Except it didn't read. Don't panic!, I thought, then spent the entire next day working with a photo image of the QR Button Blanket, Photoshopping in more buttons and darker buttons and bigger buttons, trying to add the minimum amount of density for the software program to register the pattern and work its magic to produce the punchline. No luck; even a sliver of white in one button cluster puts a wrench in the wholecloth works. I filed this one under the category of Epic Fail, not worth finishing it as intended, framing it in black bias binding. I do not want to create something that is 'still' good; I want the thing to be good, full stop.
But there is another power here, and that's tied to the process beyond the product. The achievement may lie in the endurance (in an increasingly A.D.D. world) that is not necessarily attached to the product after all. It may be in seeing it through, without the promise of a sure result. The power may lie in the humble, everyday materials and the community of women who contributed all those bits of plastic saved from the waste stream. (There should really be a global ban on production of billions of plastic buttons. Plant-based plastic, bone, wood, and leather- or fabric-wrapped tin buttons eventually return to the earth.)
But what's really starting to click in for me is the cultural reference of this button-grid design. A decade ago, it might have been viewed as an oddly arranged colour field or an abstracted grid but we're so acclimatized to codes that the pattern begs to be 'read.' The fact that this is irresolvable might be annoying. And that's interesting.
Moments like these, I seek out the artists who have embraced what New York artist Polly Apfelbaum calls the 'tough beauty' of visually exciting works that incorporate everyday materials in surprising ways. Apfelbaum, who calls herself a bad crafter, articulates the process of hard work in this video.
"I work all the time," she says, without a schedule and in a highly experimental way. "You make the work and then you hope for the best."
"It's very important to get your fuck-you back."
I'm going with that.