From quilts to embroidery: Creative ways artists memorialize those who've passed away.

Everyone who's lost a loved one has memories and stories of them that they will always treasure.

Talking about those memories and sharing them with others can help people cope with grief and also to celebrate the legacy of their loved one. Something else that's a good healing tool? Art.

Artist Bisa Butler uses quilting to memorialize those who've died.  

"I’ve suffered loss and I know that longing for that person," she said.


For the past 15 years, Butler has turned loss into warmth and comfort through commemorative quilts. She bases her quilts on photographs of loved ones — including her own grandmother as she neared the end of life. Butler works to find ways to pour extra meaning into her quilts; for her grandmother's quilt, for example, she incorporated violets into the pattern because that was also her grandmother's name.

When Butler was tasked with making a quilt to honor the late Howard Fitch, she used parts of a military shirt to commemorate his service and commitment to his country.

"Abundant Blessings" image via Bisa Butler, used with permission.

Butler made the quilt for Dawn Fitch, Howard's daughter, as part of Prudential's "Masterpiece of Love" campaign. The series honors life, love, loss, and the power of the human spirit by bringing together four artists with four survivors of loss to create works that celebrate their loved ones.

Butler's quilt of Fitch was intended not only to celebrate him, but to provide comfort and protection to his family.

"For me, the very nature of looking at fabric stitched is a comfort," she said. "For people to have that tangible piece, it's not only something nice to look at, it's something nice to touch."

Artist Christine DaCruz discovered a different way of interpreting death — through an embroidery project.

During an artist residency that focused on how news is interpreted, DaCruz got an idea to embroider obituaries from The New York Times.

"The shift became to not necessarily talk about their death but to reflect on their life," she said. "I thought the New York Times' obituaries did such a good job at collecting the stories of how these people lived and what was important to them."

Image from "The Obituaries" via Christine DaCruz, used with permission.

In "The Obituaries," a series that can be found on her website, DaCruz takes photographs used in obituaries and hand-stitches colored thread through the paper to embellish the photos. What makes them extra interesting is how she draws outside of the cropped photo images to include what she imagines the rest of the photo to look like.

Image from "The Obituaries" via Christine DaCruz, used with permission.

It's just one way she likes to celebrate life and learn people's histories — even if they may be strangers.

"We are all affected by [death]," DaCruz noted, "but just reflecting on the person's life and all the good they brought into the world and how they affected people positively is a way to embrace and celebrate them."

When DaCruz was asked to memorialize the life of Mickey McNany, she knew just the route to take.

Mickey, the late mother of Ryan McNany, is another of the loved ones featured in Prudential's "Masterpiece of Love" series.

McNany was the founding director of the Theatre School at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Even after losing her fight with late-stage cancer, she continues to touch countless lives; 87% of the kids McNany mentored throughout the years have ended up in a career in theater arts.

"She was a force to be reckoned with," said DaCruz, after learning McNany's story.

Mickey McNany. Image via Prudential, used with permission.

McNany helped so many people realize their dreams, DaCruz thought, so why not give her her own playbill cover?

DaCruz used inspiration for the piece "Show Biz Kid" from a photo of McNany doing what she loved: teaching.

"Showbiz Kid" by Christine DaCruz. Image via Prudential, used with permission.

"She motivated all these kids to get out on stage and break out of their isolated boxes," DaCruz recalled. "She helped them come out of her comfort zone."

Art — whether it’s writing, painting, dancing, observing, or something else — can be a productive outlet to promote healing and expression.

There's a reason art therapy is becoming an increasingly popular method of care. Art, prayer, and healing can help to bring one's thoughts inward, and that journey can be deeply transformative.

"People really connect with art," DaCruz said. "Even if they don’t visit museums on a regular basis, everybody is drawn to something beautiful, especially if it’s about something they recognize."

"What’s more recognizable than somebody they love?"

Heroes
True
Prudential
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular