Nancy Brown of Spiritremains.com makes whimsical urns for pet cremains.
In Repose - Resource Forum Topics (www.inrepose.com) -- May 15, 2008 --
In Repose: How did you get started in this business Nancy?
Nancy: I made the first one when I got back ashes for my yellow lab, Susie, in a black box with a tassel on top. It was very somber looking and I couldn’t display it because it depressed me. I was out of work at the time, so I made her a personalized, whimsical urn from a wooden box that I painted. I found miniature items to put on the top as well as a yellow lab figurine. Because she loved playing ball, I painted small wooden balls to look like tennis balls and attached them to wire made to look like springs. I added an autumn tree behind her. Inside the painted box, I put a picture frame with her photo and dog tags. I also sewed a fabric pouch with a dog theme to put the ashes in. Finally, I elevated the box on three painted dowels - three to signify something is missing and not balanced without her. It turned out great and I started making more urns for various dogs and cats and then developed a website to showcase them. I have also had to make another urn for another rescue yellow lab that I got when Susie died. Dolly only lived for six months before dying of cancer and she’s in an urn with a flowering purple tree, two park benches and some tennis balls.
In Repose: Do you make other art or handcrafts?
Nancy: I have also made quilts, some wild cowboy shirts, and I did pointillism pen and ink drawings. I love the creative aspect of creating the urns, the design process and the actual work involved. I even paint the figurines to resemble the person’s pet based on photos they send me.
In Repose: Are the miniatures, such as the furniture, from dollhouse suppliers?
Nancy: The miniatures are from another wholesale distributor of miniatures. Most of the items are used for dollhouses but they're not advertised as such. I also buy from another wholesaler who has "dollhouse" in the name of his business. And I sometimes find things in antique malls or toy stores.
In Repose: Are the animal figurines those types made out of resin?
Nancy: Most of the figurines are resin (from two different suppliers). But I have also gotten them from other sources (online wholesalers and antique malls) and I think some that I've used were made of plastic. The quality of the resin is better, but sometimes, if I needed a specific pose for an urn, I used the plastic model.
In Repose: Do you use any plastic at all, or are the components all wood and resin?
Nancy: About 95% of the other components (non-figurine) are wood, resin, fabric (rugs, bedspreads and pillows), paper (tiny books and magazines). I think some of the miniature flowers are plastic, as well as some of the buttons that I glue on the front, and some of the tree parts and toys (toy box). The fire engine is from a toy store and is metal.
In Repose: What kind of paint do you use, and do you use multiple coats or seal the paint for durability?
Nancy: I use paint that is "permanent, fast-drying, waterbased" from a craft supplier. I put on a base coat and multiple coats of the three colors on the outside and multiple coats of the neutral shade on the inside.
In Repose: Is that a pillow inside the box? Or a holder for the ashes? Do you make this part as well?
Nancy: The item inside the box is a pouch which I make for the ashes from fabric with animal themes. I sew a Velcro-like material on the flap to keep it shut. I also put sand in each one in case the ashes aren't heavy enough to keep the urn from tipping over when opened. Also, I am working on adding a music box to one of the urns I've been working on. A customer wanted a song by Edit Piaf and I found a dealer in Paris who had the song she wanted in an 18 note mechanism. Now, I have to get the dealer to make longer keys because the thickness of the wood is such that I need a longer key to turn on the mechanism from the outside. I still don't know for sure how I'm going to anchor it inside the box, but I'll figure it out once I get all the parts assembled. This customer bought me two music box mechanisms as a gift, which was so sweet. It's really been nice working with each customer I've had. Some even helped me with my Mom's death, just by being understanding, e-mailing to ask how I was, and telling me that they were thinking of me.
Helping provide folks with closure and making something special for their special pets gives me a good feeling, too.