25 September 2010

loving the imperfect print

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.


Leann said...

This is why I make my own rubber stamps. I hate the perfection of manufactured things.

amanda said...

i hear you on this.

i think the same holds true for most handwork. i find i appreciate the rough edges and evidence of one's hand more and more. it reveals a lot of personality.

Gerrie said...

Yes!! Yes!!

elle said...

Hi Lynn. I've decided to lurk no longer. ;) Perfection can also mean mature. A perfectly mature kindergartener is very different from a perfectly mature high school graduate. I agree. Set your standard perfectly high but linger to touch the marks that the hand makes and enjoy the serendipites of the process. They reveal the hand of the maker. PS: I luv where your feet stand!

maggi said...

It is these small imperfections that make a piece truly individual.

Lisa said...

"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"

Right on sister!

Lisa L. Kay

Quilt or Dye said...

Yes, quilters have been taught for years that stitches have to be just so long--not longer or shorter; all points must touch the border of the block--not longer or shorter; if any block dares to be a slightly different size-trim it or throw it away. ***heavy sigh*** They kinda miss the whole personality of a piece, don't you think?

Oma's Patch said...

I find more often then not that something that looks perfect on the outside is usually broken underneath. You can buy a blanket from the store that looks like a perfect quilt, but not only is there no love put into the stitches, it will not hold up as well as one handmade with love.