Circular Podcast with Bridget Harvey - Katie Treggiden Skip to content

Circular Podcast with Bridget Harvey

What are the differences between repair, restoration and conservation? Is maintenance also repair? And how are these processes viewed along gender lines? On today’s episode, I’m talking to Bridget Harvey, an artist who uses making to ask critical questions, generate new understanding and add meaning through craft. Investigating processes and concepts through making: she asks what we make, how we make it, and why that matters.

Below is a transcript of our conversation. Find the full episode available to listen on Spotify here.

Katie Treggiden 

I’m Katie Treggiden and this is Circular, a podcast exploring the intersections of craft, design and sustainability. Join me as I talk to the Thinkers, Doers and Makers of the Circular Economy. These are the people who are challenging the linear, take, make, waste, model of production and consumption and working towards something better. In this series, we’re talking about repair.

Bridget Harvey 

I think as the conversation around the circular economy, and environmentalism and everything like that grows, people are understanding more and more and more that actually, you know, maybe stitching up a seam on your cardigan is not such a bad thing to have to do, you know, you don’t necessarily need to go and get a new one. What it doesn’t do is address the want for newness. I guess that’s maybe more about swapping or hires or that kind of loan economy that’s going on.

 

 

Katie Treggiden 

Bridget Harvey uses making to ask critical questions and generate new understanding, and add meaning through craftv. Investigating processes and concepts through making she asks what we make, how we make it, and why that matters. She works across disciplines using found objects and materials like fired ceramics, wood and textiles, and exploring ideas like pace, repetition and playfulness. Since 2013, she has focused specifically on repair as the Victoria and Albert Museums, artist in residence she examined the relationship of repair to conservation through artefacts, a publication and an exhibition in 2019. The same year she completed her practice based PhD Repair Making Craft Narratives Activism. Her work has been acquired and exhibited by the V&A, the Camberwell ILEA collection and the National Centre for Crafts and Design.

Katie Treggiden 

Bridget, thank you so much for joining me today, Bridget and I the first time we talked about repair, I think I arrived at the V&A at nine o’clock and didn’t leave until well past lunchtime. So we’re going to try and keep it a little bit more succinct than that today. I’d love to start right at the beginning and ask you about how mending and repair showed up in your childhood in your early life, if indeed they did.

Bridget Harvey 

Oh they absolutely did, although I didn’t really think about them as separate to anything. I was, I guess fortunate now I look back on it to grow up in a family who were very thrifty, and who really liked making things and doing DIY, and really were engaged in looking after their own things and their own properties and all of that kind of stuff. So actually, one of the earliest photos I have of myself is when I was about seven, and I’m up a ladder, re-puttying a window on the first floor of the house that we lived in. And yeah, it’s quite funny actually, there’s none of those romantic baby photos kicking around it’s all really pragmatic stuff like that. And so actually, my brother and I had fairly free rein access to tools to materials and things to tinker with. So you know, there was always bits of wood and things around that we could just use to make things with those. It was a box of bits, there was a drawer of glues and strings and scissors and knives and that kind of stuff. And we were generally encouraged to make and mend things and to learn how to care for things. And it’s partly because I spent a lot of time with my grandparents who were of that pre and post war generation who, I guess were maybe a bit more embedded or entrenched in that sort of idea of mending as a natural act rather than it being separate to their everyday lives.

Katie Treggiden 

So mendings  just a necessary!

Bridget Harvey 

Yes, you know, if I still like it, then you’ve got to fix it somehow. Right? And I like to have things my way as well. So I’m really up for kind of adapting or customising things whilst mending them or, or even if they’re not broken. So, yeah, it’s always been around.

Katie Treggiden 

I think that kind of idea of hacking and repair. Theres a lot of overlap, isn’t there and your work is really multi disciplinary. Most of the people I’m speaking to either work in textiles or they work in ceramics or they work in electronics. Why is it important for you to work across so many different material and how does repair show up differently in each medium that you work in?

