Celia Pym : an Artist's Talk

Celia Pym came to UCA Farnham and gave an entertaining and informative illustrated talk about her practice.  

She explained how the gift of a much worn and repaired jumper which had belonged to an uncle brought her to consider damage and repair.  Damage reveals the actions of the body, particularly oft repeated actions while the repairs are small acts of attention and care.

Roly’s Sweater , original sweater knit and mended by Elizabeth Cobb with additional repair in blue wool, 67 x 81cm, 2007 [image from http://celiapym.com/]

Roly’s Sweater, original sweater knit and mended by Elizabeth Cobb with additional repair in blue wool, 67 x 81cm, 2007 [image from http://celiapym.com/]

Pym uses contrasting colours to effect her repairs. Using darning stitches, rather than knitted patches, which make no effort to blend into the original fabric of the garment, she favours ‘meaty repairs’.

Pym follows her instincts in making, questioning as she goes ‘is this working?’.  Her practice is very much process le.  There is a parallel need to be brave on occasion, however much time and effort has already been invested in the work.  Pym described the moment she used a pair of scissors to flail open a pair of knitted legs and socks in which she had already invested many hours of work and the resulting liberating realisation that this was a productive act, possibilities.  The lesson here is to stop, look and take action, even radical action, if the work needs it. 

 Where holes happen was selected for the final of the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize 2017 and exhibited at the V&A.  Pym spoke movingly of the time spent in conversation, talking through an object, with a retired GP before the orange sweater was selected for the work.   

Where holes happen

Where holes happen

Handwork brings the object and the artist physically close and allows memories or connections to emerge.  The garments show evidence of the life of the wearer.  This is very much how I feel about working with the second-hand tools which make their way into my work.  It is the human associations which are valued.