Adding Soul to Custom Caskets

Two Portland tattoo artists create “death-positive” coffins in their own home.

By Megan Haverman January 25, 2016 Published in the February 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

0216 immortal casket company ke71yl

Image: Michael Novak

The mortuary-industrial complex can feel a little cold. But Portlanders J.D. and Julie O’Kelly’s handmade caskets take inspiration from the Victorian era’s warmer attitudes toward death.

“This, for us, is a romance,” J.D. explains.

In 2014, when the couple planned their first coffin, they designed a simple, wooden hexagon for the burgeoning home burial movement. In the construction process, each handcrafted element became more complex. Now their business, Immortal Casket Company, blends the pair’s background in tattoo-inspired artistry to add an element of soul to mortality. Julie works on the interiors and upholstery. “We tend to get carried away—whether it’s tattooing or home décor, it’s something that evolves,” she says.

Meanwhile, J.D. gets lost in the sawdust, which he says he loves. “And to be able to share it with Julie ...”

He winks at her. For once, death even seems cute.

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