The Repair Project was an art project at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in 2016, where I explored creative ways of mending and the reasons why we might choose to mend rather than throw away. Working with patients and staff the project explored the benefits of working creatively with our hands and to understand more about what we mean by ‘repair’ and subtly challenging ideas about ‘brokeness’, restoration and ideas of perfection’.
I ran weekly mending workshops where we investigated creative ways to mend, darn and patch often very visibly, celebrating the hole or the tear and subsequently the mending of the object as a mark of resilience; a nod to the way we as individuals age, change, experience difficulties and these things are part of what make us who we are as people.
The act of mending is interesting. While sewing, the repetition and slow nature of stitching is mindful giving space to think and time to slow down. It supports wellbeing, calming and creating time for reflection as well as providing visual, tactile and emotional stimulation. It is proven to support pain or anxiety management and encourages repetitive, co-ordinated, bi-lateral movement.
Neuroscientist Kelly Lambert, author of a book called “Lifting Depression” says, ‘when you knit a sweater or plant a garden, when you prepare a meal or simply repair a lamp, you are bathing your brain in feel-good chemicals and creating a kind of mental vitamin’. She talks about the benefits to our emotional health of purposeful tasks and work with our hands.