So as a follow up to our last post on Wabi-Sabi (click here to read) I thought it would be a good time to introduce some thoughts on what it means to repair our own stuff. Wabi-Sabi (as we approached it) is a philosophical/aesthetic ideal that embraces the wear and tear of life on materials and objects. The principles of wabi-sabi are somewhat abstract and are not always really actionable. But one idea that dovetails nicely with wabi-sabi and is absolutely actionable is repair. Repair as a philosophy and repair as a behavior is empowering, rich and just makes sense. Repairing our own stuff is often a forced choice of last resort. Maybe we can’t afford a replacement, or maybe there is no replacement; these are the circumstances we usually relegate repairs. But I am not talking about repairing just when we are forced to, but rather choosing to repair even when it is not the most convenient. Repairment (is that even a word?) is a beautiful creative act that brings life, texture and investment to that which we possess. It’s just stuff, but all of a sudden it is stuff that we had a hand in creating. Repairing is creating! All of a sudden the stuff we have is really ours; it reflects not only our life but also our ingenuity and will. If we cannot not enjoy or value the fruit of our own innovative imagination we are in a sorry state. Perhaps this is starting to skew a bit countercultural and that is not where we want to go. There is life and fulfillment to be had as individuals in the act of repairing our stuff. It matters little how good you are at it. It is the experience; the growth that holds the value. Through practice you will get better; your insight will grow and your “success” will increase. Everyone is capable of fixing something somehow. It is even better if you get help. Get in over your head and get your wife, your husband, your best mate to help you figure it out. What do you have to lose? You are probably just going to throw it out anyway.
Admittedly, somethings can’t be fixed. They are a lost cause. Or are they? Just because it can’t be fixed doesn’t mean you can’t use it for a something else. Repurposing ups the ante and is not for the faint of heart. The learning curve is steeper and the intimidation factor is bigger, but the reward is so much sweeter. Eschew the pristine and the perfect. Opt for the broken heater that is now a magazine rack. Use the old bike frame as a pot rack. Of course it is not going to be perfect and might not even work really well, but we are adaptable beings and working with and around the imperfect makes us better at being human. The Bouroullec brothers talk about the poetry that happens in old farm houses. How a screw goes missing in a door handle and is replaced with one that works but does not match or may even be ill fitting. This process of life and making things work is infinitely richer and more interesting than the homogeny that we have come to accept. There is a real danger in designing ourselves as a culture into a weak fearful state in which inconvenience and idiosyncrasies become distasteful or something to be avoided. I am not belittling or negating design. I’m a designer by trade. But corporate/commercial design has its place and more importantly its limits. I say I’m a designer out of habit, but the truth is we should all be designers. I am not special or gifted; I just have more experience. If you are human, then you have the ability to design, change, enhance, and fix the things in your life.
These are some pretty heavy ideas. Some people will be entertained; some will dismiss the whole notion as being a bit too idealist, unconventional, fringe, or impractical. That’s fine. We weren’t talking to you anyway. We are not trying to save the world and we are not trying to contrive a societal change. We are just sharing some of the great stuff we’ve found and think can help us all live better lives and hopefully get little dirty doing it. We are hardly the first to be passionate about such things. Many have gone before us and left inspiration and advice. Just Google it. There are more than a few hours of inspiration.