT.” You can say that again, Ruben. Check out the salt urns of Marcs Urnas Bach yourself at

In the spirit of sharing my secrets, I’ll add something I already knew about before I went to the convention. My buddy Brockwell (a former undertaker himself) met a man here in VA who offers a unique means of cremain disposition. He's all about skipping this container concern. This man can turn you into a pyrotechnic. Yes, a firecracker. And we’re not talking some little whistling sparkler. We are talking great big, full starburst, when it explodes everyone feels it in their chests, whammy of a KAPOW. Blow Daddy away on Independence Day.

Brockwell has fallen in love with this idea, and I must admit, it is starting to grow on me, too. It combines celebration, spectacle, and a great big boom. What could be a cooler ‘YAHOO' to life than that? I don’t know if this guy heads out of VA, but contact me if you want to learn more.

1 comment:

Sisyphus said...

A Tupperware container doesn't sound that bad to me. I think my wife was planning on burying my ashes in a zip-lock baggie in the back yard next to our late pet dog.