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Restart Podcast Ep. 86: Why repairers need hope, not guilt, with Katie Treggiden

Katie Treggiden

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This month we talked to author and communicator, Katie Treggiden about her recent book entitled, Broken: Mending & Repair in a Throwaway World. Katie has put decades of thought into helping creatives and makers become more sustainable but also forgive themselves when they can’t be. 

Back to her roots

Having grown up surrounded by nature in Cornwall, Katie tells us about her surprising origin story. She spent over a decade working in advertising before pivoting towards her life-long love of writing. With this, she also folded in a new interest – purpose-driven craft and design. Since then, she has explored what this actually means through writing dissertations, books, and hosting a podcast on the topic. With all this experience under her belt, she decided that she wanted to help makers develop their working practices to fit the circular future that we need to build.

How craftspeople are using repair

Katie has previously written about waste and reuse, and her new book Broken puts the focus on repair. She shares some standout case studies from the book of artists and craftspeople who are incorporating repair into their work. These include Celia Pym, Bridget Harvey, Ekta Kaul – all artists who explore repair in entirely different ways. 

Repair craft case studies
L-R: Work by Celia Pym, Bridget Harvey, and Ekta Kaul

Katie notes her interest in the different ways repair can be used for example, as a tool to restore practical value, or to add artistic value, or even for self-care. We talk about where repair and hacking fits into the larger culture of craft, and more specifically the ‘craft of use’. She notes how much more difficult electronic repair often is compared to more traditional craft and making. This is especially true now that manufacturers make an effort to conceal the craftsmanship that goes into making (and therefore taking apart and repairing) our devices. 

Letting go of guilt in order to move forward

While individual action is of course important, system change is essential for the scale of the problem we are dealing with. When running her courses for creatives, Katie really focuses on this point as key to forward movement. Instead of being weighed down by the personal guilt of climate breakdown, makers need to be led by curiosity and experimentation instead of sustainability perfectionism. We all have a part to play in helping the planet, but it is not our responsibility alone. 

“I think really until companies are responsible for the things they sell for their whole lifetime, repair is not going to be the norm.”

Additionally, she stresses the need to be compassionate. There are so many reasons why people may not repair. These include social stigma, a lack of time or resources, or that their stuff is simply not designed to be repaired. Knocking down these barriers is not something anyone can do on their own, rather, we need collective action to change the system.

Practising ‘defiant hope’

It’s difficult to stay optimistic about our power to enact change but Katie believes hope is one of the most important tools we have. There isn’t a one size fits all solution to being sustainable, but what can join us all together in our efforts is our common goal.

“One of the most important parts of my job is staying hopeful and and helping to keep other people hopeful.”


[Photos courtesy of Katie Treggiden]

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