Anyone in the memorial industry knows that there are few things more disheartening working with someone who has lost a child. When Manuel and Andrea Gutierrez came to me to help design a memorial for their son Manuel IV, I could immediately tell how disheartened they were.
Despite this, we began discussing designs and talking about their son. Hearing how they spoke of him; you could feel how much he was loved by them. Amongst the ideas and pictures, they had also brought a photo of a scallop shell. They said it was the scallop shell used on the Camino de Santiago, and that it was very important that it be a prominent feature of the design.
For some context, the Camino de Santiago is a series of pilgrimage trails across western Europe that all lead to the Santiago de Compostela and the resting place of St. James in Northern Spain. Along all of these trails, you will find different scallop shells, including markers with very distinct yellow shell designs and arrows to guide those looking to make the journey. The shell is not just for show, but the design itself carries meaning. The different lines representing the various routes you can take with all paths converging on a central point of the Santiago de Compostela, and the one line larger than the others, leading them along their paths.
Manuel IV and his father had taken this journey after he graduated high school. After hearing about the trip and the deeper meaning behind the symbol, I knew it had to not just be a prominent feature. It had to be THE prominent feature of this piece. Traditional sandblasting or a ceramic image of it didn’t feel special enough, so I chose to use a stained-glass relief of the shell, centered in a cored hole at the pinnacle of their monument. Adding a polished and then frosted ring around the stained-glass allowed the image to be highlighted even more. Flanking it with a Ceramic picture of both their son and the Virgin of Guadalupe.
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