In the pursuit of excellence

Throughout the years I have engaged in many forms of crafting. The mark of the craftsman is his or her personal drive for excellence. In the pursuit of excellence we often develop new, artistic, or innovative output, often using unconventional materials.

When I created wainscot for my kitchen, I found it better to use the cheapest, #3 pine lumber because it was full of beautiful, large, knots and knot holes. Clear lumber would have been perfect in and of itself, but average at best in my kitchen. To get a truly beautiful wall I used the least desired lumber.

When I create leather goods, I have found the best leather is very nice to work: mostly clean, no cuts, no bug bites, no holes. And many people just want a plain belt with nothing unusual, which is fine: for them I will simply cut a quick belt from a perfect hide, punch it, dye it, and ship it to them. But when I make my best items, I make them from leather which has been tried: it has wrinkles and cuts and sometimes holes. The thickness may vary. The dye soaks in in mysterious patterns of light and dark. I look at it carefully; I see how to cut my pattern around the blemishes, or sometimes to highlight them; I massage the dye into the leather, teasing the patterns and blemishes so that they reveal their secrets and merge into a unique and beautiful work.

In short, the leather goods that I get from a less perfect hide are by far more wonderful than anything made from a premier hide. I call these traits, these unique differences in each piece of material, the material’s Character.

People also have blemishes. They have scars and maybe some wounds that never quite healed. They have secrets that they do not want to remember. They have lived and suffered and are forever different from every other person because of it. And this is part of what makes their character: it is what makes each one of us unique.

Like materials, people with blemishes are thrown away, de-valued, and marginalized by society. They are excluded from mainstream communion: thrown into the discount bin: a broken and unwanted object. And in the hands of the Supreme Craftsman they are crafted into a work of art far more wondrous and beautiful than anything average made from people who have never errored, never suffered, never hurt.

The mark of a Craftsman is not what he or she can do with the perfect: it is what he or she can do with the distressed. God never wastes a hurt: the experience will come in handy later.

Have a great day. May God Bless.

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