From living urns to fireworks to pencils, there are endlessly creative ways to memorialize loved ones’ ashes than the traditional sprinkling over an ocean-side cliff or their favorite place.
Dee Ketelsen, the owner of A Peace That Remains, is among the many artists who specialize in memorializing loved ones through her fluid art in glowing orbs, star-like pendants, paperweights and more.
Ketelsen, a 34-year-old mother of three living in Clinton, Iowa, spends her time incorporating ashes, locks of hair or other significant items to memorialize her clients’ loved ones after their passing.
“Every artist wants their art to make some kind of impact or difference in the world. I was searching for art that made me feel like I mattered,” Ketelsen told me. “One day, someone messaged me about a custom piece but asked me if I could incorporate the ashes of her dog who passed away. I was a little hesitant because I didn’t know if I could handle the gravity of it. It was so heavy.”
Despite her hesitation and after encouraging words from her husband and best friend, she tried to satisfy the client’s desires. “When I handed the necklace to my client, she cried and hugged me. Right then, that moment, it made sense,” Ketelsen told me. “It is almost a selfish thing to get to have people treasure my art so much that they cry. Who gets to say their art truly brings people to tears?
“Next to giving birth and being an awesome cook, [my art] is one of the most amazing and meaningful things I’ve ever done in my life,” she told me.
Since December 2017, she’s been making custom orders for her clients, including Jenny Rymerson Rice, who is receiving several pieces of art from Ketelsen to memorialize her late mother, including two half-moon pendants that both Rymerson Rice and her sister wear nearly every day.
“It makes me feel like there’s a little, tiny connection to mom that I have with me and a nice tribute,” Rymerson Rice told me, who cried when she saw Ketelsen’s memorial for her mother. “Anyone in any type of work that deals with death, memorial and cremation have to be gentle and have to be special kind of people. She definitely takes very good care and she understands it’s kind of a sentimental, fragile kind of time.”
To incorporate the ashes into her artwork, Ketelsen adds the ashes to the paint she creates the piece, and in the case of necklaces, on top of the paint so it looks like they are floating in space. As for the resin orbs and gems, she slowly adds them to the resin as she adds the colors.
“I am honestly lucky to be able to do what I do. I was never one to believe in ‘destiny’ or that I would ever find my calling in life, but I definitely do now,” Ketelsen told me. “I plan on doing this for the rest of my life.”
In January, Ketelsen shared her artwork with Reddit users and it was quickly upvoted on the platform. Since then, Ketelsen has been back-ordered by at least a month due to the surge in orders she received.
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