Nova Scotia

Urn artist dying to break into funeral business

A woodturning artist from Maitland, N.S. says he has a cheaper urn option, but convincing funeral homes to buy local is a tough sell.

Funeral homes 'gouging' customers

Ben McLellan started shaping pieces of wood into bowls and vases. Then about eight years ago, he got inspired to branch into urns. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

A woodturning artist from Maitland, N.S. says he has a cheaper urn option, but convincing funeral homes to buy local is a tough sell.

Ben McLellan started shaping pieces of wood into bowls and vases. Then about eight years ago, he got inspired to branch out.

"When my wife's grandmother died, they purchased an urn for her and it was almost $1,000. That didn't seem right to me," he said.

So McLellan started shaping his own. Initially, he wanted to sell his wooden urns to funeral homes, but after putting out dozens of calls he soon realized that wouldn't be happening.

"It's probably a money thing. You know they can bring them in from China," he said.

One of McLellan's handcrafted urns sells for $275. Many of Nova Scotia's funeral homes charge three times that price.

It’s something Vic Maracle experienced first hand.

"It's a shock because my wife died and it was incredible, the cost of little things that you notice later," he said.

Maracle saw McLellan’s urns and ordered one for himself.

"I liked it, and I'm getting older so I thought I'd get one beforehand."

McLellan said being shut out of the funeral business isn't hurting his bottom line since all of his products are sold online.

He said he’s more concerned about how funeral homes treat grieving customers.

"I know how long it takes. I know what's involved. It's gouging," he said.

McLellan's pieces take about three days to craft and another two years before they're properly dried and ready.

CBC News called several funeral homes in Nova Scotia for a comment. No calls were returned.

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