Sam McCormick 2015

Department of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University

Ashes creations: The incorporation of cremation ashes into objects and tattoos in British contemporary practices

This paper draws from a qualitative research study that investigated the irreversible incorporation of human cremation ashes into a wide range of objects and tattoos in British contemporary practices. Referred to collectively as ‘ashes creations’ the practices in the research included human cremation ashes incorporated or transformed into: jewellery, glassware, diamonds, paintings, tattoos, vinyl records, photograph frames, pottery, and mosaics. The study explored the experiences of two groups of people who participate in these practices: people who make and sell ashes creations and people who commission ashes creations incorporating the cremation ashes of their loved ones. Starting as participants discovered and decided upon their ashes creation practice, the paper moves through the making and exchanging of ashes creations, and ends with an exploration of how ashes creations are lived with in participant’s ongoing lives. It argues that those that engage in the practice distance ashes creations from traditional material culture associated with death, such as urns, memorials, and shrines. Moreover, participants in the study collapse subject / object dualisms by experiencing ashes creations simultaneously as beloved possessions and as their loved ones whose ashes they contain. This paper explores the ways in which ashes creation practices reaffirm intimate relatedness between bereaved people and their deceased loved ones via concepts of nearness and continuity as ashes creations locate after-death relationships in the intimate spaces of bodies and homes.


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