I really love the work of Ceila Pym. She spend time on darning and repairing clothes. There is something profound about the end result. and the damaged garment is transformed into a new and functional garment. I saw her work after I had been discussing running a class at an homeless shelter on mending. Her inspired work has made me all the more ambitious for what could be achieved.
“I love seeing damage and holes,” Celia says. “Making mending invisible doesn’t make sense for me: things happen, stuff changes, holes appear. Let the darning grow into the old bit so that the garment can be seen to change and age.”
It was an old jumper originally belonging to her artist great-uncle Roly — carefully mended by his sister Elizabeth — that sparked Celia’s interest in repairs and darning. “I was overwhelmed by the care invested by my aunt in mending my uncle’s sweaters, and the way the different bits of mending looked together, adding up to this entirely new sleeve. I also loved how the holes showed me how the sweater was used — it was evidence of the everyday wear and tear of my uncle’s occupations.”
Through ‘The Catalogue of Holes’, an ongoing project that she began in 2007, Celia mends strangers’ clothes. Recording the items through descriptive ‘mend slips’ and sometimes photographs, the project has led to exhibitions at the Royal College of Art and beyond. “I find it is a way to get to important conversations quickly, with strangers,” Celia says. “As we look at and examine the garment and discuss work to be done, all sorts of stories come out. The amount of stories about loss surprised me at first – I did not anticipate that. I am not sure how important it is to the owner to get their garment mended; what does feel good is talking about their sweater.”