Today you get to meet Jenn and her incredible work. She is the artist behind My Tangible Peace and she creates amazing lifelike sculptures in honor of angel babies. I think the most fascinating thing behind her work is the detail. She pays such close attention to the details of our little ones and it shows in her craftsmanship. Her post is her heartfelt of the inspiration her daughter left her to create and she is giving away one of her pieces here today too. ~Beryl
When it comes to grieving there are no rules, guidelines or handbook that will fully prepare you for the complete emotional devastation that rips through your soul after you are informed that you most precious and priceless asset, your child, has just died. My daughter was 16 months old when she was discovered “blue” and “not breathing” during her afternoon nap.
The weeks following her death are still very much a blur to me. We had the fortune, if you can call it that considering the circumstances, to be able to have her wake and funeral services at our family home. The funeral director that we used encouraged us to take her home. I remember him looking me directly in the eye and saying, “You can do this. It wasn’t very long ago that we used to take care of our own. You brought her into the world, now you need to see her out.” At that moment my maternal mama bear found the strength to follow his advice and we left, together. As I look back on that moment today, 11 years later, I whole heartedly believe that I did the right thing. Instead of leaving her in the care of strangers, and to only be allowed to see her body at specific calling hours, I took her home to where our memories of her radiated off of the walls. I brought her home to a warm and loving shelter that smelled of her and felt safe. I took the time to be alone with her and inspect every inch of her perfect little body. I traced my fingers over the sewn up violations from the medical examiner. I took in this unbelievable reality that was dream-like and quite surreal. We laid her out in the Moses basket that she slept in as an infant and placed her surrounded by daisies on our family table. The very same table that we, to this day, share holiday and birthday meals on. We kept her body with us for two days. Over that time I talked to her, I cried over her, and I stroked her hair. I kept her body in my room during the nighttime hours part for comfort because I wasn’t ready to let her go, and just in the slight chance that this whole thing was a just a horrific nightmare and once I woke up I would find her giggling and chatting and the experiences from the previous two days would melt away with the sunrise. It was on the morning of the second day that I knew that this wasn’t a dream and that it was time to let her go. I could see the changes that death had brought to her body. It wasn’t scary or gross, but it was time. We made that breathless call to the funeral home informing them that it was time and they gave us the okay to bring her to the crematorium. I really don’t remember much of the car ride, I just remember her face. Handing her over to the caring hands of the funeral director left me dizzy and gasping. This was real. My daughter was dead. And this was the end. No more pictures. No more holidays. No more books, or dolls, or shoes (she loved shoes). My world as I knew it just slammed on it’s breaks and didn’t care that I wasn’t buckled in.
In Memory of Madison my family and friends raised money to build a playground in the same college housing that we used to live in, and we also started a scholarship for single parents. For the first three years, although I missed her greatly, I felt satisfied that we did all that we could do to Honor her Memory. It wasn’t until her 5th birthday that I started struggling with my grief again. Once again the tidal waves of loss came crashing down on my soul and I was instantly time-warped back to the day that she died. I was wrecked with emotions and once again raw with her loss. Then her 6th birthday came, and I felt as if I needed to do more, but what? Then the 5th aniversary of her death came and went and my heart ached for something that brough a piece of her back to me. I started reading books and doing some research on parental berievement, but that only soothed my ache for a short time.
As silly as this may sound I found my inspiration in an email forward. Some of you may be familiar with it, and for those of you who are not may I suggest looking it up, Camille Allen’s ‘Marzipan Babies”. The email stated that these tiny, palm sized, sculptures of these sweet little babies were sculpture out of a pastry dough called marzipan. In truth they were actually sculpted out of a polymer clay but regardless something about them spoke to my heart and I remember saying to myself, “I can do that”. You see I’ve been playing around with sculpey, which is a polymer clay that you can find in any craft/hobby store, for years. I loved the stuff. Now, up until that point I had only ever made more cartoony funny characters never something as realistic as these tiny baby sculptures, but I had to try. Within a day I had sculpted my first baby. It was rough, but there was something energizing, powerful and yet very peaceful about forming this newborn form out of a blob of clay, and I was hooked. In the summer of 2006 I was asked to create my first Memorial sculpture in Honor of a beautiful little girl who was born an angel, and from that moment on my work has found a second purpose.
My heart and soul belong to my Memorial pieces. I have mastered the art of ‘likeness’ and have used that mastery to create portrait pieces for families who have lost children in pregnancy, birth, to SIDS, or other illness. In all actuality 85% of my work falls into this realm because this is where my passion lies, my motivation behind my creations. It fills me with so much joy to know that I can share this, fairly new discovered talent with those who are still trying to find their tangible peace. Even if what I have created only fills the void for a brief moment, I’m forever glad that I was able to help with that solace for the road of grief is not mapped out very well.
And Instead of keeping these naked babies in a box in my attic for my grandchildren to discover after my death — I instead offer my services to other families who might want them. I don’t push, I don’t promote— I just let things happen on their own. Think of it like this: They have a path….sculpting lets me loose myself in my work for awhile. I’m able to think about Maddie and really focus my energy on her…and then I’m done. A stopping point. BUT instead of packing it away it moves on….to another family who needs it. Someone who needs to have something else that represents their passed baby — a knick-knack of sorts. Small enough to be tucked away in a drawer and kept private until an emotional collapse….My work is just as selfish as it is giving.
It’s not Art for Art’s sake — it’s art for the heart.
Jenn is generously offering one of her 12 week old (gestation) sculpture pieces to one of our readers.
- Leave a comment on this post: What would having one of Jenn’s sculptures mean to you?
- You can gain additional entries by following My Tangible Peace on facebook – be sure to leave a separate comment telling us you’re a fan.
Entries will be accepted until Sunday January 29th and a winner will be announced on the Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope Facebook Page on Monday January 30th.