‘Cultures of Mending’ at PLATE 2015

Thanks to everyone who participated in today’s workshop.  It was great to have so many people join the conversation, which has given us considerable food for thought as we decide how to take MEND*RS forward.  If you would like to continue the discussion with us and with fellow workshop participants, please visit the MEND*RS @ PLATE2015 tab (above) and share your thoughts…


Just four weeks to go until MEND*RS 3rd symposium takes place in Nottingham, as part of the Product Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE) conference at Nottingham Trent University.

Our participants have already been sharing some thoughts online so that by the time we arrive we get stuck straight into discussion around our theme, ‘Cultures of Mending’. Although we have shared and read each other’s position papers, who knows where discussion will go. All we do know is that, as the organisers, we intend to write up and share the conversations we have. Check back with us here later in the summer to see what goes on!

Cultures of Mending: A Collaborative Workshop

Call For Participation

Mending is a multifaceted practice.  It has long-established roots spanning centuries of human productive effort.  Today it is experiencing a revival as a result of grassroots innovation movements and initiatives which seek to foster repair, re-use, upcycling and other creative forms of waste prevention.

Whilst it may be argued that mending practices never went away for some (Bond et al. 2013; Hackney 2013), in recent decades they have largely been marginalised by more spectacular and conspicuous forms of contemporary consumption, leisure and/or domestic practice, as well as the widespread acceptance of product ‘disposability’ (Cooper 2005; van Nes 2010).  Yet – and partly as a direct response to the phenomena of premature product obsolescence – an enthusiastic minority has remained committed to the political potential of mending as a critique of capitalist society (e.g. Fickey 2011; Maycroft 2009).  Further, the persistence of austerity for many in the UK and beyond has necessitated for some households a return to ‘making do’ practices associated with historic periods of war and recession (Hall 2011; De Silvey 2012).

Mending is therefore a rich field of enquiry for both academics and activists, and one that deserves further investigation in relation to contemporary trends and socio-technical systems. MEND*RS seeks to contribute to the discussion through a workshop at the forthcoming conference on Product Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE) at Nottingham Trent University 17-19 June 2015.  The PLATE conference aims to review current research on how and why increased product lifetimes have become an important element in resource efficiency, waste reduction and low carbon strategies for sustainability. The need to prolong the usable lives of material objects as a means of reducing waste and conserving resources has been made explicit (Bulkeley and Gregson 2009; DEFRA 2011), and mending is a clear ally of this drive.  This is not only because it employs human agency and ingenuity to divert objects back into the realm of use and value (Gregson et al. 2009; Parsons 2008; Lepawsky and Mather 2011), but because it simultaneously negates the need for further resource use in the production of a replacement.

The focus of this collaborative workshop is the production of mending cultures by individual and collective human and non-human agencies; in other words, shared practices oriented around prolonging the usable lives of material things, recognising the durability of both the object and the value(s) and meaning(s) associated with it.  In conjunction with practitioners, activists, and thinkers from diverse disciplinary background we seek to explore the practices and knowledges at the heart of mending culture(s); the meanings created and drawn upon; how such a culture is – or could be – produced; and the most significant barriers to its long-term sustainability.

We are interested in discussion that touches on any of the following:

  • The role of ‘deep’ engagement with material objects, as facilitated by mending, in awakening human sensitivity to the situatedness of consumption in environments which necessarily must absorb its impacts (e.g. Brook 2012);
  • Repair as a mechanism for achieving novelty through production rather than consumption, i.e. that idea that what is needed is effort to make new relationships with things rather than making new things (Gill and Lopes 2011);
  • Maintenance and repair as a vital source of improvement, variation, customization, improvisation and innovation (Graham & Thrift, 2007)
  • Cultures and socialities of repair as facilitators of increased human wellbeing, self-esteem and self-efficacy associated with the pleasure of competence (Crawford 2010; Gauntlett 2011; Hackney 2013);
  • The human/non-human/material configurations and spatial locations/arrangements conducive to the emergence and sustainability of mending culture;
  • Conceptualisations of waste vis-à-vis repair: how do we conceptualise waste and our role in its production; and how might this be mobilised in support of mending culture(s)?
  • How different ways of engaging with mending as ‘alternative’ consumption speak to the interests of different population segments, such as anti-capitalist disengagement from the market, or a means of achieving distinction in style and practices in a homogenised material culture.
  • The temporalities of a sustainable mending culture: how to contest the anachronism associated with some kinds of mending practice and, instead, draw positively from historic practices.
  • The new DIY trend: how mending can be considered a focus for distributed production systems (e.g. FabLab, Techshop) and the wider impact of these systems on the environmental implications of production (Troxler 2013).
  • Grassroots innovation for mending and repair: what kinds of windows of opportunities are there for scaling-up and what barriers may be encountered?


