In Pursuit of Perfection

Many of us are obsessed with trying to achieve perfection. Believe me, I'm right there with you. I used to do a lot of cross stitch in the 1990s. I was working on a birth announcement pattern and something annoyed me about it. I had finished it but deemed it unacceptable to present to my new beautiful niece. I threw it in a drawer, and, overtime, I completely forgot about it. I recently moved from one location in Grand Junction to another, and low and behold, I ran across that project. I looked at it with the intention of finding whatever it was that had annoyed me so much to have actually thrown it away. I couldn't find it. The piece was beautiful and still contained all the love for my niece that I had stitched into it. I kick myself to think that because I didn't think it was perfect enough that I denied sharing this gift of love with my niece. If I ever unearth it again, I think I will frame it and give it to her to enjoy now. 

This is the extent to which my pursuit of perfection had reached. I have softened over time. Or maybe I have just gotten better at what I call the "Grand Cover Up," the "embellishments" I use to cover up whatever the imperfection. I still do a great deal of unsewing, but I have been known, from time-to-time, to just let it go, thinking that if I found this item in a drawer years later, would I be able to detect the error as I was unable to do with the cross stitch project?

The Japanese have an artform called Kintsugi. It is the art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with a gold filling. It is built on the idea that by embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create something even stronger and more beautiful. They take this idea further and apply it to life saying: "Kintsugi reveals how to heal and shows you that you are better with your golden cracks."

The Bible, too, has a passage in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 in which Paul, in part, says: "Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Maybe a reason for this unrelenting pursuit of perfection of my art is because I cannot achieve it in my life. I am filled with flaws and cracks and unhealed wounds. But as with my art, I must realize that there is beauty and value and purpose in those flaws and cracks and imperfections. It is those flaws, cracks, and wounds that have formed who I am and made me stronger. Can we also apply this to our art and embrace those imperfections and/or those things that we do to cover up our errors? Sometimes we come across a great new design element that we never would have found otherwise. 

Artists of other cultures embrace imperfections and deliberately introduce flaws into their works to remind themselves that flaws are an integral part of being human.

Several Native American tribes introduce purposeful imperfections. They have different intentions and meanings according to the tribe and the craft, but they all believe the flaw to be important and necessary. The intentional error as an expression of humility is considered a way to honor the Great Spirit and to acknowledge being human.

In Navajo culture, rug weavers would leave little imperfections along the borders in the shape of a line called ch'ihónít'i, which is translated into English as "spirit line" or "spirit pathway." The Navajos believe that when weaving a rug, the weaver entwines part of her being into the cloth. The spirit line allows this trapped part of the weaver's spirit to safely exit the rug.

While in our pursuit of perfection, let us not lose sight of, and maybe even embrace, the idea that imperfection is what makes us human. Our flaws can add beauty and character that a perfect piece would be without.  

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