Back in 2014 the founder of Foreverence, Pete Saari, was working on a series of prototypes for his new custom 3D printed urn startup when he heard that rock and roll legend Bob Casale from the ’80s band Devo had passed away. As a fan of the band, Casale’s death convinced him to reach out to the Devo’s management team to offer condolences and ask if his family would be interested in him designing a custom urn for him. Saari had thought that the iconic red “Energy Dome” hat would be a perfect representation of his art and life. The family was touched by the offer, so Saari created two versions of the hat so Casale’s remains could be split between both sides of his family.
Since offering his services to Casale’s family, Saari’s startup Foreverence has taken off and become quite a successful company. They offer alternatives to the very bland and generic urns typically offered by funeral homes. Cremations have doubled in the last fifteen years, and 46% of families now choose cremation over burial. That number is only expected to grow, so Saari and Foreverence wanted to offer their clients options that allow them to pay tribute to their loved ones in a more personalized way. Clients can now order a custom-designed urn online and have it 3D printed and delivered to them, typically within ten days.
Felipe Herrera had already decided that he wanted to have his body be cremated when he passed away. As a former NASA engineer, working on the construction of the original Columbia shuttle was one of his most treasured memories. The idea of offering a worthy tribute is what motivated Yvette Wilson to order a customized urn for her 95-year-old father. She contracted Foreverence to design and print a scale replica of the Columbia so she could show it to him before he died so he would know where he would ultimately be laid to rest. After receiving the urn, Wilson, her son, daughter-in-law and fiancé surprised Herrera with the 22-inch space shuttle replica at his home in California a few months before he passed away.
“We decided as a family to have this custom urn created for grandpa… dedicated to all his year working for NASA, and even receiving the Silver Snoopy Award. He worked on the space shuttles and has so many fond memories. We are so proud of his accomplishments, and this is a one of a kind urn you will never find anywhere else in the world,” Yvette Wilson said of the urn that she had made for her father’s cremains.
You can watch a video of Wilson showing her father his custom urn here:
Foreverence works closely with funeral planners who put families in contact with them if they ask about alternative urn options, but Saari says that often families contact them on their own through their website. When the Foreverence team speaks with the family they usually have an idea of what they are looking for, and Foreverence will help them by coming up with a few options and presenting them to the families. Once the final design is selected it is 3D printed in their Eden Prairie, Minnesota headquarters, cleaned and painted, and then shipped to the family. It is a remarkably easy process, and because of the versatility of 3D printing there is almost nothing that Foreverence can’t design for their customers.
Foreverence has created so many unique urns for families that it’s almost impossible not to simply print off a list of all of them. Some of the stand out urns include replica guitars, pianos, a realistic African elephant, red Chevrolet Chevelle and even a White Castle hamburger. The Minnesota-based business now has eight employees and recently recently expanded by opening a website offering their urn printing services for pets. While their 3D printed urns are not cheap — Herrera’s shuttle cost over $2,500 — the point of a custom urn isn’t meant to be a cost-saving method.
“There is inherent sadness and grief associated with death. Our mission is to add not only personality, character and individuality to each person’s memorial but possibly some relief and joy. If we can replace just a little sadness with just a little joy, then mission accomplished. We are here to dispel a notion put forth by the funeral service industry that people choose cremation for financial reasons. The fact they’ve chosen cremation does not diminish their desire for something unique, personal and meaningful,” said Saari.
Grieving families are no longer going to have to settle for an urn that is good enough or just okay, they can now have one designed for their loved one that will allow them to celebrate their life long after they’re gone. As 3D printing becomes more of a regular fixture in our modern lives, it is going to be increasingly common to see it used to customize not only our lives, but now our deaths as well.