Posts Tagged ‘repairing valuable items’

Mark Making And Mending

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

On textile artist Maeve Coulter’s textile art page is a brief paragraph on her techniques, another on the themes and ideas in her art, plus this single line: “I was raised in a household where fabric was revered, rescued and reused.”  This comment is a common thread running through statements by many textile artists, fabric artists, art quilters, whatever each of us calls ourselves.  The presence of fabric or cloth in our lives is acknowledged, and we tend to revere it at some level for its importance from cradle to grave. It’s frequently expressed in terms of saving, rescuing, repurposing, upcycling, reusing and recycling garments and other cloth items.  The western world has lost a lot of the ‘make do and mend’ concept, and our garbage tips and landfills bulge as  huge environmental problem grows daily.

I’m a classic Baby Boomer, and all the mothers of other kids I knew used fabrics carefully, sewing garments with generous seam and hem allowances that allowed them to be handed down and along to other families where they could be taken up, let out, lengthened or shortened.   For a garment to successfully endure all these phases, the fabric needed to be the best quality  possible, and in home sewing for kids especially it has always been false economy to go for cheap fabric.  Our mothers were stay at home mums, as even though they might have worked during the men’s absence fighting WWII, most of those jobs were handed back to men as they returned home.  Clothes rationing lasted in Australia until the early 50s, so our mothers had the motivation and the time to invest in the whole process of sewing, mending and repurposing fabric things.  Plus they mended things to make them last longer.

Straight stitches commonly feature in mending – for example a 3-corner tear

I’ve noticed artists who can claim their work uses all recycled materials enjoy a subtle extra merit, eco brownie points, making the work somehow more worthy because only recycled materials were used.  Google “recycled clothes” for example, you’ll find many pics of inspiring projects from recycled materials, it’s big business.  I guess I might be part way there, as I don’t cut into new fabric if I have suitable coloured/printed/textured scraps or offcuts I can use in my improvisational constructions.  Occasionally I cut up an old garment, but I tend to give away intact clothes I’ve worn a lot or outgrown that still have some use in them.  To go all the way would be to scour op shops and markets, but, to be honest, I have no inclination to regularly do those rounds or hoard bundles of fabrics from used clothes.  I have a close friend who acquires mended fabric whatevers by various means – clothes, sheets, blankets, you name it, she has it somewhere.  The interior of her house has all this wonderful fabric stuff, much of it backed by interesting stories, but you can barely find a place to sit down.  I just do not want to get on that bandwagon  🙂

 

Stitch Plus Shape

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

kintsugi meets textile mending web

Top – Sample from today – some fused shapes with a variety of edge treatments, and including some metallic stitches.

LL – from a poor quality photo but an adequate aide memoire – of a section of kuba cloth we saw in a Colombian museum.

LR – detail of a hand quilted wall quilt,  2010, using the traditional squares with squares motif non-traditionally.

To me they’re related, and link to the ethic of mending something valuable; on which theme I recently discoverd the beautiful Japanese craft of mending broken ceramics – kintsugi 

Craftsmanship in Gold

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

La Lechuga copy

We saw this amazing religious art piece “La Lechuga” at the Museo do Oro (gold museum) in Bogota Colombia last month.  It’s  stunningly beautiful – and nicknamed ‘the lettuce’ because of the intensity of the 1485 emeralds on it – plus 13 rubies, 28 diamonds, 169 amethysts, 62 baroque pearls and 1 sapphire.  Constructed of 4.9kg+ gold (the gold colour’s a bit washed out, I haven’t been able to correct it)  It took the Spanish silversmith Jose de Galaz 7 years to make 1700-07.  After I took this photo I was told by the guard that photos were not allowed in that part of the museum, and so what was to have been the close-up of the whole thing remains the only pic we have, but you can see it in its awesome splendor and correct gold and other colours at http://www.banrepcultural.org/blaavirtual/coleccionarte/artplas/custcol.htm   Do a virtual visit of the Museo del Oro at  http://www.banrepcultural.org/museo-del-oro   and     http://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/collection/museo-del-oro-bogota?projectId=art-project    There’s a similar piece, though not as grand imho, called ‘La Preciosa’ and you can see that also on wikpedia, I think – or perhaps the first link above.

