Use the breakage

Recently I ran across this article on Atlas Obscura about how some tears in the pages of medieval manuscripts were repaired/patched using embroidery.


Books in those days were made of vellum, which is sheepskin processed in ways that are so labor intensive that it's easy to see why a monastery would go ahead and use a flawed piece. Before the Atlas Obscura piece, though, I didn't know about the embroidery fix.

Here's a great video from the Getty Museum on how an illuminated manuscript was made, start to finish:

Being able to see errors or accidents as potential instead of disaster is part of GESTALT, and the Japanese have a couple of terms that are useful here: wabi-sabi and kintsugi.

Wabi-sabi is the idea that imperfection is itself a requisite for beauty. A flaw becomes part of an object's perfection, which makes perfect sense in a Zen kind of way.

Kintsugi puts this into practice: when a ceramic bowl breaks or cracks, the Japanese would repair it with gold. (Details here.)

This repair makes the bowl even more beautiful and valuable than when it was whole. I had this experience when I made the large bowl that sits in the center of my labyrinth.  The clay was too thick and so cracked across the bottom while drying.  Even though I repaired the cracks before the bowl went into the kiln, it was no use; they returned in the firing.

My ceramics guru advised me to fill the cracks with a certain marine epoxy, and after I had done so I gold leafed the epoxy with a gold leaf pen from the crafts store.  Every once in a while I have to reapply the gold leaf, but I cannot now imagine the bowl without the cracks.  I think it would have been a lot less interesting and, yes, beautiful.


The point, Lichtenbergianism-speaking-wise, is that if you "ruin" a painting or sculpture or jewelry or bowl, you should take maybe 5 seconds to grieve or rage, but then you should step back and employ your GESTALT skills.  Never mind what it looked like before, or what it was supposed to look like later; what does it look like now

Then just keep Making the Thing That Is Not.


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