Exhibited at this years Stockholm Furniture Fair, the Tactile Perception urns are an attempt to reimagine contemporary burial rites.
Merk's wooden pebble-shaped urns, filled with the ashes of the deceased, provide relatives and friends with comfort during the service. Afterwards, they have the option to keep the urn for ongoing consolation, or return it to a larger urn for burial.
Made from untreated ash, beech and walnut, the smooth urns are designed to fit in the palm of the user's hand, in a similar way to anxiety-easing worry stones.
"I had the vision that such a soft, hand-sized mini-urn with a symbolic part of ashes inside could serve as a substitute for the deceased person," Merk told Dezeen.
"Since funerals are very emotional and stressful events I wanted to provide something for the mourners that they could hold onto or even share their sadness with, at least for the moment of the service."
Once the smaller urns have been filled with ashes, they are designed to not be opened again.
Tactile Perception is one of 24 projects from Lund University exhibited in the Greenhouse young designers section of the Stockholm Furniture Fair. The industrial design masters students were given the brief to explore the origin of modern-day products and their environmental impact.
As well as changing our burial habits, Merk's design attempts to be a sustainable alternative to funeral rituals.
As the urns are made from untreated wood, they will readily decompose if relatives and friends choose to bury the urn.
"The main aim is to show a concept that deals with making funerals healthier for our planet," said Merk. "I did research on conventional funeral methods and processes. Here I found some inconsistencies in terms of environmental friendliness of coffins and urns as well as the passiveness of the relatives."
"I want to show that rethinking in the burial sector is possible," she added.
Merk is not the only designer to have rethought funeral rituals through the creation of alternative urns. Gerard Moliné's biodegradable urn combines the ashes of the deceased with a seed which will grow into a tree, while Wolfgang Natlace's egg-shaped urn which rocks back and forth like a Weeble toy to offer an alternative to the "grey and sad conformism of death".