To Err is Inevitable

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “Do you ever make mistakes?”

It is my goal and very likely the goal of 99.9% of the world’s population to answer that question with a definitive, “Nope, never.” Obviously for the former and the latter the answer is always and forever, “Yes.”

Another variation of the question is, “Do you ever make a mistake that ruins an entire piece?”

Still, “Yes,” but funny you should ask!

Last night I took a small, intricate dragonfly to my framer for finishing (by framer, I mean of course my mom, Heidi). I needed a simple, thin, black 9″x 9″ frame which she pieced together for me. The glass fit, the mat fit; everything was copacetic. We got to the usually unpleasant stage of affixing the piece to the mat. Nothing like watching spray adhesive fall from a fine mist over a piece of delicate paper you’ve been cutting for hours upon hours. Flip it over, pray you lay it correctly and don’t tear or smudge anything. Spoiler alert: Everything finished beautifully. My mom wrapped it up in a white plastic packing and I took it home.

I’m a huge fan of the movie, The Paper, starring Michael Keaton, and in it he delivers a great line in a way only he can: “Sometimes you can just smell a horrifically shitty day on it’s way.” I was moving along on time, had my hand on the door to leave, purse and piece in tow as it was a commission for someone who lives in the community where I work, except: no keys. No problem. My dad loves me and he bought me a key-finder this past Christmas. After 15 years of driving and almost never finding my keys when I need them, I had clipped the locator on my ring, and though I had told someone just this week that I never remembered to actually use it- I was going to use it. I hit the button, I waited for the chirp, and…nothing. Not a sound. Fine. I thought, “It’s chilly, my husband probably started my car for me.” Nope, 55 degrees. I laid my piece on top of my car and ran up to get my spare key (which I also had to search for, so that was fun).

Because I was going to be late, I decided to go in at 8:30 and make some breakfast. I kicked that off by turning on the wrong burner, so doubling the cook time. I ate, got in my car and drove to work. As I was turning in the driveway I realized I had left the piece at home. I turned around and I only drove about 100 feet before I made an abrupt and rough U-turn because I knew the return trip would make me late to work. So I drove into work, clocked in, and waited for my lunch break to run home.

At lunch, I drove to the apartment and very much to my surprise the piece was nowhere to be found: not in the apartment, not in the car, now my purse was at work, but I never would have put it in there because of the fragility of the glass. Which left one option.

Like so many books, coffee cups, and miscellaneous objects from my past, the dragonfly took it’s first flight on the roof of my car. It soared safely down Conshohocken State Road, around, down, and up Youngsford Road, and all the way up Waverly Road. It would have made a safe landing in the parking lot where I work except for one tragic turn. The “abrupt and rough U-turn” I made when I thought I had forgotten it. Like all the lost things… it jettisoned off the roof 100 feet from the promised land and laid in the street waiting for a swift crushing by passing cars.

Driving back to work, I saw it lying by the side of the road in it’s little white, plastic body bag. I threw the car into park, hit the hazards, and ran back for my lost companion. As I opened the plastic, glass, wood, and shredded paper tucked inside, I knew I had been a bad girl this year.

So, yes, I make mistakes that destroy an entire piece. Have, still do, will again. Lucky for me I have a glass half-full attitude when it comes to my artwork. I think that might have something to do with how much I enjoy the process and how it feels to keep pushing to grow in a medium. If disaster isn’t followed by flying expletives, it’s usually a deep breath, a moment of silence, and a slow simmer between the ears in preparation to start again.

Rest in Peace, Dragonfly. You were beautiful and complete in a way the world (and my client) will never know.
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