Monday, September 19, 2011

Margin of Errors

Recently I tool a quilt into an art dealer who absolutely loved it – thought it was beautiful, wanted to hang it in her gallery.   I was so excited - until she spent the next five minutes pointing out its flaws!  I don’t blame her – she was absolutely correct, and luckily I was able to really make the piece a lot better for her input, but I admit I walked away feeling a little bruised – it’s not like I didn’t try to get it right!   I actually aspire to absolute perfection in my work – not very Amish of me, I guess. 
You see, the Amish always deliberately leave a flaw in their quilts - or so I’ve heard.  They do this because, they say, only God is perfect and it would be wrong to try to be God.  This really works for me - only luckily, I don’t have to purposefully do anything in any of my work – flaws just happen. (I wonder if this makes me holier than thou?!) 
Admittedly in the past, I have been in a great hurry whenever I was quilting, trying to fit it in between my life.  The rushing to get finished often led to lots of errors and much frustration and yes, cursing that would make a sailor blush. I wanted my work to be perfect, but I also wanted it to be completed, and time (and my patience) were rather limited.  So I was never completely satisfied.  Now that I have a different, more “zen” view, I no longer feel such a need to hurry and get finished, which I really do believe enhances my creativity.   I know it increases my enjoyment (not to mention my family’s peace) and makes my finished products better…except for the blasted flaws.  There are still always, always, flaws in my work.  No matter how slowly I go, no matter how careful I think I am being. 
Part of it is my own fault; my ideas are often far beyond my skill level – I almost wish I wouldn’t think of some things, because then I have to try them, and often I really, really don’t know how the hell I am going to make them work! (All I can say is thank God for people who share their own discoveries and techniques in books and on the internet – if I ever make any of my own, I promise to share, too!)  I also think might have a slight fine-motor coordination problem because no matter how hard I try to sew something perfectly straight, it never comes out that way.  But whatever excuses I can conjure (and I’m sure they are numerous – I have a great imagination) the fact remains that I still want my stuff to be flawless.  It just never is.
So is it even possible to create something perfect?  I don’t know.  I sure see a lot of things that I think are perfect.  My mother’s friend Karen seems to produce quilt after quilt with no discernable flaws – not very Amish of her!  I’ve asked her how she does it but alas, she cannot tell me her secret – she claims that they are indeed flawed.  Okay, but I sure don’t see any.  Apparently even Michelangelo wasn’t completely pleased with his statue of David – says it’s out of proportion or something – I can’t say I agree with him either, but the point is, maybe perfection is actually unattainable.  So do we quit striving for it?  Nah – I don’t think so.  
            But we do have to keep it all in perspective.   I don’t think that we should see our creations through rose-colored glasses – it’s good to look at them critically, as others may.  It’s a good thing for me – it keeps me striving, alert, challenged, engaged.    However, the new, calm-ish me strives to undo, re-cut, tear out, even start over, to take my time, and what’s more, to do it joyfully!  I figure it’s good practice for being accepting of the moment – the less I curse or sigh heavily, the better I’m doing! Not to set the bar too high, eye rolling is permissible, but if I can ever get to the point where I can do it without a single grimace or twinge of frustration, I’ll know I’m making serious progress.
           The goal is the perfect(!) balance between pursuit of perfection and knowing when to let go – not too soon, but not to the point where I have apopleptic fits over a few stitches that truly don’t make a difference at all – for me, at least, a fine line indeed!  And no, I’m not deluded that I will actually ever arrive at that final, flawless destination, but I shall still endeavor to board the train, at least - the journey is the thing, after all.  We’ll just see where it takes me…