My Favorite Mistakes

So many posters make their way into our house, that if we were to display them all, our house might look something like a subway station. It’s the price we cheerfully pay for sharing a hometown with the fabulous Hatch Show Print.

In an effort to simplify the archiving of posters, I recently made a frame with a basket-like structure on the back that allows me to slide posters in and out easily, without the hassle of framing behind glass. My classmate Maher, the brilliant Egyptian carpenter, helped me. You can see the prototype frame in the photo here. It’s made with surplus flooring planks and is currently displaying a poster by my artist friend Alan LeQuire, celebrating the anniversary of women’s suffrage.

With our poster inventory escalating, I recently set out to make another poster frame. Maher wasn’t around to help, but I figured, how hard can it be?

Really hard.

It’s not just that you have to cut precise 45° angles so the corners mate perfectly. It’s that you will fail. The miters won’t meet, and you will need a whole lot of glue and staples. Which means you’ve got to find all the right gear.

I found a broken staple gun and a broken hose for the air compressor. When I found a functioning stapler, I inserted the wrong staples. One of them shot all the way through the wood to protrude through the front of the frame.

That left me digging a staple out of the wood, which resulted in a giant divot and a nagging memory of puberty, when my Mom insisted it would be better just to live with the zit than to endure the remedy for the zit.

So then I moved on to patching with Clearasil—I mean wood filler.

I had spent several hours contorting four haggard strips of wood into what is surely the ugliest frame in history (pictured here with the July 4th poster) when a classmate wandered by.

“Looks nice,” he says.

He must be joking. There was nothing nice about the pocked and scarred surface spackled with glue and wood filler.

But then I looked at it again and realized that it was actually holding together nicely. Once it’s displaying a poster, no one will ever notice its imperfections.

That’s when my classmate offered some wisdom along these lines:

“It’s not about making it perfectly in the first place,” he said. “It’s about knowing how to fix your mistakes, because you’re never going to make it perfect in the first place.”

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