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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Make-Do: The Beauty of the Imperfect and the Broken

I really don't like new stuff. In this holiday season, I have generally avoided shopping. An hour with Miss Em at JC Penneys (a middlebrow shopping venue) and Marshall's (supposedly discount) was enough for me. So much nice stuff! So cheap! No wonder we all have too much.

With my predilection for the imperfect and abandoned, I had a moment of wonderful harmonic convergence in this season of the new and shiny. First, I read metscan's blog, which I haven't had time to do for a while. In a series of pictures, she shows how she both hid, embellished, and drew attention to various imperfections in her living space.

Today I read in the New York Times of a collectible heretofore unknown to me: the make-do. Back in the day, people broke plates and the like and reconstructed them in artful ways.

I have written about the scads of cashmere I find at thrifts, rejected because of a single pinhole. A tiny chip on a plate is enough to consign it to the dustbin. An antique quilt with a bit of fraying is a tiny fraction of the price of a perfect one.

I've always loved buying used books, especially if they have notes from an intelligent reader. I learn so much from them.

I think the cult of perfection may be a particularly American thing. And certainly the cultivation of the imperfect may be the epitome of frugality.

So which came first for me? The love of the imperfect? Or the frugality?

Where do you fall on the perfect/imperfect continuum?


hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Love imperfections in crazed ironstone...antiques, shabby chic furniture..
arts and crafts patina rich quarter sawn oak pieces..
(not so much in cashmere)

SewingLibrarian said...

Does old silver with incorrect monograms count?

metscan said...

Thank you for the mention, FS!!
I already mentioned in my own blog, that I accept the imperfection of an old house. My inherited sofa group is from late 1930´s, and the wooden parts are worn. It does not bother me. However, the upholstery has been renewed 15 years ago, and that I wish to stay in perfect condition. What is old, is old. What is new, is new.
The unfortunate cracks I wrote about in my own post, happened to new things. No way could I have had my wallpapering redone, so I disguised the cracks in a visible way, and the holes with chalk.

Pearl said...

I grew up with "old stuff" in my mother's and grandmothers' houses--not expensive antiques but lovely things that had been well used for some time. I'm lucky to have inherited quilts, kitchen items, books, and other home items I use every day.

Funny about Money said...

Depends on what the objet is for and how beloved it is.

Once I got a really NEAT glass carboy-like floor vase thing that was so pretty--got it for about 70% off because it had a chip in the opening's lip. Well, once you had a dried arrangement, nobody could see it, and even if they could, nobody would care. It was very pretty.

Things break; I glue them back together. Just the other day I knocked over a strange black pottery bull found at an estate sale. I call him the Minotaur and keep him on the floor in the living room, next to a decorative arrangement of dustcatchers (he himself is a dustcatcher, come to think of it). He broke off a horn. Glued it on but was missing a tiny chip. Stuffed the chipped spot full of shoe polish, which is just colored wax. Let it dry and gently polished it...voila! Fixed!

Anonymous said...

Imperfections give things character. My husband is a carpenter and has totally redone our home. He sees imperfections in his work that I don't see...and yet, we call these "zen flaws." The imperfection has a tendency to show the perfection to advantage.

Duchesse said...

The high value placed on the new (latest thing, or item unmarked by wear) very American, and America itself is a new country. Prizing the new is important to any late-capitalist society; it keeps the wheels of production turning.

At the same time, many people prize the patinaed, mellow older object.
I do have limits, though: no chipped mugs, dingy linens. And there is a point when a coat of paint is the kindest thing one can do for a room. An important factor is the base material. A 120 year old wood countertop can look wonderful, a 40 year old Formica one probably will not.

Frugal Scholar said...

@hostess--The imprefect is perfect for your beautiful home.

@SL-I think incorrect monograms are better than correct ones!

@metscan--Thank you for the inspiration. Your old sofa is of far, far better quality than anything you can get now--well worth recovering forever.

@pearl--I have lots of quilts too--bought in the midwest, not inherited. The "perfect" ones were expensive; the shabby ones--just as beautiful, really--very inexpensive.

@Funny--Wonderful FRUGAL repairs.

@terri--Love the term "zen repairs"--thanks!

@Duchesse--Agree overall, but my friend's great-grandmother's house had ANCIENT RED formica, with many scratches. I was sad when it was torn out after she died. I loved it.