Helena van Essen

Nowadays, there´s nothing to show that someone is in mourning. Time for a new, widely recognised symbol of mourning thought Helena van Essen, artist and designer of grave monuments. Unlike the well-known black armband, which people do not find very appealing, this new symbol should be a personal thing.

A tangible memory

It took nearly a year but then ´I suddenly began to see ordinary buttons on ordinary shirts in a new way. A button – that´s what my new mourning symbol should be based on. The deceased person will have touched it so often that it becomes a tangible memory of them, particularly if it´s from a garment that has special significance for you: the dress your mother wore on special occasions, your father´s favourite shirt – the possibilities are endless. What also appeals to me is that there are enough buttons for all the family.

´That signalled the beginning of my search for the right materials and techniques. Step by step my ideas on the design and manufacture of the button began to take shape. The result was parlAmore.

Speaking from the heart

´I was worried that not everyone would be comfortable with the name ´mourning button´, so I began to cast around for a positive-sounding name. Like my grave designs, I see parlAmore as an ode to the life of the person you held dear. Though you are wearing it for a sad reason, the message is that you are speaking from the heart, from your love for the deceased – hence ´parlAmore´. The slogan United in loving memory was chosen with this in mind.´

Grave designs


Visit the website to view some examples of Helena van Essen´s grave designs, which she produces in careful consultation with her clients. She is able to offer a wide range of materials, as the actual manufacture of the design is placed in the hands of skilled craftsmen such as glass blowers, metalworkers and monumental masons.


Member of the Network of Funeral Innovators