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    colorful patches of material

    Covering the Cover: Repair

    A darning sampler illustrates the care-filled work of repair.

    By Rosalind Stevenson

    December 2, 2023

    The theme of repair is a wide-ranging one, and lends itself to myriad of practical illustrations. We employed many visual metaphors in our initial round of designs, such as the repair of clocks, watches, and cars; the reclamation of old churches and art; and the mending of fishing nets, clothing, and musical instruments, to name a few. When it came time to narrow down our choices, we settled on three front-runners: a darning sampler from nineteenth-century Germany, a simple oil painting of a wrench, and a watercolor scene of boats in for repair on a dry dock.

    three Plough Quarterly cover options

    As we have done for past issues, we posted these three covers to social media, asking for input from our readers, and were not disappointed – there were many thoughtful and helpful responses to the various designs. It’s worth quoting just a few of them here:

    “All were beautiful. The first appeared to me as prayer rings until reading the title of “patches.” The boats and drydock repair seemed an eloquent statement of being out of one’s element for repair but bound for return, better able to navigate the world. The simple, rusty wrench showing its signs of age, the ability to adjust, the strength of steel, and the lever for change was the standout for me.”

    “Patches! So many great textile metaphors woven within.”

    “Boats!!! In for repairs but soon back on the high seas of the waters of His mercy.”

    “All are beautiful but the wrench captures both the beauty and the challenging grit of ‘repair’ to me.”

    “Boats has it all – water, work, sky, hope. Go for Boats.”

    “They are all three so wonderful, but I like Patches the best. The warmth and comfort seem necessary in the cold dark of winter. It's like a balm for my heart.”

    “I will choose a crescent wrench every time, almost no matter the question.”

    “Patches – unexpected and eye-catching. Implies a more intricate and thoughtful repair process.”

    “Patches – I like how it speaks to the stitching together of breaks and rips versus ‘wrenching’ something into place. The wrench is gorgeous, artistically, but I think we need the mending and stitching and fixing of the weave more than the twisting or tightening action implied by a wrench.”

    The darning sampler won the final vote both online and among our staff as the most beautiful and articulate illustration of the work of repair: sometimes simple, sometimes complex, always requiring care. We weren’t able to obtain permission for the wrench artwork, but you’ll see the watercolor painting of boat repair featured inside the front cover. Look for more from the same artist, Joseph Zbukvic, within the issue.

    painting of men fixing boats

    Joseph Zbukvic, Boat Repairs, Plein air watercolor painting on handmade paper, 2010. Used by permission.

    Contributed By RosalindStevenson2 Rosalind Stevenson

    Rosalind Stevenson is the magazine designer for Plough. She lives at Fox Hill Bruderhof in Walden, New York.

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