Week 3 was about * c r e a t i v e * i n s p i r a t I o n *. Specifically, sharing our ideas for decorating our 5 coffins and making our 5 shrouds and how we are going sourcing materials needed. We met at Riverdell who kindly gave us their gorgeous Air BnB house – Karrawirra – as our space for the afternoon. The large light-filled living area is also used as a teaching and meeting space with a whiteboard, Wi-Fi enabled 55inch Smart TV and room for seating up to 30 people with a fully equipped kitchen.
As an aside, who knew Riverdell had an Air BnB? Karrawirra is a three-bedroom, two bathroom, self-contained home with all the mod-cons. There is not a lot of accommodation in Gawler so good to know this is available – spread the word!
During the week, my wonderful hubby loaded up our trailer with the 5 coffins and 10 trestles tables (1 for each participant) and took them to Riverdell. The idea being to assemble 2 more of the 4 flat pack coffin-in-a-boxes (we already had one assembled) and assemble the cardboard BioBoard coffin, leaving just one flat pack coffin-in-a-box to do a demo assembly during the session to show how quick and easy they are to assemble.
The grand plan was to store the coffins at Riverdell for the duration of the project and the 5 participants working on decorating a coffin would do so on Sundays when we met rather than try and find the space at home. Each person had a trestle as their making and decorating surface.
Covid 19 invades our plans
Then Covid 19 impacted our project. We were at the stage where organisations were starting to make announcements for how they were responding to the virus. So before Riverdell shut down, we decided this would be our last face to face session and we would remove the 5 coffins and 10 trestles. After Shane did the assembly demo, while we carried on with our session, he then dis-assembled all 4 coffin-in-a-boxes and flat packed them ready for the participants to take home at the end of the session. He then stacked the 10 trestles onto the trailer to take back home. And he did all this with a smile and the help of our 11 year old nephew who enjoyed helping his Uncle.
It takes about 20 minutes to assemble the coffin-in-a-box. The instructions are easy to follow and there are videos online as well. It is also quick and easy to disassemble and repack the coffin-in-a-box for long term storage after decorating.
Enjoy the 7 photos below that show the assembly of the coffin-in-a-box for our group.
The cardboard BioBoard coffin takes only a few minutes to assemble. We found the BioBoard coffin is not designed to disassemble – so once it has been put together it needs to stay that way making long term storage more challenging in its bulky form.
It was interesting to see that the participants who had chosen to work on a coffin preferred the wood coffin-in-a-box to the cardboard BioBoard coffin. We also realised it would not be difficult to work on the coffin-in-a-box at home now they were dis-assembled again because you just take out the flat piece you are working on at the time. You wont have a coffin sitting in your living space unlike the cardboard BioBoard. As it worked out, the participant who has the cardboard BioBoard coffin is making a beautiful quilt to cover it rather than decorating it directly so we are storing the BioBoard coffin for her in our shed until the end of the project.
Eco friendliness of coffins
The linings of each coffin we used for the project are interesting too. Coffin-in-a-box comes with a treated paper lining for the base that goes up the insides a bit along with an unbleached calico liner for aesthetics. The cardboard Bioboard coffin comes with a plastic liner affixed by metal staples which can be removed.
There are issues with both coffins if using them for natural burials. The coffin-in-a-box uses metal screws for assembly. The BioBoard uses plastic screws to hold the sides together. While the metal and plastic screws are a very minimal component of the overall otherwise 100% eco-materials used, they are not acceptable for natural burial under South Australian legislation which requires all materials used in the coffin to be biodegradable.
Making and Decorating
The rest of the session was spent sharing our visions, where we had got to in the making and what materials we had sourced and what were still left to gather. One of our participants, Gem, is an artist and during the week I went to her place and made a few videos of her sharing the wonderful stories and creative mixed methods behind her work. I then played these videos for the group. We were all amazed and inspired. Gem has very kindly offered to help anyone in the group with her various methods including stitching Japanese style (very on-trend), tie-dying, stencilling, painting, yarn-making and knitting, sewing, collage, printmaking techniques and basketry from fibres in our gardens and homes.
Kathy has amazed us all with her vision for a nuno blanket-shroud.
Nuno Felting is a “wet felting technique developed by fibre artist Polly Stirling from New South Wales, Australia, around 1992. The name is derived from the Japanese word “nuno” meaning cloth where wool or fibre is felted or entangled with and through an open weave fabric such as silk chiffon or silk gauze. The felting is accomplished by applying water, heat and friction to the wool or fibre”.
Tracey and Eloise brought along their works of art created from plant based dyes and rust – yes rust – stunning, unique and 100% eco friendly. They explained that you tightly wrap your material around a rusty piece of metal and boil it for a time and that creates the most amazing colours and patterns on your material. They shared their oil pastels and plaster bandages for making face death masks as well. All these ideas got our imaginations going and broadened our visions for our own creations.
The coffin decorators are working with decoupage and paints. Murray kindly offered to do the research into finding affordable eco-friendly paints we can use. I had some earth mineral paints left over from the project launch but only a small amount is left.
Gathering eco-glue recipes is also on the cards. I made a batch of glue from flour, sugar, water, bicarb and vinegar for the launch and now 5 months later it is still holding the material and paper that were stuck on the raw wood coffin and there is no smell. Here is the you-tube clip.
Thank you to Riverdell for hosting us so beautifully and generously for the first part of the Eco Coffin Proejct. In response to Covid 19, next week – week 4 and beyond – we will meet online using zoom with our first guest speaker.
The Eco Coffin Project is only possible thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and partners: