Tennessee artist turns loved ones' ashes into works of art

Tennessee artist turns loved ones' ashes into works of art. (WCYB)

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WCYB) - Shellena Carter is not your average artist.

She uses a very surprising material in her art: people's ashes.

"In April, a friend contacted me about my paintings and how he loved them, and asked about using cremations inside a painting," said Carter.

She said she had never heard of using ashes in her style of painting but thought it could be done.

"About 25 days later, I found out that same friend had passed away from a brief illness. His family contacted me over Mother's Day weekend and asked me to place his ashes in a painting," said Carter.

She didn't hesitate to fulfill the family's wishes.

She created a beach landscape portrait, inspired by her friend's love of the ocean.

She incorporated his remains in the painting's sand using resin gloss.

"During the process of getting his ashes, you see the urn sitting there and you know that person has passed on. But to see a painting of something that he absolutely loved -- it brought a smile to his family's face," said Carter.

Carter says since she finished her friend's painting, she's been asked by 10 more people to turn ashes into art -- including one person as far as Australia.

"I can take something that is a sad situation and turn it into something positive for the family. This gives them something to hold on to," said Carter.

She says it only takes about five days to complete an ashes painting and only requires about an ounce of ashes to create.

You can contact Carter through her Facebook page: Soulful Creations Art. You can also email her at or call her at 423-742-5769.