Bridget Harvey 

I guess working multi-disciplinary really is quite natural for me because I like different things and I like to touch different things. So I like to interact with different things and I like to know how things work, what they’re made of.  So I’m constantly undoing things or taking things apart or looking inside things. So for me, it’s never felt comfortable to sit just with one material, because I’m always interested in actually the sort of processes more than the materials themselves, if you see what I mean. So in trying to understand repair extremely deeply, which is what I’ve been doing for the last eight years or so, it’s just been a natural path that I will be multi-disciplinary I was before, I still am. Because actually, it’s the process. So how does, if this breaks, how do I fix that, if that breaks, how do I fix it? And because breakage happens across different materials, across different objects, across different scales, times and in different ways, actually, I mean, breakage itself is really a scale. The idea for me of just being with one material just isn’t natural for me, I need to be in different things. And also, one of the things that I’ve found through my explorations is that you don’t necessarily mend an object with the material that is made with. So repair quite often by its very nature is in some way, multimedia, I guess. And so, you know,  that sort of mixing and melding just kind of happens along the way.

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah, that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of that. You asked the question what we make, how we make it and why it matters, across your work? Now, obviously, that’s a vast question and I don’t expect to just summarise the answer to it in a a pithy podcast answer. But I guess I’m interested to understand how mending and repair allow you to get into making because the two things are different, but with a lot of overlap.

Bridget Harvey 

They are different, but when you look at traditional making practices, there was always an element of repair. I mean, I’m generalising very much here. But there was always an element of repair within that, you know, if you’re a Sadler, you also fix them as well as making them. If you are, I didn’t know, a jeweller, you fix jewellery, as much as making it and so on and so forth. And so traditionally, it’s always been there, right? So throughout my practice, I’m really interested in I guess, in some ways, there’s sort of human condition, the human psyche, you know, how we are in the world, and how we interact with our objects, why people have always made things, why things are so important to us, how they create part of our identity, whether we like it or not, whether we engage with consumerism in a in a neoliberal sense or not, you know, and so on, and so forth. And so, actually repair, whether it’s embraced or rejected or somewhere in between and whether that is within a making practice, or, you know, just in your daily life is actually a really interesting window into that, you know, if you’re very, very up for getting something mended, but you don’t want it to look like it’s mended, you know, that there is quite an interesting statement. And it’s something to, you know, unpick and that feeds back into our design and making processes straight off, because how do you facilitate that as a designer, as a maker. If, however, you’re really, really happy to, this is a bit of a daft example, but you’re really happy to get all your clothes completely shredded, and never ever mended, but you’re sort of struggling to get a job I don’t know as an example. And you know, those two, there’s a sort of social expectation there, that doesn’t necessarily marry up with your personal expectation of things. And that, again, gives us these really interesting inroads into how we think, how society thinks and how objects define us in one way or another. And so I guess, it’s sort of I guess, it’s like a backdoor into how we are in the world.

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah, that’s really interesting. I sort of thought about the things we choose to mend versus the things we don’t choose to mend.  I guess also the way in which we choose to mend those things. Do we want them perfect, so no one even knew they were broken? We’re quite happy to tell a new story with those mends.

Bridget Harvey 

Yeah. and also are we in a position to be able to do that?  Can we have things that are visibly mended? Or is it actually important to how we act in the world that they are invisibly mended? Or, you know, again, somewhere in between that?

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah absolutely. And I think there’s there’s a certain amount of privilege that comes with being able to wear a darn as a badge of honour, which is a phrase that you see a lot  in the internet world and in Instagram. I’m using the words mending and repair fairly interchangeably, but I think they’re both actually strangely loaded words aren’t they?   I would love to dig into some of the material implications and some of the gender implications of those two words and any other you know, sort of synonyms you’d like to chuck in with you and just kind of understand a little bit why, what is so different about those two word that according to the dictionary mean, pretty much the same thing.

Bridget Harvey 

Yeah so this is where we lose ourselves, right because we’re both word fans. So for me, I tend to use the word repair because it means to sort of make something work as you need it to work. And that is quite important to me, because I don’t think it needs to go back to necessarily exactly how it was, which is the kind of formal definition of mending.

Katie Treggiden 

Right, so a word like restore might kind of come up.

Bridget Harvey 

Yeah, exactly and restore is quite a loaded word. I mean, once you start looking at restoration, as opposed to say, conservation, or preservation, you know, you start getting into all these areas, which are really, they’re very sort of lumped together. But actually, they’re very different. And it’s quite, the differences are quite important, once you start digging through them. In gender terms and again, this goes a little bit binary, but that’s maybe because the internet is a little bit binary with this. If you Google mending, you get textiles, and you get women and if you google repair, you get vehicles, maybe washing machines, and you get men. And that I think is inaccurately historic in that I don’t think it actually necessarily represents how things were done, but it does represent how, certainly the internet wants you to think things were done. So repair work was done by all people, on all things and you know, we know soldiers mended their clothes, we know men were heavily involved in textile mending, we also know that woman were working with materials other than textiles.

