R for Repair London exhibition features “sympathetic” repairs to objects


A rattan cast created to protect the damaged wing of a toy puffin and a fractured plate held together with steel staples feature in R for Repair, an exhibition of repaired objects presented at the V&A museum as part of London Design Festival.

Curated by Jane Withers and Hans Tan, the exhibition is the second edition of R for Repair, and follows the first iteration of the show that was held in Singapore last year.

R for Repair
R for Repair is on display at the V&A in London

The show presented at London’s V&A museum includes 10 damaged objects repaired by 10 different designers from Singapore or the UK. They are displayed alongside three repaired objects from the original exhibition.

Responding to an open call, members of the public were invited to contribute sentimental but broken objects to the project. Designers chosen by Withers and Tan then repaired the objects in various creative ways.

Repaired toy puffin
Ng Si Ying repaired a toy puffin by creating a rattan cast for its wing

Designer Ng Si Ying created a cast and belt out of rattan and thread for Graham Secrets, a toy puffin owned by UK-based Oli Stratford, which was a gift from the owner’s parents on his 30th birthday.

Originally made by Danish silversmith and designer Kay Bojesen in 1954, the object was damaged by Stratford’s cat. Ying created a cast for the puffin’s wing in Singapore using an intricate weaving technique.

Antique sewing chest
Rio Kobayashi used Japanese joinery to adapt an antique sewing chest

“We wanted to pair designers who would be sympathetic to the owner’s emotional attachment and what are often quite moving stories behind the objects and why the owners treasure them, but might also have an unexpected take on the object and add new layers of meaning, enriching this evolving narrative of ownership,” Withers told Dezeen.

“We also looked for designers who might bring interesting techniques and unexpected experimentation to the repairs.”

Repaired sewing chest
The chest now has space to display drawings and paintings

Another object repaired for the 2022 edition of the exhibition is an 18th-century antique sewing chest owned by Eleanor Suggett Stephens in the UK, which she inherited from her grandmother.

Suggett Stephens discovered that the chest contained previously unseen sketches and watercolour paintings by her grandmother, who wanted to be an artist but never achieved her dream.

Doll's house
Other objects include a repaired doll’s house by Studiomama

London-based designer Rio Kobayashi used traditional Japanese joinery techniques to raise the furniture’s feet, and also created a large tabletop designed to display and celebrate the secret artwork.

Kobayashi used walnut, ash, cherry, sapele, paint and glass to repair the chest, which Suggett Stephens said “represents that creative dream which never happened for [my grandma] and reminds me how fortunate I am to have a career in the arts.”

Plate by Studio Dam
Studio Dam put a broken plate back together with staples

Other objects in the exhibition include a porcelain dinner plate that broke down the middle and was repaired with steel staples and epoxy glue by Studio Dam in Singapore.

British owners Karen Birkin and screenwriter Andrew Birkin, brother of actor Jane Birkin, submitted the plate for repair with an entirely open brief. Andrew Birkin quipped that Studio Dam could make a spaceship out of it.

In response, the multidisciplinary studio took visual cues from Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Andrew Birkin worked on early in his career.

Studio Dam was informed by juci, a traditional Chinese porcelain repair technique that involves the use of metal staples.

V&A exhibition
At the V&A, the objects are presented on bright yellow boxes

“On one hand, the primary motivation was to bring creativity to repair through design,” explained Tan, discussing the exhibition.

“At the same time, we thought having designers and objects from two countries would add a dimension to the project as a design and cultural exchange.”

Repaired glass bottle
Tzen Chia playfully repaired a glass bottle for an anonymous owner

Withers also added that the exhibition intends to celebrate the process of repair and encourage the idea of giving possessions a second life.

“I think it is important to broaden the discussion around repair and explore the psychological as well as functional dimension,” concluded Withers.

“To understand why we keep things and how that can inform the design of products. How can things be designed with repair in mind so they improve with age?”

As London Design Festival kicks off in the capital, see other installations that are part of the event, such as a collection of rotating stone chairs by Sabine Marcelis.

The photography is by Zuketa Film Production

R for Repair is on display at the V&A in London from 17 September to 2 November. 

London Design Festival 2022 takes place from 17-25 September 2022. See our London Design Festival 2022 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.



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