In order to facilitate close collaboration, a limited number of applicants will be selected for participation in the workshop. Candidates are invited to apply via the submission of a 1,000 to 1,500 word position statement outlining their vision, ideas or experiences in relation to one topic from the above list.

Please email your position statement to mendrs.symposium@gmail.com by 17th December 2014.  Accepted submissions will be confirmed by 19th January 2015. The proposal for this workshop will be submitted to the PLATE conference organisers by 16th February 2015, including the list of participants and topics of discussions.  The PLATE conference will take place at Nottingham Trent University from the 17-19 June 2015.



MEND*RS is back!

MEND*RS is pleased to announce its participation at the PLATE* Conference at Nottingham Trent University in June 2015.

*Product Lifetimes and the Environment

Yes, it has been a little quiet on the MEND*RS front in recent months (due to completion of theses, arrival of children, international relocations, the usual stuff…) but we’re pleased to be back with exciting news.

MENDRS will be facilitating a workshop at the PLATE conference in Nottingham in June 2015.  We’ll be bringing together thinkers, practitioners and activists united by their commitment to mending in a facilitated small group discussion format.  Our aim is to collaboratively articulate the key characteristics of cultures of mending – the practices and knowledges at their heart; the meanings created and drawn upon; how such cultures are – or could be – produced; and the most significant barriers to their long-term sustainability.

A formal Call For Participation will follow soon… keep an eye on the website, Facebook (Mend*rs) and Twitter (Mend_RS) for details.

“Cultures of Repair” – edited collection seeking contributions

Call for Contributions: Cultures of Repair (edited collection)

Edited by Mark Rainey and Theo Reeves-Evison
Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London

Suggested themes: Aesthetics of Repair, Technologies of Repair, Post-Colonial Reparations, Reparative Justice

What does it mean to repair something? Is it to restore function, to compensate for a fault, deterioration, or deficiency, or can the concept be expanded to account for a general condition whereby a constitutive fault is repaired by art, technology, justice or invention?

This book aims to mediate between concrete ‘cultures of repair’ and more abstract conceptions in the spheres of philosophy and psychoanalysis. The following is an indication of the conceptual range of ‘the repair’ which we intend to explore in this edited collection. Submissions may address the following themes, although they are not limited to them:

Aesthetics of Repair

In The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce famously writes of going forth to ‘forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race’. This gesture positions art as a consciousness-shaping agency. But what if this vision of creation ‘ex
nihilo’ were to be replaced by another based on repairing, combining, and re-tooling materials already at hand? This alternative vision would force us to reconsider the foundations of modernism, and replace myths of rupture and perfection with a celebration of the repair and its material traces.

Technologies of Repair

If we concede that culture has the ability to be repaired, the next question that presents itself is what exactly is the fault. Already in Greek culture there exists a tragic dynamic of man ‘after the fall’. To compensate for this lack at the level of Being, man is driven to
weave symbolic webs – worldwide webs – that blur the boundaries between ‘what’ and ‘who’. A section of this book will therefore be devoted to the question of technology as repair, inspired by media philosophy, that positions technics as a constitutive element of
humanity as such.

Post-colonial Reparations

Joyce’s invocation of an uncreated Irish consciousness opens out onto the question of the repair in post-colonial cultures. Specifically, what are the implications of demanding ‘reparations’ for historical grievances, and how can we define reparation as distinct from
retribution? If here the repair is an act of joining, of restoring, retribution works instead to deepen division. Here the repair touches on a more general ethics, with far reaching political ramifications.

Reparative Justice

Justice or diké holds an important position in ancient Greek texts, from Sophoclean tragedy to Plato’s Republic. In these texts justice is often the term on which visions of community turn after being torn asunder. Yet, a reparative justice may suggest something distinct from restorative justice and may imply new configurations and
inventions in place of the reconstitution of former societal structures. In this sense it may be considered transformative. A Reparative justice may also need to consider and respond to attempts to universalise justice in the west, from Platonic metaphysics to


To submit a chapter proposal for this edited collection please send an abstract of no more than 300 words. If selected, chapters should be 5,000 words in length. The deadline for abstract submission is 30 June 2013.

