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Oskar Hafen - Monument Specialist
Once in one's lifetime, or shortly thereafter, a monument will be erected by one's descendants. For a lot of people, this personal monument consists of an expensive chunk of granite, polished to a shine. The date of birth and death is then engraved into the stone and highlighted in gold. Placed alongside the other polished blocks of stone in Germany's cemeteries, this stone reflects living society: at no cost should we stand out in a crowd. This rule even applies to cemeteries: anything but be noticed, anything but look different from the rest. Oskar Hafen, the metal artisan from Mechenbeuren has been fighting this trend for years. The cemeteries in Upper Swabia and its environs are proof of the fact that little strokes fell big oaks: Forging has been given a chance to appear between granite and marble, and not only iron, even wood is once again in for perpetual tombs. Oskar Hafen admits that it's tough introducing people to a new cemetery culture. Tombs that represent the people buried below. Tombs that create a link between the living and the deceased. "Why not use the shape of a honeycomb on a person's cross as the central theme, if this person's lifelong pastime was beekeeping? Why not use elements of a name as a symbol? Does the name "Eckle" [literally: little corner] not conjure up angular shapes?"
This can even be applied in a broader sense, in that even tremendous blows to one's destiny are part of the course of a person's life. They form and change a person's life, so it should be possible to incorporate these cracks and breaks into this person's monument.
When making his rounds of the cemetery, he often allows himself to take a wire brush out of a holy-water font and replace it with a branch from the tree of life. And he does not hide his anger when tombstone clients don't understand the message the monument conveys. He is offended when tasteless lights lacking in style are placed before carefully crafted tombstones, regardless as to who is responsible.
Rarely are there people who are unbending in their conformity. All people live among extremes - light and dark, soft and hard, serious and fun-loving. These differences can be reflected in the final monument to that person.
Various materials are suitable. Stone, metal and wood are perfect materials to show the different tensions.
Planting vegetation is another way of giving the deceased a symbol. Not everyone likes flowers. The smith from Mechenbeuren is happy to see how the branch of a beech tree has wrapped itself around one of his crosses several times. The cross is barely visible through the tree's leaves. "There you can see that the bereaved carry on the ideas of the artisan. A well-tended tombstone does not suit this person. He was a friend of nature who spent most of his time outside!"
Colors also support the statement. Oskar Hafen sees it as a stroke of luck that when he took over a relative's stonecutting business, he was able to add a second material to his forging.
One point that is worth noting in Oskar Hafen's ability to convince people: He never has any problems with cemetery rules and regulations, even if he does not always follow them.
And someday, when a few graves in the cemetery look a bit different than others, his fellow artisans will also try their hand at the new cemetery culture - it doesn't always work right away, but it's better than depressing uniformity.
Copyright 1994, 1995 ArtMetal / Hephaistos
Author: Peter Elgass