Eco Coffin Project Artist: Gem Congdon (2020)

Gem Congdon

Shroud. Artist: Gem Gongdon. Title: Kantha Silk Coffin Quilt Dimensions: 2500 x 2540 mm

Artist: Gem Congdon

Type: Shroud

Title: Kantha Silk Coffin Quilt

Dimensions: 2540 x 2500 mm

Materials: remnant silk swatches, remnant cotton batik fabric for backing, vintage flannelette sheet wadding, cotton-thread embroidery using Indian running stitch (Kantha)

Why did you choose to work on a coffin-cover?

As part of the Eco Coffin Project I was lucky enough to be given a cardboard coffin. Rather than paint or decorate the actual coffin, I decided to make a quilt to cover it.

What materials have you used for your artwork?

Being a textile artist I remembered that I had a stash of silk pieces that I had collected over the years, which I thought would be ideal for the project. I also had a cotton batik quilt top which I had bought in Bali many years ago. It had seen better days and I had to patch it. I decided to use that as backing for the silk. I used an old flannelette sheet as wadding to make up the quilt sandwich. I then hand quilted the whole piece using a fairly long running stitch. This type of quilting is used in India to recycle old silk saris. During the Covid lockdown I enjoyed the hours of stitching, especially when the sun came through the window and made the silk shine. I am also happy that the quilt can carry on life after me as a family heirloom (I hope).

What is the story behind your artwork. What does it represent about you and your life story?

As part of my art practice I love using recycled materials and have made many quilts and other textile art pieces. To me the quilt also represents my love of travel with family and friends. It is reminiscent of my trips to both Bali and India.

What are some things you have learned from being part of the eco coffin project?

The things I have learned from the Eco Coffin Project are that life is terminal and that it is never too soon to make arrangements and make those end of life decisions for one’s own piece of mind and to help your children by having your final arrangements taken care of.

The course showed me what is possible; and that undertakers and celebrants are only too happy to concede with your wishes.

I was very impressed with the tour provided by the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority of the Enfield Memorial Park, including the crematorium and the native bushland burial sites of Wirra Wonga and Pilyu Yarta at Smithfield.

What is one thing you will do (or have done already) differently as a result from being part of the project?

What I am attempting to do now is what is rather alarmingly named “death clean” which is really sorting and culling years of accumulated possessions.

The other thing I have yet to do is to make a folder with that important funeral planning information. The Adelaide Cemeteries have provided a great guide for this process.

Any other thoughts or comments you would like to add?

The course showed me what is possible; and that undertakers and celebrants are only too happy to concede with your wishes.


I would like to give tribute to Abby Buckley for her guidance through this process, which was complicated by the Covid 19 events. She has maintained a wonderful encouraging and motivating presence and has been unfailing in her support. I would also like to thank the Gawler Environment Centre and other sponsors who made the Eco Coffin Project possible.

Click to go to top of page

Be the first to know about our upcoming programs, workshops, retreats, events and news.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.