The Cotswold Funeral Director on: Picture perfect

Aug 3, 2013
The Cotswold Funeral Director on: Picture perfect

“It’s a kind of dusky pink. Definitely not baby pink. It’s darker than that.” I explained.

I shuddered at the whole idea to be honest. It brought back grim memories of when I moved into my house, wherein the entire bathroom was finished in a foul pink colour. Personally I have an unshakeable belief that bathrooms have no business being finished in anything other than Apple White, but there’s no accounting for taste is there? Anyway, getting back to my telephone conversation, the lady at our coffin suppliers said:

“That’s fine. We can match any colour shade.”
 “Great, ok, but how are we going to do this then?” I asked.
“Best way is to choose one off a Dulux colour chart. Give us the name & code and we‘ll match it from that.” Came the matter-of-fact reply.

So, after arriving at the client’s family home clutching a handful of colour charts, I waited whilst the family of The Late Mrs. Smith deliberated over the “Modern Motif” range before settling on “Berry Smoothie.” The joke wasn’t lost on them: 

“That’s typical of Mum, she always said she wanted to be buried smoothly!”

Mrs. Smith was indeed buried without incident, but she made a bold posthumous statement in the process by having a pink-coloured cardboard coffin. I remember another family who requested a coloured cardboard coffin: they wanted bright yellow. “Lemon Punch” from the radiators & woodwork range as I recall...

We can offer an unlimited range of colour & pictorial finish coffins, either in cardboard or wood. Some folks, like the aforementioned Smith’s, just want a plain colour. But most choose the full bespoke design option:

“Can you do it so it’s all black, but with blue flames across the sides and lid? It’s to match the paintwork on his Harley Davidson motorbike.” One widow asked. Meanwhile a bereaved gentleman had us searching the internet for a suitable scene of a bowling green, to commemorate his wife – late captain of the ladies’ team.

Another client’s ideas meant copyright technicalities had to be overcome: “Our suppliers will need to contact the team’s marketing department and ask permission first.” I said. “But if they give us the go-ahead then yes, we can certainly have your Husband’s coffin finished in McLaren Grand Prix racing livery…”

We’ve done farming scenes, the inevitable football club colours and even a New York City taxi cab. My personal favourite was an oblong cardboard casket finished as a life-size Doctor Who police box. Of course, for the funeral the coffin was horizontal, so the day it was delivered we couldn’t resist standing it up on end and photographing it for the family. They were delighted. It was for a young, disabled man and the family said they loved the thought of their son being able to go off into space in his own police box Tardis.

It gets complicated sometimes though. I remember spending three days emailing design drafts backwards and forwards so the family of a transport business owner could have the coffin finished in his firm’s distinctive gold livery complete with red & yellow flashes, the company logo and photo’s of their fleet through the years on the sides of the coffin.
“It’s more of a greeny kind of gold; the red comes a little higher up and fades into the yellow more. Now, the photo’s of our old vehicles on the coffin sides – can they be shown in more like a collage effect? No, change that; can they be about a centimetre apart? And do we have to have handles on the coffin? We don’t want them to interfere with the design. Oh, and can you make sure the florist matches the flowers with the colour scheme as well please?”

It didn’t help that one member of the family was a graphic designer, but it’s not normally that complicated. Just as well really, as virtually all the pictorial coffins we’re asked to provide are bespoke designs. So you can imagine requests for something simple are a whole lot easier, even if zebra stripe, leopard skin or Raspberry Surprise pink wouldn’t be to my personal taste…

James Baker owns and runs Fred Stevens Funeral Directors of Nailsworth, Glos.

He is the author of “A Life In Death – Memoirs Of A Cotswold Funeral Director”

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