By Craig Hastings
I stumbled onto a show two weeks ago that I believe is new and I was hooked. The name of the show is “The Repair Shop” and it’s filmed in Great Britain. The business is located in the rural countryside of Chichester. The business is located in what appears to be a refurbished barn of some sorts with a couple of outbuildings close by. There are cows grazing in the background and the fields surrounding it all appear to be green and manicured. The wide angle pictures of the property are beautiful. Many of you, of my generation and older, will look at the setting as I do and say to yourself, “I want to live there…right now” Inside the shop and outside the shop take me back to a much simpler time in history. This same location might be one that could also be found here in rural America. I’m a fan now and to think I was channel surfing when I happened across the show. Had I not been bored out of my mind one night I might not have even paused on it.
So what’s so special about “The Repair Shop” to me? Inside the barn are a handful of very simple and ordinary craftsmen and craftswomen. These people are incredible restorers of anything old. They smile, they laugh, and they communicate with one another like they have been lifelong friends. There has been zero drama inside the shop since I’ve been watching and for me this is such a welcome non-event in television series broadcasts today. These people appear to be so ordinary, so like me, how couldn’t you not be drawn in. When you get the chance to see their work stations, those too are from a distant time and place compared to what you might see in restoration businesses today. Each one of the restoration artists have their own specialty craft. Not that they won’t share different repair duties on one particular project, because they do. And when they do assist one another they work in well coordinated efforts and all the while, friendly and smiling.
You don’t have to be interested in antiques to enjoy the show. I’m not an antique study myself. It’s the stories, the history, and the human emotions connected to the pieces that intrigues me and I think it would you too. I’ve caught myself tearing up a couple of times when the owners show up to reclaim their property and they emotionally break down at the reveals. Wait, did I just say that I might have cried? Let me change that to “watery eyes”. (cried like a baby) Oh well, so I said it and I blame it on my age. Of course I wouldn’t have teared up over the repair of some dumb cloth lamb with one eye, no body, four legs but three feet, dirty face, etc., needing restored twenty years ago, right? You believe me? Good, let’s move on.
The pieces brought to The Repair Shop are so interesting to me. Some of the pieces brought in are things I didn’t even know existed. The first thing you will see are the people or person walking up to the front sliding barn door and a brief narrative is being orated in the background of why they have come. Inside there will be a table set up and the show’s repair coordinator, Jay Blades, and the craftsperson best suited to lead the repair of the particular piece will meet with the owner(s) of the piece. All will discuss what needs to be restored and how much of the piece might be left with its original patina. Many pieces will only have the working parts repaired and everything else will be left as has been damaged by many generations of the same family before. Up until this show I was one that would have probably have had something of interest to me completely restored or not at all. Not now. I now better understand the importance of leaving the finishes of some things as is regardless of how scratched and dented they might appear. Listening to the owners tell of how some of the damage had occurred fifty, seventy-five, even a hundred years ago, makes me absolutely agree with their thoughts. It tells the history of the piece The craftspeople seem to favor leaving patina more times than not themselves.
Being someone that likes to break things apart to see and understand how they work, I find myself guessing how each restorer will proceed with the repairs needed. Even though I know nothing about how to repair a hundred year old doll, I’m totally focused on every stage of the repairs. I want to learn even if I’ll never do it. One hundred and twenty-five year old vase, three foot tall, a foot in diameter, broken in a dozen pieces? I’m all in even though I care nothing about the vase itself. There are so many different aspects of interest covered in this show series you just have to give it a watch. The piece, the repair, the history, the emotions, the craftsmen, craftswomen, the setting of the show, the blend of the mix is of incredible interest to me and just maybe it would be for you too. There’s a history lesson in the show for everyone whether you care for the rest of the show or not. It’s calming, relaxing, and time traveling back to a better time of this world for me.