Jeremy Burrill has a natural approach to the end-of-life journey. As founder and owner of Fiddlehead Casket Company, the New Brunswick woodworker crafts pine caskets for those seeking a more straightforward and sustainable burial for their loved ones.
“A while back, there were a couple of deaths in the extended family, at which point we realized funeral homes didn’t have many options for something other than those traditional, ornate caskets,” Burrill recalls. “Our family wanted something simpler, something eco-conscious that aligned with natural living. That’s what inspired me to start building caskets made purely from Canadian white pine.”
Burrill took his all-natural concept to local funeral homes but could not find enough uptick to justify staying in business. Soon, however, inquires started coming in from locations around Canada, prompting Burrill to rethink his design.
“I was getting requests from places farther than I could physically deliver to,” he recalls. “They wanted me to make a casket and ship it out, but it was far too expensive to do as a completed casket. That’s when I made the switch to a flat-pack model, which is smaller, weighs less, and easier to ship it all over the place.”
A blank slate
Simplicity is at the heart of Fiddlehead’s philosophy. Made from locally-sourced materials, each casket is free of metal components, outside decorations, synthetic fabrics, and other accouterments that are found in typical caskets. In their place is a blank slate upon which customers can add their own decorations and designs.
“A lot of times, families will work together either to build the casket, whether when a person has died or, sometimes, beforehand,” explains Burrill. “That’s quite an experience to be able to do that for someone. Many of us are no good at giving a eulogy, but we want to participate somehow. This is just another avenue that they can use to participate in that end-of-life process meaningfully.”
More recently, Fiddlehead Caskets has introduced a model that can be used as a bookcase before it is needed as a casket. And in a further bid for sustainable crafting, Burrill also uses pine cut-offs from the casket-making process to produce handcrafted urns.
Making a living
Today, Fiddlehead Caskets ships its pine caskets to families across the US and Canada. Feedback has been encouraging, says Burrill, who notes, “People that order the casket kits are really appreciative of having a different option that’s better aligned with their values in terms of the environment and natural living.”
Looking ahead, Burrill says business is getting to the point where he may soon consider expanding his one-person team and exploring new models. In the meantime, he intends to bring his unique approach to a broader audience.
“The casket kit is working pretty well as it is,” he adds. “The biggest challenge is getting out there and building more awareness.”
Matt Bradford is a writer, editor, and longtime contributor at MediaEdge, publishers of Wood Industry e-digest and magazine. He has spent years reporting on the wood and construction industries and values the opportunity to provide insights into the secondary wood manufacturing community’s successes, challenges, and opportunities.