Thursday, 27 September 2012


There has been time to reflect on the time spent at the Mend*rs research symposium and to establish aims and suggestions for a Mend*rs movement and my personal input and manifesto as a ‘mender’, and as an artist.

MEND*RS was a Mending Research Symposium at Docker in South Cumbria,  was the first ever large-scale gathering dedicated to mending in the UK, with a series of events, publications and activist projects around mending. It took place from 29 June to 2 July, 2012 and was organised by
Jonnet Middleton, Guiseppe Salva and Beck Collins to ‘bring about the age of mending‘! And to ‘bring together an emergent community of research around issues of repair. By research we include practice-based research, arts-based research, activist research as well as traditional academic inquiry. We want to establish a network of researchers and practitioners who are exploring aspects of mending’.

I approached the Mend*rs symposium with an interest in the materials and processes that would take place there. I was to create practical signage to highlight the different locations and activities happening on-site, creating functional artworks with an aesthetic which was relevant to the site and notions of mending. 

The ‘Helping Hands’ series and pointing hands featured in the signage were printed from household and DIY manuals from 1920s-1950’s, harking back to a period where resourcefulness and skills were practiced daily.
I also worked throughout the symposium to document the practical activity taking place there within the ‘Menders Toolkit’.  My initial blog post outlining the activity at the 1st Mend*rs Symposium can be viewed in a previous post HERE.
My artwork makes use of recycled materials. Paper based artwork is created using 100% recycled papers and card stock made from post-consumer waste. Other materials I salvage and re-work are wallpapers, fabrics, building materials, household/grocery packaging to name a few. From an environmental perspective my artwork aims to promote re-use and I do see this as a process of mending- in relation to one of the permaculture principles of ‘earth care’ and being resourceful with the materials (both natural and man-made) currently available on our planet.

To me mending extends beyond the realm of physical fixing of things, to conceptual outcomes, mindfulness towards materials and resources and our impact as individuals and the choices we make as consumers. The planet cannot support our mass consumerism, and issues about impending peak oil makes the matter all the more worrying.

We can make decisions now- to become menders and learn the skills to become more self-sufficient and resilient in terms of not relying on the production of new goods from factories and learning how to mend (and make) the items that we use within our daily lives and be resourceful with what we have. I believe these are vital skills which we all should develop now in 2012, more than ever. If we as a society can lessen the need/ demand for constantly new items- clothes, objects then we would save and conserve vital resources.

The week was inspiring.  Jonnet Middleton’s talk in particular raised questions and issues that impact my daily life and work as an artist- dealing with the accumulation and consuming of stuff; mainly materials used within my art practice, household/domestic items and clothes. I do buy most of my things second-hand, but Jonnet’s talk has made me consider whittling down the amount of things I buy, and the stuff I gather- as it can become a burden and it is unnecessary.
I am therefore now putting into practice within my artwork the re-use of material, and how this impacts surface with an accumulated history of use. The ‘art suit’ and ‘art patch’ concept developed earlier this year had touched on these themes- using salvaged fabric patches and William Morris fabrics to patch people’s holes in a performance based activity. 

William Morris fabric- a re-occuring motif throughout my practice and seen on a chair at the Mend*rs Symposium

I am now entering into a project that combines previous themes; dealing with history of use, and patina of surface as narrative. Alongside the continued use of found and salvage fabrics and papers I intend to re-use my materials from project to project- these include papers and canvases which are used as prints and paintings. I like the idea of creating multi-functional artwork, which could exist as a painting, a shelter for example.This was explored in last year's Airspace Gallery Studio show in Margate where a hand painted parasol cover became a functional item on the beach front and then was removed and displayed as a painting on the wall. 

I intend to take this a step further, re making and re-painting the same canvases, and repairing the wear and tear over the years. Stitch marks, creases, patches, cutting and re-stitching will allow a surface to build up as a result of re-use and repair. 
The Unstructured Material Tent, currently being exhibited at The Airspace Studio show '12, has once again made use of the same piece of canvas which was used for the 'Kiss me Quick' Margate work seen above. It was washed, dyed and re-stitched, given new function and aesthetic.

I have previously explored the links between lifestyle and art practice and debated how lifestyle is a creative process and question what constitutes creative activity? The Mending process is a truly creative one and I believe that our objects, clothes and surroundings become more meaningful as well as beautiful and tactile when we mend, repair and create a history of use reflective of our life. Within my artwork I explore history of use and process. I am interested in how the wear and tear of objects and theory subsequent repair reflects human experience and can act as a means of recording and documenting.

How I am going to incorporate notions / issues of mending into my art practice:
Attending the Mend*rs symposium re-ignited some personal interests put a new slant onto sustainability and environmental awareness in regards to resourcefulness and consuming or even making of new 'stuff'. On reflection on some of the themes discussed at Mend*rs symposium I have realised I have an issue with the creation of yet more 'stuff' as an artist.

I am happy producing things out of otherwise waste or scrap materials, which have been developed throughout my Reconstructive range, but I intend this notion to extend into my art practice and an interesting project could be developed- re-using the same canvas and materials from project to project. 

Paintings and items will be created which reveal history of use, process, mindfulness, and context.

I am interested in creating resources and skill sharing methods and solutions. And would be keen to develop resources for DIY kits and postcards, based on some of the techniques share at the Mend*rs Symposium, which are featured in the Mend*rs toolkit. These could be developed further to create a series of collectible mending cards that each contain a simple yet practical method, from darning a sock to repairing an inner tube on a bike.

Content would be gathered from the Mend*rs network/practitioners from the 1st Mend*rs Symposium, and I would propose to design and illustrate instructions into a series of collectible postcards. Postcards would also allow the info to be accessible and exchangeable- send a friend a postcard...They would act as good promotion for the Mend*rs network- propaganda style.

These are some of my reflections and ideas. I hope that other Mend*rs who were involved with the symposium feel these ideas are relevant and I hope a discussion can begin about making some of these ideas happen.

Thanks to all the Mend*rs at the symposium who have inspired my current practice.
This blog post is part of the Mend*rs Blog tour. Please visit previous blogs and future blogs involved with the tour, following the links below.

Tour Date
Tour Taster
Clare Thomas
Tour Taster
Flowering Elbow
Keep & Share
Venerable Clothing
The Bunny Pile
Unstructured Material
The Blogging Phenotype
Logo Removal Service
Caitlin DeSilvey and Steve Bond
Stitched Up

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


The UNSTRUCTURED MATERIAL Tent is currently being exhibited as part of the Airspace Studio Show ’12- Airspace Gallery, no.4 Broad Street, Hanley. The exhibition will run until October 6th  - Tuesdays-Saturdays 11:00-17:00 - admission is free.

The Tent was first developed as part of the ‘Developing Small Encounters’ Research and development week which was facilitated by the Small Encounters Collective and Artist Adrian Howells, at MAC Birmingham in May 2012. The Tent is a transient and constantly changing piece, with content based on current research, intended to act as a physical ‘blog’ or sharing space.
Building the Tent framework

The Tent has become more structural for the Airspace Studio Show ’12, with a more solid framework, and hand stitched details. Future developments of the tent will aim to make the tent water and weather-proof for showing outdoors.

Hand-stitched details
The tent outdoors during a 'Small Encounter' performance at MAC Birmingham

Please click HERE to visit the Airspace Gallery Blog for a statement and more images of the work.