We all understand the heartache upon discovering that moths have made a meal of our most favourite jumper, or that one sock has become threadbare and we don’t have any other clean pairs. When clothing shops are in abundance, it’s easy to go ahead and throw our holey garments away. Yet, there’s no way to replace or recreate the sentimentality and stories found in well-loved clothing.
Celia Pym is an artist passionate about the stories that accompany holes, working to give clothing a second chance. Instead of hiding the marks of mending, Celia recognises the process of such work by recording this new chapter of a garment’s life in bold, and outstanding thread. Using mending as design rather than just a necessity, the pattern of the stitches offers a new aesthetic, one that reflects upon the intrinsic beauty in thread and cloth, or even indeed in making itself.
Back in the age of austerity and rationing when ‘making do’ was the norm, clothes were constantly repaired, altered or made into something new entirely. Dwindling resources and funds, and an understanding of such issues present us with a recurrent need to make do with what we have. So, in our new age of enlightenment we are given the responsibility - or perhaps, have the fervor - to revisit lost skills that will allow us to make do and mend in a more interesting and creative manner.
Celia’s Master’s research at the Royal College of Art led her to mend holes in other peoples’ garments for a year, exploring the spaces that the body occupies and detecting as it were the daily life of these garments. Observing her uncle’s sister darn a jumper over many years so that eventually the arms were held together entirely by darning, it isn’t surprising that Celia was enthralled by such charm and affection towards a garment that she carried on darning.
Celia has exhibited her work at such places as the Transition and Influence Gallery, Prick Your Finger and King’s College London, and now conducts workshops to teach others how to darn. She believes that darning allows you to become aware of how something was made; seeing where the hole is allows you to see how to put it back together. Traditionally, communities would come together socially to do their household chores such as knitting and mending, sharing skills and stories throughout. We offer you the chance to come together at the Ray Stitch Sewing School for a workshop with Celia to learn a new skill and share your stories.
So come along to our two-part workshop “I Need to Fix the Holes in my Heels, Elbows, Pockets and Knees: Darning and Mending” With Celia Pym on Tuesday 27th January and Tuesday 3rd February for a couple hours of intimate mending.
Dates: Tuesday 27th January and 3rd February
Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm
"I like seeing how something is made, how it works.
Darning is filling in holes and joining edges together.
Sometimes darning can be tender and tenderness is important.
Darning helps you understand the thing you are mending.
If you darn a hole in an opposite colour to the original textile, you can see clearly what got worn away. Darning highlights that something has changed and that time has passed."
Read more about Celia's previous and upcoming work here - celiapym.com (I love the title of this workshop! - What do I have to do to make it ok?) And read here about a fascinating collaboration with Kings College as 'mender in residence' in the college's Dissecting Room.
Words by Steph.