Celia Pim: Mended Life

Celia Pym Process and ways of recording activities are central to her work. The holes in people’s clothes, the stories that accompany them; repairing these holes and returning the mended garments are all represented in her approach. She is finding ways to represent the spaces the body occupies, the tenderness of touch and the ways of going about daily life. Celia Pym is an artist working with knitting, darning and embroidery. She particularly works on mending and repair projects. She has a wide exhibition history most recently her work was included in, ‘No excuse for what I do in private’ at Delicious Spectacle in Washington DC and in ‘UFO: unfinished object administration project’ at Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green. She teaches part time and delivers workshops for teenagers with ReachOutRCA at the Royal College of Art. She thinks of herself as a mending detective. She was a weaver as a teenager and went on to do a degree in sculpture. She began knitting to calm her nerves in preparation for her thesis show. Knitting slowly took over – “[it] slowly grew without me noticing.” After finishing university Celia applied for a grant, proposing to knit her way around Japan, gathering a ball of wool from each place she visited, staying as long as it needed to knit that ball.  The only rules she abided by (set by herself) were that she would only use blue wool, 50 stitches wide. After her trip to Japan, she began working for Age Concern in care homes, creating knitting with the residents which started from one small piece, and grew outwards as each knitter knit off of it. Celia exhibited work in an exhibition “Knit Two Together”, curated by Freddie Robbins. This then lead to an MA in mixed media at Royal College of Art where Freddie worked. Celia’s work was based around “things that are neglected/ignored.” One object in particular that her work was based on, was her deceased Great Uncle’s sweater, repaired so many times that it had “transformed from the original to the repair.” As a painter, you could see the wear of the elbows on the sweater, showing movement. Whilst on the MA she knitted a pair of legs from the imagination. no pattern. She then cut the knitting and darned them back together. This lead to an investigation in mending and in 2007, Celia held an event where she invited people to bring items that needed repairing. She received a lot of items which belonged to people who died. She spoke about how this wasn’t about getting the hole mended for the friend/relative who bought it in, but about the interaction. She has since run more of these events. Celia visited Norway, and went to textile artist, 
Sundbo’s museum. This lady bought a factory which shreds textiles, and saved garments which were particularly interesting to her – either had been modified in some way or just had something special about them. A lot of these items were in bad condition, including an old cardigan which Celia took away to repair. This process took about 3 months. Celia spoke about how the darned areas are like scar tissue. Celia spoke about Freddie Robbins, and how she is interested in “The Perfect”, whereas Celia herself, is more interested in what is imperfect. Freddie knitted seamless whole bodies, and during early experimentation there were many damaged bodies which got caught in the knitting machine. Celia took the damaged objects and darned them. “Curious About Craft” was a scheme which Celia got involved in – teaching people to darn in a van which travelled around Birmingham. She had previously done work on an Olympic project involving socks, and so had lots of spare. She used these to practise and demonstrate on.