Delia, along with her team—that she lovingly dubbed her “adopted aunts”—repaired thousands of garments every single year. Delia believed in repair. She saw the value in each piece of clothing that she touched, because it was a part of someone’s life. Delia didn’t just see a jacket. She saw a story. An adventure. A person.
If my phone were a person, it would be the Bionic Woman. Its body has been broken and rebuilt more times than I can count. Its brain has been modified, tinkered with, and improved. It is the phone that will not die—at least not if I have anything to say about it.
The thousands of stories our members have told us over the years only confirm, to us, just how powerful repair can be. It’s empowering, explorative, and restorative. In an effort to share more of those stories with you, we’re starting a new series of profiles on fixers on our YouTube channel. Our first profile is on Bonnie Brownstein—owner of Electronics Parts Supermart, a store she’s been operating for the past 35 years. This is her story.
My grandfather was typical of a generation haunted by the shadow of the Great Depression. Out of necessity, people like my grandfather eked every bit of usefulness from what little they had. They drove their cars into the ground, hitched them back together with baling wire, and kept driving for another 100,000 miles. They taught their children how to patch their tires and patch their jeans. So it makes sense that it’s people like my grandfather who are teaching the world how to repair again.
A group of young female students sit around a table, laughing and talking. But they’re not discussing school, boys, or music. Instead, they’re talking how to replace a dead hard drive, how to install a case fan, and how to salvage a water-damaged motherboard. This isn’t a new topic of conversation for the young women of St. Joseph’s Academy. These young women are computer repair experts—and they’ll run IT circles right around you.
Outside a grocery store in Zurich, Roland Roos is fixing a broken sign. The cracked sign that once said “Denner” now reads just “Denne.” Roland gets up on a ladder and replaces the cracked plate with a fixed one. An employee steps out of the store and nods approvingly: “Oh, finally there’s someone here to repair it! It’s about time.” But Roland doesn’t work for Denner. He isn’t a repairman, just an artist. He isn’t getting paid. He hasn’t even asked for permission to fix the sign—he just did it.
When something breaks, most people run through the usual gamut of emotions—disappointment, frustration, a feeling of helplessness. But over at the Fixers Collective in Brooklyn, they’re teaching people to approach broken stuff a little differently: with curiosity. For the master techs that make up the Fixers Collective, repair is the new Rubik’s Cube. It’s a puzzle that must be teased out by trial and error—a Sherlockian game of wits that pits man against machine. Can you outsmart entropy?
About 20 years ago, the mom-and-pop repair shops that used to be a staple of every community started to disappear—shunted out of business by an onslaught of goods designed to be cheap and disposable. And as repair shops disappeared, so did the possibility of repair for people without the skill or time to fix things on their own. So NYC residents Sandra Goldmark and Michael Banta started Pop-up Repair—and now they are filling the holes in our neighborhoods where repair shops used to be.
Here at the iFixit offices, most of us Reddit… hard. And while the “front page of the internet” is great for aww-some animal gifs, it can be a good resource for other things, too. There are around 70 million users on Reddit every month, and they can teach you how to make, build, hack, and fix just about anything—you just have to know which subreddits to look in.
Since I announced to the world that I’m a Female Fixoholic back in September, my inbox has been pretty full. Apparently, people think I’m a repair expert. I don’t know how to fix everything, but I don’t think that makes or breaks me as a fixoholic. I’m a fixoholic because I learned not be afraid of fixing. I’m a fixoholic because—even when I fail—I’m not afraid to try, try again. Judging by the anxious emails in my inbox, I think that lack of fear is something most people, well, lack.
The more people that repair their garments, the bigger the impact will be. Fixing must become a global initiative. Everyone should have the resources to repair every thing—including clothing. That’s why Patagonia is partnering with us, iFixit, to publish an open source repair manual for Patagonia garments. That information is free, and online right now.
I knew little about the “Maker” movement when I first stepped into the World Maker Faire in New York last month. It felt kinda like going to Disneyland and not knowing about Mickey Mouse. From the first moment I walked into this celebration of creative tinkering, I was awed and overwhelmed by wandering robots, a life sized game of mousetrap, and machines I couldn’t even begin to describe or comprehend. Suddenly, I spied a banner that read: “Zero to Maker.” I knew where I needed to start.