About Design Dialogues
Section 2: Vignettes
Golden Joinery: On Imperfect Beauty
There’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.
Golden Joinery is a non-commercial, collaboratively-developed clothing brand, the outcome of a series of workshops conducted under the same name by the Dutch fashion collective Painted. 1 Started in 2006 by fashion designer Saskia van Drimmelen, embroidery artist Desiree Hammen, fashion student Jarwo Gibson and myself (a theater director by training), Painted works together with masters in nearly-forgotten crafts like needlepoint lace from Bulgaria and the complex beadwork of the Assiniboine tribe of North America. In addition to preserving old craft techniques, Painted explores new and alternative ways of making, presenting and distributing fashion. We seek to develop a praxis that enables people to (re)connect with their natural physical capabilities, and to (re)use everything that is present and given, materials as well as skills and talents.
We seek to develop a praxis that enables people to (re)connect with their natural physical capabilities, and to (re)use everything that is present and given, materials as well as skills and talents.
In the Golden Joinery workshops, for example, we invite participants to repair their beloved but damaged clothing items with golden thread. The garments emerge with unique, beautiful golden “scars” at the points of repair. “Golden Joinery” translates the term for the 15th-century Japanese repair technique kintsugi, by which broken pottery was fixed with molten gold. Not only could the repaired pottery continue to be used, but its aesthetic value was often actually enhanced by the repair work. Our practice takes its initial inspiration from the kind of imperfect beauty exemplified by the kintsugi technique, reinterpreting it in the context of contemporary fashion.
At the workshops, in addition to showing examples of previous Golden Joineries, we offer instruction in old and new methods of repair. Some participants want to learn specific techniques; others wish to liberate their imaginations, often developing elaborate, jewel-like repairs in the process (SEE FIGURES 1-7, 11).
Adding a second, “new” layer to a garment puts into question the monopoly of fashion labels over the parameters of personal style, calling out the expressive capacity of end users and giving them an empowering sense of their own creativity.
We have developed not only an increasing number of Golden Joinery garments that can inspire workshop participants, but also a scenario for conducting the workshops themselves. We use a series of “invitations,” as we call the various prompts and suggestions we deploy to move ourselves and our fellow creators. The ensuing interactions, spontaneous and playful, imbue the workshops with their own rhythm and lightness. Spending a few hours in a Golden Joinery workshop affords an opportunity to slow down and give attention to something the participant treasures—an opportunity otherwise rarely found in modern life. All participants highly value the atmosphere of relaxed focus that characterizes the Golden Joinery gatherings (SEE FIGURES 8-10).
In part, Golden Joinery evokes the question, What’s new? Adding a second, “new” layer to a garment puts into question the monopoly of fashion labels over the parameters of personal style, calling out the expressive capacity of end users and giving them an empowering sense of their own creativity. The question of newness is of course fundamental to fashion as such, but it need not be driven exclusively by commercial considerations. Indeed, Golden Joinery demonstrates the potential for an informal, non-commercial collective to start and develop a “brand” collaboratively. The future of the brand is literally in everyone’s hands.