Learn to repair old wares at new workshops.
LAST year, April Seymore and her friends got talking about the state of the world. They dissected our disconnection with the way things work, criticised consumer products built to break, and bemoaned the all the stuff that’s needlessly, thoughtlessly tossed into landfill.
And they decided to do something about it. They started Fix It, an open network of events where people gather to repair everyday household objects.
Ms Seymore says most goods “magically work for us”, until all of a sudden, they don’t.
“When they break we’re a bit confounded by it,” she says. “Often that means they get dusty in the garage, or go into the bin, or to an opshop, which also might not have the capacity to repair them. It costs charities a lot of money to put all that stuff into landfill.”
The idea behind Fix It is that anyone and everyone can hold their own event – you just have to invite some friends and their broken knick-knacks, and nut it out together.
“Fixing gives you great insight into how things work,” Ms Seymore says. “So we think it’s fun, but it also makes you smarter. It can save you money too, because you can extend the life of household objects.”
She says many attendees are surprised by their mending capacities – and by how much they can teach others. “People take things for granted. They’ll say, ‘I have no skills, but, oh yes, I can patch a fly-screen,’ or ‘I’ve only salvaged a couple of lamps’.”
Tinkering has hit the Zeitgeist, she says. In the Netherlands, Repair Cafes are running in dozens of locations. In London, the Restart Project is agitating for repair in the information technology industry, while in New York, the Fixers’ Collective meets once a month.
Closer to home, Melbournians can learn to mend and refashion their outdated and busted jewellery at ‘The Treasury’, the monthly workshops run by jeweller and artist Emma Grace (next one is August 25).
In Sydney, members of the Bower Reuse and Repair Centre in Marrackville mend, reinvent and re-sell pre-loved goods. The co-operative also holds public workshops on skills such as upholstery and bike mechanics.
If you want to see Fix It in action, there’ll be a stall at the Gasworks Art Park farmers’ market, in South Melbourne, on the third Saturday of each month from August to November. There’s also one coming up in Preston in late August (see the Fix It Facebook site for details).
“There’s a real movement now,” Ms Seymore says. “People are interested in reducing waste, learning how things work and being more self-sufficient.”
Her mother is a carpenter and a seamstress, among other practical things. And, so, as long as she can remember, the younger Ms Seymore has been repairing and inventing things with timber and textiles too.
Even so, she always learns something new from other people. “I’m a fixer, but I’m an aspiring fixer as well. I’m always adding more tools to my Swiss Army knife, so to speak.
“It appeals to our childhood sense of wonder – taking things apart and seeing whether you can stick them back together in the same way, or in a more exciting way. I think there’s a lot of good stuff that can come out of it, for our brains and our bodies, and for our community.”