Photo by Santiago Amaya
Mending- Reparat Millor
In an age of fast-changing technology, shops that sell everything for a euro and clothes that cost less than your morning croissant and cortado, it hardly seems worth the bother of getting anything fixed, darned or fiddled about with anymore. But here in Barcelona, the city is full of tiny hidden shops that repair everything from toasters and tights to antique furniture and cutlery, while there are organisations that will help you do the fixing yourself, all of which can help save money and more besides.
For those interested in upping tools themselves, Reparat Millor que Nou is a city council initiative that aims to increase the life expectancy of the objects people buy and thus reduce the amount of rubbish Barcelona produces. Started in May 2009 under the auspices of Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona’s environment department and located in Floridablanca, the project has thrived (more than 1,300 people visit every month) and is scheduled to move to a new, bigger location with more services on offer. Professionals, tools and, perhaps most importantly, space are available each day to enable you to take along furniture, electronic goods and computer equipment to repair yourself on-site, while they also run free workshops and courses in DIY, carpentry, electronics, sewing and bike repairs, as well as special events aimed at children.
CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES
Barcelona was a vastly different place when Comercial de Guarnicionería SLU first opened for business in 1910. Back then, horses still clip-clopped their way along the city’s streets and Comercial de Guarnicionería SLU had clients queuing up to have their saddles, whips and stirrups repaired. A century on and times may have changed, but the customers still come: boat-owners in need of bits and pieces, housewives looking for a few eyelets to fix a shower curtain and dog owners with broken leads. Although they specialise in fixing riding and hunting equipment, the staff at this cavernous, dark shop fix just about anything made from leather, apart from clothes. Belts, bags, wallets and old suitcases can all get a make-over here.
However, if it’s a leather jacket you need to spruce up, Barcelona is bursting at the seams with places that can help you. Tailors and seamstresses work with all fabrics—including leather—and will hem your trousers, take in your tops and sew on your buttons in a matter of hours. While chains like La Yaya Costurera have branches across the city for this kind of arreglo, there are other, smaller enterprises offering a more personal touch. For example, Arreglista, the company of Argentine Natalia Jerkovic: although she works with fashion designers on their collections and can create wedding and party dresses, Jerkovic and her team also do alterations big and small to clothes of all sorts, with prices starting at just €5. Once the work is done, providing you live in Barcelona and don’t need to try it on again, Arreglista will deliver the mended item straight to your flat.
Every time Apple launch a new all-singing, all-dancing Mac or Microsoft update their operating system, Barcelona’s Entitat del Medi Ambient must groan with displeasure. The modern world’s obsession with the new and the shiny means a mountain of work for those who have to deal with disposing of our rubbish, and electronic waste is a particular headache.
George Cowdery has been fixing Barcelona’s Apple Macs for the last 16 years. On-trend Mac users might currently be lusting after the new iPad 2 but, according to Cowdery, they’d do just as well to shake the dust off their old computer and give it a make-over. “A brand new iMac will set you back around €1,200 but the old G5s are great,” he said. “If you replace the hard drive and update the system you can effectively have a new computer for just over €100.” G4s and other older models might not have the processing power you need to watch films smoothly but you can still use them to surf the net, do your homework or check your email.
Many of Cowdery’s clients still go out and buy the latest model but refurbish the old one so they have a decent back-up if things go wrong. Cowdery himself, meanwhile, is a popular man amongst his neighbours. “I give away my old computers to friends or the neighbours’ kids— there’s always someone who can make use of them,” he said.
While we might not all be fortunate enough to own a Mac, it’s safe to say that the large majority of us have a camera of some kind kicking around at home. Improvements in digital technology have made it increasingly cheap to buy a quality machine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that if your current camera conks out, you can afford to simply replace it.
