I offer handmade willow caskets to my local and greater New England community. I support the growing movements of green burial and traditional home funerals in North America. Rather than shipping my caskets far and wide, I hope to inspire weavers from throughout North America to cultivate this traditional craft within their own local communities.
Willow coffins are one of the most environmentally sound types. Willow takes only a year to grow and is fully compostable, making it the most environmentally renewable material for making coffins. When a willow coffin is used in a green burial, all the carbon in both the body and the willow is sequestered in the soil. Willow is also ideal for cremation, being a very light pithy wood.
My coffins are lined with unbleached cotton muslin. Compostable cotton rope, made and grown in the USA, is used for the handles. I source my organic willow from family farms in Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, Maine and Ontario, and the sturdy base slats are made from local spruce or pine. Because there are no resins or plastics involved in production, the coffins do not release harmful gasses into the atmosphere during cremation.
My neighbor recently asked me how I felt about creating such a beautiful item just to have it buried or cremated, gone forever. I did my best to answer...
I have been connected to thresholds and ceremony for my whole life. One very key part to ceremony is the physical representation and symbol of a deep emotional shift, the crossing of a threshold, and the layered adjustments that follow. To weave a coffin with my hands, knowing that a human body will be laid in it and in turn, laid in the ground to return to dirt, I see each weaving rod representing a story in that person's life, a nugget of experience or love to be woven into the person they became in their life. I use my own experience and love to create a representation of that complex life, and it is a gift for me to see it feed the earth that in turn feeds me. Life and death are inherently tied. Everything that has ever been created must die, and for anything to change, part of it dies in order to do so.
— Mary Lauren Fraser, 2016
"There is nothing more beautiful, nothing more gentle, nothing more natural, than the willow casket that Mary Lauren Fraser made for my mother. While my elderly mother was still alive I kept the willow casket in my bedroom as a blanket chest. It looked gorgeous and gave me time to process that my mother was old and ailing and that her time of death was probably in the near future. When my mother died, the willow casket helped me with the transition as it went back to its original purpose. The beautiful, sturdy willow casket allowed me to have a completely green burial for my mother which is what both she and I wanted.
The positive energy that Mary Lauren Fraser put into the making of the casket went with her into the ground and now I am at peace knowing that the willow casket held her safely as she has naturally given back, as both she and the casket gently journey back into the earth."