Our relationship with material things is unique and complicated. Beyond the initial excitement of being the owner of something new we need a confidence of usership to ensure a strong, long lasting relationship. A confidence of usership stems from an understanding of the skills and craftsmanship that went into the production process to allow us to value it beyond its retail price, and its built in physical or psychological obsolescence. Perhaps more importantly though, to possess the skills to carry out repair – being the sign of use – leaves us ‘less at the mercy of disposable goods’.

Sorting at TRAID's warehouse
Sorting at the TRAID warehouse ©Rita Platts

There’s certainly a negative connotation with the term ‘repair’ – that something in need of repair is no longer desirable – which overshadows the romance of the memorable stories embedded in our ‘stuff’. There are a number of mending activists challenging the short lived and ‘ultimately disappointing sugar high of passive consumerism’* through repair whereby fixing becomes a way of engaging, sharing and resistance. Repair becomes a physical, political and social act.

One of these mending activists is Professor and Fixpert Daniel Charny. Before visiting the Department of Repair, Charny described how mending has the ability to connect intangible and tangible things in his recent talk Brave Fixed World. Through the process of mending: from access, follows engagement, experience and then confidence. Open access to skill sharing spaces is happening online at Fixpert to Repair Cafes, Maker Library Networks and even TRAID’s own Sew Good workshops in our own local communities. By sharing skills with others we build new relationships and by learning how to mend we build confidence of usership. It is with the confidence to repair or remake that we can feel empowered to make positive social and environmental change.

Free knit repair workshop at TRAID Dalston
Free knit repair workshop at TRAID Dalston

Camberwell College of Arts’ Department of Repair is an exhibition showcasing different approaches to mending and tools of repair. Following collaborative skill-sharing workshops the exhibition has evolved to reflect individual interpretations of remaking and repair. From beautifully mended plates hung on the wall, to shattered vinyl and Tom of Holland’s darned jumper masterpiece: the objects have not only been repaired, restored, remade, and redesigned but gives us the opportunity to consider their value as objects of new beauty, performance and purpose.

Tools for repair at the Department of Repair, Camberwell Arts
Tools for repair at the Department of Repair, Camberwell Arts

Perhaps it’s the old romantic in me, but when I see something repaired it warms my heart – to know that the potential in something has been realised and not ignored or discarded. You can visit the Department of Repair at Camberwell College of Arts until February 20th.

If you would like to register interest and find out more information about TRAID’s Community Mending Network (launching in March 2015), please email.

*The New Materialism by Ruth Potts and Andrew Simms