At Casanova Fotografia on Ronda Universitat, you can have all manner of camera-related paraphernalia sorted out, including lenses, flashes and projectors. Costs vary significantly, depending on the make of camera: fixing a lens can cost anywhere between €60 and €300, while getting electronic problems seen to might set you back between €100 and €300. According to salesperson Nazaret Garcia, the crisis has seen more people bringing in their cameras to be repaired. However, “it depends on the cost. If the repairs cost more than €100, people usually buy a new camera,” she added.
HOME AND HOBBIES
While most people are likely to suffer from rather humdrum household woes like a leaky washing machine or a noisy fridge, a lucky few need to call in the artisans when things go wrong. Should you unearth a crime against flooring by discovering a beautiful but unloved Modernista tile floor under the parquet or need a much-loved piece of jewellery restored, Montserrat Herrán Herrán is the woman to call.
Based at Montserrat Per l’Art in Gràcia, this family business (started by Herrán’s great-great-grandfather in 1848) work with everything from stained glass and porcelain to ceramics and tiles and they also run classes in art and restoration from the back of their shop.
They are now the only place in Barcelona that painstakingly reproduces Modernista tiles by hand. “It’s impossible to restore them as the tiles and pigments no longer exist,” explained Herrán, “so we take them up one by one and reproduce them.” It’s a time-consuming, meticulous and expensive job but the results are extraordinary: only an expert would be able to spot the difference.
Round the corner, Richard Da Silva is wielding a hammer at the GuitarHospital. In his workshop at the back of Guitarland, he’s fixing the neck of an acoustic belonging to semi-retired American session musician Ricky Araiza. The shop claims to make new friends rather than new clients, and it’s clear that these two are old mates. “The most common problem with guitars?” said Da Silva, throwing a playful grin at Araiza. “Definitely the owners.”
Da Silva can fix just about every kind of stringed instrument but he specialises in guitars. He has no truck with musicians who break them. “Musical instruments are a tool you can express your feelings with but it’s like karma: it gives back what you put in. Musicians that treat guitars badly always wind up dead—just look at Jimi Hendrix!”
A new guitar will set you back anything from €50 for the cheapest model to obscene sums for customised builds, while €200 will get you something decent to play with. However, dig out your battered old one and Da Silva can fix it up for around €50 by fitting new strings and giving everything a good tweak. Just be sure to not bring it in in two pieces or it won’t be just your guitar that winds up in hospital.
As all these fixers and restorers prove, recycling isn’t just about diligently rinsing out your yoghurt pots and separating your rubbish: reducing what you buy and finding ways to reuse what you already have is just as vital. It’s kinder to your wallet too. With the economy on its knees and landfill sites overflowing, there’s never been a better time to make do and mend.
Reparat Millor que Nou, Floridablanca 132. Tel. 93 424 2871. Open Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm and 4.30 to 9pm for you to do your repairs, with or without professional help. Workshops run throughout the week, including Saturday mornings; they last 2.5 hours and you have to sign up in advance either by calling or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. www.reparatmillorquenou.blogspot.com On the website www.millorquenou.cat, you’ll find a directory that offers details of places that you can take myriad items to be repaired including watches, umbrellas and sewing-machines.
Comercial de Guarnicionería SLU, Passeig Picasso 14. Tel. 93 319 6843. Mon to Fri: 8am to 3pm; Sat: 8am to 1pm.
La Yaya Costurera: www.layayacosturera.com. Customer services: Tel. 902 17 77 72.
Arreglista,Tel. 93 254 1098 or 607 707 864. By appointment only. www.tuarreglista.com
GeoMac, Tel. 606 308 932 or e-mail: email@example.com
Casanova Fotografia, Ronda Universitat 35; Pelai 18. Tel. 93 302 7363. www.casanovafoto.com
Montserrat Per L’Art, Torrent de l’Olla 5. Tel. 93 415 5638. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mon to Fri: 10.30am to1.30pm and 4.30 to 8pm; Sat: 11.30am to 6pm
Guitarland/Guitarhospital, Diluvi 6. Tel. 93 218 8677. Mon to Sat: 10am to 2pm, 5 to 8.30pm. www.guitarland-bcn.com