The heavenly repair shop

Catherine Masterman on what we can learn from The Repair Shop.

The Repair Shop, “the heartwarming antidote to throwaway culture” aired a special edition recently, showing that heritage crafts could be valued by all – whether from a council estate or a royal estate. Each episode features families bringing a treasured object to be restored by Jay’s team of experts.

However, it is not admiration of their skill, extraordinary though it is, that makes the show ‘heartwarming’. What really resonates strongly is the creativity with which the experts re-imagine the potential of the item in front of them, and then the care with which they restore it.

What stands out from their work is a deep sensitivity to the treasured status of the item and a strong desire to do it justice. And never once do they criticise the owners for allowing the item to get into the state it is in. But even the most abrasive action – using tough chemicals, or power tools – is undertaken with the utmost care and in a way that enables rather than damages its potential. Their success is attested in the reaction of the owners.  With overwhelming delight families exclaim at the way their treasure has taken a form that is true to its essence whilst in a state, perhaps better than they have ever seen.  

It is not just royalty that values this skill. The experts are in divine company. God as a craftsman, purifying and refining appears throughout the Bible. Recently, this image has been wonderfully brought to life in a haunting song by the talented singer-songwriter Philippa Hanna, New for Old. She sings of a man looking in an antique shop for something ‘he knows he can restore’ and the care and dedication he uses.

Our quest to follow where the heart of God is working will lead us all to the repair shop in some form. Whether for individuals, families, communities or economies, there is a vision of restoration to be striven for. And this not using a blueprint, or with a bulldozer, but viewing each situation with sensitivity, wisdom and non-judgement. There is a lot to learn from The Repair Shop.

As Hanna sings:

“He blows the dust up off the surface, traces each and every line
And with scarred and weathered fingers holds it up towards the light
He knows exactly what he has to do to bring it back to life.
Nothing’s worthless for the one who sees the gold.”

Catherine Masterman is the author of and works on international affairs in the civil service.

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