Monday, October 31, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: A Little Wonky is Nice

In everything... uniformity is undesirable. Leaving something incomplete makes it interesting, and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth... Even when building the imperial palace, they always leave one place unfinished. -- Japanese Essays in Idleness, 14th Century
Here's a question for you: When you put birthday candles into a cake, do you just throw them in willy-nilly, or do you prefer to put them in so that they are symmetrical? Six years old - three candles one each side. Seven years old - three candles on each side, one in the middle. Do you put them in in a circle? In a zig-zag?

Or do you do as I do and just get a candle that says, "7?"

I've never been one for symmetry. It's only recently that my job forces me to align to certain design principles, which I totally understand, but it beats against the insides of my brain like a mallet on the inside of an oil drum. It's not me. I don't care for it.

That might be surprising, given the fact that I love to knit cables and lace. Most of these patterns rely on symmetry to give them balance. I love the complexity of the lines, and how it forces the yarn into different shapes and to throw the light in different directions.

But if there's anything that bugs me, it's the feeling that something is contrived... that it is forced into perfection somehow.

For example, here are some mosaics I made a few years ago in a class. It took me hours to place those tiles in a position that I liked. I had to walk away from them for a few days before I could return to finish them. I wanted to feel like every single tile had been placed because it belonged there, and not because I forced it into a space. Nothing too symmetrical, nothing too contrived. I wanted it to look natural... as natural as a bunch of tiles could look, I guess.

When I painted these pots, I spent time making sure that each line, each petal, each dot, was in a totally random place. No mathematical equations, no rulers, no measures... just one by one, placing things where they felt right.

I don't like to centre things. I prefer them offset to one direction.

I don't like to wear my shawls draped over my shoulders evenly. I place them either slung over my left or right shoulder.

I like flicky, sticky-out hair.

I suppose this has come to mind because I've been thinking a lot about how we're supposed to find symmetry beautiful - that we like to see symmetrical faces, symmetrical bodies. Perhaps I rage against this because I know it's impossible, and I see people everywhere, girls especially, struggling toward this impossible ideal. Maybe I enjoy throwing a monkey wrench into the rules of beauty, and I like to see how people deal with it.

There is beauty in being outside of the box, in offset patterns, in imperfections. They make us feel emotions... feel reactions.

That's not so bad, is it? Is it?


  1. This from the man who makes me use the centre tool in Flash. :)

  2. I love the fish mosaic - and I understand what you mean - I call it "beauty through chaos". But mostly I'm too lazy to be a perfectionist.

  3. Hehe, maybe that's true for me, too! I don't have the energy to make everything perfect!