Lydia Gastroph studied jewelry and utensils with Hermann Jünger at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich from 1979 to 1985. She then established a jewelry studio of her own. She debuted a collection of sophisticatedly designed urns and coffins under the name “w e i s s über den Tod hinaus” [W h i t e beyond death] in 2010. Lydia Gastroph and her business partner Stephan Alof have offered complete funeral services since 2019. The email correspondence reprinted below began with an inquiry to Lydia Gastroph, which was addressed to Art Aurea because of her profile https://artaurea.de/profiles/weiss-ueber-den-tod-hinaus/. After we had forwarded her the email, we received the following message:
Thank you for forwarding the email. We have some good news despite or because of coronavirus. In the meantime, I am very successful with my funeral company “w e i s s über den Tod hinaus.” I even had to postpone my vacation several times because we had so many orders. I can now offer complete funeral services. I would have so many stories to tell…. Perhaps it would be a good idea if Art Aurea would accompany us through a complete funeral? That way your magazine could show its readers how a funeral can be totally different and unconventional.
In the coronavirus crisis, people are becoming increasingly aware that cheap mass-produced goods are neither beautiful nor sustainable – not even when one finally takes one’s leave of earthly life. Furthermore, a new sense of solidarity has emerged: artists and craftspeople eagerly welcome our orders, especially nowadays when so many creative people are desperately in need of work. While the borders were closed, it also became clear that it is much better to have your casket built by a carpenter in your home country than to import cheap coffins from Romania.
I am very happy and also a bit proud that I have remained steadfast and uncompromisingly focused on artistic and artisanal quality. It was the right decision – and a wise one. I would never have thought that I could start all over again in old age!
Your editorials and newsletters always speak to and from my heart. I admire your dedication and commitment. I also always share your texts with my business partner Stephan Alof.
I wish you all the best and I hope we will keep in touch. We are planning a big event to celebrate the inauguration of our new business premises. Of course, you are most cordially invited.
I am very pleased that your funeral home, with which you support many artists, is flourishing so well. It is a fine example of living culture that does not deny the inevitable end. We would be delighted to take you up on your offer of journalistically accompanying a funeral with your artists’ wonderful urns or coffins. The topic fits well into our increasingly holistic approach, i.e. the embedding of art and craft into the big picture. Your funeral home is a prime example of this. Artistic jewelry and vessels indeed have otherworldly dimensions, so this would be a marvelous addition.
“Start over again in old age” is a good motto, especially when it comes to making a meaningful contribution toward a better world. I believe the coronavirus crisis has made many people think more deeply and has strengthened their conviction that we cannot simply continue as before. Less because of coronavirus than because of the increasingly more severe threat of extinction of species, we have let our garden grow even more wildly and profusely this year than ever. I always think of Hermann Jünger’s allegory that contemporary jewelry is a living flowery meadow.
Many greetings and a nice evening,
I know many people who have become more thoughtful and changed their behavior. Just like you, I notice this change in myself and in my buying behavior. I also experience it when I explain my funeral products and the philosophy behind them. Our clients are grateful and enthusiastic that at long last the appreciation for deceased relatives is being reflected in the art of funerals and no longer stands in stark discrepancy to an individually lived life. Industrially manufactured mass-produced merchandise cannot appropriately represent such a life at a funeral.
By the way, I am always happy to add other artists to my w e i s s network, assuming, of course, that they are professionally involved in funeral culture and farewell art. I have also noticed that in this context fair prices are paid for the artistic and artisanal work. Since coronavirus at the latest, many people have realized what it means for our cities when crafts, art and culture disappear from a cityscape.
I often think about how our lives are likely to change in the future and I really tremendous opportunities in the current crisis, which has catalyzed collective reflection and rethinking. Many people are already beginning to feel these positive changes.
I wish you all the best and I look forward to seeing you soon when Stephan Alof and I co-host the official opening of our new business premises.