Ornate & decorative resting places for the dead.
I began sketching the designs for these urns in 2014, fascinated by the ways in which we memorialize our dead and inspired by working in hospice as a companion and death doula.
The spirit houses appear in dreams or as I’m going about my day. Each has a unique form and personality. They show up as light-filled, plush little houses with a clear glass central pillar to display the ashes. Once they make themselves known, they’re persistent and won’t let go until I’ve begun the creative process of bringing them into being.
Making the cremains a visual focal point was key. Allowing the ashes to be exposed and unhidden creates an opening for conversation and reflection and gets us thinking and talking about our relationship with death. Given the reluctance of our death-phobic culture to openly discuss issues around mortality, ashes as a visual centerpiece can provoke illuminating and expansive dialogue and thought.
Attempting to recreate the sketches, in 2016, I began putting the spirit houses together using upcycled materials locally sourced along with mixed media; paint, fibre, sculpted clay, precious and semi-precious gemstones, leather, glitter and wild gathered bone, fur and snakeskin. Each urn is a sculptural work of art, one of a kind and highly delicate, taking several weeks to create. As such, they are produced in limited quantities each year.
Sylvia Sienikehä Elysiana, holistic therapist & death doula
Soulmilk Healing Arts Studio | Holistic Therapy & Deathcare