‘Mending lets you see things afresh’: Celia Pym, textile artist
Growing up in Kent in a house full of doers, menders and makers, the textile artist Celia Pym says, “Tool kits were readily available and there was a designated drawer for elastic bands and odd lengths of string that were saved for bodge fixes.” She learned to weave and knit as a child, a skill that later re-emerged when she was studying sculpture at Harvard University.
“I picked up knitting again when I was an undergraduate,” she recalls. “I used it as a way to help me get started in the studio in the morning – like a warm-up exercise. But then, I’d get to the end of the day and realise I’d spent my whole day knitting.” In her final year, she received a fellowship that enabled her to travel across Japan for nine months carrying her knitting with her in her backpack. Pym’s finished piece was exhibited at the Crafts Council in 2005. The curator was a tutor at the Royal College of Art who persuaded Pym to enrol on an MA in constructed textiles.
While she was studying, Pym’s great uncle, Roland, died. He was a painter who had lived with Celia in her childhood home along with her great-aunt, Elizabeth, who would become “a huge influence” on her making. When sorting through Roland’s belongings, Pym’s father found a chunky, hand-knitted sweater worn by Roland. “The clothes of people who have died are extremely compelling things,” says Pym. “They smell like the person; they’re the shape of the person and they are literally a sort of second skin that is left behind.”
Pym studied the cream sweater, which was riddled with holes. “I knew straight away that the holes in the forearms were caused by the way
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