Saturday, 6 June 2015

Chasing Perfection - The Devil Is In The Detail

The Devil is in the detail

‘The Devil Is in the Detail’ – how do we chase him out?

I read a quote recently from the jeweller Alison Jones where she said ‘Every piece is uniquely hand forged with love for the craft of silversmithing. I am a perfectionist, but my jewellery is hand crafted and by its very nature not perfect.’

I felt this brilliantly captured both the aspiration that I have of wanting to create a professionally well-made piece that exudes quality, whilst also presenting a piece that is obviously, well, handmade.

Our modern society with its machines and perfectly straight lines has created a great deal of ‘perfection’ in many of the products we use today, in terms of ‘pleasing’ symmetry, perfect smoothness, crisp edges etc. that can lead me in a desperate and doomed chase sometimes to emulate this ‘perfection.’ Does this mean that I am ultimately trying to create objects that look like they are ‘machine made?’

As our machines get better and better at created faux ‘handmade’ items, is there, indeed, still a place for the ‘individually created’ product?

This can work the other way too; most of us are so used to this level of precision that we associate it with quality, and cheapness, whereas all too often the perfection and beauty is only skin deep –manufactured items created with ‘planned obsolescence’ in mind, or our desire to follow the latest fashions leading us to devalue and bin objects after a relatively short period of time.

It maybe takes a slight change in perception to once again appreciate ‘handmade’ items, and the time, patience, love and soul that has gone into their inception and creation. Even the term ‘handmade’ has become devalued and slightly pejorative.

I have heard that the monks who created the Illuminated Manuscripts deliberately made a mistake on every piece of work because ‘only God is perfect.’ This leads me to believe (and I can see) that their work was already of such a high standard that they had to ‘fake’ mistakes.

I digress…..the theme of this post was supposed to be my own personal quest for perfection, an exploration of its pros and cons.

There is a story where an apprentice wheelwright asks his master why he takes so much time smoothing the base of the carts, when no one would know whether or not the underneath was smooth or not.
‘…but I know’ replies the master.

Is this diligence and conscientiousness or a waste of time and effort?

As with all things, there is a balance, a line, which I’m sure is different for everyone.

On the way to a finished piece of mine, there is a trail of ‘failures:’ wood that split, metal that creased, designs that went wrong, grain that ran in the ‘wrong’ direction, hangers that were ‘ugly.’
However, as one of Justbod’s Inspirational Plaques has it: “Quality is not an act, it is a habit” and I am hopefully developing the habit whilst guarding against obsession!

The line I have, my marker, is how I would want the piece to be if I owned it myself.

My best example is the journey towards the ‘perfect hanger’ for my wall plaques:

A pet hate of mine, is pictures, wall art, wall plaques etc. hanging at an angle towards the floor because the hanging device on the back pushes the top of the picture/plaque out from the wall.
I worked for ages on this, experimenting with a lot of different hangers, and creating lots of ‘firewood.’

After a while I created something that achieved the above, and used it on my first plaques. However, it looked ugly and, although it wouldn’t be seen by anyone viewing the plaque on the wall, like the master wheelwright, it still wasn’t good enough for me. Those initial plaques are now in a ‘don’t know what to do with these’ box as I consider them flawed, even though the quality of the facing sides is as good as any that I have made!

I now have a ‘perfect’ (for now) system with a ‘saw-tooth’ hanger inset in the back of the plaque enabling it to hang flush to the wall. It also looks beautiful (to my eye!) Is this obsessive? I don’t feel so.

For some the matter might not matter. For me it does. It is a matter of pride in my work, regardless of others views, of attending to those tiny details that I feel make the difference, attending to the practical as well as the aesthetic.

The Devil is always in the detail. It’s the details that if left unattended, unnoticed, unthought-about can undo anything we are involved in.

This approach is equally applicable to every area of life. To attend to the details, to focus on them and give them adequate thought and attention, is offering respect to whatever we are focusing on, be it our current job, a relationship, a DIY job, a walk in the park, the words of the person talking to us; in short, everything we do.

Offering respect really means offering love. Loving the details, and attending to them, may just be enough to keep the Devil out.....

Thanks for reading!

bod
Justbod Team


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Original article on 'bod's blog' published January 31st 2014 

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