As the number of people look for new and interesting way to remember a loved one, Funeral Service Times sits down with Daniel Grears, the founder and CEO of Ashes to Images, to find out more behind the idea of using cremation ashes to create a portrait to be remembered.
Q1) What is your personal history and what was your entrance into the industry?
My background is actually in engineering. I grew up in the lake district but after completing my engineering apprenticeship I moved to London where I lived for seven years. I then Re-located to Manchester where I lived for a further fourteen years. I have just recently completed the circle and returned to Cumbria.
I have always had passion for art as a hobby so I suppose having the thought process required for engineering in addition to my ability to create art is what helped me to create the pictures and lead me to this point.
Q2) How did you come up with the idea for Ashes to Images?
I was listening to a radio presenter who had a problem transporting his dogs cremation ashes to Australia, where he and his family were due to emigrate. Various people were messaging the show suggesting he had the ashes made into jewellery. It was at this point it occurred to me how good it would be if cremation ashes could somehow be put into a picture, and Ashes to Images was born.
Q3) What was the process from getting the idea from conception to reality?
It was a long road of trial-and-error spent perfecting the process, our wood burning stove was on a lot for around two years to provide me with ash. Initially I considered doing it like a pop art image and mixing the ashes with the inks like a tattooist would. But I didn’t like the outcome.
I then switched to a screen printing process, which itself is very difficult to master. Getting to the final process you see today was most difficult because it was very important to me to create an image where the ashes can clearly be seen. I felt this was crucial because if you can see the ashes in the picture then the connection is visible as well as emotional. As for the final process, well that remains a closely guarded secret but I can tell you that once completed the picture is sealed in using high quality clear resin and will therefore last forever.
Q4) What are often people’s reactions to seeing the picture in person?
We get a lot of great feedback from our customers about our memorial artwork and it has always been very positive, but one letter really stood out and perfectly captures why we do what we do, and why Ashes to Images is so special.
A lady in her late seventies told us that for the last eight years she had been talking to an urn full of her late husbands ashes on the mantlepiece. She explained that she felt rather silly doing this, but it was the only connection she had to him. But when she received her Ashes to Images picture from us she said it’s the closest she has felt to him since his death. And she no longer feels silly talking to him because she can actually see him!
This made us feel incredibly emotional and proud to be bringing a little bit of happiness into someone lives.
Q5) Why do you think people are drawn to ways of remembrance such as this?
I think that people love a memorial or keepsake for the very reason mentioned earlier it gives people a sense of connection. I feel for what we do in particular, a persons spirit can be captured through a photograph so to have this combined with something physical from that person creates what we believe is the perfect memorial. Something that can be cherished for generations. Also because we only use a small amount of ashes people can still do the more traditional elements such as scattering.
Q6) Do you see practises like these becoming more common as time goes on?
I really do because I think that helping to preserve memories means so much to people. But ideas differ greatly on how they want to remember someone, this leads to people looking for more options that are available to them.
Q7) How and where do you see Ashes to Images developing over the next five years? and what goals do you have?
We feel that we are an alternative to cremation jewellery. So our ultimate goal is for the general public the world over to be aware of this wonderful and unique option. In order to achieve this over the next five years we need to build relationships with funeral directors, publications and create a good online presence, it really is just about getting the word out there and in doing so hopefully bringing a small piece of happiness through what we do.