Purposeful imperfection

A couple weeks ago, my friend Mary was visiting me, and she shared a cool anecdote from her family trip to Turkey.

They were touring a rug factory and learning about the traditional process of hand-weaving, when their guide mentioned that because the weavers tend to be Muslim, they believe that only Allah is perfect, and thus they purposely weave imperfections into each of their rugs, out of respect.

They intentionally mess up.

Now, in fairness, these imperfections are probably too minor to be noticed. But still!

This practice reminds me of the Japanese concept of kintsukuroi — or “fixing with gold” — even though they’re a bit different. One is about embracing imperfections; the other is about deliberately creating them. But both go beyond the idea of simply accepting flaws, and that’s fascinating to me, especially on a creative level.

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4 Comments

  1. I’ve known writers who were intent on achieving perfection, sometimes to the detriment of their work. It’s fine to work toward that destination, but you’d better be aware that you’ll never get there. If you build in the mistakes from the beginning, then you relieve yourself from having to worry about it.

    I’ve always written, but I got serious about it after being a musician, so at that point I was already very comfortable with mistakes. :-)

    Also, as always, I take inspiration from Robert Altman, who said that when he was directing a movie he looked for the mistakes — the moments of real human interaction. And Orson Welles said that a movie director is someone who presides over accidents.

    • “It’s fine to work toward that destination, but you’d better be aware that you’ll never get there. If you build in the mistakes from the beginning, then you relieve yourself from having to worry about it.”

      Yes! Love the music and movie parallels you discuss too!

  2. As someone who sews a lot, lately I’ve been finding that when I sew something that looks too polished, no one thinks its handmade. No compliments (yeah those are still nice). So lately I’ve been thinking about that. Its the imperfections that make things feel real, not mass manufactured, give them personality. I think the same could be said for writing.

    • How interesting, re: compliments (or lack thereof when your handmade things are too polished)!

      And yes: “Its the imperfections that make things feel real.” Exactly!

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