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zen of imperfection 600 x 600
I’ve noticed a big difference in my classes when I teach children versus adults. Children launch themselves into a project with great gusto and glorious abandon. I adore the ‘wow!!!!!’s that I hear from them (especially the little boys!). Adults are much more cautious, strive for perfect results first time and become frustrated and embarrassed when their pieces are imperfect (in their eyes).

My cutest little student proudly displaying her felted bowl.

My cutest little student proudly displaying her felted bowl.

Well I’m here to tell you that I’ve learnt much, much more about felting through making mistakes. And I’ve made a lot of them! In fact in an odd way, I’ve come to really enjoy making mistakes! Isn’t that strange?!! Well, perhaps not! The Japanese have an entire philosophy, deeply rooted in Zen Buddhism, associated with this! Wabi-sabi – the philosophy of appreciating flaws. Recognizing that in each imperfection is an opportunity to learn. What a wonderful idea! The idea that you should take joy in error and love the learning that comes from it.

So from now on I’d like you to rename ‘mistakes’ as ‘happy accidents’. Of course some are happier than others, but you will learn from all of them! One time I overworked a seamless nuno-felted wedding dress skirt, consisting of 26 layers of silk chiffon that had taken me 12 hours to painstakingly lay out. It suddenly shrank 10 inches (rendering it child size). I have to admit, I was not initially so Zen about it! However, as I held the shrunken piece in my hands, I immediately realized what I had done wrong….and I never did it again! When I recreated the skirt, I understood so much more about the dynamics of fiber layout, shrinkage and nuno felting in general. (Read all about the making of the wedding dress HERE).

Nuno felted wedding skirt 2.0. I learnt from my BIG mistake in round one and the final piece was better because of it.

Nuno felted wedding skirt 2.0. I learnt from my BIG mistake in round one and the final piece was better because of it.

When a student in a flower pin class told me sadly that his leaf layer had slipped, I immediately saw how beautiful, natural and corsage-like the piece looked. I now teach this option intentionally! See! A happy accident and discovery!

Slipped leaves? Not a problem! A happy accident and a great example of Wabi-sabi!

Slipped leaves? Not a problem! A happy accident and a great example of Wabi-sabi!

I’ve always felt that felting is magical. It’s a fiber art that is all about experimenting, pushing the boundaries and making mistakes. Give yourself the freedom to do this in art, and surely the same will follow in life!

Imperfectly Yours

Sara 🙂

The next ‘live’ session of Learn To Felt – a 7 week online felting class – begins on Monday 2nd May. Find out more details and sign up HERE.

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about the author

Sara
Born and raised in England, I moved to Southern California for two years… in 1998… and never left! Despite having a successful career as an immunologist, my creative side has always competed for attention and I have been an avid fiber arts fan since childhood. My mission with Felt Evolution is to give the oldest textile known to man the spotlight it deserves, creating as many new felters as possible along the way!

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