Growing demand for open casket funerals means more challenges for those preparing loved ones final farewell

There's a growing trend of open caskets in New Zealand, and that can mean challenges for embalmers charged with making the dead look their best.

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Sometimes the damage from a traumatic death requires skilful restoration so a new course has been developed to help. Source: 1 NEWS

The first course of its kind in the country has been underway in Auckland this weekend to teach embalmers how to look at a face as a sculptor or artist would.

The hope - more restorative art on the deceased to better help grieving families.

"With a trauma death all they want to do is see someone, they just have to see them, and quite often some of the trauma is a little bit too extensive for us and we'll say no we'll have a closed casket," John Skipper from the Funeral Service Training Trust told 1 NEWS.

"Trauma cases happen quite often, you just don't hear about them - not everybody dies the perfect death, old age in your sleep quietly in your home," he said.

The trust has been the driver of the new course in New Zealand.

So in a small room at Davis Funeral Services in West Auckland, embalmers from around the country have gathered to develop and perfect their skills.

They start with a plastic skull base and are given a single photo of a celebrity to make a clay three-dimensional face.

It’s turning a two-dimensional photo into something far more lifelike.

Tim Brown is one of the embalmers taking part.

"People do want to say goodbye to their loved ones a bit more, we're a bit more interactive in New Zealand for deceased and we have a lot more people going home than in other countries," he told 1 NEWS.

"There's no such thing as perfect, you're not going to make them exactly perfect again, but anything you can do to make them that much better is still something that you can do for the family," Mr Brown said.

John Skipper from the Funeral Service Training Trust says the course should help embalmers better deal with the cases that come before them.

"We would actually be able to assist families in their grieving process through the funeral process, to give them that memory picture of someone," he said.

Artistic Training Consultant Will Huntley is one of the teachers brought in from Australia.

"The hardest part about this is they get one picture, any kind of sculptor would get multiple pictures top, bottom, side, left, right and everything you needed but as restorative artists that they are they don't get that benefit," he said.

But Nardus Oelofse from Davis Funerals says the effort participants are putting into the course will be worth it.

"Being able to say goodbye the way they [relatives] want to is exceptionally important... the enhancement that it will have on the industry countrywide for families will be immense," he told 1 NEWS.