17 Nov 2016

Wabi Sabi

Having recently taken Andrew Juniper's book out of the library 'Wabi Sabi, The Japanese Art of Impermanence'. I am wondering why I haven't come across the term wabi sabi before. 'The term wabi sabi suggests such qualities as impermanence, humility, asymmetry and imperfection. These underlying principles are diametrically opposed to those of their Western counterparts, whose values are rooted in a Hellenic worldview that values permanence, grandeur, symmetry and perfection'. (Juniper, p.2). The idea that Western values are linked to that of perfection, which is unachievable, a goal that can never truly be fulfilled and is ultimately a cycle of frustration and deflation. 

These ideas make me think of my own practice and the materials I might use and what is used in wabi sabi art. Wabi sabi art is often made from natural materials. Natural materials change with time and react to their environments and are asymmetric, imperfect and impermanent. Some materials such as glass and plastic are built to withstand the tests of time. I am wondering if we expect less of natural materials in terms in terms of aging? If I had a glass table and a wooden one and I chipped them both, I think the wooden one would still be functional as you almost expect wood to chip and you could sand it and it might not look so bad. Whereas, the glass one would be sharp and potentially dangerous and need replacing. Making wood 'the less durable material' more sustainable in a number of ways.  Could this theory regarding natural materials be applied to designed objects and artefacts to make them more sustainable? Would we be less frustrated with our objects if we knew in which way they reacted over time and if it was expected of them? Rather than throwing something away everytime it shown signs of aging. 

Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House with alabama chanin:

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