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Visualizing the Art of Repair
A visual exploration into the culture and art of repair and restoration
Tomorrow is International Repair Day (21.10.23), so I thought I’d throw in an easy-to-digest Friday issue. Also, I haven’t done a visual exploration issue in a while, so here we go. These issues are basically a collage of interesting images, memes, videos, and sometimes a few quotes or tweets. As always with this newsletter, the idea is to provoke new thinking and narratives. And with these visual explorations, it’s even more about immersing oneself in a particular topic. But this time, I also have some very practical tools for you ready at the end, so make sure to scroll all the way down.
And just in case you missed previous visualization issues, here are all that I’ve done so far: Visualizing Consumerism, Visualizing Care Centricity, Visualizing Minimalist Design, Visualizing City Solutions, and Visualizing Brand Pivots.
But now, let’s get into today’s issue…
The Art of Repair
“We need to accept, the argument runs, that change is a natural part of an object's lifespan, while unexpected alterations can be a source of delight and meaning, adding layers of richness to our possessions – qualities that have been stripped away from many products through mass production, consumption and marketing. […]
In its break with consumerism, repair seems to represent a future in which care, consideration and respect become paramount, replacing our current attitudes of wastefulness and shallowness.”
“Sashiko emerged through necessity, particularly in poor rural areas, during the Edo period. "Cotton came late to the north of Japan," explains craft and design writer Katie Treggiden. "So the only way people could get hold of it was as tiny rags of fabrics, that were either passed around or bought from tradesmen from the south. Sashiko – literally, 'little stabs' – was a way of connecting all those little pieces into a quilted fabric, known as boro, that would keep them warm."“
“Mending our clothes is not going to bring the wheels of the fashion industry to a grinding halt […] but [the book] Mending Life suggests that it can help us reimagine what clothes are and what they mean to us. “Our clothes take care of us. They are our protective shell, our second skin, our closest embrace. They encircle us gently and keep us dry, warm, and cozy.” Through mending, we acknowledge the service of our clothes.”
“In an age of mass production and conformity, learning to accept and celebrate imperfect things, as kintsugi demonstrates, can be powerful. Whether it’s reeling from a breakup or being turned down for a promotion, the fragments of our disappointment can be transformed into something new.
That new thing might not be perfect or be how you had envisioned it would be, but it is beautiful. Rather than try to disguise the flaws, the kintsugi technique highlights and draws attention to them.”
Repair cafés and re-skilling events bring people together to share knowledge and learn new skills.
“If we bought less and kept what we have alive for longer, we’d save money, be gentler on the planet and learn how resourceful we are.”
The Joys of Fixing Your Own Stuff: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/14/technology/fixing-gadgets-diy.html
"We have been repairers and restorers for millennia longer than we've been profligate thrower outer of things.”
Adam Savage, popular DIY YouTuber
“Maintenance is about caring, about building more intimate, meaningful relationships with the stuff around us. What if we shifted more of the work now focused on producing new stuff to maintaining old stuff? […]
Perhaps maintenance, rather than sustainability, is the more useful framework for a green transition, because it can account for how human infrastructure is now deeply entangled with the environment in the age of the Anthropocene. […]
The personal dimension of maintenance and repair — how it’s also a form of knowledge that can give you power over the objects in your life — is not often emphasized by progressive environmentalists. That language is left to DIY Youtubers and entrepreneurs [...], not to mention the farmers and fishermen and musicians and truckers and others whose livelihoods depend on certain machines operating at a certain level.“
“We live in a culture where replacement is king. We do routinely fix big-ticket items, like cars and washing machines, but primarily it’s easier and cheaper to go buy something new. There are other reasons to avoid repair, including labels warning that repairing a product on your own will void the warranty, or the lack of access to the information and parts necessary to repair something ourselves.
These conditions create a society of product-consumers, not owners. And there’s a difference. Owners are empowered to take responsibility for their purchases—from proper cleaning to repairing, reusing and sharing. Consumers take, make, dispose and repeat—a pattern that is driving us towards ecological bankruptcy.”
“The Culture of Repair Project is about more than just diminishing resource usage in manufacturing, transporting and selling new products, and post-consumption. At a more fundamental level it’s about cultivating the well-being of individuals, communities, and the natural environment through changing our relationships with the material objects and social systems in our lives. It’s about reshaping our culture into one that takes care of and repairs what's important to us, as a matter of course.”
The main points that emerge from the visual explorations above:
Repair, maintenance, and restoration are about building more intimate, meaningful relationships with the things around us
The art of repairing things transforms not only the objects we repair but also us: it teaches us new skills and knowledge.
Repairing methods are born out of a lack of abundance, necessity, and creativity.
Repairs store and tell stories. They are the equivalent of scars on objects.
Repairs can transform ordinary objects into something extremely unique, one-of-a-kind, both in terms of their appearance and the relationships between owner and object.
Repairing can be much more than a skill: an art form, a philosophy, a cultural artifact, or a medium to tell stories.
Repairing can teach us valuable lessons about dealing with failure.
Repairing, and restoring in particular, makes the old valuable again, thereby diminishing the value of the new – maybe also in a broader sense.
Repaired objects help us redefine beauty.
Repair replaces wastefulness and shallowness with meaning and care.
Repairing is nothing new! In fact, humans have always been repairing things and only recently started throwing things away. And when it comes to big (or certain) objects like planes, trains, buildings, infrastructure, but also bicycles, we are still very much focused on repairing rather than throwing away.
Repairing is economical and sustainable.
Repairing can bring communities together through skill- and material-sharing.
Repairing makes us truly empowered and responsible owners of our objects as opposed to mere consumers.
I thought I’d use these points to experiment with a creative re-imagination of a rather destructive brand. I picked Amazon. So, I put the list above into ChatGPT and asked it to come up with a creative, new strategy, brand story, and product/service for Amazon. It’s a quick and easy exercise, and if the topic of repair relates to your organization, I recommend you test this approach and use your brand instead of Amazon, of course.
This is what ChatGPT came up with for Amazon:
"Amazon Rekindle" – Embracing the essence of rejuvenation, restoration, and relationships.
New Brand Story:
Amazon evolves from merely a marketplace of endless new products to a community-driven platform, “Amazon Rekindle,” nurturing relationships between individuals and their belongings. Rekindle isn’t just a service; it's a movement towards sustainability, creativity, and enriched ownership. It integrates the art, philosophy, and culture of repair, turning imperfections into narratives of beauty, endurance, and uniqueness.
"Rekindle Hub" is an ecosystem where products have lives beyond their initial purchase.
1. Personal Repair Journeys: Items come with digital logs (Rekindle Diaries) where repairs, upgrades, and transformations are recorded, making each object a storyteller.
2. Community Workshops: Physical and virtual spaces where customers learn and share repair skills. It’s an educational and communal experience, fueling a culture of creativity and sustainable living.
3. Rekindle Marketplace: A specialized section on Amazon, where customers buy, sell, or exchange repaired and restored items, each carrying a unique story and value.
4. AI-Assisted Repair and Upcycle Recommendations: AI tools that suggest personalized repair or upcycling ideas, tutorials, and local community workshops based on the item's wear and tear, making each restoration journey unique.
5. Shared Economy: A platform where tools, skills, and resources are shared. Customers borrow repair tools or offer their skills to others, building a community and promoting sustainability.
Amazon Rekindle revives the traditional ethos of repair and restoration. Each scratch, dent, or stitch isn’t a flaw but a chapter in the story, making objects not just possessions but companions in the journey of life. Here, beauty isn’t just seen; it’s experienced through the enriched lives of objects that wear their histories with pride. Customers aren’t just consumers but empowered guardians of stories, skills, and sustainability.
Amazon transforms from a retail giant to a custodian of culture, art, and sustainability, where every product sold is not the end, but a beginning of a beautiful, enduring narrative of repair, renewal, and relationships.
Welcome to Amazon Rekindle – Where Stories Live On!
That’s it for this unusual Friday issue! See you again next week on Wednesday for our usual rabbit holes! 😉
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