The coffin club: DIY coffin craze catches on in New Zealand

One club’s motto is “fine and affordable underground furniture.”

Bored by bridge, knitting, and lawn bowls, many elderly people in New Zealand have taken up a new hobby: coffin construction.

Retirees across the country are picking up tools to construct their own coffins with personalised designs in New Zealand's latest social event.  

They say the activity is cost-saving (the coffins cost around $250.00 to build, compared with a standard coffin which is about $3600), and helps to combat loneliness.

Speaking to The New York Times, Grace Terry, 77, a former nurse in Hawke’s Bay, on the North Island of New Zealand said that “we have a heap of fun,” humorously adding that:

“I’ve seen people come alive making their own coffins.”

Mrs Terry's own coffin, which is at home waiting to be lined, is painted mauve and decorated with deep purple hydrangea flowers.

The country’s first coffin club was established in Rotorua in 2010 by a palliative care nurse, Katie Williams. and since then the trend has spread around the country.

There are now a dozen coffin clubs operating in both the North and South Island, with up to 120 people in some of the clubs.

Every Tuesday the Hawke's Bay DIY Coffin Club meets for morning tea at a former Netball Centre, where they help build and design their own and each other's coffins. 

As well as members building their own coffins, the group also construct baby coffins for the local hospital, which they donate for free.

                                       

According to the Kiwi Coffin Club, creating a coffin is a way for older people to come to terms with death and stay in control right up to the end.

The club’s motto is “fine and affordable underground furniture", with every caskets inscribed with the club’s initials, K.C.C, and built to meet national standards.

Each coffin also has a waterproof lining and is strong enough to hold a body.

"A huge benefit of the Club has been the opportunities of family involvement in the planning of their loved ones wishes at the end of their life.  It has often been a taboo subject and it so good to see it out in the open," said founder Katie Williams.

The clubs insist they are more than just about making coffins, with the social benefits emphasised. Members re also encouraged to volunteer their skills to help others once their own coffin is completed.

Members of the coffin clubs go all out with decorations, with previous designs including a lot of Elvis inspired pieces, All Black Rugby tributes cheerful floral patterns.

Image: Kiwi Coffin Club

As to what the members do with the coffins until their designated purpose? Well, they certainly don't go unused, with some of the elderly people apparently using them as coffee tables, storage boxes, or even a spare wardrobe.

As the Kiwi Coffin Club like to say, "it’s only a box until there is someone in it. And while it’s just a box, it brings us together.”