All submissions and inquiries should be directed to the editors:
Mark Rainey (cup01mr@gold.ac.uk) and Theo Reeves-Evison (t.reevesevison@gold.ac.uk)

Good Things and Bad Things: tricky objects, tricky people, tricky processes

Hello Menders!

There has been radio silence on the MEND*RS website for a couple of months, as we’ve all been giving our PhD’s a bit of attention.  However, we’re starting to crank back into action for 2013 and there are exciting plans afoot, so do keep an eye on the site for news.  In the meantime, this symposium in Nottingham next summer might be of interest to some:

This two day symposium on 10th and 11th of June will be an opportunity for a discussion that bears on the ‘rights and wrongs’ of designs, designers and designing.  Taking an inclusive approach to the definition of ‘design’ – formal and informal; commercial and DIY; normative and subversive – the symposium will connect abstract discussions of the ethics of objects  and designing, with concrete examples of things in action.  We hope to engage practitioners and academics across fields including sustainable design, material culture, fine art, sociology/ philosophy of technology, design history, cultural studies.
‘Good Things’ is a collaboration between the Design Research Society OPENSiG (objects, practices, experiences, networks), Nottingham Trent University, the Design against Crime Research Centre and Nottingham Contemporary.  It will be hosted by Nottingham Contemporary to coincide with the exhibition ‘The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things’ curated by Mark Leckey.  This juxtaposition is not accidental  – the symposium is predicated on the view that as well as being an instrumental process bound up with conceiving and effecting, change, Design is a manifestation of social and cultural practices.  The works in the exhibition, focusing on the paradoxical combination of rationalism and animism in ‘common objects’ will form a useful counterpoint to the symposium discussions.

The organisers invite proposals for 20 minute presentations relating to the following themes among others:
Speculations on the reality of objects and their ethical effects
Roles of engagement – things to do good/ good things to do
What is excluded by discussions of objects and ethics?
Systems/ organisations – policies and practices
Sustainability – what is to be sustained and for whom?

Please send a 150 word abstract of your paper including its title and author(s) biography (50 words) and affiliation to Tom Fisher: tom.fisher@ntu.ac.uk by Monday January 21st  2013.  The programme for the event will be published in the week of 4th March 2013 including details of registration.
If you are on Facebook, you can join the ‘Good Things and Bad Things’ facebook group.


Earlier this month we held the UK’s first Mending Symposium and for all of you who couldn’t make it, for whatever reason, we want to share the Mending Love through the MendRS Blog Tour. The response to the call for participation in the symposium was overwhelming, and they came from such a wide variety of angles, that it is clear that Mending in all its aspects strikes a chord with many people.

This is reflected in The MendRS Blog Tour, which has a whopping fourteen stops along the way! During the tour you will hear of people’s personal experiences, reflections on mending activities, thoughts on overcoming barriers to mending, mending inspiration, and more. You can find the tour dates at the end of this post.

If you can’t wait until 27 July, when Futuremenders will be the first stop along the way, then you can enjoy a tour taster, consisting of two courses:

Flowering Elbow, who talk about how Making vs Mending, and Dynamic Repair, and how they learnt how to darn!
Clare Thomas, who talks about mending object, mending roadsides, mending lives.

Here is the full list of the MendRS Blog Tour, enjoy the ride!

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


On Changing the World

On Saturday I was quite taken by a moment after Martine’s talk, when Sue Bamford approached her and said enthusiastically that she wanted to change the world, Martine nodded and said “yeah! me too!”.

I approached them to ask a few questions about changing the world and how they are going about it. Martine was kind enough to reply to these questions just before she left the conference and Sue sat with us to explain her views on it at length.

Many thanks to Helen Pritchard for the recordings and advise.

Pioneers of Mending

The day evening to a close with the interventions of Martine Postma founder of the Repair Cafe initiative in The Netherlands and Alex Piñol from Millor Que Nou! (Better than New!) in Barcelona.

