Coffin Art gave Sandra the Chance to Talk to her Cousin one Last Time.

Coffin art offered a chance to talk to my cousin one last time, photo: Sandra Moon
Coffin art offered a chance to talk to my cousin one last time, photo: Sandra Moon

It made a difference to be able to connect one last time, SANDRA MOON, journalist, editor, writer and no stranger to grief, says of her personal experience with coffin art.

In the crematorium I waited with the other mourners, thick black markers in hand, to write a message on the coffin of my dear cousin. It was my first and only experience of anything other than a wooden casket being used at a funeral or cremation.

I hadn’t heard of it until his mother had told me that she was getting a coffin for him that everyone could sign at his service. 

My beloved cousin was a wonderful young person, a skater and artist. As a young man he was vibrant, funny and talented so coffin art suited his character and the tone of his personalised service. It was well attended by over a hundred young people dressed in brightly coloured clothes, at his family’s request. His father broke from the traditions of wearing a suit; choosing instead to wear his son’s favourite shirt: a green tee with a VB logo on it.

In the intimacy of this custom designed final service it was fitting that we could completely cover his final resting place, a cardboard coffin, full of our individual outpourings of love.

Being invited to draw or write on his coffin was a way for myself, friends and family to be physically close again to our beloved. It was also an invitation to express our grief in a way not usually available to mourners at a funeral: directly to him.

For me it was a chance to let him know I loved him and share a last laugh with him as I wrote our own in-joke on his coffin-our favourite line from our favourite comedy. A shared memory, a shared joy. The time spent writing at the coffin was an opportunity not to be stuck in the whys of grief. Had we not had this chance to connect with him individually one more time I wonder would our grief have been that much harder?

As I have since discovered, touches such as this and artistic expressions are part of a growing trend known as coffin art which reflects a desire for more than the typical staid and visually unappealing send-off in a non-descript wooden box.

Coffin art, which requires a cardboard coffin, ranges from ready-made designs, DIY painting and custom designed artworks through to collaging photographs of the dearly departed onto the coffins. For those choosing coffin art it is not only about reflecting the character of the dead through art, or as I experienced, the opportunity for further expression of grief and love. It is also about the environment and let’s face it – our pockets. 

GoodGrief! recently spoke with Kevin Crute, the CEO of LifeArt UK, a company offering coffin art.

Consumers know what they want and are way ahead of the funeral directors in their desire for personalisation and eco credentials but need to be empowered ahead of a funeral to avoid buyer’s remorse, he said.

Kevin believes the sustainable coffins, that form the base for coffin art, are transforming the funeral market.

LifeArt’s coffins are made of up to 97 per cent recycled fibres recovered from recycled cardboard and sugar cane waste. According to Kevin the coffins produce up to 87 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions during cremation and use up to 80 percent fewer trees than traditional coffins, in their manufacture.

In Australia, LifeArt Australasia is one of several companies creating coffin art.  It supplies coffins directly to funeral homes through Invocare, which owns White Lady, Guardian and Simplicity Funerals. 

Read more about LifeArt’s bespoke, custom designed and DIY coffins here.

For further reading on sustainable coffins including seagrass, cane and pandanus visit the Last Hurrah.

Read about the replacement of coffins with shrouds in Canada on our GoodGrief blog.

Also, read about the Kiwi Coffin Club, which has since expanded into Australia, at:

Listen to an Art of Manliness podcast on how one man learnt about more than carpentry when building his own coffin.

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