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Perfect Imperfect

In Print

We preview Perfect Imperfect, a jaw-droppingly beautiful new book from Sydney based writer and editor Karen McCartney, stylist Glen Proebstel and photographer Sharyn Cairns.

Perfect Imperfect launched this week, with an exhibition of the same name, hosted at the Nishi Gallery, at Hotel Hotel in Canberra.


5th May, 2016
Lucy Feagins
Thursday 5th May 2016

Karen McCartney is a legend, really. She was the founding editor of Inside Out magazine, and remained editor for 10 years. During that time, Karen worked with Tracy Lines as her art director, and she and Tracy would regularly collaborate with stylist Glen Proebstel and photographer Sharyn Cairns. Together, Glen and Sharyn would create the most truly spectacular editorial features for almost every issue, and their signature style, for a time, really became the hallmark of the magazine.

With so many years of creative collaboration behind them, it’s really no surprise that Karen, Glen and Sharyn have re-grouped in recent years to produce something extra spectacular. It’s hard to overstate the sheer beauty of their latest project. Perfect Imperfect, published by Murdoch Books, is honestly the MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK I’ve ever seen. Big call I know.

Simply put, Perfect Imperfect is a celebration of accidental beauty. Within its pages, Sharyn and Glen have captured homes, studios, shops, hotels and creative spaces across the globe which exemplify this concept, and Karen has profiled an incredible group of creative minds. Amongst those featured are legendary New York based Australian photographer Martyn Thompson, stylist Sibella Court, architect John Wardle, artist Nicholas Jones, Hotel Hotel founder Nectar Efkarpidis and many, many more.

Visually, the book feels like the culmination of everything Glen and Sharyn have become so well known for – deep, moody hues, simple, striking silhouettes, layer upon layer of rich texture, and the unique patina of age. The book has taken many years to pull together, and has been shot all over the world – from Belgium to London, Paris, New York and of course, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Karen, Glen and Sharyn have launched Perfect Imperfect this week with an exhibition of the same name, hosted at the Nishi Gallery, at Hotel Hotel in Canberra (Hotel Hotel’s distinctive interiors also feature in the book). The exhibition brings together a collection of perfectly imperfect objects curated by the trio, alongside imagery from the book.

We recently chatted to Karen McCartney about the genesis of this brilliant new book, and the accompanying exhibition.

Tell us a little about the book Perfect Imperfect. How long has it been in development for, and what can we expect to find within its pages?

It is a long story which initially started with Tracy Lines, when she was a lifestyle publisher with Murdoch Books. Fast forward two years, and we had our first Skype meeting from the offices of Murdoch Books in Sydney’s Crow’s Nest, with Glen in New York in July 2014. It has been full steam ahead since. The book has been shot all over the world – Belgium, London, Paris, New York and of course, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Finding the right architects, designers, craftspeople, retailers and hoteliers, art directors and photographers, to represent the ethos of the ‘perfect imperfect’ theme took some time. We started with friends like Martyn Thompson and Sibella Court, and gradually expanded the worldview to include a great mix of original creative minds. The book explores the aesthetic of these people, in pictures and words, and draws out what is fascinating about their process.

What was it like collaborating with Glen and Sharyn?

I worked with Glen when I was editor of Inside Out magazine and he was style director. We worked closely together for about a decade, and have remained close friends. Sharyn was always the favourite photographer and between them they did the very best work. Their collaboration became something of a visual highlight of the magazine each issue.

So before we embarked on this project we were very familiar with one another’s aesthetic, which is crucial for a project of this nature. There has to be a lot of trust. Also in the mix was Tracy Lines, previously our art director at Inside Out, who has designed the book. Sitting with Tracy, having cups of tea, working on the design of the pages, were amongst the happiest of days.

Tell us about the Perfect Imperfect exhibition that has just opened at the Nishi Gallery at Hotel Hotel in Canberra – what’s it about, and how does it extend the ideas conveyed in the book?

The exhibition has been a labour of love. We have drawn on the talent that is featured in the book, alongside other examples which serve to drive the concept in new and interesting directions. Sculptor Alison Coates has created an impactful installation, which exemplifies her love of the organic, while extreme knitter Jacqui Fink brings her immense, tactile work into the space. Alana Wilson ceramics, Harriet Goodall sculptures, and Guy Keulemans vases and copper scoops are amongst the work from local artists and designers. Internationally, vessels from Simon Hasan who works in boiled, formed leather and Lachaert D’Hanis whose Shard Collection of split ceramics is for sale. Ditto Martyn Thompson’s painterly throws, and Dove Drury Hornbuckle’s exquisite structural ceramics. Melbourne paper artist Nicholas Jones has created an artwork out of the Perfect Imperfect book by cutting into it in a perfect circle.

Of course, the exhibition is anchored by the evocative prints that Sharyn has curated from the content of the book. The exhibition is quite fascinating – a little bit of madness, eccentricity and strange beauty – a bit like the pages of the book come alive.

Perfect Imperfect is $59.99, out now through Murdoch Books.

Karen McCartney, Glen Proebstel and Sharyn Cairns at Nishi Gallery in Canberra for the exhibition of Perfect Imperfect. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email