by Gina Klawitter
What should families do with a deceased loved one’s personal belongings? This situation is hard to contemplate. Meaningful, memorable possessions usually end up stored in a basement or drawer, or displayed in a lifeless shadow box.
Now, there’s a poignant way for families to share and enjoy such cherished items. Artist Gina Klawitter creates life-like, celebratory keepsake portraits featuring her subjects’ personal clothing and belongings. From christening gowns to sports uniforms and play outfits, Gina artfully forms clothing and other items into custom collage paintings. She calls her unique collage art, Alive on Canvas®. Gina also offers a how-to book, Commemorate, Celebrate! for those who want to create their piece as a means of hands-on healing. (No art or craft skills required.)
“It’s like he’s there!” Barb exclaimed upon first seeing her art of son Zachary, featuring his beloved baseball T-shirt, cap, and related memorabilia. Nine years after his death, Barb and her husband sorted through boxes of Zachary’s belongings, reminisced, consorted, selected and worked with Gina as she composed and created his piece. Today, they relish in Zachary’s joyful collage; a “gift” that fosters renewed remembrance.
Aubrey’s Disney Princess tutu and well-worn shoes lay on mother Jeannie’s dresser. Aubrey had died in an accident six months prior. Jeannie wanted to commemorate and celebrate Aubrey. She also wanted to preserve and enjoy – while minimizing – Aubrey’s room and possessions. Jeannie decided to have two art pieces created. Aubrey was happiest when dancing around the house, delighting in static hair. A merry collage of her tutu and dance shoes now decorates Aubrey’s repurposed bedroom. Art of the outfit worn on her last day of life – a happy day at the zoo – is proudly displayed in the living room.
A large part of Gina’s artistic development process is consulting with her clients. Some have a definite article of clothing in mind. Many have several items, photographs and related memories they’d like to use. Through a process of showing and telling, Gina helps identify and compose a story that captures the loved one’s essence. In person or by email, Gina shares the art with her client at different stages for feedback and confirmation.
Alive on Canvas® portrait collage is a lovely, tangible and expressive way for bereaved families to celebrate and memorialize a loved one. In addition, Gina co-founded Bereavement Artists – a non-profit directory of artists who specialize in custom bereavement work. From artful urns to radiant ash-embedded pendants, unique clothing art, collages, portraits and more, the purpose for the site is to connect anyone, anywhere, to a desired art form and artist that speaks to their taste, need, and budget.
Commemorate, Celebrate! How to Make Keepsake Art of Your Loved Ones
by Gina Klawitter
Now you can make beautiful, legacy portraits from your loved ones’ memorable garments. (No art or craft skills required.) Use items like newborn outfits, team uniforms, toddler play clothes, a recital dress, baptism gown, holiday costume, favorite hand-knit garment, grandmother’s apron, and more to create personal artwork to share and enjoy for a lifetime. Creating a keepsake clothing collage is a wonderful hands-on way of healing for yourself and with your family. Full of colorful illustrations and approachable expertise—what you create from this little gem of a book will be priceless.