B-Side Wabi Sabi

Bunny Flight, Beth Hemmila, fine silver charm

Several months ago I was chatting up an amiable store owner, and he revealed his secret method for evaluating artists. When looking at metalwork, he always flips the piece over to check out the B-side. I gasped because deep inside me I heard a similar longing. The voyeur seeking out the underside -- the underbelly of the creative process. 

Knowing this hidden tidbit about myself, I started to delight in why I intentionally don't make my silver charms rigidly tidy on the flipside. At one time, as a fresh faced art history student in college, I was ridiculously ambitious enough to write a ginormous paper on a Japanese ceramic tea bowl. (Did I actually think the professor would stay awake for this stuff?) Nonetheless, what came of this exhaustive research and discovery has been a life long love affair with the Japanese principles of aesthetics and wabi sabi

Through art, the Japanese communicate the humble notion that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. Ahhh!  Is that you I hear breathing a sigh of relief while Western ideas of perfection take a sleeping pill? To be in tune with nature, a human understands that everything is perfect in its "imperfection." Beauty is a wrinkle, a smear of wine on the counter, and a nick in the table.  Life is layers of "imperfections" that create perfection. 

B-side of Bunny Flight, Beth Hemmila, fine silver charm

This past weekend I spent more time examining the inherent beauty in the subtle imperfections while making my charms. My neighbors probably heard squeals of delight erupt from our basement when I found my fingerprint etched on the backside of Bunny Flight. Just imagine the intimacy and connection between myself and the future owner of this charm? Would they want me to wipe this charm clean of my traces? My fingerprint is like a personal bar code.  Like those cylinders in music boxes that plunk out tunes, this imprint is a physical representation of my internal soul wave or rhythm manifesting in a pattern. My fingerprint rests on the backside of this charm as a coded message of my good vibrations to another soul out in the universe.

I invite you to embrace these nifty ideas about fingerprints:
  • A fingerprint is unalterable since 5 months before you are born.
  • Similar patterns in nature can be seen in zebra stripes and ripples in sand.
  • The Navajo have a saying: "The Great Spirit breathes in the breath of life, and the tracks of that breath become the fingerprints."
I tempt you to take a gander underneath handmade things, remembering to look for and take delight in traces of fingerprints, joyful accidents, and sacred imperfections. 


  1. what a beautiful post,
    so inspiring.
    (i saved you some pie)

  2. There are times when I wish that some of my pieces are not quite so imperfect. However, I have one three strand Swarovski sapphire bracelet that I will not remake because of its "imperfection"
    I made it several years ago when I had cataracts. After they were removed, I noticed that one of the crystals was emerald. (Obviously, I had not noticed before). Several people told me it was a "spirit" bead to remind me of imperfections. And that it does!

  3. I read your post with delight. Long before I became and artist, I had a Buddhist friend who was a landscape designer. He would not let his helpers write in the concrete he poured for sidewalks and such but WOULD let the put in a thumbprint!

  4. This is such a beautiful message! I have the same intentions for my craft as well.

  5. Very inspirational! I feel the exact same way. I definitely believe that the imperfections of a piece are what make it perfect. Thanks for wording it so beautifully!

  6. Ah, Beth thanks for pointing me to this post of yours. Beautifully put. I don't sign my work because I view it as leaving me to be something else in someone else's hands. This whole signing things is a purely Western collectors notion. Rather, I like the idea that my makers mark will be on pieces much like your finger print. And perfection? Much like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Oh and we potters always look at the bottom. We feel the rim and it's curve to the foot. It is so much more than visual. Cheers

  7. Hello Beth,

    Wonderful post, there is great truth in the underbelly of everything. i've made jewelry for 25+ years and realized the importance of the "backside", all of my work has a definable front and back or front and back...depending on how you look at it. i saw your work on etsy, very inspirational and beautifully done..

  8. Nice to meet you Robert! Thanks so much for checking in on my work and sharing your appreciation :)


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