The point of Memorial Day — a commemoration of those who sacrificed their lives serving the United States — can get lost amid the hedonistic scramble of a holiday weekend that heralds summer.
That’s no surprise, given that the subject of death is often an uncomfortable one. Addressing mortality may be considered almost taboo.
But a new e-commerce site not only addresses mortality, it does so in style.
Three-Fourths of an Ounce (www.3-4oz.com) — named for the “weight” of the human soul, according to early 20th century physician Duncan MacDougall’s calculations — offers condolence items inspired by global mourning traditions and promises "beautiful design for a modern approach to mourning and remembrance."
It’s a welcome alternative to floral wreaths, angel figurines and photo frames decorated with trite sentiments. Options include hand-printed letterpress condolence cards by Alison Riley, founder of Set Editions cards, with spot-on phrases such as “This Sucks” and “Words Fail” (from $5 each) and a limited-edition, hand-carved black jade pendant necklace, influenced by Victorian times, from jeweler Gabriella Kiss ($1,050).
“I think we, as a culture, have moved very far down the road of how medicine and science can help prolong life, but we haven’t [taken steps] to marry our spiritual and secular sides through the process of commemoration and mourning that is so very human,” says the site’s Brooklyn-based founder, Lauri London Freedman, a former children’s book editor. “I hope that 3-4oz.com will start that conversation. We have a million ways to celebrate birth and marriage, but at the time that people need us the very most, we become overcome with fear that we’re going to do or say the wrong thing, so we do nothing. And that’s the worst thing to do.”
Collaborative designers include Brooklyn design team Fredericks & Mae, known for their artful objects. Their creation is a tasseled memory beads necklace of black leather and charred wooden beads ($200), a modern take on prayer beads.
“Our company is also about objects [such as kites and arrows] and the histories and narratives that they take on as they move through time, in multiple cultural contexts,” says the design team’s Gabriel Fredericks Cohen. “There are 52 beads in the necklace, so it is kind of a year’s cycle of mourning or remembrance. The two beads above the tassel are for you and the person you are remembering.”
Polished, hand-carved quartz Weight of the Soul stones, pocket-sized and appropriately weighing .75 ounces, by renowned jeweler Ted Muehling ($200) are 3-4oz.com’s top-selling product. Freedman connected with Muehling when a mutual friend passed away four years ago.
Forthcoming products include an urn and bracelet designed by Muehling, a keepsake box and a basket based on a Muslim mourning tradition. Eventually, Freedman hopes to expand into personalized pieces and even burial items, such as handcrafted caskets and shrouds.