Chapter I: MIT to Mushrooms
JR’s graduate work at MIT focused on the development of living units, furniture, wearables, and recycling systems to propose unorthodox relationships between the mind/body/self and the natural environment. Her work critically engaged governmental institutions, industries, and social norms, specifically concerning waste and death and dying.
Following her graduate studies, JR studied mycoremediation. During this time, she visited a green cemetery which led to a serendipitous thought:
“Could mushrooms be the symbol and tool for a cultural shift in how we think about death and our relationship to the planet?”
This idea inspired JR to dive deeper and immerse herself in today’s funeral practices: the embalming, makeup, and placement of the body, to name just a few. It became more and more apparent how conceptions of death are enacted through the body, and this research added the idea that fashion, in addition to mushrooms, could be a vehicle for re-imagining our relationship with death.
Chapter II: The Suit
This trinity of events, mushrooms, death, and fashion, led to the first version of the Suit being created. In 2008, JR wore the Suit in a fashion show, “Seamless: Computational Couture” at the Museum of Science in Boston, co-curated by Amanda Parkes, current advisor to the company.
From there, a group started to follow JR’s work. JR launched the Infinity Burial Project as a home for the Decompiculture Society, with hundreds of members. The Society joined JR on her exploration, which included tours of embalming fluid factories, organizing workshops and lectures, even one ejection from the National Funeral Directors Association Annual Convention.
The creation of this group also inspired JR to take a course with industry-leading mycologist Paul Stamets where she learned how to cultivate mushrooms.
In 2011, JR was invited to speak at the TEDGlobal Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. Now with over 1.2M views worldwide, JR’s talk captured the imagination of many people across the world.
With more and more people supporting her, she became further convinced that no matter what kinds of new funeral products appeared on the market, we need to make death and funerals more emotionally and socially accessible, to confront the taboo.
Chapter III: Stanford to Coeio
In 2014, JR received an appointment as a Lecturer and Fellow at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (affectionately known as “the d.school”) to focus on applying a human-centered approach to the Infinity Burial Project.
After her fellowship at the d.school, JR founded Coeio – a company where people’s last wishes would be as unique as their lives.
Chapter IV: Dennis White
We first met Dennis White when he emailed JR to express his interest in using the Infinity Burial Suit for his own burial. Dennis is a 63-year-old self-made carpenter who lives in Woburn, MA. He has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and wants to have a natural, environmentally-friendly burial that isn’t offered with conventional funeral practices.
The Next Chapter
We hope the next chapter will include your story!
If you’d like to share your journey with us, we invite you to use the suit.