Sock it to me
Michelangelo - everyone's wee arty pal
I like Michelangelo - though despite what my kids might tell you, I’m not old enough to know him personally. Anyway, I like him and I think it’s universally agreed that he was quite a talented guy. But by his own words, not perfect. He’s quoted as saying that meaning and expression are found through the pursuit of perfect imperfection.
I tried knitting socks for a friend once, and miraculously we’re both still friends: They were bloody impossible to knit and I spent very many expletive-filled evenings persevering, only to deliver what were - at best - pretty poor excuses for foot coverings. Charitably, she received my gift of socks with exactly the right mix of reserved gratitude and compassion, with just a touch of abject horror thrown in.
So, I was mighty impressed this weekend when my friend Anne dropped in with socks her mother had knitted for Mark and me. Not only are they recognizably proper socks, they fit perfectly. I marveled at Anne’s Mum’s ability to create such a thing. If you look closely you can see they’ve been handmade. You have to look hard though because they’re pretty much perfect. I unreservedly love them.
When I was a kid I sneered at homemade things, and I blame this almost entirely on a BBC children’s TV program called Blue Peter. Every week on this program, they’d have a ‘craft segment’ during which where they made monstrous assaults to the eye such as ‘lovely flower vases from old washing up liquid bottles and some sticky back plastic’. Every bloody week there was something with an old washing up liquid bottle and some sticky back plastic. This may, indeed, have been a gift to the environment but was a catastrophe for interior design. Not only that, everything they made was totally impractical.
I kid you not, every Christmas on Blue Peter they made a lantern out of old wire coat hangers, tinsel, and some candles that even as a six year old I could tell was a massive fire risk. My little mind used to wonder if they just didn’t want people to survive the holidays.
The point is, as a child I preferred the safety of the pre-made, the regulated, the ready-bought.
I remember desperately wanting one of the pre-made cakes in the bakery for my birthday, but my Mum was an avid baker and would always make birthday cakes. Now, I wouldn’t give a thought for a cake from a bakery, but I’d do anything for one of my Mum's - though I’m not sure how she’d cope with me being gluten-free.
I no longer find joy in the pre-made, the regulated, the replaceable. ( Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a mass-market comfortable pair of pajama trousers from the Costco, and who doesn’t love a good pair of shoes? ) but I do genuinely find joy in the loop of a stitch or a brushstroke of paint, or frosting that is slightly wonky. It says a human was here and made this.
Mark’s mother made us a quilt for our wedding and it still hangs proudly on the bedroom wall. I think it’s absolutely perfect. Mark’s Mum could no doubt pick out where the thread was off-color or a stitch was wrong. Yet, that’s part of what makes it ours. It’s what makes it unique.
I like the flaws, the inaccuracies, the irregular. I like it in things and in people.
Now obviously, I’m not advocating that we all hand-make everything. You have to be realistic. I am clearly not a sock maker, and I’m probably not a steak pie maker either. Ask either of my kids about the time I decided I’d treat them by making a homemade steak pie. Even though that was years ago, it still gives them the dry heave.
But there’s a difference between being realistic and plain old self-critical.
I had a bit of a fight with myself this week. Stuff that I planned to get done, I didn’t. I was glutened by accident quite spectacularly and was out of it for a whole day. Then I got mad at myself for being so vulnerable that I literally could be taken out by one misplaced pie. Question: What kind of fucking idiot could be physically floored by a random piece of pastry? Answer: me. Talk about a flaw in the design.
But then in the middle of my post glutening, I put on my lovely new socks and I noticed the wee differences there are in the design, and I thought about my pal Anne and her Mum and how I love hand-crafted things. And then that made me think of my wee pal Michaelangelo - who I’m too young to have known personally despite what my kids might tell you.
meaning and expression are found through the pursuit of perfect imperfection.
Who said I had to be perfect? Only me, when I’m being a complete arse. Everybody falls down sometimes and then they get up again. It’s the flaw that makes us human.
Good old Michelangelo. We could have been pals. If I spoke Italian. If I was alive in the 16th century, and promised not to make him socks… or a steak pie.
Till next week xo
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