(Im)Perfection

I’m imperfect…and boy, don’t I know it!

The imperfections on my list differ depending on the day, but often they include:

– My hair is 80% grey at 42.

– I’m reckless. I spill things. Often.

– I forget things.

– I lose it. This is sometimes when I’m overwhelmed, sometimes when I haven’t had enough sleep and sometimes it seems just because I’m me!

– I don’t get as much done as I want to.

– I’m not as kind/thoughtful/gentle as I could be.

All these presuppose that I should be something other than I am.

Yet, as humans we are imperfect. So where do these silly ideas of perfection come from? From the media. From having had our faults pointed out to us over and over again. From the media. From comparing ourselves to others. From the media.

As you notice, I have a bit of a bug for the media. But I gave up reading newspapers and mainstream magazines when I was in my 20s and I stopped watching TV almost 10 years ago – yet still I’m haunted by the idea of perfection.

In this case, I don’t think language helps either:

Imperfection: noun; a fault, blemish or undesirable feature.

It’s not often I disgree with a dictionary.

Not just because, in this case, it’s not true, but also because if we could see our imperfections in a different light, how much less pain there would be in the world.

Because pushing to be perfect causes so much pain.

If we could stop, our lives would be calmer and happier and the ripple affect would be astounding. We wouldn’t need to buy things to make us ‘right’ – whole exploitation-based industries would collapse and there’d be less shipping stuff half-way around the world and killing the planet.

Wow…

What if we let go of it?

What if I let go of it?

What if I accepted – or, dare I say, loved – exactly who I am?

…The imperfect Alison who often doesn’t sleep well, has grey hair, gets angsty when things around her are disorganised, tries to do seventeen things when there’s only room for one, shouts at her son and shock, horror, doesn’t meditate seven days a week.

I work hard every single damn day to not expect myself to be perfect. To accept and cherish who I am. To take all of myself, the good and the ‘bad’.

Because if I could do that, I know how much more peaceful I’d be; how much more I’d smile; how many more people I’d touch for good in my day.

So I work on it…

My latest piece has been a meditation on the idea of imperfection actually being perfection.

Last month, I put together my structural mobile, ‘hydrangea’. And as I did, every now and then I came across a flower that was damaged; imperfect. It had a petal ripped or one or two petals missing. I put the damaged one to one side and picked another. Soon I had quite a pile of broken flowers. And looking at them started me thinking.

They were just as beautiful for their imperfection. In fact, their poignancy and fragility actually made me feel more connection with and love for them than I did for the perfect flowers.

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I played with them on a sheet of paper one sunny morning.

And I realised I wanted to work with them. I wanted to give them the limelight just as much as I had done their perfect sisters.

Coating them in natural golden mica seemed like the next step. They were glorious and deserved to pointedly be decorated in a way that showed them off.

So I painted and painted. Each petal reminding me that imperfection is glorious, imperfection is part of life, imperfection is what makes us real, imperfection should be celebrated.

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Being able to accept our imperfections requires robust self-love. It seemed obvious to me that the flowers should represent that. The image of a heart lept into my head.

And so, I give you Im(Perfection). Fallen, broken hydrangea flower heads, foraged from Morrab Gardens and Trengwainton Garden (both in Penzance), painted in natural mica earth pigment mixed into home-made milk paint, stuck onto upcycled cotton rag paper using natural vegetable cellulose glue.

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This piece is for sale. Contact me if it’s calling you.

10 Comments
  1. Just beautiful Alison l think you are quite right, as a society we have become a little obsessed, we often want to be the image we see, not the reality that is inside. I have been beautifully broken dince birth, so perfection was never an option, but in my heart l still wanted it, but now at almost 50 l can say l have grown into skin.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Sandra. I seems to me that with age comes a clearer perspective. I feel stronger now in being able to accept and love my own imperfect whole than I ever have. I look forward to getting older for more and more of that feeling!

  2. Imperfection is just perfect… It’s what makes us who we are, unique, one of a kind, quirky, individual or whatever else you would like to call it. Anyway what exactly is normal? Love your honesty and I love that it influences your work and that all that you make is with love.

    1. Thanks Selina. You are right questioning ‘normal’! I think we get given an idea of what normal is by society and unless we have been brought up by caregivers who are OK with being an individual, it’s sometimes hard to get beyond that. Thanks for your comments – it means a lot for me to hear back.

  3. Alison, I love reading your posts. they are insightful and thought provoking. As usual you are right on target about normal. All my life I felt there was something wrong with me. I see things differently and think about things differently. I thought there was something wrong with me or God was playing a sick joke. I didn’t have the normal loving caring family.

    I am a survivor of abuse, my father was a Pentacostal Evangelist and used the bible to justify his actions along with the abuse. My mother knew yet did nothing she was so caught up in her imperfection pretending to be normal for all appearances to the outside world. After writing about my life as a child I now have new insights into my imperfection. I am who I am because of all that happened, I am quirky, unique, loving, one of a kind mixed up mess, with a dry sense of humor.

    Thank you Alison for being so brave to share you imperfect perfection.
    Much Love,
    Yvonne

    1. Thank you for your comment, Yvonne, and for sharing. I am touched by the beautiful women who I’ve encountered thanks to my blog and art – and I appreciate the communion. It’s amazing how writing can give us insight and perspective. And I love how you’ve clearly been able to see yourself in a much more true light. I wish you much luck and love as you continue your journey. x

    1. Thank you Deborah. Your observations, stories, sketches and prints bring me much too. It’s lovely to share in this virtual space. Here’s to meeting soon, I hope!

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Alison faith Kay

I am an artist
who creates with
foraged nature,
natural pigments &
hand-made paint.

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