May 24, 2007

Local Artist Creating Lasting Memorials with Remembrance Jewelry

Monday, May 28th is a day set aside by the nation this year to remember the departed. While Memorial Day is just one 24-hour period, a local artist is doing his part to help insure deceased loved ones are not forgotten.

Matthew Kliethermes is helping people remember their lost ones with his new creation, Remembrance Jewelry.

From April to August last year was a rough time for my family, Kliethermes said. During that time we buried three of my grandparents and an aunt.

It was during this period of mourning that the Memphis artist began tinkering with the idea of a new jewelry style to remember his lost loved ones.

A friend of his aunts had created beaded rosaries for the aunts children. The gift was made using dried flowers from her funeral.

The beads were beautiful but not extremely durable and would disintegrate if they ever became wet, Kliethermes recalls. I decided that I wanted to create a piece of jewelry from dried flowers that would be extremely durable and could be worn every dayeven in the shower.

Having worked with wire and metals for about 10 years, the artist made the transition of the memorial item into a piece of jewelry rather smoothly.

Well, that was after he finally perfected the process to preserve the flowers.

I tried many different methods over the next few months until I perfected the process of creating the cabochon, he said.

Once that process was finalized, Kliethermes turned his attentions to building the jewelry around the memorial. He works with only the finest sterling silver and 14Kt gold to create many types of wire jewelry including pendants, collars, rings, tie tacks and much more.

The original remembrance piece was a pendant.

I designed a wire sculpture to create a beautiful pendant that can be passed from generation to generation, he said. I designed a way to include the birthstone of the deceased to represent their entire life, from beginning to end.

It wasnt long before the artist was able to see his work impact a local family.

The aide at Scotland County R-I High School saw a fellow staff member going through the loss of her husband. He reached out to the family with an offer to create remembrance pendants for the wife and three daughters, an offer that is still being appreciated daily.

He has made sure that I will always have Gene close to me, and that he will always be close to the girls as well, said Matthews coworker Linda Gray. The pendant is really special to me. It means a lot to have him close to me, to have something from the end like these flowers. We all wear them all of the time.

Remembrance Jewelry was born. The idea circulated by word of mouth enough that Kliethermes quickly found himself making additional pieces for community members.

Ultimately the idea spawned to take the process beyond a friendly service and make it available to others.

Earlier this year Matthew started his website, www.mskjewelry.com, and began traveling to various art shows a few times a year selling his work.

Even I thought it was a bit morbid, at first, to use funeral flowers and to think people would want to remember a funeral as opposed to all of the days when the person was alive, he said. I then realized it was much more than that. This jewelry represents the last time the loved one was on this earth, the last time you were with them, the last time you saw their face. I am honored to create these memorials to the people we love. It is a way to have a piece of their memory with us always

The process has also expanded beyond memorializing funeral flowers.

I have created a Crystal Memories style that primarily uses flowers from weddings, proms, anniversaries etc., Kliethermes said. These designs are a little more modern with the dried flowers infused in a clear resin material. Samples can be seen on my website.

The artist has even created jewelry from flowers dried years ago.

Unfortunately dried flowers tend to degenerate over time, he said. Many people have dried petals from special occasions sitting in a drawer or on a shelf. I created anniversary pendants from a 30-year-old wedding bouquet for each of the three daughters in the family. It gives me great pride to imagine how these pendants will be passed from generation to generation. I only need a few petals if it is important to keep the dried flower arrangement.

Ordering the jewelry is an easy process. Kliethermes says a selection is made of a few coordinating colors of flowers, usually off the casket arrangement, for a remembrance piece. Remove the flowers from water so the drying process can begin. Placing them in a window sill or open paper bag is fine, but the artist warns against placing the flowers in a ziplock bag because they will mildew and be unusable. Once the flowers are secured, simply contact Matthew to begin the process.

I keep any excess dried flowers for three years in case any other jewelry is requested in the future, he added.

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