13 September 2014
Deathwish Design, and its range of 'not so cute collectables', is the creation of artist Jen Hacker, who launched the company to offer the perfect shopping spot for 'those with a penchant for the strange and unique.' Jen's designs explore the darker side of life, with a good dose of black humour, and she seeks to bring this dark humour into the mainstream, 'whether it is ready or not.'
Jen has had a less-than-usual employment history, rejecting the mundane world of board meetings, photocopying, and 9 to 5, for a career that started in the funeral industry, and moved into bereavement counselling for both the families left behind, and those who were facing death themselves.
She explains that "Working in the funeral industry started a love affair with the humour and darkness of mortality, the taboo surrounding talking, sharing and laughing about death and how it takes us." While it may not, to an outsider, appear to be the kind of job that offers up any laughs at all, those working with death on a daily basis have to find their own ways of dealing with it.
Likewise, working as a counsellor gave her "a privileged insight into the mind of those facing their final days and hours, and how humour and expression comes thick and fast."
She goes on to say “When someone faces death amazing things can happen. Dreams become more vivid, old memories become fresh...Deathwish Design was born of these encounters, as well as my own need to create, express, and have fun with our demise." Explaining the inspiration behind the Mourning Angels range (pictured right), Jen tells the story of a woman she never met. An elderly lady who died in her ground floor flat, and whose body wasn't found for another six years. Outside her open windows, life went on as usual, a street party was held, while she was all alone. Jen explains "This is one of our biggest fears, dying alone, and the Angels were my response to this.”
Although still in its infancy, Deathwish Design aims to become the place to go for unique and unusual gifts in the UK. Jen says "It’s not an easy market to get into, and craft fairs are not really the best place to show my work. I have tried, but...jars of eyeballs and teddies in coffins do not sit well inbetween a fudge fairy and old lady selling children’s clothes!"
Jen views this difficulty in reaching her market as a sign of our culture's reluctance to face its own mortality, to embrace new attitudes towards death and accept alternative ways of living. As a nation, we are famed for sanitising our emotions, and for looking the other way when things become uncomfortable. Jen sees Deathwish Design "as a way of creating debate, humour, and expression; something we will always need more of in life."
Beyond the Deathwish Design website, Jen's creations are available from Double 7 Tattoo and Crystal Curious curio shop, both in Milton Keynes. She will also be selling her nightmarish knits at the Medieval Fun Day at Bradwell Abbey on September 14th, and at Olney Handmade & Vintage Fair at The Olney Centre on October 5th.