Publication Date: 07/11/2022 ISBN: 9781912480586 Category:

On Mending

Celia Pym

Publisher: Hawthorn Press
Publication Date: 07/11/2022 ISBN: 9781912480586 Category:
Paperback / Softback


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The artist Celia Pym lives in London and has been exploring damage and repair in textiles since 2007. Working with garments that belong to individuals as well as items in museum archives, she has broad experience with stories of damage, from moth holes to accidents with fire.

Textile language crops up in the body: mending language works on the body as well as on garments. We describe the body as mending after illness or injury – ‘I’m on the mend,’ someone might say if they’re feeling better. You might hear a doctor or nurse describe a broken bone as ‘mending well’, or broken bones are often described as knitting back together as the break heals.

Pym is interested in exploring the varied evidence of damage, and how repair draws attention to the places where garments and cloth wear down and grow thin. These personal tales document the intimate damage caused to clothing by everyday use and the parallels with the consequent wear and tear on the body.

Mending work builds on what is left behind. It’s not replacing, or remaking, or cutting apart and putting back together, instead it is slow work that makes things better. It conjures an unhurried recovery or change. In textiles, the act of mending wear-and-tear, thinning cloth or accidental damage builds on what already exists, anchoring threads and yarn into the robust healthy fabric and filling in the holes or reinforcing the areas that are weak.

‘Darning is small acts of care,’ she says, ‘and paying close attention.’

Publisher Review

'Celia Pym sees touch as an act of tenderness, whether that's mending clothes or caring for others. Mending clothes that once belonged to someone you loved can take on a different significance. "It used to sit on the skin of someone you loved, it's like a diffused kind of touch," says Celia. "Touch isn't only through your hands - your skin is your biggest organ - and clothing will take on the shape and the smell of someone and become an evocative reminder of the owner." In her book, Celia tells the story of ten special items she's mended. One that really illustrates the connection of touch to memory: "I mended my mother's childhood sweater that my brother also wore - it was so small I couldn't imagine my mother ever wearing it, but I could picture struggling to hold my brother when he was one and I was three," she recalls. "The tactility of the sweater really conjured up that memory."' Katie Antoniou, The Simple Things; Pym has been exploring mending since 2007 and has extensive experience of repairing small holes at heels, elbows and inside pockets, as well as working on more dramatic damage, whether it be from water, animals or moths. For Pym, the greater the damage, the better. Pym studied sculpture at Harvard and has an MA in constructed textiles from the Royal College of Art. She was a finalist in the Woman's Hour Craft Prize (2017) and Loewe Craft Prize (2017). Her work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Nouveau Muse National de Monaco and the Textile Arts Centre, New York and the Curator's Cube in Tokyo.' Toast Magazine; 'Pym acknowledges that in the process of mending she is, in fact, mending more than just the garment. The process enables people to approach her for advice and also to talk candidly about the meaning implied in restoring a treasured piece of clothing. Sometimes, the garment will have been the property of a loved one who has died, so repairing it, she says, enables the relationship to continue. The act of mending artfully is a form of caring and memorialisation.' Janet McKenzie, Studio International

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