Katie Treggiden 

Interestingly though the little sewing kit they gave to soldiers when they went to war is called a housif, which is short for housewife.  So there’s all this, still this sense that even though they’re doing it, it’s still sort of women’s work in some way.

Bridget Harvey 

Yeah and not quite their job, it’s true. But is that then themselves know that’s the kind of construct in a way, isn’t it? That’s a sort of societal sort of be some some kind of expectation being pushed upon them. I’ve got, a side note, one of my most interesting objects is a piece of brass, which is to actually protect your clothing when you’re polishing your buttons, which is not quite mending, but maintenance, another very important word.

Katie Treggiden 

And there’s an awful lot of cleaning and maintenance that comes very close to men mending them.

Bridget Harvey 

Yeah, absolutely and that actually can sort of stave off repair in a lot of ways. And when we run repair workshops here, in Hackney, in East London, one thing that comes up quite a lot is toasters, because they break quite often. And something that quite often just needs doing to them is turning them upside down and banging them, which is quite a kind of rudimentary form of maintenance. And all the crumbs fall out, usually the big one that’s stopped it from you know, the button from going down, or whatever else comes out and, and then the toaster is much happier. And that kind of, you know, like cleaning your Hoover filter, or keeping the motor of your food processor clean, you know, like those kinds of things. Like it’s a very kind of rudimentary maintenance that actually stave off the need for, let’s call it real repair, and a little bit longer, just through those kind of acts. So there’s this really interesting sort of series of processes that are all heavily interconnected, and kind of mundane in a lot of ways. But actually kind of build up to create this kind of dynamic picture of how we interact with our things and what we need to do with them. And, you know, like, why do we update our phones, software, but we don’t necessarily wipe down our blender after we’ve made a smoothie. You know, it’s those kind of questions, which are quite interesting to me.

Katie Treggiden 

And where do we pan out? So if this kind of gender implication and material implication of mending versus repair is historic, what does it mean now? Does it does it make those words problematic? You mentioned you prefer the word repair for a definitional point of view, but you know, are those kind of material and gender implications of those two words problematic now?

Bridget Harvey 

I think they can be, but I also think there are definitely people who are working to break down those sort of genders. I mean, I guess maybe the gendered materials more necessarily than the words, but maybe that’s within quite a small bubble at the moment, but that will spread. And I think maybe if you look at something like denim, which you know, has a widely accepted you know people are happy with that rips in their jeans and so on and so forth as a kind of fashion statement and those kind of boundaries being broken down, I think they start to open up these conversations about mending and so on in a sort of more mainstream context. And then you do start to see  bigger brands taking that on. And so that kind of conversation is spreading out. And I think as the conversation around the circular economy, and environmentalism and everything like that grows, people are understanding more and more and more that actually, you know, maybe stitching up a seam on your cardigan is not such a bad thing to have to do, you know, you don’t necessarily need to go and get a new one. What it doesn’t do is address the want for newness. I guess that’s maybe more about swapping or hires or, you know, that kind of loan economy that’s going on.

Katie Treggiden 

I do think jeans are interesting, though, because I think jeans are the one item of clothing that people are loath to replace, because once you’ve had a pair of jeans and you’ve worn them in and you’ve got them comfy and you know, you know that they suit you and they fit you. I mean, I hate having to buy new jeans.  I think that they’re a really interesting, and it’s interesting to see brands now offering repairs for life on jeans and really starting to say that actually, you can have that lifelong relationship with this garment.

Bridget Harvey 

Yeah or that you can sell your jeans back to some companies, and they sell them on, don’t they? You know, so that kind of not quite a swap, but I guess financially incentivised.

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah, take back scheme.

