What kind of items do you fix?
Jewellery and sometimes eyeglasses and watches. Miscellaneous jobs like gluing china or small jobs with metal.
When did you first start volunteering with Repair Café Toronto?
Retired Ontario civil servant – Government accountability and risk management
Toronto Reference Library. It is big, has lots of light and lots of space for people to sit. It also has a Balzac’s Coffee. I like all of the locations, the libraries especially. They have a lot of people flowing in and out.
When the great cellist Pablo Casals was 81, someone filming him asked why, at his age, he still practiced four to five hours a day. Casals answered: “Because I think I am making progress.”
Why did you start getting interested in repairing things?
I started making pieces of jewellery and learned enough by making complex pieces to know how (and whether) to fix them myself.
My Mother had broken items in her jewellery box. She would sigh and say “it’s broken” put it away and close the box. I liked the feeling of getting people wearing lovely things again, because jewellery is easy to break but very satisfying to fix.
Knowing what to do as well as what not to do is important. I was cautious but often enough I could do something to fix it. Once you’ve had a success like that people are very happy.
How did you learn your skills?
I learned from making jewellery. I learned lots about glue, I need to learn more about glue though, what to use, what not to use.
I am now taking silversmithing to understand more about metals.
What does it mean to you to volunteer at Repair Café Toronto?
The people who come into the Repair Café really want to wear the things they bring in. I get tons of hardware or “findings” as they call them. It feels so good to give it away and teach customers how to do it, so they can have the satisfaction of doing it themselves. At one point at the Reference library we had three customers working on their own stuff.
What is the most memorable item you have fixed?
A lady came in with 26 silver necklaces. She was small and nicely dressed with scarves up to her neck and a silk blouse. She asked me if I could fix her necklaces. I couldn’t see anything, but then she unwrapped her scarves. She had 26 silver necklaces on that looked like a thick garland. She told me she wore them for her health. Eight of them were broken in different ways and two of them needed a silversmith.
I was able to repair six on the spot; for the other two, I explained how to do the repairs and where to find a person. She walked out with most of the necklaces in good shape and 2 needing more work. I told her she really should polish the necklaces, as when silver gets very black you start losing metal. After I polished the necklaces for her she said, “I like the effect, it looks good.
Why should people get involved with Repair Café Toronto?
It’s important to put things to use. Jewellery gives people great pleasure. It’s not essential to life, but people love it and have a strong emotional attachment to it.
When jewellery is broken people feel unhappy every time they see it. Some of the repairs are quite simple.
Where you see Repair Café Toronto in five years?
I’d like to see more groups having Repair Cafés. If people knew in advance there was going to be a Repair Café more often and in their neighbourhood they’d be more likely to go. I’d like to see more people knowing and being taught how to do their own jewellery repairs.