If you’ve recently lost someone who was a true original, you might be looking for something a little … different … to act as their final resting place. To help out, we’ve delved into the often beautiful and sometimes very strange world of unusual urns for ashes to find the very best around. Whether you’re looking for burial urns or decorative keepsakes, here are 13 wonderfully unique examples to inspire your search.
A Viking funeral ship
Historial accuracy aside, the idea of the Viking funeral – the warrior’s body pushed out to sea in a longboat and set ablaze with flaming arrows – has real dramatic appeal.
A full-sized Viking longboat is hard to come by these days, but you can still give your loved one a hero’s send-off with this more compact version. This fully combustible cremation urn from Scattering Ashes can be set adrift and then alight in water, though you might want to hold back on the flaming arrows for health and safety reasons.
An urn in disguise
Sculptor Steve Rhule was drawn to making cremation urns after realising that most of the ones he’d seen were … less than appealing. Now running the aptly named site Art2DieFor, he specialises in imaginative “urns that do not look like urns”, from enchanting miniature landscapes to maximalist and incredibly detailed shrine sculptures. Perfect for anyone seeking a truly singular urn that draws the eye.
An eco-friendly masterpiece
An apple, a teapot, a suitcase, a ukelele – whatever personal object you think best fits the person who died, artist Annie Leigh can recreate it as a completely biodegradable custom urn. Her pretty, brightly-painted and highly unique eco urns can be buried, placed in the sea, or kept in the house.
A hefty dose of ingenuity goes into each painstakingly crafted piece: for example, Annie’s boat-and-globe urns are cleverly designed so that, as the ashes sink beneath the water, the boat is released to bob in the waves.
A “crazy” bespoke urn
UK-based coffin and urn maker Crazy Coffins dates back to Victorian times, but got a new lease of life (and its current name) after becoming famous for beautifully made and slightly bonkers bespoke pieces made on request. So far, the team have made coffins and urns that look like canal boats, guitars, planes and even the Starship Enterprise. Despite their thoroughly different look, these impressive urns and coffins are fully functional and make a brilliant tribute to the personalities of their owners.
A bird to watch over you
Looking at the use of lively patterns and texture in her work, it’s no surprise that potter Kris Cravens has a background in fashion. Her carefully handmade keepsake urns have a cheerful, uplifting feel that makes them stand out. The bright red birds perched on many of her pieces symbolise the belief that when you see a red bird, you’re being visited by loved one who has passed.
Kris’s urns tend to be smaller, making them perfect for pets or for families who would like to split the ashes of a loved one between a few different households. Each piece is also made by hand, so you can be sure that you’re getting a completely unique urn. Kris is based in the US, but you can contact her via her Etsy shop for international shipping rates.
A whale to explore the deeps
Handmade by local artisans in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, this charming whale urn is completely biodegradable and non-toxic, meaning you can keep it at home or use it to release a loved one’s ashes into the ocean. Like a real whale, it will float briefly before sinking into the deeps to rest.
Designed by artist Laura Bruzzese, the whale urn is part of a range that includes paper turtles, lotus flowers and dolphins – all pretty fitting ways to say goodbye to someone who loved the ocean.
An urn with not-so-hidden beauty
These handsome woodturned urns are created by Amsterdam-based craftsman Martin van der Wilt, who makes them out of reclaimed wood found near his workshop.
Martin specialises in finding the “hidden beauty of the wood”: bringing out the unique twists, turns and scars in the grain that make each piece special. Gaps are often filled with bright stone to turn what might have been a flaw in another artist’s hands into a striking feature.
A creative creature urn
No list of unusual urns for ashes would be complete without potter Laina Watt’s work. Inspired by Ancient Egyptian canopic jars (the animal-headed ones that held the mummy’s organs), mythology, popular culture, and a certain degree of playfulness, Laina’s urns are designed to shine on a mantlepiece or “totally confound archeologists of the future” when buried. No two urns are alike, and with a range that includes a yeti, King Kong and E.T., you can be sure that your loved one will rest in style.
An urn for new life
Capsula Mundi make biodegradable urns in the shape of an egg – a symbol of new life that works well with the company’s ethos: on top of every urn buried, they also plant a tree chosen by the person who died.
Over time, relatives can come visit their loved one and see how the tree they planted has grown and flourished. You can find out more about Capsula Mundi in our interview here.
Wood salvaged and made special
Based in Stratford-upon-Avon, veteran woodturner Phil Irons rescues his wood from the clutches of tree surgeons and firewood merchants and turns the would be kindling into works of art. Unusually for an urn-maker, he uses richly-coloured glazes to make the wood’s natural grain “pop”, bringing out its inherent beauty. Phil first tried woodturning at the tender age of 13, and his experience shows in the incredible smooth lines here. Very touchable.
An urn as salty as the sea
Who knew there were so many uses for Himalayan salt? You can season your food with it, you can carve it into lamps, and you can even use it to make funeral urns. The pink colour and marble-like texture make this urn from Urns UK a beautiful keepsake; however, if you’re burying your loved one at sea, it also dissolves within four hours, making it an eco-friendly option.
A driftwood urn like no other
Natural and sustainably sourced, each of these unusual urns for ashes is made from a piece of driftwood discovered by craftsman Mark Elmer on the shores of Oregon. Mark made his first driftwood urn to hold the ashes of his mother, who loved to collect and carve driftwood herself. The funeral director encouraged him to make more – and now Mark collects, restores and carves his beautiful finds for families across the world.
A peaceful pebble
Made by artist Davina Kemble, these serene birch plywood urns are hand-crafted to mimic the smooth shape of a pebble and the rings in a tree – reminding us of the passing of time and the span of someone’s life.
As well as having a brilliantly tactile, organic shape, they’re biodegradable. A keepsake version is also available, and you can keep some small items that remind you of your loved one – such as jewellery, ornaments or letters – alongside a small quantity of their ashes.
That’s it for this round-up of unusual urns! If you’ve found a unique and special urn of your own, tell us in the comment box below – we’d love to add it to our list.