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DIY Decor: Pillows in Progress, or Making a Beautiful Mess

When you visit a craft fair or art show, you see shelves and racks and cabinets filled with beautiful finished products. Fat colorful coffee mugs rounded to fit the cup of your hand, stunning framed photos of frozen waterfalls or birds in flight, the striking drape of a woven wool and silk scarf: their unique beauty stops you in your tracks, earns your admiration, perhaps even secures your ownership.

What we don’t see at the fair are the hours the artist spent bent over the pottery wheel, the precise balance of brute strength and fine pressure required to throw a symmetrical vessel. We don’t witness the lopsided learning curve or the moment of inattention that sends a blob of clay whirling across the studio. We don’t wait with the photographer, bug-bitten and motionless, in the field, or feel her boot crack through the ice that covers a trail of mud. We aren’t privy to the knotted tangles of thread, the beads lost under the radiator, the two discarded muslin mock-ups in the sewing room.

Or the cat who insists on helping.

Anyone who’s ever made anything knows the truth: The creative process is messy. And hard work makes more art than does inspiration.

The same might be said of love and relationships.

Today I wanted to share some pictures of our wedding venue pillows-in-progress: mixing and matching the fabrics, testing out designs through our “fold-and-find” method, playing with possible embellishments.

Once a DIY project is finished, it’s easy to forget (or ignore) the constructive chaos of its creation, and so often, what gets represented to the rest of the world is a neatened-up, sanitized version of the process. That can be incredibly intimidating, not to mention inaccurate. Practice makes better, but it rarely makes perfect. No matter how many times you “measure twice and cut once,” work with fabric long enough, and you’ll chop something too short, attach the trim upside-down, or make some other eye-rolling mistake.

That’s a good thing: consistently achieving perfection as an artist probably means you’ve stopped taking any real creative risks.

Love isn’t risk-free, either, and though we often speak of it as something that happens to you, something—like inspiration—that “strikes” you, love isn’t something you feel so much as something you do. It’s not a noun; it’s a verb. Something you learn, practice, work at, make—and not just in the bedroom. As with art, some of its most exquisite moments are often the messiest.

Later on, when these pillow covers are complete, I’ll post the finished products with some step-by-step instructions. But for now, I’m offering a peek behind the curtain. There’s a certain beauty in the unfinished, more still in the infinite promise of all that is yet possible.

Make, love.

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