Repaired Objects - Textiles
Beginning with a discarded garment I discuss memory, loss, consumption practices, repair and absent/present bodies.
I use traditional stitch and mending techniques to embed, show and hide narrative. Jumpers as a medium appeal to me; their familiarity, ubiquity and sense of safety. My interventions re-story them in a familiar yet new way.
They have been exhibited at Walford Mill,The National Centre for Craft and Design, and the V&A amongst others. Please contact me for loans or comissions.
Mending clothes is not a new process, nor is the idea of stitching as a reparational experience for mind and body. But what is a repairing process for a material?
The very visible mends in this jumper highlight practiced wardrobe maintenance, visibly wrought through the colours and textures of the fixing yarn. This act brought the jumper far from its neutral garment origins and further from the coat of a sheep. The ‘slogan’ of repair embedded into the garment sites the jumper as activism.
As a repaired woolen garment, it is warm, cosy and comfortable, totally wearable and fit for purpose. It asks us:
Can the form of the jumper be unmade; can the wool be repaired back to its raw form? What are the essences of wool? Where does it come from and how? What are its personality traits and quirks? What else do we use it for?
There are two Jumpers to Lend; one was commissioned for the TED Textiles touring exhibition, Textile Toolbox (2014 ongoing), and one by Walford Mill Crafts Centre for the exhibition Knit 1, Mend 1, Keep 1, Change 1 (2015)
I use Learning Cardigan in workshops to demonstrate repair techniques. Participants also experiment on it, and it is also documentation of these episodes. It was originally knitted by my Gran, and, after inheriting it, I chose to use it in this way - passing on some of the skills she taught me.
Co-creating artefacts from reused domestic objects such as this, is one way I communicate repair as a design imperative, user activity, service, and as community builder.
The textile recycling plant was about a 40minute bus journey through some beautiful forest and less beautiful bits of the city. It was housed in a large, leaky, corrugated iron barn, and although it was a warmish day, it was cold inside. The workers were very busy, we tried to keep out of their way as they sorted and moved the clothing; collecting it together by fabric type and garment type, depending, and piling it into tonne bags.
I found the place fascinating and depressing. There were so many perfect clothes there, and it was such a small proportion of those discarded in Hong Kong monthly – most are sent to landfill. They were busy clearing out the plant as they were approaching their busy period – Chinese New Year – when people tend to have a spring clean.
The two found jumpers I took from the plant embody use and waste, and various forms of breakage. The outer woollen jumper has small holes – material breakage demonstrating wear and tear; the inner (in perfect condition) is mixed fibre – a design decision that could be considered a breakage.
By adding my jumbled, fragmented thoughts to the jumpers, patching the outers holes by filling it with the inner, I attempt to bring together my thoughts on the trip, on the seen and unseen materials and processes embodied by the jumpers. Merging them shows the blur of fieldwork and interconnectedness of the many problems of personal and universal consumption practices. Hong Kong Jumper assembles damaged, undamaged, pure, mixed, cutting then patching text-lines, covering holes with thoughts and weaving myself into the narrative of the jumpers to record my experience.
MEND MORE Jumper - purple, acrylic, large, and textual - is part encouragement and part disparagement. Its stance is political: overt, visible, legible, unmistakeable. Made as a placard for the Climate March 2015 it had to stand out from the babble of the crowd.
Having tried to wear it I realised I couldn’t – its acrylic body makes me uncomfortable but suits its purpose; it dries fast in inclement weather. The yellow lettering is cut from fabric scraps dug out from my stash, hand-stitched, patched, appliqued, not hemmed, not glued. It reads Mend More Bin Less, Mend More Buy Less.
An ongoing political and performative jumper, worn as provocation and as message. Mending begun in 2012 and continued ever since. Now part of the V&A Museum collections.