Grave Markers - Who Knew?

When you think about art, rarely do grave markers come to mind. Come to find out, grave markers can actually be beautiful works of art! Who knew! Grave markers essentially are large bas-relief sculptures that are cast in bronze designed to be placed in the ground. A relief is a type of sculpture that is two dimensional and raised only slightly higher than the background. Bas-relief grave markers in particular have to be extremely low to the background as once installed they are at the mercy of the cemetery lawn mowers.  Angels, churches, Jesus, Mary, and all the saints abound in calming pastoral scenes. These 28” x 16” patterns have it all, something for everyone. 

About 20 years ago I was asked by a Los Angeles foundry to refurbish their grave marker patterns. Always up for a challenge, I agreed. The foundry that contracted me has been in business over 100 years and some of their patterns were that old. As you can imagine, these patterns had been used many times over and were extremely worn down.  Purchasing new patterns can be quite costly and honestly the modern patterns are sterile compared to the old patterns which were hand sculpted and truly inspirational.  There is something very comforting about having something beautiful to place at a loved one’s grave. I was very excited to help with the endeavor. The fact that I had never done this before didn’t really phase me. I thought, “I’ll just figure it out” and so I did. I made a rubber mold of the original pattern which was damaged. I then took the new mold and filled it with melted clay using a frosting spreader from my kitchen. Just like you turn a cake upside down to get it out of the pan and onto the cake pedestal, I took the clay filled mold and flipped it onto a board. I had a perfect clay copy of the damaged pattern. Now the real work began, section by section repairing the damaged areas and in some cases creating whole new faces. Once completed, I made a new mold of the repaired pattern, poured it in resin and sent it to the foundry.  Sounds painstaking I know, but actually it was very relaxing.  It felt good doing something that in a way could give someone comfort in their time of need. This is just one way that art serves a higher purpose.