June 30, 2010

the beauty of imperfection*

Recently, while watching the live stream of the TEDx Houston conference (I had hoped to catch my friend Brene Brown but she had already done her talk) I came across the architect Dan Phillips. If you haven't heard of him already, you can fall in love with him in the above video.

He makes the most extraordinary and artful homes out of repurposed materials (stuff headed for the landfill, burn pile or salvage) He can make cathedral ceilings out of discarded picture frame corners, floors out of old wine corks and walls out of shattered mirrors. He also insists that the family he builds a home for helps in the actual construction process. I love that beauty and artistry are not sacrificed at all in this process, but imperfections are highlighted and celebrated.

One of the things he said in his talk that I can't get out of my mind is this: (I'm paraphrasing) "If you have one cracked tile, it's a flaw. If you have several pieces of cracked tile, you have a pattern."

This thought/principle about design makes me exceedingly happy.

It also reminds me of something I (think) I read in Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. She said, (Again paraphrasing) In one particular culture (India?) they intentionally build a flaw into the design of every building they construct. This honors the imperfections of humanity.

Perfect is something we often strive for, but in the end it is hardly more beautiful or wonderful than the imperfect way of real. The gaps in the front teeth, the vulnerable and tender heart that feels hurt, the way that Ben calls blimps "plumps" and we refuse to correct him.

Think of all the ways you love the imperfections today. Maybe not in yourself (that's the graduate level seminar) but perhaps in others, in your home, in the artful world around you.

Posted on June 30, 2010 09:53 AM

That was truly beautiful. Thank you.

Posted by: Megan at July 19, 2010 02:44 PM

Damn, that sound's so easy if you think about it.

Posted by: tjana pengar online at July 18, 2010 01:35 AM

I too have heard of this imperfect philosophy. I have always heard that Native American cultures leave a mistake in their weaving to 'let the evil spirits out'. Therefore, I have always joked that none of my work will ever hold an evil spirit as there are too many mistakes!!! The same has been said of the quilting world! I love how this philosophy lets you relax and just enjoy creating.
As far as children and language, when my daughter was very young (Ben's age), she used to ask if she could "broom" the kitchen or patio. She is 27 now and we still "broom" not sweep around here!!

Posted by: Nancy at July 11, 2010 01:06 PM

Google the term "Wabi-Sabi". It is the Japanese concept of finding beauty in things imperfect. I learned it from an art teacher many years ago and it has stayed with me. Whenever I'm feeling less than perfect I try to remind myself that my beauty is in my imperfections.

Posted by: Sara at July 9, 2010 10:27 AM

That Blumps thing reminds me of a gallegher performance I saw where he said the great thing about kids is everything is new and they don't have the vocabulary for it. He said they would specifically not tell her words so that she had to make them up herself. For example, when her foot fell asleep, people say it tingles, but she said it sparkled.

Posted by: robyn at July 7, 2010 08:03 AM

REALLLLLLy like this...its like...saying my self imposed imperfections are somewhat okay....thank you

Posted by: jakki at July 2, 2010 06:31 AM

I love this. It reminds me of the Leonard Cohen quote, "There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."

Posted by: Brené at July 1, 2010 05:51 PM

Thanks for the reminder about imperfections. Nobody's perfect, and anyone that tries to convince you that they are is only lying to themselves....

Posted by: Jennifer at July 1, 2010 01:18 PM

I think having a 3 year old girl we aren't getting the "butt" jokes, but she did say today she loves "poopie". And she calls the computer a "pee-ay-ter". I will be sad when that changes.

Thank you for reminding me of so many different ways imperfection can be beautiful. Of course, in trying to be perfect, I want to jump directly to the graduate level seminar. Taking deep breath...

Posted by: Alana at June 30, 2010 10:28 PM

My 6 year old says "yorgut" (and other cute variations I can't think of right now) and only recently started wearing his shoes on the right feet. I try to gently squash all efforts made to get him to say words "right." Soon enough he'll hear the difference and start speaking like the rest of us, "sniff."

I had to look up Dan Phillips on youtube. Wow! I shared it on facebook. I want to go to Texas and spend a few days quietly in a corner watching and jumping in to help if I'd be allowed! In fact, that would be an amazing home school field trip! Hmmm....

Posted by: heidi at June 30, 2010 09:32 PM

(hit "post" before I meant to)

... which, of course, makes me love this post. :)

(also, I developed a huge crush on Dan Phillips at that talk. Isn't he divine?


Posted by: Karen/Chookooloonks at June 30, 2010 05:14 PM

I love the beauty of imperfection. In fact, i have an entire chapter in my book dedicated to The Beauty of Imperfection.

Posted by: Karen/Chookooloonks at June 30, 2010 05:12 PM

what's crazy to me, which i just realized, is that i'm such a perfectionist and yet my most favorite art, the art that moves me to tears are the very imperfect, cracked pattern of tiles.

Posted by: kristen at June 30, 2010 11:21 AM

there's a similar philosophy in knitting and weaving. in some Native American cultures, they intentionally make at least one mistake in each thing they weave, as a way of recognizing the imperfection in humanity. and knitters historically have done the same.

thanks for this thought today!

Posted by: robyn at June 30, 2010 11:08 AM

Thank you for sharing this video and your thoughts. One of the imperfection of our little condo is a missing door we haven't replaced. Right now a homemade curtain of Ganesha hangs as the entrance to my study/art room.

I love the word plump for blimp. I'm incorporating it into my vocabulary, with Ben's permission?

Posted by: Kimberley McGill at June 30, 2010 11:01 AM