Matt Henke and Tanner Curtis, master’s of architecture students at the University of Utah, are bringing a unique industry into the modern era — caskets — with help from the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.
“In almost all industries, contemporary design takes a portion of the market — whether it’s cars, phones, or even into the more carpentry-based industries of cabinetry and furniture,” Curtis said. “This has happened almost everywhere except in the casket world. It’s about 99 percent design of a traditional nature. If you search for a more contemporary or modern design, it’s almost on the whole other side of the spectrum, in the sense that it becomes almost experimental art. We’ve taken the classic silhouette of a casket and tried to create it with no gaudy woodwork or metal detailing and boiled it down to a simple and clean silhouette. This is an idea that I think fills a void, but also is trying to leverage a lot of trends.”
Curtis had the idea for a new, sleek casket design to take advantage of the gap in the market, but didn’t have the carpentry or woodworking skills to pursue it. Henke had over 15 years of custom woodwork experience, including designing an original casket, but hadn’t considered the market for it. When Henke and Curtis met during a meet-and-greet portion of one of their classes in the master’s of architecture program, Craft Casket Co. was kickstarted.
“I always thought the way that we started was interesting, because it was something that came out of a series of unfortunate events,” Henke said. “In December of 2017, my dad passed away from pancreatic cancer, and one of his personal requests for me was always to build his casket. I love woodworking and wanted to honor him in that way. I built his casket even though I had never done one before. Later, I included his casket in my portfolio for applying for the graduate program, and when Tanner saw that I had completed a casket of my own, he approached me with the idea.”
Find this article and a lot more in the 2020 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.