So when was the last time you screwed-up something? No, I don’t mean accidentally putting manky milk in your coffee. I mean deliberately screwing up something, actively setting out to be crappy at something, being on a mission to fuck-up a project so badly that the result looks like a child full of sweets upchucking on the dodgems. I only ask because that’s exactly what I’ve just spent the day doing (fucking-up, not vomiting on a fairground ride). And you know what? It’s like admitting to a giant taboo.
Thing is, as someone who sells her textile products on t’web it’s become second nature to always present myself as best I can. And yes, while I do manage to insert the word ‘gusset’ into many conversations, on the whole I show the world that I can make funky home decor and make it well. It’s not just me who’s at it either. Look at the creative porn site otherwise known as Pinterest, check out any number of crafty blogs or follow your fave creatives on Twitter and all of us are doing the same thing. We show you our fancy seams, our lifelike sculptures or our peerless crochet but at no point do we ever show you the creative shit tip that came before it. God no. That would be like ripping off our filthy knickers and twirling them around our heads.
It shouldn’t be though, should it? Look at it this way: lots of us get inspired by gorgeous images of hand crafted items. We long to recreate a cushion cover or a piece of stained glass that we’ve seen in our newsfeed and yeah, that’s as it should be. Inspiration is the crafting equivalent of a rocket up the arse. Yet there are times when so many perfect images of perfect crafted products start to have the opposite effect.
While they inspire us to pick up our needles or scissors or paint they also push us to create perfection. We may not realise it but at some point while you’re making your first, say, lampshade you’re going to compare it with the one you saw on the t’web and think it’s shit. You’ll look at the wonky seams, the mismatched fabric or the accidentally bent wire frame and feel gutted that you made such a mahoosive mistake.
Why, though, shouldn’t you make mistakes? Isn’t it by buggering up that we learn how to do something better the next time? And don’t go thinking that this way of working is for lesser mortals. It’s not. For every perfectly crafted item you see from your fave crafter I guarantee that they have a pile of past disasters in the corner of their workroom. The only difference between you and them is that they’ve been making mistake for longer and so have learned more. Oh, and the fact that they are deeply selective about what they show you at the end of their working day.
I make mistakes too. In fact I have spent this week experimenting on new products. Some have made me leap from my sewing shed with button-based delight, others have simply given the bin men another reason to stop by our house on collection day. Thing is, with every mistake I have learned something, whether it’s never to attempt a welt pocket again or to not be so bloody heavy handed with a seam ripper.
Even better I came into this week of experimentation with the determination to fuck-up. I swear that last Monday I stood at the doorway of my sewing shed and mentally abandoned, for an entire week, the notion of producing brilliant work (except on commissions, natch). I told myself there’d be chaos and, in fact, I worked hard to create more chaos that was necessary. I’ve got several new product lines to show for it, though because by abandoning the need to be perfect I allowed myself to try something new.
Mind you, it helps that I have a quote from the startlingly wonderful Neil Gaiman on the wall of my shed. It includes these words:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.
I see it every day when I walk into my sewing shed and in weeks like this it reminds me that crafting is about more than producing the perfect. It is sometimes about locking the perfect in a drawer and just doing something for the don’t-know-where-it-goes fun of it instead.
So the next time you’re inspired by crafty images and fancy having a go just, well, have a go. Don’t set out to create hang-it-in-the-Tate genius. Don’t set out to beat the evil Cath Kidston at her own game. And don’t set out to out-pin Pinterest. Just set out to enjoy the project you’re about to start, regardless of how it turns out. And if you make a mistake? Well, you’re in good company. Come on over and join the crafting club.