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In 2008 when my father died, my mother was asked by the funeral director how she wanted him dressed for burial. As there were no suitable clothes available for him at the time, an idea came to me to use instead a beautiful covering cloth, a shroud.

With the approval of my mother and siblings, I sketched on calico the things that represented our father. Over a period of four days, the cloth lay on the dining table for us to sit down and sew our name, or draw a symbol, or write a quote or message, whenever we felt the need, at any hour of the day or night. We each sewed sections of the shroud and when gathered together, my siblings and I shared memories of our father that evoked crying and laughter.  It felt good to share our memories of him.

When friends and relatives came to pay their respects the shroud provided a talking point that allowed visitors to speak comfortably and openly about our father and his death.  We invited visitors to write a message on the edge of the shroud and those who could not attend his funeral had their messages written for them so they too were included despite the distance that separated them from us.

We felt something special was happening as the making of the shroud connected to how we were feeling.  There was a feeling of satisfaction that the purposeful gift we were giving our father contained creative expressions of love and the time we gave to making the shroud gave us space to start grieving and accept his death.

My mother was so moved by the making of the shroud that she asked for one to be made for her when her time came.  I realised then what a profound impact the shroud making had on my mother, a woman whose era, taste and English heritage would ordinarily have chosen formal clothing instead of a hand made shroud for her own burial.  My mother saw the love that went into the making of the shroud which outshone any outfit she could have bought previous to this experience.

Toward the end of 2010 my mother’s health declined and after a week, she died.  I started to design her shroud in the week of her dying in accordance with her wishes. It also helped my siblings to prepare for and come to terms with her impending death at the time.

The funeral of three of my brothers, along with the funerals of relatives and friends, have all lacked something for me and mostly I found the biggest missing things were time and involvement.  We were able to be respectful and honest about our feelings and had no desire to make the deceased a saint, just the human we loved.

In November 2012, the seed for Shroud Memento was planted, driven by my long-held need to do something authentic and creative that was useful to how we live our lives.  The experience of making those shrouds and knowing what it is to work with love through hand-made products stayed with me until the epiphanic moment that connected shroud making and my vocational desire to work with textiles and design.

As the sole operator of the service, I consult, demonstrate and guide you. To understand more about shroud making I encourage you to read the postings in Blogs, that are about loss, grief, and things that connect us to life.  The shroud gallery has samples that will hopefully get your creative juices flowing.  Please connect with Shroud Memento Facebook for updates and to help spread the word.

People, textiles, organic matter and design are what interest and inspire me.  I’ve completed various courses over the years at secondary and tertiary levels in: stained glass, ceramics, painting and drawing, mosaics, basket weaving, painted finish techniques, pattern-making and sewing, print making, flower arrangement, and silversmithing.   I have worked for several art organisations, hold a BA in Liberal Arts and a post graduate diploma in Secondary Teaching.  It is the combination of my experience, community mindedness and artistic skills that form Shroud Memento.

Helen Dunne.