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In addition to her custom pet portraits and other artwork, Bernadette Kazmarski has been crafting and designing unique gift items since childhood. About a decade ago, when she began selling gift items in addition to her portraits at cat shows and other events, she began with versions of the custom crochet items, keepsake boxes and tote bags she’d made for others to stock her table, then moved on to the gift items she saw in stores, like gift bags and tiles and garden flags with artwork, devising ways to imprint her artwork and create a durable handmade gift.
Inspired by a cat named Oscar
A couple of years ago Bernadette completed a small portrait for a couple who’d commissioned her for several previously and who volunteered at shelters and rescued less-adoptable cats. She was researching ways to add her art to glass votives when they unexpectedly lost their cat Oscar. She used the materials she’d gathered to design the first of these memorial votives as a remembrance gift to them.
Rather than using his entire portrait where he is sitting up, she found that focusing on his face, positioning him so that the votive candle would alight his face, and especially his eyes, had the effect she wanted. From Oscar’s family’s reaction, she knew this was an idea that she could share with other animal lovers. They agreed, and permitted her to use the photos and story of Oscar’s votive. (She also has permission to share all the other votives you see here.)
The process of creating the votives
Bernadette made a few more for friends and refined the design, process and materials. “While I love to be creative with upcycled materials and make many votives using non-recyclable glass jars from pickled goods and sauces, I prefer these memorial votives to be consistent and focus on the animal,” she said of her design. She chose a square glass votive that is readily available and would fit well in most homes, a particular style of LED votive candle for its shape, height and brightness, and a commercial quality frosted vinyl label that wraps entirely around the votive and holds the image with clarity while it diffuses the light of the candle.
Working with supplied photo or artwork, Bernadette uses her decades of pet portraiture on paper and canvas and her Photoshop skills to prepare the image to fit the votive. “I remove background distractions and correct distortions if necessary, and add a color or gentle pattern to the background that suits the subject, pulling ideas from the supplied photos,” she explained.
During the day the votive captures ambient light even without the candle, but in the evening, when the candle is lit, the flickering light through your pet’s face in a darkened area is warm and intimate. Watch the video below as she places a lighted votive candle into Luna’s custom memorial votive.
“You can use a wax votive, but as much as I love real candles and flickering candlelight, with years of curious feline noses and waving tails I’ve been trained to use flameless candles,” Bernadette advised. She provides an LED votive candle with each votive that has an inexpensive and easily purchased replaceable battery so that you don’t need to run out and find a brand new votive to continue remembering your pet when the original grows dim.
Each votive is packaged with a small care and use card and a message of sympathy from her, “May their light shine on you always.”
In some cases she can place two pets on the same votive. This family, unfortunately, lost both of their companions, unexpectedly, in the space of one month. In this case there was a small extra charge for the extra time of removing the background from two photos, then merging them together ensuring that Cody and Dakota were proportional to each other.
Bernadette reports that most of the votives that have been ordered have been gifts from one friend to another, and shipped directly to the recipient along with a small note card and the sender’s custom message included inside. There is no charge for this.
“Most of my commissioned portraits are memorials so for years I’ve worked with people as they grieve the loss of their animal companions,” she said. “In 2009 I designed my animal sympathy cards to help fill a need I saw, and I’m happy now to add this to what I offer, and to what is available to others missing their animal companion.”
My special Ruby votive
A few weeks after Ruby passed away, Bernadette surprised me with this beautiful votive of Ruby. Next to the very special painting she did for me of all my cats, it is my most prized possession.
For more information and to order, please visit https://portraitsofanimals.net/service/custom-pet-memorial-votive/
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