We love museums, fine craftsmanship, and gold of course – so of course obviously we made a beeline for the Museo del Oro in Bogota , and there are regional smaller collections in major cities so we went in Medellin and Cartagena, too!  What we especially liked in Bogota was that seniors go in free of charge! and one day a week everyone can go in free – that would be a crush – it was pretty crowded both times we went …

gold mountain cat Bogota blog

The text along side this  told us that this  regalia (a nose plate and earings) was found in a tomb from the Yotoco period.  It related the wearer the mystical powers of felines, and the circular markings liken it to the jaguar, as do the prolongations to its limbs. Note the emerald eyes!!  The craftsmanship was breathaking – and it is so interesting that the cat quality could be so captured in that head on perspective.  This gold was pretty thin, though I imagine the nose accessory, measuring about 8cm x 10cm overall would have required some practice to wear successfully with due dignity, if it was ever actually worn in real life, and that would have been magnificent to see.  But it might have been a kind of death mask thing.

gold mends bogota blog

It is always interesting to remember that people everywhere repair important objects – which are precious for some reason, including practicality.  I will never forget an exhibition we saw years ago at the Musee Quai Branley in Paris, about which I blogged in Totally Memorable Exhibition.  I wandered off to google about mending things in general, and found lots of articles, many of which mention kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending ceramics with a ‘golden seam’  – just google that word and check the images.  I even found http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/mending.htm which some might find helpful….

The Art Of Repairing

Sunday, October 21st, 2007
Ceramic bowl repaired using the Japanese kintsugi technique.

When this ceramic bowl broke, instead of being discarded, it was beautifully repaired using an adhesive or lacquer infused with powdered gold. This repair technique is Japanese, and known as ‘kintsugi’. The break lines are highlighted rather than camouflaged, serving to demonstrate the bowl’s importance to its owner. The changed appearance becomes part of it’s history as a functional object. I didn’t learn of kintsugi until some years after I posted about a wonderful exhibition Mike and I saw in Paris in 2007, at the Musee du Quai Branly. Rewording a bit, I’m going to write about Objets Blesses: la reparacion en afrique again here – because it made a huge impact on me. Unforgettable.

The title of the exhibition translates literally as “injured objects” which of course they were: they were broken and then repaired. On show were artifacts collected in several African countries by French colonists, traders, missionaries and explorers. Made from many different materials – wood, iron, precious metals, ceramic, leather, stone – every object in the exhibition had been repaired. None of the objects blesses were repaired using the kintsugi approach of course, but the array of repair techniques was fascinating – apart from images of pieces in the exhibition here on this page I found a wonderful Pinterest board here that I’ve been following for a while.

An impressive array of techniques were used in these repairs, and despite the mending process changing each object’s appearance, these repairs had all restored usefulness of these valued household tools and vessels, weapons, and religious and ceremonial objects symbolising community offices and powers.

Really interesting ridge pattern formed by repair work becomes an additional surface design.

My grandparents survived the Great Depression, where millions of people lost everything suddenly or gradually, and had to mend, make do or go without. Our parents lived with severe shortages and rationing of everything during World War 2. Inevitably, we baby-boomers were ingrained with the values of mending and making do, wearing something out before throwing it out. Thrift was necessary and virtuous. Today, with over 7.5billion people needing, expecting or requiring stuff, all imposing huge stresses on the Earth’s resources, at last there are signs that many people are making real efforts to avoid unnecessary wastage of the planet’s resources by recycling, upcycling and repurposing, though there’s so much more to be done and practiced daily.

One sad reality in the western world is that so much stuff we use cannot just simply be repaired at home if it breaks, and often can’t be affordably fixed by a qualified repair person, either, making it often much cheaper to just buy a replacement for the broken thing. Lots of footwear comes into this category, though I nearly always buy leather, which does last and is nearly always repairable. Of course, worst of all are electrical appliances and digital things like phones and TVs which feature built-in obsolescence, and we suffer frequent model changes that ensure that parts quickly become unavailable. Because of my upbringing this sticks in my throat.

Until I saw this really impressive exhibition, I hadn’t given any real thought to the activity of repairing something. But seeing these objects’ repairs, and reading about them, impressed on me that we repair things that are important or useful to us. We value their usefulness as daily household or work related items; we value objects which symbolise culture, politics, history or religion; some things we value because we simply find them pleasing or beautiful in some way; and sometimes objects are valuable because our ancestors owned and used them.

Repairing produces scars or visible marks, but that’s a very different expected outcome from the process of restoration, in which repairs are done as skillfully as possible to create the impression the object has been returned to its original appearance and function. It hadn’t occurred to me these are not really interchangeable words!

I don’t recall exactly, but think photography might not have been allowed, which would have been one reason I bought the catalogue; but the other would have been “Why the heck not, anyway?” Having bought two additional large suitcases in Cairo to contain textiles we’d acquired in Egypt, including two large Tentmaker hangings , we already had twice as much luggage as we’d set out with just a few weeks before !!

Gold in the lacquer highlights the break lines, producing additional surface design patterning – kintsugi.

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