3D Printed Human Ash

Posted by in Art

No, Shapeways is not introducing a new material (today) but I just wanted to point you in the direction of a new exhibition by dutch design studio wieke somers entitled ‘consumer or conserve’ using 3D printed human ash. Better than an urn on the mantle piece? Would you think twice about throwing away a consumer product knowing it was constructed from human ash? Or is this just totally weird?

‘birds and toaster’ made from the ashes of anne lindeboom (1920 – 1984)

wieki somers’ ‘consume or conserve’ is part of the ‘in progress’ exhibition held at
grand-hornu images in Belgium until september 12th, 2010.

For more information and images visit Designboom


  1. Mitchell / SpoorObjecten

    I don’t like it…. not the way you should handle a deceased person..


    1. Bruno Crociquia

      I for one, would love to have my ashes printed out, dead birds and toasters would hardly be the motif though :)

    2. Joris Peels

      I agree, I would think differently if it was the person’s choice somehow.

  2. Dizingof

    This is SICK and disgusting.

    I don’t see any artistic value here none what so ever.
    Dead people should be respected in any culture.

    It’s beyond me why Joris thought “hey this is a cool item for my blog”… :/

    1. Aaron Trocola

      Take note that it was not Joris who posted this blog. The points of symbolism offered in the link are meager, so it does appear to be inappropriately exploitative. Someone who died in 1985 was made into a Dung Beetle, complete with 3d-printed dung-ball. The worst line: “human ashes would afford to products an emotional value that is more luxurious than any existing material.” I must go ponder this deep point while sitting on my oh-so-fashionable and sophisticated skull-throne.

    2. inspiral

      The dead should not be respected, they have no use for it.

      “Respect for the dead” is actually a bad phrase for respect for the living. You don’t have drunken pissups in graveyards because it disturbs the living who are visiting, not the permanent residents. If someone feels that this is a legitimate use for their ashes, and it doesn’t freak out their living relatives, then it is a legitimate use. Anyone else who doesn’t like it is welcome to make other arrangements for their hundred-some pounds of carbon, phosphorous, sulphur, hydrogen, oxygen, and traces of other stuff when they are not using it any longer.

  3. Jon Hendry

    I like it. It’d be interesting to have your ashes used to produce a reproduction of your own face, or a tiny statue of yourself.

  4. duann scott

    Thank you for all your comments,

    It is important for me to understand what you are all interested in seeing on the Shapeways blog.
    The use of 3D printing opens up possibilities for the freedom of creation in so many ways including contemporary and experimental art.
    Sometimes it is the role of the artist to push the boundaries of technology and societal conventions, and sometimes they push too far.

    I personally find it interesting that she has chosen to use human ash for 3D printing and using it to make a statement about consumer society. I think the models have been well executed technically, even if the language is a little clumsy. I do wonder how she obtained permission and who from?

    Now the boundary has been pushed in the realm of contemporary art we can discuss this and consider the use of 3D printed ash as a memorial option.

    1. Jo De Lange

      It was not our intention to offend anyone by posting this blog, if we have I would like to offer my apologies.
      Jo – Marketing Director Shapeways

  5. Michiel Cornelissen

    I think it is totally valid to post this – that’s what blogs are for. It’s interesting that Wieki came up with this idea, even if I can’t follow the whole toaster thing.

    Just read in a Durch newspaper, by the way, that these objects are not (yet) made with human ashes, for ‘time reasons’.

    1. Koen van Outvorst

      I read this in an online press release, it makes much more clear..;

      Consume or Conserve?

      The project ‘In Progress’ challenged designers to rethink the notion of progress. Studio Wieki Somers responded by making a statement about uncriticised innovation. They created three still lives made of 3d-printed human ashes.

      “We don’t want to discard the many benefits of technological innovation and it’s inherent mentality, the sheer energy and will to create. But progress shouldn’t be the goal itself, nowadays more often it overshoots the mark, we miss the ideology. 
      A dilemma that questions us most, is the way technology (or humanity) has made it possible to extend our lives almost endlessly. But what is an eternal life good for if we use it only to continue being excessive consumers who strive for more and more products, regardless of the consequences?

      Continuing our ongoing strive for progress, one day we might find ourselves turned into the very products we assemble. In fact we are material substance (waste) just like the products we make. As human ashes (worldwide 465.000 litre a day) might be reused by means of 3D printing, we may offer grandpa a second life as an useful rocking chair or even as a vacuum cleaner or a toaster. Would we than become more attached to these products?

      For ‘In Progress’ we created 3 still lives made of 3d-printed human ashes, that question the value of life and objects. We used the visual language that can be found in 16th and 17th century still life vanitas paintings. Such as fruit, flowers and insects that symbolize the meaninglessness of earthly life, the transcience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death.”

      3 still lives;
      The weight of a honeycomb; Honeycombs have been used in allegories as an attribute of the personificated golden age, diligence and labour. Here the scales weigh the value of this attribute, while the bee questions the meaning of a single life.
      Dung beetle and hand vacuum cleaner; A dung which could be seen as waste by some, is used by dung beetles for either food storage or a fertile ball to submit their eggs in. Thus maintaining and producing life. The vacuum cleaner tells us about dust and waste in a repetative process.
      Birds and toaster; The bird can be found on vases in still life paintings. Here it represents life and death as it’s reborn out of it’s own ashes. The toaster symbolises this incineration.

  6. Erik Snoeijs

    I think I’m going to be in the ‘this is disrespectful to the dead’ camp. Art or not, I doubt these people gave their permission. I also find it curious that the linked article doesn’t go into this aspect. (Which to me was about the first thing that popped into my mind).

    Michiel wrote that they haven’t yet used actual human ashes. If their intention was to never “Actually” use human ashes I could sort of agree. But seeing as it was apparently for time constraint reasons I still think it’s a offensive thing to do.

    On a more pragmatic level, Making the art from actual human ashes would be very impracticable I think. Shipping human remains has pretty strict rules associated with it.

  7. spikeabell

    I think this is cool, no different than making synthetic jewels out of the deceased’s remains. Not for everybody, but a valid option. And the artists’ statement makes sense.

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