Bridget Harvey 

Yeah, exactly which I think is quite good. But I mean, denim is a lovely, pure denim is a really lovely material that ages really well. And so that, you know, it has the, I guess, the ability to do that and that aged, softened, you know, denim is really nice. And you know, a lot of people really like it. So, but maybe it’s different to a raincoat or something like that, where you have a sort of layered material that age differently, wear differently, you know, so you might have those sort of cotton lined rubbers in it that doesn’t necessarily look more authentic, or whatever it is, in a way that denim does just maybe looks tatty, you know, those kinds of things so that there’s differences across materials, and textiles are easy examples to use because we’re all familiar with them. And there’s a variety of them that that we will have encountered with our lives. But, you know, then you have to, if you expand that conversation across toasters and plates, and bikes, you know, it gets more and more complicated as you kind of go out.

Katie Treggiden 

But it’s an interesting thing for designers to think about, isn’t it? Is it going to age and I think often the pinnacle of an object’s life is the moment it’s sold rather than, you know, 10/20 years down the line and I think that’s an interesting consideration.

Bridget Harvey 

So how will it age? And how do we, do we offer some kind of care for in the future. Now remember, back in 2015/early 2015, I co-curated an exhibition called the Department of Repair. And one thing we had in it was an image of a Lucy Rie bowl that had been broken and then Lucy Rie had super glued it back together and sent it back to the owner with a letter saying I superglued your bowl. And so it kind of made that bowl, like, extra Lucy Rie if you see what I mean. And so that was kind of really exciting and really, you know, but then if I didn’t know, conservator had glued it back together, or I’d glued it back together, but you know, it wouldn’t have had that same narrative and would it just have been a damaged Lucy Rie bowl or would you have had that sort of extra special veneer? And I think it’s part of that narrative that designers can have when they’re thinking forwards through their objects or makers can have a net income for is through their objects that actually, what kind of service can I add and how can I make that  service special, but also the object come back extra special to the owner?

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah, that’s lovely. So not only offering some sort of repair service, but actually some way of making that objects even more special once it’s once it’s been repaired.You mentioned Hackney Fixers which you’re the co-organiser of.  How does repair show up differently there, versus how it shows up in your artistic practice?

Bridget Harvey 

I guess it’s much more pragmatic in these workshops. So Hackney is a very diverse bearer? It’s culturally diverse, and it’s economically diverse. Hackney Fixers have been going for a long time and I must give credit to James who does most of the work for the organising. We do event. In a pre covid world, we did events in different venues across a borough, usually community centres or libraries, where you would show up with your broken objects either electrical objects or textile objects and ee would pair you up with a mentor with the right kind of expertise to try and mend your things. And we would get everything really from, I guess, like objects vital to people’s well being such as heaters, rice cookers, like electric bits from mobility vehicles, and things like that through to children’s toys, phones, you know, all sorts, you know, classic smashed phone screen, and so on and so forth. And I think the thing that I always found with that was that even if the object couldn’t be mended, people seem to feel at peace with it going into the electrical recycling, Hackney also has a very good recycling system, but they they have, so we have electrical recycling bins that you can put your objects into and they would feel much more at peace of putting the object in there, if they knew that we had tried to fix it and it couldn’t be fixed, rather than just, you know, well, maybe it’s still good, maybe it’s not. I think that’s one of the most kind of rewarding bits of it was almost that kind of closure, you know, like, great is mendef, that’s brilliant, or, okay, it really can’t be it’s completely blown.   And we would work with people over several sessions, you know, like, maybe you need to go and get this part and bring it next time and we’ll try that, you know, and often we were offering things that the companies who made those objects would not offer or would only offer it at a very exclusive price point. And so it meant, you know, you’re, you’re sharing skills, you’re also opening up that kind of conversation, like things can be mended, you’re un black boxing things in a lot of ways. But you’re also making a service available, or, you know, sensory service available to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it, because repair services are often expensive. So, yeah, it’s, I’ve been on leave, so I haven’t been involved in the online events and I should be involved in the ones coming up later on this year. And then hopefully, we’ll be able to go back to doing in person events as well. But James has also been running online consultation sessions and, and he says, there’s been a huge subscription for that. And so the interest is still there, and the community is still there, which is nice. And now we’re just waiting to be able to be in person again, really,

Katie Treggiden 

I’m trying a few different ways of supporting the podcast this time around. So we’ll be back after a short break and thank you so much to everybody who helped to make this season happen.

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Katie Treggiden 

And what do you think that sense of this make very different is that isn’t there then kind of handing something over, you know, to a phone repair shop or posting something back to the manufacturer and it comes back either repaired or replaced versus sitting down with someone who’s teaching you how to do it and kind of that skills exchange and that knowledge exchange? Why is it important to do it the way that you guys are doing it.

