Mending Consumerism through Independent Makers: Textile Artist Katrina Perdue on Re-use and Repair

by Mud | above photo by Jesse Butcher

What started your mending practice?

My dad passed away, and it was a very fast and intense period of time and I found myself with a lot of his clothing and a lot of his denim. I was like, well, I can
just take his pocket off to mend my own clothes. I was thinking about having him with me and literally using the cloth that he wore in my own clothes. Thinking about the context of care, I found another form of healing in repairing an object. I definitely felt that it was healing through grief.

Did you receive higher education?

I don’t have an art degree. I’m one of those outliers, but I did get a degree in American studies at Towson University in Maryland. I think Memphis is also a great city for that–you don’t have to have the degree to do the practice and be taken seriously as much as you might in other cities. I do a lot of what some of my peers call art.

How did you transition from a personal, utilitarian need for mending to a service that you provide for others?

I was working a desk job and liked it, but I realized that I was really starting to enjoy my mending work. Some people were like, oh, that looks cool and I have a pair of jeans or I have this or that. It was a lot of word of mouth and I started to take in and realize, OK, this is a service– I can’t really do this for free. I had a really hard time figuring out how to charge my friends. So, I did a mending pop up at the Crosstown Concourse in February of 2016. I was going to test it out and see, is there any traction here? For the workshop, I just decided to sit there and mend. I didn’t really do a lot of advertising. A couple of my friends posted that I was there, and then people started to show up that I didn’t know. I left with duffel bags of stuff to fix.

What fears did you have when your practice took off?

I didn’t have a studio. I was working from my home, and there was this growing interest in it feeling like an art practice to me. It can be something I do as a service, but it can also be a connection to an art practice. I couldn’t afford an outside studio space and I really couldn’t justify it, right, I just kept thinking, how can I? It’s very hard, especially when finances are an issue. I definitely have had moments of, what am I doing? So yeah, it’s tricky you know. How can I put the money into that when I need the money for this?

What is your relationship to the materials you mend that are not commission based?

If I look at my work from the angle of sustainability, the textile crisis and waste crisis, we’re seeing we have so much to do. I find sustainability essential in terms of my values, but also, why go spend money on materials we can find? You know, Memphis is just great. Buy nothing– you just drive around and you’ll find it. But there’s also a deeper part of it; I feel connected to these things. There’s this challenging part of mending that I love, trying to figure it out and so that even though it’s not a textile, I can stitch it like that. So that idea of returning something to its original use I really love. Or maybe even a different use. Yeah, an alternative. I feel like there’s a little humor involved and some of it’s not for everyone. It’s the idea of thinking, what can we do outside of what we can do with this material on its own. We can keep the things in use, whether it’s as news or as an art piece or, you know, just a piece to think about. I find that it’s a lifestyle choice. It feels so soothing and like a way to be.

You have an upcoming exhibition at Crosstown Arts, what are you hoping to get out of it?

Part of this exhibition is sort of now trying to look at all this work I’ve done for seven years or so, finding those common themes and trying to write about it more— to come and read about my work in other ways.

Learn more about Katrina’s work on her website Her solo exhibition ‘Mending in a State of Abundance’ opens at the West Gallery in Crosstown November 18, 2022 and runs through March 5, 2023. Follow her on Instagram @katrinaperdue.