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.

8 comments:

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
www.modernartquilter.com

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.