Bridget Harvey 

I think it’s important because it starts the conversation about why we don’t do that anymore. You know, it makes it very real and tangible. Actually, this is a skill that you could do. It also shows the complexity of a lot of objects, and actually how, you know, when we chuck something away, actually, there’s a lot of stuff inside it, particularly with electrical goods, you know, there’s a lot, and there’s a lot of people in that chain, you know, mining thing,s making things, designing, that object has a lot of reach beyond you buying it from that shop. And so I think it opens up a lot of things, but it also, there’s a sense of warmth, sharing kindness, hope in sitting down with people, you know, being welcomed into a space sitting down with someone who  actively wants to help you fix your thing, but also help you know how to fix your thing, or at least understand how it might be done. And that is maybe something that used to be more done, maybe in the home, maybe intergenerationally but now is often only kind of a paid for thing you know you may be paid to go to university or you pay to go on a short course or something like that. And, and so that sort of free, that emotionally free and financially free exchange of information and of care for one another and one another’s things is something that you don’t necessarily get that often and I think particularly for people who feel a bit waysided by a lot of society, those kind of things are really important. For me, I’m very aware of living in a position of relative privilege and I enjoy being able to give my time and my energy to sort of, I guess, spread some of the joy that I have for my life, within my life. think it’s a vital way of moving forwards. I mean, we share skills on the internet, right? We can go to YouTube and look at videos of people making things and doing things, but actually the ability to say, Oh, wait a minute, can you show me that again? Or what’s that?

Katie Treggiden 

Or actually this hasn’t worked what do I do with it? That’s the bit I struggle with. You know the person that the videos keep going and you’re like, that’s not what I did

Bridget Harvey 

Yeah, hold on a minute I spilt my glue.

Katie Treggiden 

There’s something interesting, isn’t there about in both of those situations, the person who needs the thing mending is kind of passive, their kind of either the passive recipient of a YouTube video or they’ve sent something off. Whereas I think the kind of Hackney Fixer space sounds like they’re taking a much more active role and that seems important to me particularly if we’re going to, you know, kind of encourage making and mending as part of a transition to a circular economy, having people, I guess there’s this idea that we were these kind of passive consumers who just buy things, you know, when you look at all the kind of government rhetoric around that sort of recovery after covid, it’s all about consumption, and you need to buy stuff. That’s your role, guys, just go and buy stuff and I sort of feel like we need to shift away from that towards more active engaged citizenship.

Bridget Harvey 

And you don’t necessarily need to be shouting on the street with a placard to be active. You can make these kind of small gestures, which actually collectively translate into a big statement. And and I think that I see, even if you can’t fix something in the sense of having tried to, it’s sort of, I guess, makes you feel less forced into buying something new, you know, you’re like, okay, it really can’t be fixed. Okay, I need to get a new one, rather than like, this just stopped working and, you know, I didn’t know how to get into it, or I don’t know,

Katie Treggiden 

I suppose in the process of it not being able to be fixed, you’ve perhaps learned something about which one you’ll buy next time?

Bridget Harvey 

Yeah, absolutely. And organisations like the Restart Project, and I Fix It. I mean, they have a particular focus on electronics, but they also, they offer critiques of new things as they come on to the market in terms of their repairability like this one, the battery is viewed into that one, you know, they encourage you to ignore that kind of voidish warranty void sticker, you know, and those sorts of things, which are designed to disempower you, designed to make you a consumer, rather than an owner, and, you know, push you into that kind of passive role. There’s a lot of discussion on the right to repair movement and that kind of idea around, I guess, it’s David Pi actually calls it optional durability, you know, so how you can decide how long your thing lasts, you know, I don’t want to change my phone every year, I’m quite happy to keep using my phone until it properly conks out. But part of that is that to have ongoing maintenance or care for those objects, and you know those kind of choices rather than being forced into someone else’s timeline, which you can almost guarantee it’s not for your good, not for community good not for planetary good, you know, it’s money up and choices out.

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah, that’s a really interesting, it taps into something that Kate Fletcher talks about, which is the craft of use.  This idea that we’ve we’ve kind of focused all our efforts on what happens before somebody buys something, but actually, let’s look at you know, the, all the stuff that happens afterwards, and the ways in which that object changes and we can sort of put life into it and add stories to it. And it’s a fascinating area of study almost makes me wish I was doing a Master’s again, not quite. Talking of study, you were in the midst of a PhD when I met you and your also artist in residence at the V&A. And again, at risk of asking you to summarise many years work in a pithy answer. Tell us a little bit about the work that you were undertaking, sort of for your PhD and as the residency at the V&A?