The Repair Cafe is a fast growing initiative that was started in Amsterdam by Martine Postma. She describes her initiative as a simple idea, that consists on bringing people together, people that like fixing things and people who have broken things that need fixing. The initiative has been met with wild success with a hectic nationwide expansion following quickly after the first Repair Cafe and with interest expressed by people from all corners of the world, media and folk alike. The Repair Cafe is an inspiring initiative to the menders movement as it is a living illustration for how mending can improve social cohesion, as well as improve the relationship that consumers have with the things that they consume.

During her talk Martine touched upon organizational matters, such as how they finance themselves, how they try to perserve the concept and keep all people interested in the concept under the same umbrella, how they have expanded and the way their foundation works.

Martine Postma from the Repair Cafe initiative in The Netherlands

One interesting point that she raised is that by keeping everything under the same umbrella, they can gather knowledge not just about how to fix things, but also which things are fixable and which are not, and acts as a think tank and lobby so that policies on the design of consumables can include the people’s right to mend them. A practical example of a product that cannot be fixed is the Senseo Coffee maker by manufacturer Philips which cannot be easily fixed because it cannot be opened.

Blanca mediating the talk with Alex Piñol of "Millor Que Nou!" Barcelona

Alex Piñol works for the Millor Que Nou! 100% Vell (Better than New! 100% Old) is a waste prevention program by the Barcelona Metropolitan Council. Millor Que Nou is a web of initiatives promoting exchange, repair and second hand markets to prevent the high-waste production of the current cnsumer cycle. Part of the program consists con having a permanent space in town were people can walk in and have their broken items repaired. The space has a wood, sewing and electricity workshops staffed by professional fixers that impart workshops and aid people fix their stuff. The workshops work remarkably well and in the last year they have done 10,000 services to citizens of Barcelona all for free. The whole program costs about 16,000 euros per month to the municipality.

Most of us were very excited to see such a comprehensive programme up and running so well, so naturally the question lingering in the air was “Why not spread this program everywhere!?”. Turns out it’s not so simple, the software they use is not open source and the municipality is reluctant to give the concept away, also they do not do any outreach to neighboring municipalities and find a lot of administrative hurdles because waste management is outsourced to different parties in different neighborhoods.

It seemed clear from the session that Martine’s Repair Cafes enjoy a level of freedom from institutional constraints that Millor Que Nou does. This does throw some light on possible ways to move forward for the menders movement.

Where does my waste go?

Miriam Dym and her personal waste management

In the case of San Francisco based artist Miriam Dym she likes to keep her waste close and do something with it.

My artistic practice comes from the observation that “I cannot get through my stuff fast enough”.

Tom, Liz and Sanae on the mend

Threads of Desire

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter mend it every six months” – that’s Oscar Wilde, mended. Our morning panel took over the stage to show that fashion doesn’t have to be fad-based or be designed to perish. Kate Fetcher showed The Three Stage Jacket the story of a man that loved his garment so much that he kept tweaking it every few years to fit his aging bodyshape. And Sue Bamford and her Wabi-Sabi jeans, a pair of denims that she wears since she is eleven years old and get a mend now and then.

Some highlights from the panel, in text and pictures, from an accidented reporter that tripped on stage.

The first half of the panel was composed of three practitioners that spoke about reshaping the emotional bonds between consumables and consumers through acts that include and go beyond mending alone.

Kate Fletcher

Kate Fletcher

“Things that are made by hand are easier to change and adapt over time”

In the garment industry “craft is incompatible with today’s business models” to the point that “alternatives vegin to be seen as impossible”.

“Things need tending and fixing as much as they need creating”

Tom of Holland

Mending is more than simply “extending the lifetime of the things we already have”.

Amy Twigger-Holroyd

Amy Twigger-Holroyd during her presentation of Re-knitting: Emotional Mending

“Making [...] doing things with our hands is directly linked with wellbeing”.

“Clothes are integral to the way in which we form identity”.

“After mending a piece of clothing that you bought, say on the highstreet, you form a different emotional connection to it.”

“I personally do not wait until something is broken to mend it” … “rather I focus on mending the emotional relationship”.

Sue Bamford

“to be visibly mended is (was) a marker for poverty”

Sue Bamford makes a point of being irritatingly happy about wearing self-made clothes

“I made a grown man cry… with crochet”

“More clothes are sold today than ever before and still most people look miserable. I make a point about being irritatingly happy about wearing self-made clothes” (e.d. perhaps that way the ripple effect of a visible mend being a reason to rejoice can start with that).

