Flawed by Design

Several years ago I sold my rather large collection of red transferware, and cleansed the house of most of the odd bits of toile:  it was pretty clear that my husband hated these romantic patterns–particularly in red.  I think most men share his opinion. I miss the dishes more than the textiles, and have been looking for ways to sneak a few transfer pieces back into our home.  Two versions of modern transferware on the market right now might be just creative enough to overcome their toileness:

Target Too by Blu Dot dinnerware and Anthropologie “Dipped Toile” desert plates.

The first set of dishes–the result of a rather stealth collaboration between Target and the modernist manufacturers Blu Dot–are so subtle I think they could make it into my cupboards unnoticed.  Both of these collections are charming, I think, because they are flawed by design, achieving difference (and whimsy) through apparent “defects”.  It occurred to me that only in our modern industrial age could you possibly have such a design concept as deliberately imperfect:  the standards of pre-industrial craftsmanship would simply not allow it. Then I thought (and read) about the traditional Japanese philosophy and aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which embraces the incomplete and imperfect as a way to grasp simple beauty and transience:  yet another cultural distinction between east and west. In the first half of the twentieth century, similar values were embraced by artisans of the Arts & Crafts movement, who were trying not only to revive craftsmanship but also differentiate their products from those that were mass-produced.  Skip forward a century or so, and differentiation through mass production seems to be the aim of some industrial designers.

Porcelain Tray by Bernard Leach, 1931, Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

While exploring the art of imperfection a bit further, I came across this perfectly-matched (at least to me!) pair of objects of flawed beauty, one the result of the passage of time, the other deliberately modern.  Bear in mind that as I am writing this, I am staring at a large crack on my bedroom wall, a flaw that always reappears no matter how many times we reapply plaster.  I’m searching for an empty gilt frame–and trying to have an optimistic outlook!

Highworth Roman milk pot in unrestored state, via The History Blog; crack “painting” via A Lovely Escape.

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