Bridget Harvey 

Yeah, so my PhD now finished. Yeah, so that was about repair, repair making is what I called it. Repair making, craft narratives and activism. And I think we’ve already just spoken a bit about the activism element of it. The narratives bit is really about those sort of interactive stories we’ve spoken about this as well. You know, how we engage with our objects, what those objects mean to us, what we choose to repair, what we don’t choose to repair.  You know when the damage actually tells more important a story than the repair might, you know, restored object might. And I kind of came at all of that through this idea of repair being a credible craft practice, actually, and part of embedded in all craft practices, but in a funny kind of way, also an independent practice. And so I was exploring it, it was a practice based PhD. And so I was exploring it through, you know, learning, lots of different mending techniques, trying out lots of different materials, but also through hosting other people who would facilitate workshops around repair, through either giving talks and, and writing and curating and all of those sorts of things that kind of spread that discourse out. So my making practice was very much expanded beyond me sitting in my studio, fiddling away with things. And it was a really valuable piece of research, I think, for me personally, but also, everything that I’ve published from it I’ve published without a paywall, you know, so it’s out there for people to see. And I think that’s a research in this country often has a sort of financial banding to it in that you’re either being paid to do a piece of research, which is for a specific company, and therefore it kind of needs to be kept quiet, or it’s published, but it’s published in academic journals, which have got a high paywall or so and so forth. And I really wanted everything that I discovered to be out there Creative commons licence, you know, take it, build on it, make it bigger. And to me, that reflected the actual repair communities that I am a part of, and, you know, those kind of online communities, but also the in person communities, and it was really key for me too so if you fancy a 60,000 words, read it is on my website.

Katie Treggiden 

Amazing, I will put a link in the show notes for anybody looking can go and have a look.

Bridget Harvey 

But it also for me, it was an opportunity to really map a field that was expanding. So I started my PhD in 2013, but I actually started looking at repair as a craft the year before that. And I had this really kind of moment of sort of epiphany, where I suddenly realise that repair was this really key, but I was darning, a jumper and having conversations, and I just realised that it was this really key part of making, but it was actually really forgotten. And my work previous to that had been very much in a similar vein, like what are these undercurrent of making? What are these undercurrents of craft that we’re not really looking at, but they’re really important to it. And then I started to unpick it and see who else was doing what and I realised that there were all these little factions of people kind of starting to get interested in it. And this movement was brewing. And so for me, it was just this opportunity to kind of really look at that and kind of start putting those ideas together and putting some words to it and trying to I guess, say, Okay, so this guy is a leather worker in his studio, doing these things, what relationship does that have to that person who is campaigning and lobbying? And what are these kinds of areas of action that are going on? And there’s a lot and there’s more, and there’s more, and there’s more, and it’s still growing, and it’s still really exciting, which is an absolute joy, to be honest, because I didn’t want to get sick of it, and I’m not. And then for my V&A residency, so one of the things I couldn’t look out for my PhD just because the nature of having to focus was the relationship between repair and conservation. And so my residency at the V&A really allowed me nine luxurious months of diving deeply into that. And it was a really exciting time for me, because the V&A has got a huge Conservation Department, really masses of highly skilled, highly knowledgeable people behind the scenes caring for these objects. And, you know, as the museum, whether they call it the attic of the country or whatever, you know, they’ve got so many different objects, so many different materials, so many different techniques and so went in there. And there was just this huge amount of knowledge that I barely begun to scratch the surface of really, but it really showed me that I mean, they’re not the same, right repair and conservation are not the same. But there are a lot of ideas as a huge body of knowledge that out of the museum, repairers can learn from the sort of in the museum conservation fields. And it also gave me a real insight into that visible invisible dichotomy that is often presented in real time.

Katie Treggiden 

I remember you throwing me an amazing broken plate with staples across it.

Katie Treggiden 

Or if we’re, you know, equally at the other end of the spectrum, the people for whom a visible mend is not necessarily socially acceptable. You know having something between the two, I think, is really interesting. That’s something I’ve struggled with actually for a long time, so that that gives me some hope.  So talking of hope, final question what does the future holds for mending and repair and sustainability?

