Mistakes are a Drawer Full of Scraps

Various Calligraphic Scraps & Various inks

While I was on break we had several weeks pass in our year long calligraphy challenge. This was one of those weeks. The prompt was to celebrate postage stamps, which meant working small. I decided to dig some of my ‘throw away’ scraps out and turn them into one inch squares. Each background is from a different calligraphy remnant then I added new words to bring it up to date. It was fun turning what I might normally have discarded into small bits of graphic art.

As I worked through all twenty-four different squares I thought about all the mishaps, mistakes and blunders it took to get there. The scraps were the moments when I was most frustrated with myself and angry that I wasn’t able to execute the idea in my head. They were the ideas that didn’t work and the reminders of my failures. Most people don’t keep those things around.

I have a very talented friend who comes to my studio and asks to see my scraps. She sees them differently. She riffles through my scrap drawer to ‘steal’ some of my mistakes. Those mistakes, she taught me, have value when they are thought of as texture or graphic images instead of misspelled or smudged words. When she said that I looked at my failures in an entirely new way. Suddenly I was able to see the value in them by repurposing them in other ways.

We all make mistakes, and the raw truth is that we will continue to make mistakes until the end of our days. That is what makes us human. The challenge is not that we make mistakes, the real challenge is learning from them even when they are painful to admit. We grow when we move forward after the blunder and keep moving, keep learning, keep changing. Our mistakes are the only things that are truly our own AND have the power to define us like no other point in time. We can see them as reminders of our inabilities or update our perspective and accept the new life they steer us towards. Mistakes are like a drawer full of calligraphy scraps that get turned into smaller, more beautiful works of art that otherwise would never have been possible.


  1. A wonderful way to look differently at the pieces that didn’t come out as you had hoped. They can be repurposed to something new. Reminds me of kintsugi, the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery, and the adhesive is colored gold or silver — so the cracks are emphasized. The pottery looks beautiful in a different way.


  2. Such a wonderful analogy and beautifully written. My personal art form of quilting also creates scraps – seemingly unusable, but when integrated into another piece, pure joy.


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