Eco Coffin Project Artist: Jan Abel (2020)

Jan Abel

Eco coffin. Artist: Jan Abel. Title: Music! Music! Music! Dimensions: 2000 x 600 x 400 mm

Artist: Jan Abel

Type: Eco Coffin

Title: Music! Music! Music!

Dimensions: 2000x600x400mm

Materials: eco-ply, vintage paper music sheets, eco-glue, eco-paint, stencil silhouettes

Why did you choose to work on a coffin rather than a shroud?

I chose a coffin because Murray and I wanted to work together and coffins were more of a mutual base for us to work from.

What materials have you used for your artwork?

I chose to decoupage my coffin with old music and add silhouettes of my life and interests. I was hoping to paint the silhouettes but have now decided to cut them from paper and glue them on. I will finish with a light bio degradable spray for protection while it sits patiently in my shed.

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

Music and dancing have been my life since the age of 5 starting with piano lessons, ballroom dancing and Ballet and tap but for the last 12 years have concentrated on Rock & Roll and Line dancing. I am currently the Leader of a choir in Gawler which I love dearly. Murray and I were very much into music and loved dancing, singing and jamming together.

What are 3 things you have learned from being part of the eco coffin project?

  • I have learned that many old traditions are still permitted; it is possible to keep our loved one at home for a few days which is wonderful, I wish I had known this in the past, I thought that a Funeral director had to be called immediately which affected me quite a bit when my Mother and husband died.
  • Also having the opportunity to purchase our own coffins and decorate them, I have witnessed the use of a shroud for Natural Burials but not coffins and did not think that they (coffins) could be made to be bio-degradable, so thrilled I was wrong.
  • It was also fabulous to be given a tour of the cremation procedure; many people. including myself have preconceived ideas about what happens to us on our final journey and it was wonderful to witness the respectful and very secure procedure. I also thought that the actual cremation was done privately on a sort of conveyer belt almost but no; which thrills me to answer the next question.

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

My one thing that I have now done was to actually accompany Murray to the Cremator which was so, so special in our present pandemic situation. I cannot put this into words but it gave me such Peace to be able to complete his final earthly journey with him, right to the door of the Cremator. I was actually able to go beyond the glass viewing room and almost guide him through his final door, amazing, thank you Mark Forgie.

Any other thoughts or comments you would like to add?

This course is invaluable and should be available to everybody somehow. I realise that this course will go on through the Gawler Environmental Centre but numbers are naturally limited, what about a U3A type course, not the actual coffin making but all the information. Just a thought and I’d love to help in any way I can; I know how much the knowledge I now have has helped me, thank you Abby so much.


This whole course has been invaluable, I not only learned so much from Abby and the speakers involved but I’ve also spoken to so many friends about this. Most of my friends were struck dumb when I first told them I was doing this project, after all death is not something we talk about, except to pass on our condolences but after giving it some consideration they realised it was something that I would throw myself into and it has now opened up many conversations which is wonderful; death is not something to be feared. My kids think it a huge joke that I am preparing my own coffin and just ask that I keep a screwdriver taped to the flat pack box to make assembly quicker and easier for them. Joking aside, it has opened up conversations with them too and I have been able to tell them my wishes for after my death and it is now not being treated as ‘we can’t talk about that’.

This project greatly helped the daughters of my partner, Murray, who died during this course. Just the week before he died he told the girls we were doing this course; they were shocked to start with but we all ended up in hysterics on the phone as we jokingly planned to recycle our coffins as an eternal inheritance, after all our hard work. The main benefit though was that he told them the decisions he had made about his death, he had never talked about these things with them before so it brought great comfort to know that we could follow his wishes to the end together.

Thank you again Abby, I hope you understand how great this project has been for me and the comfort it brought too.

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