Mend It May – Interview with Katrina Rodabaugh

May 20, 2016

Today I’m so excited to have an interview with Katrina Rodabaugh – New York based artist, writer, and crafter.
I stumbled across Katrina’s work on Instagram, when I went chasing after a hashtag that intrigued me. That hashtag was #mendfulness, and I eventually managed to track it down to Katrina and her this post on her site.  It’s such a wonderful concept and one that I will let Katrina explain during the course of the ‘interview’.
I hope you enjoy!

Hi Katrina
Thanks so much for agreeing to answer some questions for Mend It May!

Thanks for inviting me!

Please can you briefly introduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about your background and what got you started mending?

I’m an artist and writer working across disciplines to explore social and environmental issues through traditional craft techniques. I’ve been engaged in this work for many years mostly as a fine artist, writer, and indie crafter.
My work spans large-scale installations, long-term collaborations, and also what’s known as social practice or working in community outside traditional art venues. I have an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and a graduate degree in writing and book arts but textile arts have been my passion for many years.

In August 2013 my work and training came to a new intersection through my art project Make Thrift Mend—abstaining from any new clothing for one year while I focused on making garments, buying second hand, and mending. I’ve now been actively engaged in this project for three years and it continues to evolve. One of my goals for this project was to engage community through workshops, mending circles, public art projects, and sharing resources. My mending work came from this project and has slowly shifted to the focus of my studio work.

What is it about mending that speaks to you and why do you think it’s important?

I started mending out of a practical need—I was crawling around on the sidewalk with chalk with my toddler when my jeans tore and because of my fashion fast I couldn’t buy a new pair. Then I subsequently tore through three pair of jeans almost simultaneously. It turns out that caring for toddlers is tough on our denim! So I taught myself to darn. Then kept experimenting with my technique until I created something that was aesthetically pleasing but also technically strong. Mending is a natural part of owning clothing—the fibers breakdown and we need to replace them.

But mending is also such a beautiful metaphor as a social issue—to heal, to repair, to fix what’s broken.

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You describe some of your workshops as being “modern mending” workshops. Can you briefly explain what that is, and how it differs from more traditional techniques?

The mending of my childhood is what I think of as traditional mending—iron on patches with thick adhesive and probably floral fabric patches. I never felt this mending added value to my worn clothing but I always felt it made the garment less desirable. But when we approach mending from a design standpoint—considering the elements of design and how the patch or stitches work with the garment—we can actually add value. Sashiko mending is a traditional Japanese technique but it’s currently experiencing international popularity. Traditional Sashiko mending is much more beautiful than the mending of my youth. So perhaps the word “modern” isn’t a great choice. But it’s about placing mending in contemporary context and considering design as an opportunity to add value.

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I really love the concept of mendfulness, that I first stumbled across on Instagram, and managed to trace back to a blog post on your site.
Can you tell us a little bit about it?

In fall 2014 I published an article in Taproot Magazine about my Make Thrift Mend project and about the concept of Mendfulness.
At the time I hadn’t seen that word used anywhere but I think it’s gaining momentum now with the sustainable fashion movement.

Mendfulness is about being mindful about mending and repair, but also about being mindful about our relationship to fashion.
It’s about pausing to consider our consumer habits, getting clear on what clothes we like to wear and why, and also embracing wear and tear as a normal and even beautiful process.
It’s a shift from the fashion “trendmill” to make our wardrobe more personal and less perfect.
It’s about applying concepts of mindfulness to fashion.

It may just be the people that I follow on Instagram, but everyday I am seeing beautiful pictures of sashiko patched jeans, and boro mending. Do you think mending is increasing in popularity at the moment, and why do you think that might be?

Yes, it’s definitely experiencing popularity. When I first started working with Sashiko mending just three years ago I couldn’t find much information or even many visuals. But in the past three years Sashiko mending has exploded and now you can search Pinterest and find hundreds of images. I have hundreds of images in my own Mend board alone. I think the Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013 finally made us have to face the horrific practices of the fashion industry. I think it was this tragic event that couldn’t be ignored and so the sustainable fashion movement has gained great traction in the past three years. Mending is part of the solution and Sashiko mending is beautiful so I think it’s only natural that mending has become more popular. Also, Westerners are somewhat obsessed with denim and I think the indigo fabric seen in traditional Boro and Sashiko is appealing and relatable to our tendency towards denim.

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Your Instagram feed is full of beautiful and inspiring mending images-do you have a favourite mend?

Thank you. I don’t have a favorite mend. I try to let the mending respond to the unique tear. I have a handful of techniques that I discuss in my workshops but my general thought is that the mender has to respond to the unique distress on each unique garment. It’s a very beautiful and intimate relationship, really. To realize how your particular body wears through particular garments and then to take the time to mend that distress on the garment. I think it also speaks to our fragile relationship with our bodies and with body image.

If we can spend some time mending our clothing, embracing our imperfections, honouring our bodies and the natural breakdown of fibers then this might help mend much larger cultural issues.

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Lastly, do you have any tips for those looking to get started mending?

I have lots of tips that I share in my workshops. But, in general, I think it’s just important to begin. Don’t worry too much about making a perfect repair. Just find a patch, some thread, a needle, and go ahead and get started. You can look at Tom of Holland’s hashtag #visiblemending on Instagram or check out my Mend board on Pinterest for inspiration. But ultimately just embrace where you’re at, the skills you have, the tools at hand, and go ahead and begin.

Embrace the imperfections as part of the design.

And trust that you’ll strengthen your stitch technique and discover your own tips as you continue to mend.
I’m most interested in focusing on what we CAN do to better align our wardrobes and our ethics. So don’t worry so much about what you can’t do or what expertise you need to acquire. If you make one garment, mend one pair of jeans, buy one shirt second hand, support one independent ethical brand instead of a fast fashion company, then all of these acts add up towards supporting a more sustainable or even regenerative relationship to fashion. And ultimately, that’s what’s most important.

Thanks so much Katrina for this insight into your work, and the value that you see in all things mending and repair.
To see more of Katrina’s beautiful work, visit:
– Katrina Rodabaugh
Katrina’s fabulous Instagram feed
Katrina on Pinterest

If you’re inspired to get mending, and would love some support and and encouragement, do come and join the Mend It May Facebook group – it’s really is a very wonderful thing!

To keep up to date with all the latest Mend It May news, and to show your support and love for the Magic of the Mend, please do sign up to the Mend It May pledge 🙂

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