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What is it?
Sabi originally meant chill, lean or withered. Wabi meant the misery of living alone.
Over time the term has evolved to represent an aesthetic appreciation of the passage of time and its effect. It refers to things that tarnish, rust, decay and age.
Is it a positive thing?
Yes and no. You would not call your business wabi sabi. That would be like naming your martial arts class 'Deterioration Tai Chi'.
Wabi sabi embraces the melancholy as well as the upbeat aspects of life. Your favourite Uncle has died and you smile at their memory; happiness and love tinged with regret.
An old pair of shoes look broken down and useless but you enjoy their comfort despite their fading functionality.
A vase has a crack in it and can no longer hold water but you cannot bear to throw it out. An old bucket in your garden has rusted in the rain and has a hole in the side.
Eventually nature has the final say. Everything rots, deteriorates and dies. Wabi sabi appreciation is the acceptance of this process instead of seeking to preserve or halt the inevitable decline.
Wabi sabi is
the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.
You cannot create wabi sabi. It is not a fashion or a style. By its very nature it refers to processes that occur naturally as things are used, wear out and eventually break down.
As with 'Zen' the term wabi sabi has been adopted in modern UK culture to mean something Asian and exotic.
Common wabi sabi qualities:
One of a kind
There is no progress
Believes in the fundamental uncontrollability of nature
Degradation and attrition
Function and utility not so important
Dark and dim
Get rid of all that is unnecessary
Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness
Focus on the intrinsic
Leonard Koren has written two excellent books - Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers and Wabi-Sabi: Further Thoughts.
He examines Zen, tea ceremony, aesthetics and design in an attempt to unravel a deeper root significance. We highly recommend that you purchase the books.
Another good book is Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper.
how full of
life, his song.
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 08 February 2018