Heaven on Earth Bespoke Green Funerals founded in 1995 by Paula Rainy Crofts ,originally a teacher with a music speciality and Simon Dorgan (both BA Hons) was a joiner. So on a whim and needing a change of direction, decided to open a coffin shop. Simon thought Paula said “coffee” shop and was very enthusiastic! At that time in 1995 it was not possible to buy just a coffin from a funeral director, you had to have the whole funeral package. When Simon eventually came round to the idea he started out making coffins as pieces of furniture so that customers could utilise the ‘box’ until their time came and then they had a free coffin. Paula & Simon were also perceived as making coffins to suit, as made in Ghana, where people get buried in a coffin which denotes their trade or standing in society. This Mercedes Benz (on Pauls & Simon’s kitchen table in the photo) was made for a businessman!
Heaven on Earth were featured on television in 1996 with the Mercedes Benz and a Pirogue, a Ghanaian fishing boat, and were commissioned by a client who thought that we had made them, to make a Red Arrows Jet Aeroplane for someone who had a passion for those pilots. Luckily she wanted a burial, so it was more easily designed with a detachable nose and wings.
(Paula & Simon in Simon’s workshop with said Jet!)
Both had no intention of becoming funeral directors but after a few months of coffin manufacturing received a phone call in the middle of one night asking us to collect someone’s Dad who had died at home……and that was their baptism of fire – described in the OED as “an initiation into battle; a painful new undertaking”. The one thing that was certain though was that they did not want to become ‘undertakers’, we wanted to offer relevance and choice. The learning curve went up very steeply and very quickly.
One of the many joys of having such a vast experience of funerals is that you can do your own thing when the time gets personal because you know the options.
Paula herself decorated a cream painted coffin for her mother. She had used it in her bedroom as a seat with cushions on and for storage as there was very little in her flat. She was a very stylish woman who loved ostentation so painted gold lilies all around – and she had to have gold handles (something we don’t always use) and gold ribbon amongst the cream lilies and roses. Unfortunately, she died over a bank holiday and her Requiem Mass was held on one day and then had to take her back into cold storage and await her grave to be dug on another, hence the rather droopy appearance of her lovely flowers. The white bear was one she loved, a Christmas present, which when tummy-pressed would sing “Winter Wonderland”! She was lowered into her grave with this singing and dancing bear shocking the gravediggers. She wouldn’t have wanted anything less than a celebration which, luckily, we were able to provide.