mending as a response to a disposable culture (and how to apply it to your classroom) 

episode 53

Rebecca Harrison & Sarah Pottle

a conversation co-created by

Today Rebecca Harrison joins the pod!!!

I asked Rebecca to be on our podcast because as someone whose profession is mending, I was curious what we could learn from this practice about regenerative futures.

This interview really crosses my two main roles in my work, which I view broadly as creatively connecting people, planet and ideas to bring about a more regenerative future. One of those roles, is the one you’re most familiar with as the co-founder of Grounded Teaching where we’re thinking about how we can reimagine the educational system to be more like an ecosystem and less like an industry, but the other one which I mention occasionally on here is as the co-founder of the Rust Belt Fibershed, a regional non-profit here that works towards a regenerative, circular economy around fashion and textiles.

I spend about an equal amount of time working on both. Sometimes people will say to me, you work with teachers and you also work with fashion– that seems like two totally separate things. And, in the modern, western viewpoint of how we’ve set up and siloed everything, they’re right.

But, today is a good example of how I see the connection point between all the things we do, but specifically between two of the things I spend most of my time thinking about: regenerative clothing systems that can replace fast fashion and help heal our culture, and reimagining the education system to be built not on the foundation or model of industry, but as a living ecosystem.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed that you might be unsure of what you’re going to get when you listen to Regenerative Ed. Some people might tell me that’s the wrong approach for, you know, marketing a podcast, but I love it. I love talking to educational professionals on this podcast so we can dig into the nitty gritty of school, people who are IN IT every day and doing such important work from the inside: like two episodes ago with school leader, founder, teacher Rachel Balkcom about place-embedded education or last summer with Finn Menzies about queering education or even anytime I casually chat with co-founder and twin sister Jess, who’s a high school English teacher. These are changemakers who are working on the inside, as I just saw Layla Saad say on instagram, and I thought that was inspiring.

I also love chatting with folks who are somewhere in-between, one foot in the classroom and one out like my interview with former-professor and author Ruth Ann Smalley or survival skills teacher & entrepreneur, Ian Sanderson.

I love doing solo shows sometimes where its a way to organize my thoughts and teaching on a certain topic– like the 8-episode series of patterns in living systems series I did last year around this time, or episode 53 that talks about slow fashion and slow schooling, which, by the way, has to do a little bit with what I’m talking about today.

Finally, I love talking to people to get ideas for reimagining education who are not and have never been traditional educators: maybe they’re a farmer, like my interview with Emily Pek, or a midwife, like my interview with Christine Casella, or someone who has made their life’s work out of mending other people’s clothing that’s destined for the landfill– like my chat today with Rabecca Harrison.

We talk so much about what education can do or should do is make connections, not feed facts.
So, while I think that some people might see this podcast or the non-educator podcasts as as something that doesn’t have anything to do with education, I’m challenging you to consider the connections as we chat.

I was talking to IRebecca Harrison about coming on the pod like this, these outside education are sort of a two-for: everyone wears clothes, everyone has the experience of clothing they love getting a hole or a stain. So, this content is for everyone, even teachers! But, also, perhaps, we can look at the act of mending, too, as a way of thinking about a future built on an economy of care. One where we aren’t just discarding things that pile up elsewhere. One where we’re attuning and taking the time to heal things, literally & physically in the case of mending garments but also what that practice means for us in the grander scheme of life.

If you’re having trouble thinking through what mending can teach us about reimagining our learning spaces, stay tuned for after the interview where I’ll share my thinking in a four-point structure I often use with folks I work with 1-1 or in some of our workshops.

Now, let me properly introduce Rebecca Harrison!

Rebecca is the co-creator of Old Flame Mending Company in Pittsburgh PA, and the person who is currently at the helm of the sewing operation, which employs 7 contract sewists. They do clothing repair, mending, and alterations. They’re who you turn to when you rip your absolute most favorite pair of jeans that fit you like a glove, instead of the landfill.

Off recording, Rebecca and I were chatting a lot about her team which she describes like a dream team full of some of the most talented sewists in Pittsburgh, and I was struck by the power of community. You’ll hear us chat about some of the logistics of mending– where to start personally or in a classroom, the importance behind the story of the clothing, how little is beyond repair and almost nothing is beyond repurposing, how mending is for everyone, not just people who have expensive clothing, and so much more.

I have tremendous respect for Rebecca and what I’ve watched her build as a part of our fibershed since pre-pandemic. It is inspiring to see the growth of Old Flame Mending and also the culture at large, who, and it might just be my circles, but folks are starting to embrace this as a little protest to fast fashion and disposable culture.

Maybe it will inspire you to embroider a little heart on your shirt over a coffee stain, or maybe it will inspire you to teach mending in your learning spaces. Maybe it does none of that, really, but gets us all thinking a little more deeply about the work that’s happening out there in the world to find a way forward– a way that is filled with more healing. A way where we don’t just discard things that– at first glance–might seem to not be of use to us anymore. A way to flex our own creativity, our own voice, our own sense of style even. Maybe you can see mending as a way forward in a world where we’re sick of standardization and we want our own thing.

Stay tuned afterwards for some questions and thinking about learning space application, but now, I bring you with great pride for our fibershed, expert mender and so much more: Rebecca Harrison.

Oh! And one more thing– you have the power, right now, right as you’re listening this, to make a stand for a less disposable future and it will only take you 45 seconds without having to give any personal information away– vote for Rebecca and Old Flame Mending Company to win this small biz grant. The link is in the show notes. Bonus– when you go to the link you see a whole slew of amazing visible mending designs they’ve done. You’ll be floored, just check it out. It takes less than 45 seconds and is a vote that you’re putting out into the universe for a future based on care. Deadline is March 8 so do it now!

Rebecca Harrison, owner of Old Flame Mending Co. in Pittshburgh, Pennsylvania.

Old Flame Mending is a sewing service that helps you keep your clothing in your wardrobe and out of the landfill through clothing repair, tailoring + alterations, and custom work. Located in Pittsburgh, this crew of 7 sewists takes mail-in mending orders from anywhere in the US, as well as garments and home textiles at their brick and mortar shop. At Old Flame Mending, "We'll fix anything but a broken heart."

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VOTE for Old Flame Mending Here! (and view their website!)

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