Introduction: How to Dress the Recently Deceased
This instructable involves a death in the family.
Pictured above are me (the eldest), my youngest brother Ted, our middle brother Ian, and our cousin Lucas. The photo was taken in 2012 in Eugene, Oregon, while I was on my way to the coast for my twenty-year high school reunion. It would prove to be the last time we were all together.
Ian was many things, but in this context it is most important to say that Ian was depotdevoid. Ian was a craftsman, an artist, and a maker, and the joy he took from those activities is why he became an Instructables editor. Even though Ian and I pursued very different projects, we also had all those things in common... which is why it was so easy for him to lure me to this site, all those years ago.
I hope you will take some time to browse through Ian's instructables. He loved to share!
About three years after this picture was taken, I moved back to Oregon, and had managed to visit with both Ian and Ted during that time. But we never got together all at once. So this summer, as I was planning to return to the coast once more for my thirty year high school reunion, we were all looking forward to reuniting during the trip. Ian and Ted both lived in the Eugene area and I would be passing right through there!
But Ian died less than a month before my high school reunion. It shook us all up. We love Ian, everybody loves Ian, and he was only 42. I wrote a tribute to him here. If you knew him, or wish you did, or just love feeling vicariously sad, please read it!
But this is not the story of Ian's life, or death, or legacy. This is an Instructable, which is something that Ian loved, so let's get on with it. We planned to reunite in the summer of 2022. We were going to take a new picture, a ten-year anniversary photo, but then Ian had the audacity to die.
This Instructable is the story of how we decided to take the photo anyway.
Apologies for this project being less diligently documented than most of my work, but this was not a typical series of events for me. It was also not my idea, but I wish it was!
Because of his proximity to the situation, much of the 'business' surrounding Ian's passing fell upon the shoulders of my brother Ted, who has borne it admirably but holy crap, I wish he didn't have to. I can't even imagine the weight of it.
Among the various duties that Ted had to perform was the selection of a vessel for Ian's ashes, and he purchased a lovely rosewood box for that purpose. Then he called to tell me his idea, which was ingenious. Ted asked if I might be able to find, or make, or create in some fashion, a Hawaiian-style shirt that Ian might like. A shirt that would fit the box. And then, when my partner Bill and I came through town on the way home, we would still be able to recreate our original photo!
First I got a link to the box online, and took down the dimensions. Then I built a mockup of the box out of scrap cardboard. Given the squat, square stature of the box, I decided to go with a 'paper-doll' style of clothing. A ribbon fixed around the box, with velcro across the front, would serve as an anchor for the shirt... and could also be used to support any number of other outfits in the future!
I drew out a pattern for a shirt that seemed to be of appropriate dimensions, then cut it out of a sheet of primed canvas. I cut separate pieces for cuffs and collar to give it a little bit more physical presence, and glued them on with superglue.
For the Hawaiian print, I decided on a Tiki mask motif. One of the masks I basically ripped off from a blue shirt that Ian had, and the others I designed to complement the first one. I drew out each of the masks by hand onto the shirt, then began to paint them in.
I kept it simple with a two-color design, something that I thought would look nice with the rosewood and stand out well in a photo. For the final step, I cut out some canvas 'buttons' and glued them down the front.
When we got to Ted's house, our cousin Lucas came over to join us in our macabre pursuit. My partner Bill played photographer, and the three of us mustered up our most awkward smiles.
This whole thing was a cathartic family experience. And Ian would have loved it.
I'm gonna miss that guy forever, but now we have a new family tradition. It has been decided that the survivors of the 2012 photograph have entered into a tontine, whereby the picture will be retaken at least once every ten years, until it's just one guy with three sets of ashes in fancy dress.
Then it will be up to the next generation to keep the tradition going.