Selling Art to the Funerary Market

Two artists who have found a niche in this specialty market create work memorializing loved ones who have passed away.

Many niche markets are open to artists and craftspeople to sell their work, and the funerary market is no exception. The artists we spoke with for this article both expressed how honored they are to work with grieving families. They consider it their greatest responsibility to act in collaboration with those families to produce art that celebrates the life of their loved one.

Posthumous Sculpture

Bridgette Mongeon, artist posthumous sculptureSculptor Bridgette Mongeon started working with posthumous sculpture after she got a request from a parent who wanted her to portray a deceased son. It has since become a significant part of her business – so much so that she has actually written a book on the subject.


Bridgette works from photographs, interviews family members, and uses digital technology to design 3D models that help give an idea of the finished work. She originally sculpts the figure in clay, which is a time-consuming process. The finished work of art is cast in bronze. Some requests come from universities or organizations, but many commissions are from private families.


Jenna sculpture by artist Bridgette Mongeon


Her services include not only creating and delivering a finished sculpture, but she also offers a video of her process for the family. If requested, she can set up a blog for family and friends of the person being memorialized, featuring the sculpture. This can be a place for them to connect and remember and encourages participation.


Posthumous bronze sculpture by Bridgette Mongeon


Bridgette does some advertising in industry trade magazines, has made connections with cemeteries who can provide referrals, and also contacts universities who may want to use her services. She indicates that “the nature of sculpture is to memorialize and recognize,” so posthumous sculpture makes a natural connection. Her website explains her work in detail to prospective clients.

Funerary Urns

Potter Keith Lahti of West VirginiaCeramic artist Keith Lahti of Chloe, West Virginia originally became interested in creating cremation urns when reading about the history of pottery. Cremated remains have been stored in elaborate urns dating back to the Roman Empire. Keith states that the “celebratory and respectful treatment of human remains is a big part of history.”

Keith has been making one-of-a-kind cremation urns for about 15 years, which comprise about 30% of his business – the rest being traditional pottery. Although he offers urns for sale on his website, about two thirds of urns sold are custom orders. He also makes urns for pet remains.


Cremation Urn by ceramic artist Keith Lahti


When a body is cremated, the ashes are delivered in a box to the family. There usually is no hurry to purchase an urn, so customers are usually willing to wait 3 or 4 weeks to receive their commissioned item. Keith mentions that quite often he speaks at length with people ordering an urn so that he can get it exactly right. He says, “I have a different approach. My philosophy isn’t about making money, it’s about what I can give. I want to do a really ethical job for every customer.”


Funerary Urn by ceramic artist Keith Lahti


He works in two different styles, using glazed stoneware for some designs, and creating earthenware “ritual vessels” for others. Some requests have been very intricate, such as the family who ordered an urn featuring an entire astrological chart with birth and death dates and symbol medallions.

Keith’s website, word-of-mouth and referrals are the sources for his business in this niche market.

This specialty market may be a good match for artists who have a lot to offer families who have lost loved ones. Do you sell into a niche market? What products do you offer?  

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  1. I am so pleased to see you covering this niche! I am trying to break in to this area with my unique styled Memorial Commissions: Mixed media paintings that incorporate quotes, special dates, name, memories of the loved one. I offer a commission that
    is a collaboration between myself (a trained grief counselor and artist) and the bereft family. The result is a timeless piece that serves as a conversation piece in the home as well as a preserver of memories and lessons that will never die. Thank you for featuring this unique market. It’s a tricky marketing project in terms of timing and exactly how to get the word out about these opportunities.

    • Carolyn says:

      Beautifully put! I agree that this market is an excellent opportunity for artists who have a special product that can add value to family relationships and their memories of loved ones.

  2. I also sell to this market with my fingerprint jewelry, and to the pet market with my pet impression jewelry.
    With this market the rewards you get are not just selling your art, but knowing that you are truly helping people with the grieving process. The customers let you into a very intimate part of their lives. You cry with them when they tell you about a loved one, even a pet.
    When I first started, I never would have thought to get into this market, but now that I am in it, it is the most rewarding aspect of what I do. Everyday I am grateful to have my art and what I do really help people.

  3. This is a natural niche for a stone sculptor to get into. So far, I’ve made one memorial, out of gorgeous green serpentine. I would be willing to make more, although, at this point I still don’t have the ideal equipment for cutting very large blocks of stone. Since I make bowls and the occasional jar, I thought stone urns would also be a good product for me to make. However, when I approached a local monument business with this idea, I discovered that they were already buying inexpensive marble urns that are made in China. It would be very difficult for an artist such as myself to compete (price-wise) with these big industrial type facilities overseas. Also, many modern memorial businesses also have CAD contoled CNC machines that can scan a photo and reproduce it as an etching on granite, in a fraction of the time that would take to do by hand. Still, I think there may be room for artists such as myself in the higher-end memorial market, especially for customized carvings.

