Headstones – The Process

The symbolism in our headstones embodies the person the memorial is for. We love to hear a story, a description or even a poem about your loved one. This can then be used to trigger inspiration and transform your words into a shape using our artists’ perception.

Our goal is to create something that expresses memories. In order to achieve this, we utilize our experience and intuition to carry out the work. The following examples explain how this is done.

The Story
The Idea
The Outcome
Customer: ‘Our daughter Tamara (Tam) was always a quiet and astute observer who valued words and made them matter. She loved ‘language’. She was an early reader and a writer from the time she could hold a pen. A highly intelligent person (with a wry wit) who felt things deeply, but let others see this only on her own terms, she seemed more mature than her biological age. Tam had a passionate and creative personality, yet was easy to be beside, because her energy almost always appeared calm. This was not necessarily the case under the surface. She loved music; played the violin and played in a women’s percussion band in her last year of life, with a bunch of friends/flatmates.

Tam had, at the time of her death at age 20, enrolled in University in order to study Psychology. She wanted to become a ‘natural healer’ and felt she needed to understand people further. She was also taking short courses in such alternative therapies as Reiki, Bach Flower remedies and Holistic Pulsing (massage) etc. At the same time she was researching her Scandinavian and Celtic heritages and beginning to write her first fantasy novel. She left us a body of poetry and short stories; beginning writing seriously at age 16yrs, until her death. I am in the process of self publishing them into book form.

Tam died in 1994 (quietly) from a flu virus which attacked and destroyed her heart muscles. At that time medical people were not aware of this potentially lethal strain of flu. The ceremony for her death/ celebration of her life was held in a wild (little known) place by the river under a big tree close to our home. She was then buried in the cemetery in Raglan township, as she had written in her diary that she considered Raglan her Spiritual Home. We did almost everything around her death ourselves, aside from the legal requirements e.g. a friend facilitated the ceremony, people spoke, read poems and played musical instruments. We filled in her grave ourselves etc.

Tam had an innate sense of Spirituality and at the time of her death, was exploring what this meant to her and for her life. The Spiritual name she owned was ‘Ariadne Wordweaver’. She was interested in the old ‘Pagan’ belief systems which are closely allied to the cycles of the natural world (especially those of the place we come from) and in ‘witches’ – being seen as strong and empowered women/healers in touch with old and valuable knowledge, used for the growth of life. Hence the idea of ‘Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again…. it is part of a song and I think reflects her belief (and mine) that life does not end at death, but continues in Spirit and that we will be reborn.

This coming year, 2014, will be the 20th anniversary of her death. I think this a good time for her to have an enduring headstone which reflects herself and continues the sense of history she so valued. The white marble seemed to me, something that Tam would love.

Marrie – Tam’s Mum.’


Our Answer: ‘Thank you for sending all those details. This made it a lot easier to understand her personality and come up with something that has a connection. I had to wait for the right moment for the design and had a good start this morning for the creative side of my work. After looking at the photos and reading your mails and description a picture started to come together. The symbolism and thoughts that went into the design are as following:

I thought that the key to giving the stone an artistic twist and personality would be a celtic touch with lots of plants entangled in knotwork. The celts (whose heritage your daughter was interested in) were pagan and highly spritual people living more in harmony with nature than any other tribe that invaded Europe at a later stage. They also had the druids and witches your daughter was so fascinated by.

Spirituality means believing in things beyond reality; secrets that are not visible with the human eye. There needs to be a hidden thought in the pattern that only a knowledgable person will see when looking at the stone. It will show what she was like ‘under the surface’.

This knotwork travels to the top of the stone and closes in a circle to represent the thought of reincarnation and the fact that spirit is travelling through an ongoing circle between death and life. This is almost like the spiral that you suggested but we are going to use symbols instead of words. In there is the ‘secret language’ that I have been talking about and I think it should contain the following components:

- An abstract symbol for her love for words and language

- An abstract symbol for her being a part of a band and playing music

- Her path as a natural healer (a female druid figure ‘witch’). She will have the same hair as on the picture that you sent me.

- Family and friends

- And most importantly: it is now the 20th anniversary of her death and the distance of her last life to now is similar to how old she got. Following her belief (and if time is still the same for spirit) there is now another being of the same age that should also appear on this headstone in some way.

The untamed appearance of leaving some of the sides of the rock unworked also seems to be in harmony with the leaves and trees in the background.’


Client’s feedback about design: ‘Hi Stephan – Thank you so much for this. I love it and I am sure that Tam does also!! I am really happy about how you have drawn from the ideas and information I have given you and made it all into a creative and coherent piece of art, while ‘working with’ the stone (not imposing on it). I particularly appreciate your understanding of Tam’s Spirituality and how the symbolic nature of the work not only reflects who she is (without being overt about it) but also reflects who Tam is in terms of being a person who shares herself on a very deep level, but only with those who understand her. It feels to me that your design allows us to share with the world, the amazing person Tam was (is, to me) whilst still protecting her.

I have just showed your e mail to my eldest son Simon and he has exactly the same reaction as I do.

Client’s feedback about stone: ‘Hi Stephan and Susanne – We are really happy with the stone. Thank you again for your great work! The installation went well and we had a ceremony to unveil it. I told the story of the stone, how we got it, you two who designed and carved it and what the symbols mean, people spoke and sang and read poems and then I read some of Tam’s writing. After that, we all went for a coffee down town. It was a really lovely day and people were most impressed with the stone and your design carving. One old friend said (and I agree) “it was lovely that you found someone who ‘got it’ to do the work”.

Kind regards – Marrie – and thankyou from Graham also.’

Other examples of former tombstone work

“The story about this tombstone gets told in our documentary and is one of our favourites. The deceased parents’ children could not come up with an idea for something that they both loved. After talking to the family and them constantly mentioning new names of other brothers and sisters I slowly realized how many children they had. 18! I remember how quickly the idea for the design came together after this discovery.”
– Stephan
Original shape of the boulder

Original shape of the boulder

Design for gravestone

Design for gravestone

Detail of finished gravestone

Detail of finished gravestone

The finished Gravestone

The finished Gravestone

“The idea for this headstone was very intuitive. It spawned from a short talk with the family who had lost their son in a car accident. They gave me the key words right from the start. He was a good observer – and this is what the stone shows: eyes. A beautifully proportioned stone that reminds me of Picasso eyes depicted in two abstract arches.”
– Susanne
Design for the headstone

Design for the headstone

The finished Tombstone

The finished Tombstone

The finished tombstone

The finished tombstone