Art is our creative voyage, but often we are tripped as we go. A woman in my class brought in a book she had made with storebought, handmade paper for endpapers, a dark color—generally a paper that is forgiving and easy to use. But when you looked at the book closely, you could see that the endpapers had been cut too small and that the edges were patched from leftover pieces. "Did you mean to do this?" another student asked. The first student explained and said she had hoped no one would notice.
The phrase, "honest mistake," comes to mind. Sometimes, we honestly make a mistake. Could be in a conversation, could be in an artwork. Depending on the severity of the mistake, in a conversation we may wish no one will notice, or at least that the remark will be forgotten soon. But with an artwork, there it stands. Could be temporary, could be forever. But there it is, staring back at us, a reminder.
From the back of my brain I pulled out a phrase I once heard* and told the students, "There are no mistakes, only opportunities." Each time we make what we think is a mistake, we have the chance to forge a new path, maybe head in a direction we hadn't ever thought to go. In this student's case I suggested either that she cut a new piece of paper the appropriate size and cover the patches, or that she look at the monochromatic collages she had made and push them even further: make intentional looking collages by adding new elements to enhance the content of her book.
Got guilt? No worries! When we feel the least bit guilty about some part of our pieces it is time to get creative, make a decision, and then boldly go in what may be a nifty new direction.
*turned out to be Tina Fey in Bossypants, although there are likely others who have said it as well