March Featured MCA Member: Chuck Lakin
At the age of 26, Chuck Lakin picked up the materials for his first woodworking project. It was a frame for a wedding gift, made of walnut. The look, feel, and smell of the wood was intoxicating, and woodworking became an integral part of his life. A self taught woodworker, Chuck practiced and honed his skills by building projects for friends and family. He would build anything requested of him if the recipient paid for their materials, and patiently understood he was practicing.
In 1979, when his father was dying after a battle with lung cancer, Chuck and his family took part in an intimate goodbye which allowed his father to pass on at home with family by his side. The intimacy of this life event and the four weeks leading up to it was disrupted by the impersonal and cold handling of his fathers remains by the funeral director. Twenty years later, Chuck stumbled upon a manual written by a woman from California that made a business of educating people about the process of caring for their dead; and after putting to use his librarian-level researching skills, and a serendipitous meeting with an Auburn woman who had performed a home funeral for her beloved mother, Last Things was born in 2008. Last Things, a resource with multiple advisors from various areas of expertise, teaches people about the vast end-of-life options available including: green burials, home funerals, green cemeteries, and much more. The goal is not to convince people, but to provide them with the necessary information regarding the options for their burial- and their physical body- after they die. Chuck now puts his woodworking skills use teaching folks to build their own simple, wooden coffins in a variety of styles to decorate as they see fit.
This spring, Chuck will be teaching a workshop at the Maine Crafts Association’s annual Haystack Weekend May 12-15th at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle. Workshop attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about the intimacy of coffin building- and build one of their own-while listening to talks about green burials, home funerals, and green cemeteries.
A retired Colby College librarian, Chuck is a natural at answering questions- and learning the answers to unfamiliar questions- and his kindness and openness about his own experiences with death and burial make him a wonderful person to go on this educational journey with.
Q & A with Chuck Lakin:
Q: Where did you grow up? Why did you decide to live/stay in Maine?
A: Easy questions: Des Moines, Iowa, and “I met this woman” and have never regretted being in Maine.
Q: You are best known to us for making coffins. What else do you enjoy making?
A: Coffins are the only thing I make regularly. The best thing about making whatever a customer wants is the challenge of a good, simple design; and then finishing the project and stepping back to take a look at it.
Q: Did you have any mentors or major influences?
A: No single mentor. My designs are clearly influenced by the Japanese concepts of wabi sabi.
Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your work?
A: Sometimes, when a person bought a coffin for a family member, they will call me after the funeral or send me a picture of the decorated coffin.
Q: How did you (learn about / become involved with) the MCA?
A: A young man I was essentially treating as an apprentice found your apprenticeship program. We applied, got accepted, and I learned a lot about the MCA. I am very impressed with all you do and how responsive you are to anything that you think would be helpful to crafts in Maine.
To learn more about the Last Things team, visit their website at:
For more information about the 2022 MCA Haystack Weekend Coffin Making and Green Burials
Workshop or to sign up for this unique opportunity, visit the link below!
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