On The Mend

The Mending Project, a traveling art installation by artist, Lee Ming Wei, is entering it’s final month of exhibition at VCU’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), but it’s mark won’t be so quickly forgotten. On the surface, the project seems simple; guests arrive with a personal garment to be repaired, and engage in conversation with the mender on duty. What’s produced, however, is something more beautiful than just the artistic reparations, but a genuine human interaction and, dare I say, connection. Without the distractions of electronics, marketing, and the general unfortunate side effects of modernity, two human beings are able to bond, albeit briefly, over something as simple as a torn shirt. Described by the artist as “an interactive conceptual installation in which [he] used very simple elements—thread, color, sewing—as points of departure for gaining insights into the relationships among self, other and immediate surroundings”, participants tend to walk away as mended as their clothing.

As difficult as it may be to temporarily part with your piece, participants are encouraged to leave their articles for others to admire during the exhibition. A myriad apparel makes up a beautiful mess of worn and renewed treasures, each with their own story to tell. It’s these stories and connections that has drawn local mender, Lisa Hutchinson, owner of Top Stitch, to participate in the project. “It’s like sitting down to a casual lunch with a wonderful friend. You have never met, yet you get to skip the small talk, and jump right in to something comfortable & familiar,” says Lisa. Top Stitch provides professional alterations, repairs, and in-home sewing lessons to local Richmonders. She sees the same value in the daily operations of her business as in The Mending Project; establishing relationships through preserving beloved possessions is an unexpected but powerful catalyst for human interaction.

The Mending Project will run through September 9th with sessions from 10-1 & 2-5 during daily ICA operations, and a late session on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 PM.

For more on Lisa and Top Stitch, check out her Instagram, @topstitchrva, or contact her via topstitchrva@gmail.com to schedule one of her exceptional services.



James is a sustainable food advocate, a freelance writer, marketing consultant, and regular contributor to Richmond Grid magazine.