When Ron Javner met his future wife, Carole, at the University of Wisconsin–River Bend, the young art student told her: “I want to be art when I die.” Now he—and anyone else—can be, thanks to the couple’s post-retirement business. Eternal Ware, based out of their home in Sarasota, creates pottery out of cremated human remains.
“People have a hard time knowing what to do with ashes,” says Carole. “It’s nice to have a piece of art that goes with your décor and also memorializes your loved one.”
Depending on how much budget—and how many ashes—you have, you can order everything from small pendants averaging $40 each to tabletop pieces going for $300-$500 to life-sized art for the garden for $5,000.
After Ron, 66, retired in 2010 from the juvenile justice system in Minnesota, the couple purchased a condominium in Sarasota. While talking to potters at art fairs, Ron came up with the idea of mixing ashes with clay to create art pieces. In 2013, after Carole, 64, retired, they launched the business.
Ron says he selects his potters carefully. “I have to see the artist’s personality in their pieces,” he says.
Tanya Leslie met Ron at a Sarasota art show about two years ago. Leslie, who has created about a half dozen pieces for Eternal Ware, says she tries not to think about what the ashes once were, but rather the beauty she can create from them.
“We try to keep the process as sacred as possible,” Ron says. “We’re very respectful; we know the outcome will make someone happy.”
Dawn Bigelbach, who lives in Oakdale, Minnesota, had some of her mother’s ashes fashioned into a red pot with blue flowers. “The artist even wrote me a lovely note,” says Bigelbach, choking up. “The funeral home had other options for the cremains, but I wanted an heirloom, a piece of art that could be handed down, not just a box of ashes stuck in a closet.”
“More people are choosing cremation, and they have a lot of options for using cremains,” says Carole, who has a piece (at left) made from her mother’s ashes. “I look at my art and know my mom is always with me, and I can take it with me wherever I go.”