Why I Do What I Do: What is Perfection?
There are different ideas of perfection. Most of the time, perfection means flawless and every piece is identical or everything moving in lockstep. We see one type of perfection when we see something made a machine. That is the identical type of perfection. But, when something is made by hand we see a different kind of perfection, perfection which is found in variation.
Variation in the Individual:
When a potter sits down to make a group of mugs or any other item, everything that happens to that piece will affect the outcome. No matter how exacting the potter is there will be differences in the finished pieces. The potter can weigh out his clay and set gauges to help reproduce the same height and width each time. Every time the potter touches the piece, he alters how the finished piece will look. From start to finished a piece is touched as much as thirteen times from the mixing of the clay to the unloading the kiln. Each one of those steps affects the final outcome. Maybe it is the amount of water in the clay, the attaching of the handle or how long the piece is held in the glaze. Even the atmosphere of the kiln will affect the finished pottery.
Today I want to propose to you a different idea of perfection. The perfection that is only found in variation. It is the same type of variation that is found in all of creation. When we look at the world we find amazing variation from one species to another but also within the species. No two people are exactly the same; even identical twins have some variations. No two trees, snowflakes or pieces of music played by a musician over and over again are exactly the same. Because I believe in God, I believe that the variation in creation is God’s idea of perfection.
The Personality of the Potter:
In the process of making a piece of pottery, the personality of the potter becomes part of the pot. The work of no two potters is precisely alike. If you are familiar with a particular potter’s pottery you can pick it out in a room full of different potters’ work.
I think that there is amazing beauty in the variation from one piece to the next but at the same time being part of the group each piece contributing something a little different.