Anya Cropper The Beauty of Imperfection

  • Tauira / Student
    Anya Cropper
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Katie Kerr, George Hajian

Often as designers in particular, we strive for perfection in response to capitalist desire for profitable creative processes. Unlearning this perfectionist tendencies can be challenging. Our first instinct is to fret when things are misaligned, cracked or smudged. Retraining our aesthetic taste to see the value and beauty in imperfection takes considerable conscious effort. Therefore, I argue that to appreciate and embrace failure, mistakes and imperfections in design become a radical act.
The Beauty of Imperfection comprises three books inside a clay slipcase: 'An Imperfect Ethos', ‘How to Create Imperfectly’ and ‘An Imperfect Sketchbook’. The first book acts as a manifesto of imperfection, mistakes and failure; celebrating analogue making that disrupts the digitally produced perfectionist norms. In this book, the tidy monospaced typeface and monochrome photography is juxtaposed with expressive mark making, imagery of cracked pottery and bright yellow highlights. The second book is a ‘how-to’ guide for recovering perfectionists, with open-ended instructions that encourage creativity and interpretation. The images of my experiments are partially hidden behind folding tabs, encouraging the user to try the exercise first without simply copying mine. The third book is a sketchbook with no blank white pages, with the explicit instruction not to create anything perfect inside.
This project is contextualised in analogue processes, the Dada movement, anti-capitalism, and failure. The Beauty of Imperfection draws upon the foundations established by Moustakas on heuristic inquiry, and Ventling's subsequent art-centric approach to such inquiry. Heuristic inquiries are characterised by their ability to organically unfold through trial and error, inherently favouring an imperfect investigation.
In developing The Beauty of Imperfection, I experimented freely with analogue techniques such as binding, risograph printing, linocut printing, collage, drawing, screenprinting, etching, cyanotype printing, throwing pottery on a wheel, ceramics and laser cutting. The aspect of the collateral that involved the most ‘trial and error’ experimentation was the clay slip case; an imperfectly tactile artefact that went through at least ten iterations before arriving at its final outcome. Clay is far more fragile than bookcloth and card, and so the slip case inherently failed at its purpose of protecting the books. Instead, with its cracks, warps, imperfections and dribbles of glaze, it becomes an object of beauty to house the books.
Though failure and imperfection have been valued at art schools for a long time, it is often only accessible to the privileged few. During my discussions about this project with people that do not occupy either the art or design spheres, they were invigorated by the idea of imperfection. They delighted in the idea that they could be given permission to undertake creative tasks without the expectation that they would immediately create perfect outcomes. They echoed similar sentiments about the rigid, perfectionist way we are taught to create in design school.
The Beauty of Imperfection series aims to democratise imperfect making by encouraging others to actively participate in creating in a way that reframes imperfections as valuable. It aims to spread the joy of imperfection with patience, acceptance and kindness.