A Smashing Success: Finding the Beauty in Happy Accidents

A guest post by Victoria Rose Martin

Question: What do potatochips, Silly Putty, microwave ovens, Slinky and penicillin have in common?

Answer: They were all discovered by accident. Life is full of chance happenings isn’t it?

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Screenshot of Inc.com.


Recently in between packing, and moving house I had a bit of a panic about lost studio time so thought I’d try to crank out some work for a show with a dog theme. After sketching and brainstorming for ideas the plan was to make the figure of a woman standing on the back of a dog. First I built the dog and set him aside to dry. Then I began working on the human figure. The head was sculpted and then a torso and then they were set aside so they could dry just a little bit. As the head a torso dried I started making legs for the figure.

As I toiled refining the legs I hear this “splat” sound. “Jeez, what was that?” I asked myself.


Clay doggies drying on a bed of paper towels.


I gasped as I looked down to see a mangled and messed body that bore a very close resemblance to that of a Jack Russell terrier and not of a woman’s. The head and torso had rolled off the table and onto the floor. I cussed and cursed like a sailor while I surveyed the damage. And then there was an ah-­ha moment. The body looked like a dog. Why not take the changes the universe had literally dropped at my feet and see where it takes me? What did I have to lose? The body looked like a barrel bellied dog so the way I speculated it could go one or two ways.

1. I could crunch up the smashed body and start over and stick to my original plan.

2. Or I could take the Jack Russell body and refine it a bit and see what happens.

Really, what did I have to lose but a little time? Perhaps I’d mess the figure up even more and have to start from scratch, but I’d have to do that anyways. Or I could get really lucky and love the results.

The human legs were revised and human feet were replaced with dog paws. Guess what happened? I loved what I saw evolving before my eyes. The moral of the story is “when the universe gives you a dog, take that puppy for a walk.” The best part is you can’t even imagine how much fun I had making the sculpture. One sculpture soon became 10 variations.


3 Pups after firing and glazing.

I laughed the entire time at the utter silliness of the work and at the good fortune of the head and torso rolling onto the floor. As I worked my husband would hear me chuckling; and he’d poke his head around only to see his wife cackling at a blob of clay in her hands. A lot of joy came from something that initially seemed like a horrible set back.

While my accidental discovery didn’t change the world like the invention of penicillin did, it just goes to show you that incidents we think are initially really bad can actually be great opportunities to try something different or to think differently.

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Screenshot of Business Insider.

How rigid are you with your concepts? Are you open to chance? It’s my hope that while you make your art, no matter what the results you find joy. As kooky as it might sound it’s my belief that when you do something in a place of joy, it can’t be wrong. Even if the concept changes a bit from your original concept and isn’t exactly what you started with, so what? Did you enjoy the process? And isn’t that what making art is all about?

If you have a similar experience either good or bad be sure to write about it on your blog. And for goodness sakes if you tend to be very rigid in your way of working, loosen up. Take chances and just enjoy the ride.


Martin Victoria Rose 160Victoria Rose Martin is an artist and designer currently living in South Florida. She is the Department Chair for Fine Art and Graphic Design at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Florida. You can visit her website at: VictoriaRoseMartin.com.







U5666_ArtOfMistakes_finalC.inddFor more about how to recognize the potential in your mistakes, pre-order your copy of The Art of Mistakes by Melanie Rothschild.

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