The story behind how Memories to Keep came into existence
My name is Harm Rietveld. I’m a family man and a creative person. I live in Dongen and I’m the creator and maker of the LittleWood© mini urn. I personally went through a very difficult and sad time a few years ago. I gave up my job as an installation engineer, and felt unable to do any of the things I was ‘supposed to’. I’d always enjoyed creative work but I’d lost my creativity years before. No ideas came to me, I had no inspiration and I really missed that. And yet, in that difficult time, I gradually began to find something to hold on to through working creatively and visually. Slowly, something opened up and in that period, I began dotting with stones. With no pattern in mind beforehand, I would start with one dot and, of its own accord, a whole pattern of dots would follow. It got easier and easier to do. They were little works of art in cheerful colours, each with their own pattern or illustration. I made them because I wanted to have something to do and it gave me peace.
Whether at home, or on holiday in Austria, I dotted stones. It was my way of relaxing—at home at the table or on holiday next to the tent or caravan, with music playing in the background, just me, myself and I. My collection of dotted stones grew and so I started ‘planting’ them. I ‘hid’ them on the campsite for the children, laid them along the side of mountain footpaths, on the campsite or just on someone’s table or in front of their tent. The reactions were wonderful. People were really happy and amazed that they’d found something so lovely and unexpected and that they could take it with them. Let’s be honest: how often do you get something for nothing nowadays?
I also gave them away to people I met who touched something in me, with a look in their eyes or something that told me they were having a tough time, but also to people I had a lovely encounter with. Once, I gave one of my stones to a woman who was wearing a headscarf, because chemotherapy had caused her hair to fall out. What happened surprised me. It incited such pure emotion in her, she was touched in her deepest being… that doesn’t leave you unaffected, and it got me thinking. I don’t put happiness in the stones; it’s what people themselves get out of them. It is whatever feeling or memory they attach to them, and the value they give them. That woman told me some time later that she always carried the stone with her. She took it with her on every visit to the hospital and for every treatment and it gave her strength. So beautiful to hear. I didn’t know what to say! These encounters and experiences made me realise that I wanted to make even more people happy, and to support and empower them. Wouldn’t it be great if I could make the stones into a kind of ‘keepsake container’? Then you would have something that looks lovely and holds something of a loved one. That’s how the idea for the LittleWood© mini urn began.
It soon became clear that stone was not the right material for what I had in mind. I wanted a material that would be smooth and feel pleasing once it was finished—something that you really want to feel, touch and hold and preferably as natural as possible. I enjoyed working with wood and starting experimenting with it. It became a quest to find the right shape and size and the right wood. My perfectionism made sure I succeeded in refining my design. It had to be exactly right and that’s how I ended up with this smooth, round shape. The LittleWood© mini urn has lovely smooth curves but also a robust appearance. There are six different editions, so that both men and women can find an urn that suits them. Even though they grieve in their own way, both need something that gives them support and strength in that grief.
To make it possible to actually keep something of your deceased loved one in the mini urn, I decided to design a lockable little brass treasure chest at the bottom of the urn. It can be opened with a special ‘key’ to allow you to place something special of the deceased person in the urn. When you order the LittleWood© mini urn, it comes with that key. I designed the little treasure chest so that it protects the contents well. Say the mini urn were to fall, the little chest will remain intact. That was important to me. Of course, you hope that it will never be dropped, but the mini urn and what it contains is of such enormous value to those left behind that it must be kept safe at all costs.
It doesn’t really matter what people put in the urn. Ashes are probably the first thing many people think of, but there are many more possibilities: a lock of hair, a special letter, a bit of an item, of clothing your loved one liked to wear, a small amount of sand or a piece of jewellery. It’s all to do with what’s important to you, what has value for you, and the significance you give it.
I designed the LittleWood© mini urn in such a way that it’s inviting to hold, to cherish. I think that’s where our mini urn differs from other urns, which are often designed to put on display on top of a cabinet. That wasn’t what I wanted. By making the LittleWood© mini urn something to put in your hand, I hope to give people the feeling that it’s something to hold on to; something that makes them feel connected to their loved one. I think having something to hold on to is really vital during the grieving process. That need for a connection is still there, even after your loved one is no longer with you.
I don’t only put a lot of passion and love into the LittleWood© mini urn when I make it. I also hope that you can feel and experience that love, care and attention has been given to all of it—not just the urn itself but everything around it too: the packaging, the photos, the way my wife Karen and I try to help you by phone and by email.
When I started Memories to Keep a year ago, I hoped I would be able to offer people some support through the LittleWood© mini urn at an extremely difficult and sad time for them following the loss of a loved one. Now that Memories to Keep has existed for one year, I can look back on what has been a special year: a year of working creatively, but also being a serious entrepreneur, and a year in which I have been privileged to offer hundreds of people connection and support in the shape of the LittleWood© mini urn. The special encounter with people who are grieving and their gratitude when, after searching for an appropriate urn, they find what they are looking for in the LittleWood© mini urn makes every day incredible and truly worthwhile. And that’s exactly why I started making the LittleWood©. And so, I enter into my second year, filled with gratitude, pride, enthusiasm and new ideas!
Warm regards, Harm