This week Jake the owner of Sussex Willow Coffins answers my ‘Ask The Expert’ questions:

How did you get into your current profession?

I was fortunate enough to apprentice to a greenwood craftsman in Kent, we would manage woodland by cutting hazel and willow material in the winters then make products and run courses in the summer. I got the bug with weaving baskets and growing willow on the estate to make them with. When I had finished as an apprentice, I went about setting up Sussex Willow Coffins to further the things I had most enjoyed. And the rest is history as they say!
Do you envisage ever changing your role? 

I don’t think so, I never really set out to build a big company and become a manager of people, for me I need to stay connected to my craft, hands on in the workshop and in the willow beds.

Are there any myths can you dispel about your profession? 

I like the myth that coffins aren’t burnt in the crematorium but are resold to make more profit by the funeral industry. The big coffin conspiracy! Nope this never happens you are posted into the cremator in whichever coffin you have chosen. A lot of people also ask me whether it feels weird putting so much time and effort into crafting something that will be burnt or buried in a number of days. I’ve never felt like that really, I have made them for the purpose of being admired on someone’s big day. I think holding a body, bringing some nature and softness to a sad occasion and often a good talking point for the guests is more than enough. They also often have more therapeutic value, we have had numerous families over the years come and visit the workshop, do some weaving or decorate a loved one’s coffin. I think anything that helps people take ownership of the funeral process and brings opportunity to talk about a loved one is a good thing.

What do you think you’d be doing instead if you weren’t doing this?

If I ever stop making coffins, I would love to set up a natural burial site, the idea of natural burial was the basis for our coffin design. No glue no nails just pure woven woody goodness. I guess it appeals to my background of land management, a win win for nature and grieving families.

What do your friends and family think about what you do? 

Its either a conversation starter or conversation killer. Some shy away from this subject in our society, right? Other admire the depth of the work and the difference it can make to people’s lives. I would say in summary that most people find it fascinating, other just think it’s weird!

Do you want to be buried or cremated?

Natural burial for sure.

What kind of funeral do you want for yourself?

A peaceful one with birds singing and a ray or two of sunshine. Some singing or a harpist perhaps, I think funerals remind us that we are mere mortals and help us ground ourselves, put our lives into perspective. An environment that helps us to do that has got to be good for the healing process.

Tell me what your perfect day looks like!

I love visiting the willow beds in the summer you see them teaming with life, ladybirds, caterpillars and birds alike all enjoying the environment we have created. I also love a bit of camping with my children, so I would say camping out in the willows with good company and a hearty campfire.

You can learn more about these beautiful coffins by going to  and you even arrange to visit the workshop in Clayton, West Sussex, by emailing or calling 01273 671430 to make an appointment. Here you can see for yourself how the coffins are made and ask any questions you may have.

Jake has been recommended by the Good Funeral Guide yearly since 2017 and is FFMA approved. Sussex Willow Coffins use Willow from the sustainable beds that they started planting back in 2016, they are in the process of expanding with another 40,000 willow trees being planted solely for production of willow for coffin making!
At Bungards we love Jake’s creations! each time one is delivered we stand and look at it a while, taking in its craftmanship and beauty, if you are looking for a woven coffin over a traditional coffin, then we really do recommend you take a look at Jake’s creations.

Good Funeral Guide

Good Funeral Guide recommendation