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Shine: Beauty in Imperfection

Perfection is not a Prerequisite for Beauty

Glacier Cross by Margaret Almon
Glacier Cross by Margaret Almon. Glass on slate, with HMB Studios bead in the center, $221.

Do you plan to listen to something and then put it off?  I listen to podcasts in the studio, and I have meditation teacher Tara Brach on my list, and yet don’t get around to listening.  But I couldn’t resist the title of this episode, Relating Wisely with Imperfection. She describes how we react to imperfection in ourselves with anxiety and aversion, and how this creates a trance of unworthiness.  I am well acquainted with this trance, and how hard it is to break free of it.

Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain.  ~Danna Faulds

Tara Brach read this line of poetry and it resonated.  Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain.  I have many years of believing that perfection is the prerequisite for everything.  The talk begins with a story from Ed Brown, Buddhist and baker, about his struggle to make perfect biscuits.  He realized that he was attempting to recreate biscuits from a can or a mix, that if he actually tasted his own recipe, the biscuits were delicious. What should our lives be like?  I believed I needed to have a book of poems published by the time I was 30.   In my 30’s I believed I should have a “real career” rather than being a part time librarian.  I believed that not having children meant I was outside the human story, even though I never felt called to have children. In making mosaics in my 40’s, I realized that this was my delicious life, and it was my own.

The chunks of glass in the photo are factory seconds of gold smalti.  They are hard to come by since the factory strives to produce glass with the gold evenly applied, but these are my favorite because of the variations in texture.  Beauty in imperfection.

Shine: Beauty in Imperfection

Glacier Cross on Etsy

Celtic Cross by Margaret Almon

From Moravian Simplicity to Episcopal Exuberance with a Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross by Margaret Almon
Celtic Episcopal Cross by Margaret Almon in orange, azure and cobalt blue, glass, gold smalti, millefiori center, on slate, 6×8 inches.

I grew up in the Moravian Church, which is Protestant and often modest, plain and simple in church buildings.  I suspect my home church, Edmonton Moravian, falls in the category of mid-century modern, which is the descriptor of much of my built world in the 1970’s.

 

Edmonton Moravian Church
Edmonton Moravian Church via Stella Blu on Flickr.

The flat roof puzzles me, since surely it was a resting place for several feet of snow every winter.  The font for the Moravian Church sign is san serif, and simple.  Those 3 entry doors opened into a foyer lined with coat racks for all the winter garments.  As a girl, I loved being surrounded by the friendly people of this church, as I looked for my coat after service.

 

Amber Windows at Edmonton Moravian Church
Amber Windows at Edmonton Moravian Church via PinkMoose on Flickr.

I remember writing a poem, searching for imagery to describe the sanctuary: a bungalow rec room.  Looking at a photo many years later, I see Danish Modern with the blonde wooden pews.

 

Edmonton Moravian Sanctuary with Ritchie Trombone Choir
Edmonton Moravian Sanctuary with Ritchie Trombone Choir via their Website

The first Catholic sanctuary I entered surprised me with the sheer quantity of decoration, color and sparkle.  Stratoz attends an Episcopal church, more ornate than my childhood church, but not overwhelming.  I discovered that the Celtic cross form, with the halo, is also referred to as an Episcopal cross, and Stratoz’s church has several of them.

Let Justice Roll Down.
Let Justice Roll Down. Holy Trinity Episcopal, Lansdale. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

I ponder my travels from the plain church into a love of liturgical art with color and iridescence, and my most recent Celtic cross in orange and shades of blue.  The simple is beautiful in its own way, and I responded to that whole-heartedly.  I also was surrounded by beautiful music, as Moravians cherish music, and yes, trombones.

For a musical treat check out Ritchie Trombone Choir’s mp3’s, including the graceful Handel and the swinging Green Dolphin Street.

 

Sarabande
by: Georg Friedrich Händel


Green Dolphin Street
by: Ned Washington

A Celtic Cross Finds The One It Was Meant For

Celtic Cross Mosaic in Blue, Amber and Green by Margaret Almon
Celtic Cross Mosaic in Blue, Amber and Green ©Margaret Almon

 

There are moments when something I’ve made becomes something made for someone.  A man named Kevin McAleese came into my booth, and was drawn to the small crosses with mother of pearl, and as he ran his fingers over them, he told me he liked touching them because it reminded him of how God has touched him.  Then he began to tell me his story, of retiring as a Colonel in the Army after 20 years of service, having been in Bosnia, Iraq and Germany, and then being diagnosed with brain tumors.  His oncologist told him how impressed she was with his ability to be positive, and he attributed it to his connection with God, that in spite of all he’s been through, he’s here, and living his life, being present.

Then Kevin McAleese saw the Celtic Cross, and that mosaic became made for him, as  he chose to buy it for his bedroom, where he could see it often, and told me it would help him in his healing.  He said he hoped I didn’t mind that he had shared his story with me.  I told him I was honored that he had shared it.

I am still amazed when people trust their stories with me, and when my work moves them, as if it couldn’t be possible.  But love is what fuels my desire to create, love and peace that I sense when I’m working, and the hope of being to share that love, and I am grateful that I can be part of someone’s experience of healing.

Give to the National Brain Tumor Society

The Perfect Imperfections: Wabi Sabi and Mosaic Art

River of Life Cross Mosaic on Slate
River of Life Cross Mosaic on Slate by Margaret Almon

Jenny Hoople over at Authentic Living has a cool post on The Beauty of Imperfection–Wabi Sabi, where she describes the Japanese philosophy of the beauty of our transitory world, where everything decays, and is all the more precious for it.  I’ve explored the Navajo concept of Hozho, and like Wabi Sabi, it captures much of what I love about mosaics.  Jenny uses natural materials in her jewelry, knitting and other arts, and loves the accidental veins of color in stones and I resonated with her question:

I think a lot of people feel this way, but perhaps we are a minority?  If we weren’t, then diamonds wouldn’t be so popular.  I’m always amazed by the gems and minerals collections in museums, those rough rocks with brilliant splashes of color and interesting crystal formations.  What’s even more amazing is that the perfect, cut gems draw a bigger crowd, are kept in a special dark room with lights for better viewing, and are supposed to be worth more.  That is so weird.

I am part of this probable minority.  I love gold smalti, the fabulous Italian chunks of glass with an exquisitely thin layer of gold sandwiched under a layer of colored glass, but I love the gold smalti “nails” even more–seconds from the factory, and are irregular, chipped, scratched, crazed leftovers.  They are hard to get because the smalti factories pride themselves on making firsts.

I started the River of Life Cross without knowing it would have a river in it.  I was using gold nails, with a base of aqua glass.  As I pulled out the most compelling pieces, I realized that some of the gold was completely missing in places, and could flow together like a river of pure watery blue through the body of the cross.  I listened to the the missing places, the imperfections and flaws, and let them shine forth in their own Wabi Sabi beauty.

This is how I imagine God seeking us in our imperfections, seeking our creativity and human loveliness in the midst of decay.  What is your favorite imperfection in your world?

Related Post:

The Beauty of Imperfection:  Hozho