This custom headstone, featuring a cute little squirrel, is both creative and beautiful! Our Arnold headstone features mixed media, hand carvings and a squirrel. It is special, unique and perfect for Mr. Arnold.

Headstones are special because they honor a person’s legacy forever. While written online memorials are nice, they are may be lost in cyber space over time. However, headstones in the cemetery offer a permanent place of honor and remembrance forever.


This stunning custom headstone is one of my favorites. Like all memorials, it’s design begins with careful thought and reflection about Mr. Arnold’s life and his legacy. His most important living legacy, of course, is his daughter Camryn and wife Kathy. And what amazing ladies they are! They are thoughtful, kind and hilarious.

When they share memories of their father and husband with me we laugh and cry and laugh together and then cry and laugh even more. It is obvious that they missed him but also obvious that they want to celebrate his life through the grief and tears.

Their ideas for the custom headstone design are beautiful reflections of their memories and love. Everything from the granite color to the symbols to the inscriptions has special meaning. The custom headstone is truly a celebration of life and love and the symbolism used is special and unique.


Using symbolism on a headstone is a great way to celebrate a one’s legacy. In fact, using symbolism to honor life may be traced all the way back to ancient memorials such as the Great Pyramids. Symbols allow memorials to speak to others and tell a story without actually spelling the story out. Of course they are open to interpretation, but symbols are a great way to honor a loved one.

The symbols on Mr. Arnold’s memorial tell a story as well. A full tree with roots and branches represents a nice, full life while the gently falling leaves represent a change in life. It is the main focal point of the memorial and has been beautifully sketched by our team in this concept drawing.

A hole in the tree with a little squirrel popping out is symbolic of a life with purpose. It is a lovely representation of a father nurturing his child. The squirrel is such a special part of this memorial. And because it is so special it needs to really stand out in the design.

Isn’t our sketch of the squirrel beautiful?! We have big plans for this cute little guy!

Custom Headstone Mixed Media

Mixed media in headstone design is both stunning and eye-catching. It truly makes a design “pop” and is the perfect solution for our squirrel. We want to highlight the importance of the squirrel by making it “pop” on the stone.

While adding materials other than stone to a memorial is fun to look at, it must be carefully curated by our team to ensure it’s durability. Materials like bronze and stainless steel are our favorites because they won’t rust or damage the stone.

This custom squirrel is made of solid bronze. Bronze is our preferred cemetery metal because, while it will naturally oxidize over time, it will always look beautiful.

Artwork cast in bronze like our squirrel is created by using the lost wax method in a bronze foundry. Bronze foundries are so cool! If you have never seen a video on how bronze artwork is made, I highly suggest you watch this one.

Many foundries have their own libraries of artwork to choose from, the odds of finding a squirrel exactly like ours are slim! Of course we know custom designs like this squirrel are not commonly found, so we submit our design and dimensions to the foundry for manufacture.

Isn’t our little squirrel gorgeous? From concept to creation, our design team did a fantastic job of working with the foundry to achieve perfection!

With all design work and a bronze squirrel in hand, the next step is for our shop team to make the magic happen!

Memorial Stone Work

The guys in the shop are magical! Actually, they are just incredibly talented. They have had decades of experience in working with stone and watching them do their thing is an incredible privilege.

Bringing a blank piece of stone into the shop is exciting. We have so many plans for that blank slate! It doesn’t look like much right here, but this slab of Georgia Gray granite is going to be transformed into an absolutely stunning, custom headstone!

Many folks do not realize that monument-making is a very much an art. It does not matter if it is a simple headstone with only text or a more complex, custom headstone like this- they are each carefully made by hand. And look at these hands! Those are the hands of some incredibly talented men right there!

Making sure everything in the concept design fits perfectly on the custom headstone is important. The production team must consider the size of the stone, the size of the text/design and the extras like the bronze squirrel and colored photo. Laying out each stone takes time and isn’t something that we rush through. It can take countless hours to layout and plan the production of a custom memorial like this one.

And once the design is perfectly laid out on the stone, the sandblasting begins.

Sandblasting is so cool! We don’t really use sand as the name implies. Sand isn’t a safe material to use in manufacturing because it contains silica. Of course, the safety of our team is extremely important to us, so we use an alternative sandblast medium to cut stone without harmful materials.

Hand Carving

While we use a blasting machine to sandblast the text, we are engraving several components of this memorial by hand.

Sandblasting by hand allows us to control the depth of the engraving. Many areas of this tree require that we pay special attention to the various engraving depths to achieve movement and texture in the design.

Let’s talk about the tree bark. We could leave it alone and just sandblast lines representing bark on the tree. But doing that won’t achieve the effect we want. We want it to look like actual tree bark. In the photo above you see the beginning of the bark carving toward the top of the tree. That is all done by hand!

While the bark is shaping up nicely, it is no where near done! We still need to add details such as the bark below the squirrel hole and the movement in the leaves. This is all achieved by hand! It is a fine detail that makes a huge difference.

Hand carving the bark and the leaves takes over six hours of painstakingly detailed craftsmanship. But, oh, it is so worth it! The finished custom headstone is astounding and everything we had hoped it would be.

This custom memorial for Mr. Arnold is so pretty and I am so proud of it! I know the Arnold ladies are too. If you are interested in creating your own custom memorial that truly tells a story, please checkout my free Memorial Creation Journal. Or, if you feel ready to start the memorial design process without the journal, please click here.


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