by Carolyn Edlund
Planning to sell your art into new markets? Consider whether your work fits into this lucrative niche.
What happens when a hand thrown lidded ceramic vessel is sold as a cremation urn rather than as a decorative or functional container? It may triple in price.
Custom made and artist-made urns, memorial sculpture, portraiture, jewelry and other types of “personalization” are a growing trend, recognized by the funerary industry itself. Consumers are looking for ways to make services and memorials of loved ones as individual as possible. There are numerous ways that artists can serve this need and grow their own businesses by gearing work towards this niche.
Cremation is on the rise. Urns and containers are increasingly needed, but generic manufactured offerings are a pretty sorry lot. Artists interested in working with families and individuals to create personalized memorials have a great opportunity. There is a high emotional value to the client, and tapping into this can be a rewarding experience.
Irina Jordan runs Artisurn a website catering to this niche. I asked her about her experience with this new consumer.
“Baby boomers are driving the personalization trend,” she says, “The emergence of home funerals, green burials and other alternative funeral options empower people to be in charge of their loved ones’ final wishes and their own. This opens up unlimited possibilities for artists who want to be part of the funerary niche.”
She suggests that artists are only limited by their imagination as to how they can serve an appreciative audience.
“I have so many people write back to me expressing their gratitude for helping them on their grief journeys thanks to a one-of-a-kind urn, piece of jewelry or keepsake they found on Artisurn. A handcrafted urn is a sacred object and a piece of art – it becomes a family heirloom,” she adds.
Many customers consider their pets as “family” when making a purchase, as well, and this extends the market even further for artists wanting to get involved.
“People don’t think of their pets as pets,” explains Jordan, “They think of them as their companions and family members. It’s been intriguing to witness that a lot of pet parents select urns that are not strictly pet urns (those that have paws or a cat profile etched on) but high end pieces that they feel are worthy of holding the ashes of their beloved pets.”
Commemorative jewelry is another product area that has proven to be a hit, especially with millennial buyers. Jordan is very enthusiastic about the potential.
“Younger people want something that starts conversations and provokes ideas and opinions,” she says, “They want a piece of jewelry that truly expresses their personality, even ‘shouts’ what they are all about. I had people put some of my novelty urn jewelry on their holiday wish lists and their friends or even fans (if they have a big social media following) buy those unique pieces for them. I have found a loyal customer base with steampunk devotees and those who look for tribal-influenced work or pieces with organic matter inclusions (e.g. bones of small animals). I believe that funeral wares deserve to be fresh and visually striking. I am always on the lookout for out-of-the-ordinary artistic work that can be adapted for my target audiences.”
Is this market right for you? When working with these clients on commissioned projects, you will need to be highly communicative, understand that there may be multiple decision makers, and be able to cope well with the emotions of grieving families.
More commercial products that fit this niche can be sold online without as much hands-on attention, but being open to special requests will broaden your opportunities. This is an audience that has special needs, but one that won’t be going away any time soon.