Stories of broken treasures at the Repair Cafe

On Saturday, at the Repair Cafe held at Okanagan College, however, her most memorable piece of work took on more of a Japanese style.

  • Nov. 10, 2015 10:00 a.m.

Sarah Norrlund has repaired  pottery dating back to the 1750s, and priceless pieces from the Ming Dynasty.

When she’s at the top of her game as a conservator of fine porcelain and ceramic, nobody can see evidence of her hand at work.

On Saturday, at the Repair Cafe held at Okanagan College, however, her most memorable piece of work took on more of a Japanese feel.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The  philosophy behind it is that breakage and repair are a part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

So, when Norrlund used cellotape to wrap up a broken hummel figure brought in by a Kelowna woman, there were clear comparisons to be made.

“It was (the woman’s mother’s) and her husband broke it,” said Norrlund. “When I put it all back together, it was missing half a head and a staircase. So, I couldn’t do much more than give it back to her.”

The woman told Norrlund she appreciate the piece, nonetheless. Now, the wonky hummel figurine, which will forever be wrapped in cellotape like a wee ceramic mummy, has even more of a story to tell.

And stories, are so much of what Norrlund does.

“People will bring you their broken dreams and I get to build them back up,” she said. “I’ve brought a lot of people happiness in this job.”

She wasn’t the only person restoring dreams that day.

The Repair Cafe gathered fixers of various kinds to breathe life into more than 100 chipped, broken and dilapidated items.

Rae Stewart, waste reduction officer of the Regional District, said that the third incarnation of the event that had its start in the Netherlands was a clear success.

“We want to get people to recycle and repurpose their things to keep them out of the landfill,” she said. “The older generation is expert at it.”

She believes that planned obsolescence is what’s made the younger generation a little less savvy when it comes to stretching the life out of their belongings.

That concept is usually applied to electronics, which tend to die out just in time for a company to launch a new generation of product on the market, but she said it’s the case for all things.

Regardless of shoddy workmanship, she still has hope that people will start holding onto their goods longer.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” she said.

This local event is part of a growing international network, and a celebration of the great things that can be done when   skills, knowledge and resources are pooled.

If you have something you‘re looking to have repaired, refurbished, revamped or renewed, keep an eye out for the next Repair Café. For more information visit or call the Regional Waste Reduction Office at 250.469.6250.

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