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Marthaz Urns

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Cork-city based sculptor, Martha Cashman, has created a unique sculptural urn to remember her brother, Pat, who died from cancer last Christmas.

The poignant memorial is part of her new collection, Marthaz Urns.

“The urn is a representation of the cremation Pat would have chosen. In dying, he was able to give even more by choosing a traditional funeral and burial in the family grave as a comfort to our 92-year-old mother. COVID funerals, especially, have had a great impact on families and the hope is that my new collection will help heal and create a sense of celebration of one’s life. 

The catalyst for the collection of funeral Urns came from the idea that people are now planning their own funerals. Marthaz Urns are all unique one-off hand-built art works and the piece will also sit as a sculptural work in the home. The option to commission a special piece is also possible, where Martha will meet with individuals or families and discuss options such as the use of fabric from a wedding dress, jewellery or shirt cuffs which can be used to create a unique surface texture on the clay to referencing a loved one.

Martha is using the ancient Japanese technique of firing called ‘Raku’ on this collectionThis method creates wonderful colour and charmThe process of the Raku firing is the catalyst to healing – for the family to come together outdoors to watch the process and honour someone who has died. The work is removed from the kiln at 1000 degress, placed in a metal container and smothered with saw dust.  

Dominic Campbell is Arts & Cultural Engagement at Irish Hospice Foundation.

As pandemic deaths increase, I often think of Martha shaping clay, raw earth, into an urn for her brother. Martha’s work is connecting the personal and the global. The reflections its brought forth left me wondering how more people might pesonalise the elements of funerals. Should graveyards become a type of sculpture gardens? Isn’t this what the arts should do? Ask questions of what we take for granted, invite us to look and feel as if for the first time?” 

Martha’s research on Irish funerary services has shown a great decline in the role of women. In the past, they played a central role in the service from the start to finish and with support around grieving, healing, and comforting.

Photography: Kilian Waters

For more information about Martha Urnz, visit