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MEET A MENDING ARTIST: CELIA PYM

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Ever since humans began to repair clothes and fabric, they’ve developed the art and craft of mending in ingenious ways. It’s sensible and sustainable to repair what we carry with us and use. It’s sometimes a radical act. Mending combines necessity, functionality, and beauty.


The artist Celia Pym works on visible mending from her rich background in visual and environmental studies, art and design, constructed textiles, and adult nursing. Since 2007, she has ventured into the repairing of cloth and garments damaged by wear or by moths. Beyond mastering the techniques that fix holes and tearing, she delves into the sources of damage and the stories behind it. But not always alone. Through the public mending events she has organized, Celia Pym brings the owners of damaged garments into the journey of discovery and repair. In her own words, she envisions repair as “a small act of care.” Her work blends care, creativity, and beauty.


Celia Pym's artwork called Hope Sweater
© Celia Pym, personal website. “Hope’s Sweater, 1951, moth eaten sweater and darning, 30 x 40 x 3cm, 2011” Source: http://celiapym.com/work/hopes-sweater-1951/

A couple of years ago, I participated in an online mending workshop with Celia Pym, organized by Loop Knitting in London. Interested in learning to mend to extend the lifetime of my clothes—but also eager to do something different amidst a global pandemic—I was surprised to discover a whole new world. I would like to share with you my discoveries.



Mending can be visible and artistic

Visible mending is a form of embellishment of a fabric or a new creative take on a piece of clothing we already own. Why not blend new colors and add small textures here and there? By making it artistic, we can honor a garment that we wear because it’s so functional or so lovely.



Even the simplest of clothes can have a meaning

At the workshop, Celia Pym invited us participants to think whether the pieces we brought for repair meant something to us or to someone we knew. A garment could be meaningful just because it was something we wore every day and made us feel comfortable. In a poetic sense, life had passed through them.



Clothes wear us

When we look at a garment of ours that appears old or damaged, we think about how we’ve worn it intensively or for a long time. Celia Pym’s work reveals instead how clothes wear our bodies. It’s about that woolly sweater that became softer over time and molded itself to our body. Or the mittens getting worn because we rub our hands on freezing days to get warm. By mending, we get to keep the unique items that tell our stories.



Mending is a slow work of caring

Textiles adorn and shelter our bodies. Learning how to mend different holes and traces of tearing is a small act of care, a slow work for living in the moment. It allows us to wear forever the sweaters and shawls that we spend hours and hours knitting.


Celia Pym recently launched a book titled On Mending: Stories of Damage and Repair.


Celia Pym's book
© Celia Pym, personal website. Image of book On Mending. Source: http://celiapym.com/on-mending/

Curious about more? Loop Knitting in London kindly published an interesting conversation organized in their shop, and Harvard Magazine has a great article on different facets of her artistic work.


I invite you to learn more about artist Celia Pym and discover other forms of visible mending. Her personal website offers a treasure trove. It’s such a rich art and culture that touches deep into our and other people’s lives. Those annoying or beautiful holes in socks and sweaters might never look the same again.

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