Spiritual Audacity

The Joys of Mending

Nick Thorpe suggests that maybe the solution to feeling unsatisfied with material things is to love our things even more:

If Western consumer culture sometimes resembles a bulimic binge in which we taste and then spew back things that never quite nourish us, the ascetic, anorexic alternative of rejecting materialism altogether will leave us equally starved. Who, then, can teach me how to celebrate my possessions with the mindful, celebratory spirit of a gourmet?…

One modest clue lies unobtrusively down an Edinburgh side street, only minutes from the Museum. The social enterprise Remade in Edinburgh is one of a growing network of community repair shops dedicated to teaching ordinary people to mend and reuse household goods. Just inside the shop door, a dressmaker’s dummy wears a fashionable ‘bandage’ dress made from an array of discarded men’s ties; handbags stitched from fabric offcuts lines the shelves; and disembowelled laptops await the spark of new life, near a sign that reads: ‘Repairing computers creates over 100 times as many jobs as recycling them.’

The proprietor Sophie Unwin knows she’s tapping into the austerity zeitgeist that’s seen John Lewis reporting a 30 per cent rise in haberdashery sales, and a fivefold increase in sewing machine sales, following the 2008 credit crunch. Compiling her own figures (50 tonnes of useable stuff saved from landfill in the past eight months; more than 2,500 people signed up for workshops teaching everything from household repair to peg-loom rag-weaving), Unwin says: ‘Sometimes I feel frustrated with our society, stuck in this bubble of perceived consumer need when we really need to rethink our whole economic system. But sitting in a room full of people chatting, repairing clothes, learning new skills, I know we’re already doing something important: we’re creating an experience that’s joyful.’

(Image: Marie-Thérèse Durand-Ruel by Auguste Renoir via Wikimedia Commons)