My work as a Grief Curator started in East London, with my mother’s urn.

A month after she died, I contacted London-based ceramicist Jo Davies and commissioned a porcelain urn for my mom’s ashes. “This isn’t quite the collaboration I was hoping to do with you …” my email began.

I didn’t realize then that this was the start of my journey as a grief curator.


When my mom died in 2013, I was working as independent curator in London.

Under the names Creative Clerkenwell and The Creative Edit, my pop-up exhibitions showcased the work of designers, makers and artists. I was passionate about supporting their small businesses. I knew I’d be scattering my mom’s ashes in the Pacific Ocean eventually, but for now, the ashes needed a good home. Why not commission an urn from a maker I knew, whose work I admired?

My mom, lover of museums, art and beauty, would have approved.

My specs for the urn were relatively simple: It should be white porcelain. With a lid. It should function as a vase, because my mother loved flowers. (The process of getting the lid and proportions right actually proved quite challenging.)

Custom urn by Jo Davies in progress


But that process of commissioning the urn and collaborating with the ceramicist yielded so much more than a gorgeous piece.

As we sat side-by-side in her Stoke Newington studio, surrounded by in-progress and finished work, natural light streaming in from the quiet courtyard, the ceramicist Jo Davies and I talked.

I’d worked with Jo for years on exhibitions, but I didn’t know when I commissioned the urn that she had lost her own mother when she was still in university.

As she sketched, as we murmured about the merits and peculiarities of porcelain, she generously shared her own experience of coping with death, loss and complicated grief.

Jo Davies demonstrating making techniques in her studio for the ‘masterclass’ feature in Ceramic Review Magazine.



I’m so grateful for Jo’s openness and kindness. The urn was perfect. Since then, I’ve commissioned illustrations, papercuts and more from independent designers, makers and artists in memory of my mom. I’ve presented exhibitions exploring grief and loss in London and Brooklyn, most recently as part of NYCxDESIGN in May 2021. Channeling my grief into creativity and commissioning has been the perfect way to remember her.

As part of the Shoreditch Design Triangle and London Design Festival 2021, you’re invited to visit The Grief Gallery to learn more about this collaboration with Jo Davies and other creative projects in memory of loved ones.

– By Grief Curator Charlene C Lam


THE GRIEF GALLERY presented by The Creative Edit x Grief Grit Grace

18 – 26 September 2021

An online exhibition exploring grief and loss through the lense of design and creativity.

Part of the Shoreditch Design Triangle, London Design Festival 2021

Event Details

The exhibition will be live from 18th September at



Join ceramicist Jo Davies in conversation with curator Charlene C Lam for a guided tour of The Grief Gallery and an engaging conversation about channeling grief into creativity, collaborating and the commissioning process.

Tuesday, 21st September, 6pm UK time (1pm NYC time)

Register to attend: