Mendfulness and the Long Journey to Repair

I'm thinking about mendfulness. That's right, mendfulness, and how my work is currently at the convergences of art-making, crafting, mending, and mindfulness. Oh, I shutter when I write that word, mindfulness, because I think it assumes some level of spiritual mastery that I am not going to even begin to pretend I have attained.

I am, after all, the parent of a young toddler and I think parenting requires patience, tenderness, and perspective but it's more like chasing a small monkey around the playground so he doesn't leap from the tallest tower and it's less like sitting in silent meditation. Though, of course, I advocate for moments of meditation when we can create them. But I use the word, mindfulness, because I also think it implies intention or being intentional and, good grief yes, that is certainly what I'm striving for in the Make Thrift Mend project and in my work at large. Mendfulness, yes.

And, for the record, I did not create the term mendfulness but instead it came to me through a reader and student and online craft companion, Jo Woolmer. (Thank you for your email, Jo!) But it has since made its way into an essay I'm co-writing for a magazine. About the intersection of mending, making, and reclaiming.

See? I just shuttered again. Let me say that I am not trying to create any hierarchy in the art, craft, or ecological communities. And I am certainly not trying to assume mastery in the very difficult act of living on the earth as an environmentalist. We are human. That means we are naturally imperfect. But it also means we can use our rational thinking and our opposable thumbs to our advantage.

We can be mindful. We can be mendful. We can do our very best to leave this fragile planet a little bit better than how we inherited it. (And now I'll step back down from my soapbox and talk about mending.)

So I've spent some time with the definitions of the word, "mend" and I'm finding it a very powerful little word. Mend (verb): To make (something broken or damaged) usable again: to repair (something broken or damaged). Mend: To heal or cure (a broken bone, a sad feeling, etc). Mend (noun): a place where something (such as a piece of clothing) has been repaired. And then the dictionary goes on to give several fabulous synonyms including reform, correct, repair, cure, heal, doctor, fix, patch, recondition, renovate, revamp, and rebuild.

Oh, I could write a novel on each of these words and its necessary place at the intersection of art, fashion, and ecology. Let alone its place in our kitchens. In our gardens. In our art studios. In our communities and legislation and infrastructure. I love how the list of synonyms conjures images of building houses, casting broken bones, and going to the voting booths all at once. I see hammers, scaffolding, herbs, salves, notebooks, declarations, pencils, erasers, threads, needles, and even a trip to the nearby gym. Bring out the sweatbands, my friends!

But I think what really struck me about the term, mendfulnes, is that it simply implies there is an intersection between mending and being mindful. That there is an intention to repair but furthermore to pay attention or to witness, to be thoughtful, and then to attempt to act from this place. Attempt. Because we know that even in our most mindful attempts we still make mistakes. Because, well, because we are human and also chasing little monkeys around the playground doing our best to make sure they do not leap from the tallest tower into the shallow sand below.

And I can hear my yoga teacher in last week's class when she talked about forgiveness. When she asked, "Can we forgive our selves for the mistakes we'll make in the future?" I've been thinking about that all week too. Because on some levels, yes, we must forgive our selves for the mistakes we've made in the past and will make in the future but we must hold our selves accountable at some point too. We must commit not just to intention but to action. We must be prepared to change.

So why these images in today's post? Well, these images are from my spoon for the 3636 Project organized by the lovely and talented Courtney Cerruti that opened last Friday night. Courtney offered 36 artists each one vintage spoon and the results are on exhibition at Paxton Gate in San Francisco on Valencia Street. It's a really lovely show and it's so inspiring to see how 36 different artists used 36 different spoons in 36 different ways. Of course, each and every one is distinct and different.

But I included it here because while I wasn't yet aware of the term, mendfulness, when I created this piece I do think it's at the heart of what I was making. I couldn't bring myself to disfigure or even upcycle the spoon I was given. It seemed so beautiful in its worn patina, sturdy in its solid wood, and wise in its many years that I just couldn't interfere. So instead, I enshrined it with hand-dyed indigo fabric and a hand-stitched thread binding.

I imagined it might be packaged for a long journey across the generations and this wrapping might help it to make the trip. Much like I think of slow fashion or Make Thrift Mend or mendfulness. That we are on a long journey to reclaim the garment industry or even just the clothes in our own closets and perhaps this mendfulness will help us make the journey.

Because even if our mindfulness does not result in action I do believe it changes our intentions and that redirection forces us to follow our internal compass to a different point on the horizon. One small shift in that compass can result in the difference of a very drastic location if we go the course for many miles.

So instead of imagining we need to make this epic shift in the walk from one end of our house to the other, let's imagine we make this shift in navigating from one side of the ocean to the other. It's more attainable that way, right? It's all written in the definition: Reform, correct, repair, cure, heal, doctor, fix, patch, recondition, renovate, revamp, and rebuild.



  1. What a beautiful written post! Your ideas are thoughtful and inspiring. Thank you so much.

    1. thank you so much for such kind feedback. it's so nice to hear from readers so thank you for taking a moment to share. xo


Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.