- This is one of a four-part How We Die series shining a light on the brighter side of the death industry
When you think of coffins you might expect them to be wooden, traditional in style and expensive.
But there’s a company in Liverpool on a mission to challenge the way we think about death by designing more affordable, eco-friendly coffins, unique to the people who are buried in them.
Artist Gina Czarnecki, who set up the Koffin business, wants the boxes we’re buried in to represent our personalities.
"The idea really came when my Dad went out in a mock Victorian, MDF, fake plastic, brass-handled box that cost a lot at the time and said nothing about him at all," she said.
In a bid to tackle the rising cost of funerals, which average at just over £4,000 in the UK, Gina said she was determined for the designs at Koffin to be affordable.
She said: "I felt my Mum was totally exploited with a ‘the more you spend, the more you love’ attitude.
"Funeral costs have risen 75% in the last 10 years, pushing people in already vulnerable situations into financial difficulty."
After four years of development, the company has gone into production with its first run of coffins, with prices starting at £440.
The pod-like shells can be fully customised with the first designs ranging from viking ships to a coffin inspired by The Beatles’ famous Yellow Submarine.
After recently being diagnosed with a terminal illness, Ruth Gould - the artistic director of DaDaFestival, an event celebrating talent in disability and deaf arts - is facing her own mortality.
She says her coffin, designed by artist Rachel Gadsden, "has really captured" her life.
She added: "I never thought when we first started talking about the coffins that my own life would be depicted in one.
"And it’s been really nice to think about what’s the most important things for me."
The coffins are made from Lignin, a natural material which is 100% biodegradable.
It requires less energy to burn than wood and produces less CO2 than plants when growing - making the coffins a better option for the planet.
Gina said: "The purpose-designed material only leaves 17% ash residue when burnt, unlike traditional coffins which can produce up to 65%.
"They’re also leak-proof without the need for toxic plastic or waxes inside the coffin."
Gina is still intent on driving down the price, and urges her customers to personalise their choice of coffin to the max.
"The more we produce, the cheaper they become," she says. "Above all else, it’s your final hurrah, so it should say something about you."
- Watch more from our special series How We Die, where we look at a subject many of us don't like to talk about - and the people doing things differently around end-of-life care and funerals