unforgiving

Wreathing the Wheel

April, 2019

Wreathing the Wheel: Mistakes, Messes, and Accidents

This month, I’d like to take a little departure from talking about the specifics of bullet journaling to talk about a related topic that I am very passionate about: making mistakes.

As an artist who works a lot with pen and ink, I’m familiar with the unforgiving nature of the medium. It’s very easy to make a small stray pen mark simply by dropping the pen, or (the horror!) even a long mark when my cat decides that she really wants to play with my pen too, or something jostles my drawing surface. From a mistake that lasts a millisecond, hours of work can feel ruined when this happens. I’m a perfectionist as well, and I like everything to be beautiful, precise and clean… in my opinion, my attention to detail is what makes my art interesting (to me).

But it becomes necessary, when working on an ongoing project like a bullet journal, to accept that some things just won’t work out how you expected, and to tell yourself it’s worth it to keep going with the hobby you love, even when you are confronted with mistakes. With stray pen marks and similar mistakes, there’s little you can do to hide them. Sometimes they can be hidden in designs, but sometimes the design is already finished when you mess it all up. It’s a sinking feeling, but I try to just take a moment and remind myself that this mistake is an accurate representation of my life — and after all, this is a journal! Isn’t part of the purpose to accurately represent what my life was like at this time?

But what about when the mistake is big? Like really, REALLY big? What if it’s the whole book?

This was my first 2018 bullet journal. Notice anything odd?

As you can probably tell, I put a lot of work into this book, and I was fairly upset when wine was spilled on it (although not as upset as the person who spilled the wine, bless their heart). The wine soaked through quickly, and it’s on almost every page. This happened when I was halfway through the book — I couldn’t just toss it, and I wasn’t ready to start another yet.

Instead, I decided to celebrate the accident. In Japanese pottery, the method of Kintsugi (meaning “golden joinery”) is used to repair broken pottery with precious metals. The underlying thought process behind this is that the breakage becomes a beautiful part of the object’s history, and appreciated in its own right. Borrowing from this idea, I used silver and gold ink to “repair” some of the places in my journal that had been washed away by the wine, to try to make them even more beautiful than before. Another way I have thought about doing this would be to repair pages with embroidery, but there are many techniques one could use — gold or silver plating, decoratively placed washi tape, or even pasting a picture over a mistake — anything, in short, that transforms the mistake into something new, and uncommonly precious. I’d encourage you to start showing some love to your mistakes today: it’s a way for us as artists and craftspeople to embrace the reality of craft and indulge in the unpredictability of traditional media, and it can help us grow and learn new techniques as well.

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About the Author:

Sarah McMenomy is an artist and witch. Her craft incorporates herbalism, spellwork, trance, divination, auras, and more. Her work can be found at https://sarahmcmenomy.tumblr.com