Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking to a traditional quilter about screen printing fabric. She wants to start making art quilts and was asking me about the class I'm teaching at the Northville Art House in a few weeks.
She asked if she could see some samples and luckily I had some with me. So I pulled out several pieces of hand printed fabric (what? You don't carry art cloth around with you?) and she set to work examining them.
I watched as her face moved between fascination and then the scrutiny took hold, then a somewhat worried look. I asked her what she was thinking and she waved her hand, telling me nothing. I already knew what was going through her mind, it wasn't the first time I'd witnessed The Look from traditional quilters, so I pressed her to tell me what she was thinking.
She looked thoughtful and then nicely said, "There are some mistakes." The sentence was full of apology and I asked her to point out to me all the areas that she thought were mistakes and sure enough, she singled out a tiny paint smudge, an edge of an image that wasn't perfectly crisp, a repeat print that was a little crooked.
We had a nice discussion about imperfect printing. I wasn't offended but I'm noticing that a lot of people equate perfection with skill or quality of work. I have a very different view point when it comes to this topic. Its not a defensive one but one that I feel bears voicing.
I take great pride in my work. I do my very best to make it as good as it can be and believe me, I have pretty picky standards. But perfect? Perfect isn't possible and its not something I'm willing to torture myself into finding.
I print my own fabric because I want those imperfections that add character and charm. That doesn't mean that I give no consideration to design or print sloppy or release myself from doing quality work. What it means is that if one of those imperfect areas appears, I embrace it as part of the process and continue on.
The quest for perfection is often a crippling one. I'm not willing to go there. Much of my art cloth gets cut up and reassembled into different forms and more often then not, I find myself drawn to the areas that are just a little bit crooked or smudged. For me, there is great beauty in it.
Perfection is not the point of creating art cloth. Having a role in my work from beginning to end is. And that's why I do it.
So let your hair down and embrace the less then perfect print, don't turn your nose up at it or discount it as a mistake and wasted effort. I'm not perfect, I have many flaws yet the people in my life have found good reason to keep me around for a lot of years.
Enjoy the process and see what happens when you relax and let things just flow. You may find yourself falling in love with that little smudge.