The Mending Project: Lee Mingwei

The idea and practice of mending surrounds us - member projects include Ruth Katzenstein Souza's Mending as Metaphor circle; CAFAM is currently hosting an exhibit Material as Metaphor; and several LA-based apparel designers are celebrating visible mending, among them Yoshimi Radstrom of Kaban+.

In the spirit of delighting in all these textile-oriented expressions, we offer up a snapshot and artist statement from Lee Mingwei's The Mending Project, currently on view at the Biennale in Venice. One of our members in absentia grabbed the shot for us – we're still here, like you, in Los Angeles, waiting for the sun to come out!

Lee Mingwei's statement follows - and it's worth a look at his site to see more images and explore more of his work!

The Mending Project was an interactive conceptual installation in which I used very simple elements—thread, color, sewing—as points of departure for gaining insights into the relationships among self, other and immediate surroundings.  It also constituted an act of sharing between myself and a stranger.

Visitors initially saw a long table, two chairs and a wall of colorful cone-shaped spools of thread.  During gallery hours, I was seated at that table, to which visitors could bring various damaged textile articles, choose the color of thread they wished, and watch as I mended the article. The mended article, with thread ends still attached, was then placed on the table along with previously mended items. Owners returned to the gallery to collect their mended articles on the last day of the exhibition.

The act of mending took on emotional value as well, depending on how personal the damaged item was, e.g., a favorite shirt vs. an old but little-used tablecloth. This emotional mending was marked by the use of thread which was not the color of the fabric around it, and often colorfully at odds with that fabric, as though to commemorate the repair. Unlike a tailor, who will try to hide the fact that the fabric was once damaged, my mending was done with the idea of celebrating the repair, as if to say, "something good was done here, a gift was given, this fabric is even better than before."