A bunny from bunnylove.co.uk

Sue and Jonnet getting ready for a presentation

The Panel in full with Kate Fletcher, Sue Bamford, Amy Twigger-Holroyd and Tom of Holland

Getting somewhere by Doing It Wrong

James Wallbank keynote presentation

Keynote presenter James Wallbank spoke about his experiences in running Britain’s longest-running open digital arts lab and how this social initiative was born out of his own artistic practice. At the time when James started working with computers access to technology was a technology for him because of his financial situation at the time. When he started working with discarded computers he found himself literally swamped with e-waste and so the problem stopped being a financial one to become a creative one: what to do with all those discarded computers?. Access Space was a later initiative that tried to address this creative problem.

One aspect of Access Space that James is particularly fond of is on the open ended philosophy of “Doing It Wrong”. When experts try to run computers labs, they hire other experts to do maintenance, set up networks, computers are set up in a particular way and then locked down so that no alien software can be installed, etc. Access Space does none of these things, and simply provides the bare basics and a space in which rules and methodologies are not predefined, people is left to figure it out themselves and run a digital arts lab that is a reflection of their own interests. This approach also has a very interesting side effect, because people feel a degree of ownership with the result of their work a community forms around a space of which, were it run in a more top-down approach they would simply be users.

A Rubbish Walk with Clare Thomas

Before the first keynote we were invited to take part in a short forty minute walk to pick up rubbish from the main road. Yes, that’s right, it’s not enough with keeping the venue tidy, the beautiful country side of South Cumbria is included in our cleaning duties as well. Well not quite a duty as this time we were enticed to participate by complementing the Rubbish Walk with a few tidbits of knowledge from Ben, about foraging regionally growing edible wild plants.

Ben tells us about the many applications nettles plants.

The foragers

Artist and Maintenance

We found appropriate road signs along the way

This road was pretty clean but even so the menders managed to collect a fair bit of junk in a short time

Laying our findings in front of the shed

Afternoon discussion

The evening program began with Jonnet, Clare and Miriam in an open discussion about their practice as artist menders.

They discussed the origin of their individual projects as well as how they deal with the difficulties they encounter in their practices, including cynicism or passivity in others and the daunting scale that they face in trying to mend the world, one fix at a time.

“How useful is this obsession” – Jonnet asks?

Clare tells us about how she just cannot sit back and do nothing about it because she simply wouldn’t be able to live comfortably in a passive role – “when you are aware of something, it pops up everywhere” – she clarifies further.

“When you are creative your behaviour becomes metaphorical” – Miriam reflects – “the rubbish in the beach, the rubbish in my life, the rubbish in society”.

After their initial exchange of thoughts the discussion focuses on how to send ripples to society. How to engage people in participating in this attitude.

Getting ready

Welcome all menders from all corners of the world! Slough Farm is bustling with activity this morning, participants are arriving and the Mendrs are settling down, laying their gear and setting up their workshops.

The low camp is filing up quick!

The JMB Collective Project setting up the DYI shop in the Cowshed.

Just after breakfast as early morning exercise we helped our host Bill fix the pathway to the parking around the back of the farm. Nothing sets the pace for a working day as lifting stones and shoveling gravel.

Mending the road in the backyard

Olivia and Steve arrived in full countryside style holding a cock pheasant that is now, hanging next to the DYI shop and is apparently being used for parts by Kelly and Bryony of StitchedUp.

Olivia and Steve, the hunter and the gatherer.

Kelly and Bryony hacking the pheasant

Su has been building up momentum on the mending table in the library and a rather stable has formed around warm cups of tea and a bit of gossip.

Mending table in the library is getting busy

Stephen and Sam from the Flowering Elbow have been setting up a display inside the shed of their upcycled wood lathe made of parts collected from different machines and engineered to do the same job a lathe would do.

Stephen and Sam from Elbow Flowering

Kitchen is ready!

That’s it! Kitchen is ready and fully stocked. It was built-up out of materials found in the farm, where there’s a never-ending supply of excellent wood. Resident mender extraordinaire Steven fixed up faucets and drain pipes for us and the kitchen is now all set to serve warm meals to guests.

Giuseppe giving the mend*rs kitchen the finishing touch

Giacomo preparing lunch for the volunteers

Our first speaker is also in, already at the stage, Teddy Mendable will receive you with open arms.

Teddy Mendable needs stitches, offers hughs