We are Noel and Jill Brennan and we now live in North Cornwall with our two children and Roy, the miniature poodle. Noel is a sculptor and scenic artist with a background in graphic design and over twenty-five years' experience in the TV and Exhibition industry. Jill has taken a vocational route through ministry and education. Casting Ashes® is our first joint business venture and part of our mid-life crisis-cum-adventure! We have left our city jobs behind and are pursuing a simpler life at a slower pace doing things we love.
Although fortunate to have been involved in many exciting commercial projects that have taken him all over the world, Noel has always yearned for the day when he could follow his own creative path and indulge his main passion - sculpture.
The initial idea for Casting Ashes came when at a family funeral, Noel announced he would like his ashes to be cast into sculpture. We knew it was possible to have ashes fused into blown glass to create keepsake jewellery, but as far as we could see no-one was casting ashes into concrete.
The name 'Casting Ashes' seemed obvious and came to us very early on - in fact we had it trademarked back in 2015, a couple of years before we made the big move. It was quite a risk, but we were excited at the prospect of doing something innovative, and especially something that might help people at a time of sadness and loss.
Noel is a scenic artist and prop maker with over 25 years experience in the TV and Exhibition industry and a background in Graphic Design. He has been involved in many projects that have taken him to different places around the world.
However, Noel's main passion has always been sculpture, and since moving to Cornwall this is finding new expression. "It is a ’thin place’ - very spiritual. A place you find unexpected beauty in brokenness. And using Cornish granite dust. a quarry by-product is symbolic of new beginnings... something broken and worn away being re-formed, re-newed, re-valued."
For Noel, casting cremation ash makes an existential statement: "At a physical level we have the essence of a unique someone combined with minerals of the earth, minerals we all share, and in this case literally a little piece of Cornwall. me For me this signifies our elemental connection with the earth, and reminds us that nothing and no-one is ever really lost to us."
Many of the designs have tactile curved, smooth lines and this again this is intentional. "The first thing people want to do is touch and stroke them. It's an innate response and something that people find comforting."
Noel sees his remembrance sculpture as 'functional art' to hold space for people through 'the ache of grief'.
The taboos surrounding death and bereavement are lifting; helped for example by death cafes designed to open up conversations to create a more death positive culture, and the emergence of death doulas who assist in the process of 'conscious dying', supporting people through this stage of transition. Indeed this can be an enriching time of healing and growth for all concerned. We feel priviliged to have a part to play are keen to network with others within the field.
For fifteen years Jill was a primary teacher and Religious Studies Co-ordinator with a particular interest in developing spiritual awareness in children. In 2009 she co-wrote a book of guided visualisations for use in the classroom entilted 'See RE - Stories from Christianity' published by RMEP. Prior to this Jill was an ordained minister of religion, working primarily with the homeless in London. Now, besides being Marketing Director for Casting Ashes® she writes resource material for teachers and continues to be active in interspiritual education online. In her mind these 'jobs' complement each other perfectly. "Working in the deathcare field connects you with others at a real, raw level which can be incredibly healing and life-affirming. To my mind when your day job fulfils you at a deep level and combines your passions in life - that's the true measure of success."