happenstance, chance, accidental beauty

boro textile

Why does this stitching, born solely of necessity, produce such compelling and powerful compositions? Does some perfect rhythm, some harmony with the universe reveal itself if we get out of the way?

And intertwined with the aesthetic appeal there is another sensibility about these patched and mended textiles.  Stephen Szczepanek refers to Boro as having soulful beauty.  I think that’s perfect, their unassuming and utilitarian nature and their absolute integration with life communicate an intimacy and humanity that is exquisite.

I chose some of my favorite examples of patched and mended old cloth to share with you below – click the images for the larger versions (all photos by Sri Threads).  

There is beautiful evidence of time and use everywhere. I’ve been photographing my paintboxes for years, to record  their transformations.

Like the Boro pieces I love them for their accidental beauty and for inspiration – there are so many things to think about and so many places to begin in them.

Note: this post was originally published in 2015 as part of my big creative year series and was edited and updated with new images on 4/6/2018


  1. Such a grateful approach to life, to see beauty all around.

  2. Ann, I really enjoyed this post. Chance is what attracts me too, although I’ve never put it in those words. My work is often inspired by rhythm that I find in nature and architecture, but with an eye towards those random irregularities that bring out the pattern and excite the eye with their chaos and order all at once. I think the Boro shirt is so rhythmic and complete. Thanks for adding another perspective to something I think about all the time.

  3. I see all the same beauty everywhere of the old, tattered, and used. I have a pair of coveralls that hang in my sewing room that are worn and patched. I picked them up at an auction and LOVE them. They represent so much.

  4. I think what you call “chance” is the same pull that makes it nearly impossible for me to ignore a handsewn gem I find in a second-hand store bin, flea market, or yard sale. I can’t bear to think that someone stitched something with their own hands and now — for whatever reason — that work has been cast aside, passed over by the world. People think I’m nuts (“Why would you want THAT old thing?”), but I don’t care. I see great beauty in handwork that’s seen the wear and tear of use/function and is aching to be incorporated into something new.

  5. Dawn J. Brick

    There’s something about age on fabric, that creates a beautiful patina that can’t be duplicated by man

    made means. Example: Old embroidered linens one sees in antique shops, (or resale shops!)

  6. I love getting your weekly blog. I agree, aged and used items have a rare quality. I’m sure when I die and my kids start going through the things I have saved — no, I’m not a hoarder — they will just shake their heads in wonder. But then again, maybe they won’t because they know how I am.

    I also want to mention that I, too, love, Julie Whitmore’s ceramics. Also, if you are not familiar with Karen Shapely, you should check out her creations. She’s also on Instagram but here’s a link to her FB page. https://www.facebook.com/karen.shapleytextilesandceramics/

  7. Leisa Daly

    I made the soup over the weekend and it is delicious! I loved roasting the whole cauliflower – less mess!

    Your work is beautiful and I love the pics of yout paints!

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