Bridget Harvey 

Yes so that, for example, that is a really interesting process that is used to fix ceramics. And they’re not staples in that kind of staple gun bang kind of way, they are two carefully drilled holes, and then as sort of tensioned piece of metal popped into place. But actually, for a long time, that was a conservation technique. If you had a broken ceramic, then it was kind of frowned upon, the staples were often removed by conservatives and plates, separate parts separated and put back together in different ways. And now, those staples if an object comes into the museum with staples in it, they’re sort of accepted as part of that objects narrative. And so they’re not removed, but they also don’t add new ones anymore. I mean, there are plenty of people working with staples as an aesthetic choice now and that’s really interesting. And there’s also in the Kingston Museum, there’s a really interesting jug, which is something like 287 pieces stapled, together, it’s beautiful. So, you know, that’s the kind of processional journey of sort of acceptable and done, unacceptable, taken away okay, actually part of that, like narrative of the piece. But there’s also, I mean, museums and conservatives are big into new technologies as well. So there’s lots of great say, digitally printed parts that have been used to restore objects within the collections. There’s you know 3D scanning going on, and those sorts of things. So there’s a real mixture of techniques, mixture of technologies that are embraced, and all in the name of caring for our objects. And, you know, so it’s still actually a huge area of fascination for me, I’m still doing a lot of research into that relationship. And I don’t think I’m going to run out of inspiration from you know, and so it was a really, yeah, it was a sort of very poetic nine months. The thing I was going to say, actually, that the visible and invisible element is they try not to hide conservation work, they try to make it subtle so it doesn’t disrupt your view of an object, but not to hide it. So it’s sort of, you know, the object is viewed as perfect with no life story as per sort of pure restoration, if you want, and, And that, to me was, again, very interesting with that visible, invisible, because actually, it starts to show you it as a scale rather than a split. And you start to think, okay, actually, I might not be able to mend this perfectly, but I don’t have to make it really in your face visible, you know, I can do it sort of subtly, or decoratively or, you know, with some other kind of like nuance compared to the original object and material. And that, I think, is a really interesting route to the accessibility of repair. For those of us who aren’t incredibly skilled makers who can do properly invisible repair work, or also if we’re working with objects that aren’t designed to be repaired.

Bridget Harvey 

Well I mean, obviously, in my blue sky, hope we all mend lots of things as much as we can and we only sort of only forced to get rid of them when they’re utterly broken, and then we can put them back into the circular economy of materials and processes. That’s my dream. In the kind of short term, I think we’re going to see a lot more discussion on the right to repair, it’s becoming more and more key. And it’s going to be interesting to see how the UK responds to EU legislations now that we are not part of the EU, you can see more and more repair movements springing up in different places, and using social media and so on to connect with each other, but also to connect with their kind of local communities. And I think you can start to see more designed in repairability and that’s really exciting to me, because it’s becoming a discussion within objects of a sort of standard price point rather than a very high end price point and that’s really important, I think, because most of us are, you know, on on a kind of IKEA budget, right? And so actually, that sort of high street conversation about repairability is really important because that’s how most of us shop and that is starting to come about and that’s really exciting to me. So I’m really like watching that develop. And then in my practice, you know, I’m still learning new techniques, I’m using new techniques and I’ve got exhibitions coming up, and so on and so forth. So that’s personally exciting.  And in my work as a tutor I’m just still nagging my students to design repairability into their things and to think about sustainability and their materials and so on and so forth and long may that continue.

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah. Fantastic. Thank you so much, Bridget, so many amazing insights in there it’s been an absolute joy.

Bridget Harvey 

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a joy to talk to you, as always Katie.

Katie Treggiden 

If you enjoyed this episode, can I ask you to leave a review, and perhaps even hit subscribe? I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand how the algorithm works, but I’m told those two actions really help other people to find the podcast so that would be amazing. Thank you. You can find me on Instagram at @KatieTreggiden.1, you can subscribe to my email newsletter via a link in the show notes and if you’re a designer maker, you should really join my free Facebook group Making Design Circular. See you there. This episode was produced by Sasha Huff so thank you to Sasha and to October Communications for marketing and moral support,  to Camira for their sponsorship and to you for joining me. You’ve been listening to Circular with Katie Treggiden