Faces of Death: Katrina Spade

Our series, Faces of Death, showcases the death revolutionaries we are fortunate enough to work with here at The Order. This month, meet Katrina Spade, who is developing a new form of death care that transforms bodies into soil, so that we can return to the earth after we die.

Tell us about your work, Katrina.

I’m the founder of Recompose, which was formerly the Urban Death Project. Back in graduate school, I invented a system that turns human bodies into soil, based on decades of practice by farmers composting livestock and other animals. Recompose is now developing that system to make it available to the world.

I’m excited to help solve the problem of the pollution and waste caused by contemporary disposition options, but I’m also really excited to weave ritual, participation, and transparency into death care. Besides offering a way to return our bodies to the earth, Recompose is designing an experience for families that is quite different from the typical funeral home, both aesthetically and emotionally.

I started this work because I saw the funeral experience as something worth improving, and I’ve since had several deaths of loved ones really affirm that idea. I love all the aspects of this work, from policy change to cultural shifting to designing and engineering…I even love the excel spreadsheeting!

Live illustration by Silent James, at Death Salon: Seattle

What are you working on this year?  

This year, we’ve been partnering with researchers to prove that recomposition is a safe and effective method of disposition. We’re introducing legislation to make recomposition legal in Washington State. And we’re manufacturing and testing a prototype of our system, all with the goal of opening the first Recompose Center in the next few years. We’ve also been raising money from heart-aligned investors to move this whole adventure forward.

What does death positivity mean to you? 

Lately, I’ve been focused on lack of judgement as the heart of death positivity.

Like, no one can tell you how to feel when someone dies. And no one can tell you how to feel about your own mortality. And you can change how you feel every three seconds, if you want.

When I think about staffing our Recompose Centers, I think about hiring folks who are awesome at guiding people through an experience and providing the opportunity to participate… but completely without judging or insisting.

 We’ve also been raising money from heart-aligned investors to move this whole adventure forward.

What other death-related job that you don’t have, would you want?

 I’d love to try my hand at designing a beautiful crematory. I’d also like to do voiceovers for death-related shows….hmmm, I guess I just want to do voiceovers in general.

When you die, what do you want done with your corpse? 

I’d like to be recomposed, and have my kids plant a little something with the soil.

If that can’t happen for some reason, I’d like to be super-embalmed and dressed like I was going to play tennis…then perched on a bench like I was calmly watching people play at the local Seattle courts.

You can find out more about Katrina’s work by visiting the Recompose website, and watching her Ted Talk, When I Die, Recompose Me. Katrina has been featured in the New York Times, and architecture and design magazine, Metropolis.

You can follow Katrina on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

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