    • Jason, I believe you are right. The potter I spoke to said that this is a very personal type of commission, which involves a lot of discussion and customer service. All the extra services you may offer which include working closely with the family to create a special piece, which creates the perception of value (and the price range to go with it) may be your niche.

  4. Thank you for this article! I have an online memorial art gallery called Shine On Brightly. I represent more than 35 artists who design and create cremation urns in many materials, memorial and cremation jewelry, memorial portraits, hand-bound guest register books, memorial glass, and more. I am constantly adding artists to the roster, thus diversifying the collection.

    I have found that most of my customers are individual consumers (rather than funeral directors) who say that the funeral homes and/or memorial websites are full of out-sourced, mass-produced urns and memorials. By offering artist-made, hand-crafted, affordable products, we provide meaningful, personal ways in which people can honor their loved ones. I’m confident that this is a growing market!

    • Thank you, Adrienne, for your comments. What a fascinating business! You must have many stories to tell of the families you have worked with who appreciate the personalized, handmade memorials to honor their loved ones.

    • After losing my big brother this past September, I found myself creating and creating some more. I taught myself a new technique and started making jewelry. Urn pendants to be exact. Last week I opened my store, The Sacred Spirit, where I am showcasing my urns. Now I am in the place of needing to reach my target market. This desire to help others who are grieving is so great and my passion runs deep. Do you have advise to give a newbie on getting started?

  5. Oh good! Wonderful to see that artists and others working in the contemporary funerary arts are sharing a platform to discuss the still-emerging marketplace, which is full of challenges for both artists and those who are championing their work.

    Since 2000, FUNERIA has organized five international biennial funerary art competitions and exhibitions. We promote and sell original contemporary artist-made urns, scattering vessels, reliquaries and personal memorial artworks through retail and reseller channels worldwide.

    In the course of developing the contemporary funerary art genre, our jurors have reviewed more than 3,000 original urns and objects by more than 1,000 artists from 40 states and 14 other countries. We know where the challenges lie. We’re thrilled when we’re able to surmount them by working with artists who approach their careers as professionals, and with clients who value the unique gifts they offer us individually and, more broadly, as documentarians of our culture and time.

    By way of example, art- and design-conscious retail clients are increasingly seeking functional art objects (urns and keepsakes) that reflect something of the character of the individual that an urn may shelter long-term or only temporarily… exuberance, strength, grace, humor, passions of a lifetime and an eye for beauty. While artists are, among all of us, the most qualified to create sensitive work that is evocative of character and personality, it also requires artists to wear product designer caps in order to consider “ease of use.”

    This isn’t necessarily what an artist really wants to be thinking of in making their work, yet in this genre, and certainly to be considered for re-seller/wholesale opportunities, it’s essential. Nudging artists to consider how to maintain both their unique vision and superb craftsmanship while also considering functionality is what we help resolve. There are few roles I’ve experienced in my life where the results are so gratifying.

    • Thanks for posting your comment, Maureen. Your website is a beautiful gallery of work that honors loved ones who have passed away. Must be a very gratifying business!

      • Yes it is, Wendy… and a small business promoting American craft in a highly competitive reseller marketplace that is looking forward to your winning Maryland’s 1st District seat so that others like us have a champion in Congress too!

  6. Wendy, I am a photographer and KY Community Scholar trained in doing folklife research. As a retired RN and MSW, I have had a great deal of experience with death and dying, including teaching an upper level undergrad course titled: Death, Dying and Bereavement. All of these things led me to doing a research project on Funeral Traditions in the South. The result is approximately 40 images related to funeral traditions in various areas of the South, and a program explaining the traditions, with the purpose of educating and creating understanding and tolerance for the customs of others. It has been received well in my area but I am looking for a way to promote the program to a wider area. Any suggestions?

    • Carol, your project sounds fascinating. I don’t personally know of a group which you could approach to present your program, but would suggest you contact cultural organizations, or even ask someone in the funerary industry if they have contacts. LinkedIn is a great resource for contacting people, once you choose the type of group you want to connect with. You may be able to find a discussion group there on the topic.

  7. I’ve just come across this article and even though it was posted while back, it still relevant as so many wonderful artists and artisans dedicate their lives to the memorial and funeral industry. In the case of my company ARTISURN (, we work with talented artisans to offer handmade cremation urns, jewelry and keepsakes. It’s so gratifying to help people find that one final resting vessel that ‘speaks’ to them.

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