As a maker, one of my goals is to make functional objects pleasing to the eye. I love tools and products that function well and look good. That doesn’t mean they have to be fancy in their appearance. All I ask for is that they be neatly finished with no ugly seams or rough surfaces. You don’t even have to hide the screws if they’re arranged neatly and consistently. Making something the pleases the eye and does its job isn’t that hard.
Why does appearance matter? For me how something looks is important because it speaks to the care and attention taken in making it, and often impacts an object’s usability as well. Consider the humble fork. If the tines are out of alignment or not in proportion to the handle, it is uncomfortable to use as well as not appealing to the eye. Get the proportions right and align the tines and instantly you have a table tool that not only looks good, but also serves its intended purpose.
Notice that I started out these “Thoughts” with “As a maker”. Those words were intentional, because they indicate that I have control over what I produce, as do my fellow makers. So when I consider the appearance of an object made by human hands, I am conscious of the fact that conscious choices were made in their construction. The choice to make something both useful and attractive, and my preference for good looking functional objects is entirely my own.
As a human being not manufactured by human beings, or at least created in a process that is entirely out of human control, my preference for good looking things goes out the window. Actually, so does my desire that something be useful, too.
How a person looks is irrelevant to who they are. Not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder, it is also something over which we have no control, either in ourselves or others. As to someone being useful, as a tool might be, well, that too is an irrelevant measure of a person. Not only can it be hard to measure, its also misleading. God created us for a purpose, but only God knows what that purpose is. All we can and should do is to be sufficiently self-aware to be able to identify our gifts and use them to live in a way that honours our Creator.
Each of us was created to reflect God’s image in some way. As such, we are all uniquely beautiful and necessary. To see that inherent beauty calls for us to look beyond the physical. To recognize that each of us belongs calls for us to see each other as a practical expression of God’s love. While the things I make may or may not be as useful or appealing to the eyes as I would like them to be, I know that we humans, in our own unique fashion, are every bit as wonderful as our Creator in every way possible.
Published previously, March 21, as part of my weekly “Thoughts” for my congregation, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Coldwater.