It is a curious creation that emits a strange power. This carpet, or Gabbeh to be more precise, is of an indeterminate age and originally harks from an Iranian village. I know this because I found a little piece of material sewn onto the back of the thing.
The carpet found me ten years ago. It materialized one rainy afternoon with a boyfriend who, soon after meeting me, decided to move back to the States. He proceeded to offload most of his possessions into my apartment Soho, Hong Kong - and this delightful item was amid the second elevator-load.
It provides soft relief to the feet of both myself and my husband... and it provides entertainment. We have spent hours sitting and looking at the wierd elements to this piece of art. Some curious mistakes that have made their way into the weaving, such as headless men (below) and three-legged camels.
But then, the other day I was on Skype and talking to my aunt, Anna O'Higgins, a wonderfully-inspired artist who lives in an ancient house on the island of Anglesey in North Wales and makes art from silk and glass and felt.
Her eyes were lingering on the screen, staring somewhere beyond me until she cried out, 'Oooh, love the rug!'
I explained the wierd qualities of this carpet, and she corrected me.
'No, the mistakes are meant to be there,' she assured me.
'Islamic art cannot be perfect, only Allah is perfect. So artists will add the mistakes.' She adds with a laugh, 'It's a philosophy I've been using myself lately.'
At this point in the conversation, some kind of light bulb illuminated my mind. Or perhaps a better explanation would be to say that a gate swung open and an exotic wild animal (maybe some kind of fantastical peacock) came hurtling out and ran down the hillside of my consciousness.
Something quite literally shifted in me and released its joyful energy.
Giving ourselves permission to be imperfect?
The following day, I sat down with all my notebooks and started to really work on my book of stories, for the first time in months. I felt released, unshackled. You see, I've been keeping this wild animal, my muse, in a small cage of late.
I've been visiting her with cups of tea every few days. But with every visit, I have become increasingly exasperated to see her standing limply in the corner, unwilling to move. Perhaps because every time she does start to get animated, the following morning the critic comes out silencing her once again.
Something about that line, about an artist purposefully injecting a mistake into her art... it set something free. It made me think of Leonard Cohen's 'Anthem':
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in...
Perhaps it's that glint of imperfection that is actually the route in.