Meet the Creative - Laurie Moran

Interview with Laurie - The Cemeterrarium

Q: What inspired you to start making miniature cemeteries and tombstones, and how did it evolve into jewelry making?

A: In the fall of 2015, Amber Newberry (of FunDead Publications fame) took me to Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, and I absolutely fell in love with it. After that trip, I had the taphophile bug and began spending more of my free time in local graveyards and cemeteries, photographing the stones and monuments. In the spring of 2016, Amber sent me a photo she found online of a terrarium with tiny gravestones in it: a cemetery terrarium, or cemeterrarium. I wanted to make one in the worst way, but when I looked to buy miniature gravestones, nothing I could find had the details I wanted, like traditional motifs, weathering, and moss and lichen growth. So I broke open one of my storage bins of craft supplies, found some polymer clay, and started making my own stones based on graves I’d photographed in local cemeteries. I loved how those first terrariums came out, so I kept making more, some with live plants, and some with preserved moss and lichen, and brought some of them along to sell at FunDead vending events. Some of our customers mentioned that they loved the cemeterrariums, but couldn’t keep plants or glass vessels in the house—because of cats—so I started making gravestone jewelry for a more portable and feline-resistant option.

Q: How do you choose monuments to recreate?

A: I mostly make pieces based on 17th and 18th-century stones, because they have more graphics and simple carvings, which translate into small-scale better than complicated designs, and they also often feature delightfully morbid winged skull motifs. I tend to be attracted to stones that have brightly colored lichen, mounds of moss, or broken and heavily weathered areas. I like stones that show their age.

Q: Do you have a favorite piece/project you’ve made for The Cemeterrarium?

A: I enjoy the terrariums the most, especially ones I’ve made with living plants. I like the juxtaposition, both in real cemeteries and my miniature ones, of a human-made memorial being slowly enveloped by nature.

Q: How do you feel you have grown as an artist?

A: I’ve grown my skills in recreating the details of my inspiration stones. I can carve text more precisely, and have been able to include the tiny epitaphs on the bottom of some recent stones that I’ve made. I’ve also been experimenting with techniques for replicating 19th and early 20th-century relief sculpted monuments, where the sculpted design is raised above the background plane.

Q: What do you see in the future for The Cemeterrarium?

A: I’ll be traveling to Europe next summer, so I hope to find some more far-flung inspiration for my pieces in the graveyards of Norway, Denmark, and Germany.

You can find my pieces for sale at FunDead Publications’ vending events, and a selection of my jewelry is also available in Witch City Wicks’ storefront on Essex Street and on FunDead’s web shop: fundeadshop.com/collections/the-cemeterrarium. Contact me at thecemeterrarium@gmail.com for commission requests and follow me on Instagram as @thecemeterrarium.  

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