I have some work in The Nature of Mending at Walford Mill Crafts in Dorset this September. It's looks like a really interesting show that is the culmination of a lengthy artist lead project that has involved five contemporary craft makers being commissioned to make new work that explores ideas around mending and particularly celebrates instances of mending in the context of museum collections and it has really got me thinking about what makes mended things so appealing I will have one of my repaired tin foil saggar fired filters in the accompanying exhibition which cracked with the thermal shock of the tin foil saggar firing (which was meant to give them the signs of age and wear but maybe not so much wear!). When I opened the kiln and unwrapped it I thought back to my early night school classes and a supportive tutor telling us that in ancient japanese ceramics cracks were highly valued and we should celebrate the imperfections of our wonky beginner pots. I'm not sure I quite believed him at the time and thought he was just being kind but I now know about kintsugi which is the art of repairing ceramics with gold lacquer.
The story goes that a 15th century shogun was unhappy with the metal staples used to repair a prized tea bowl that craftsmen were charged with finding a more aesthetically pleasing way of making repairs. Collectors so liked the resulting gold kintsugi seams that they would deliberately break things so that they could be repaired.
Here mending seems to link into the notion of wabi sabi which has no direct translation but involves an aesthetic sense where beauty needs to have and accept elements of transience and imperfection. So the lacquer repairs heighten the beauty of the object by highlighting its imperfection and fragility .
The other aspect of mending I've been reminded of is the repairing of functional things where the repairs become integral to the sense of the object, where things carry their history in a very visible and obvious way. I was reminded of Vladimir Arkhipov's Folk Forms Archive which is a wonderful collection of wildly improvised useful objects. Not strictly all repairs or instances of something being mended but they do capture a kind of narrative sense, where the appeal of mending appears to be in giving an object a more interesting story to tell.
I'm not sure I understand any more clearly why mended things are quite so appealing and I'm looking forward to seeing the work of the commissioned makers and other exhibiting artists when the show opens in September.