Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy and way of life that sees beauty in imbalance and transience. “Wabi” roughly translates to modest simplicity and “Sabi” to deterioration as time passes. The combining of the two words gives rise to the perception that is dominant in Zen Buddhism, which sees all objects as impermanent and imperfect yet with inherent beauty. This philosophy helps see cracked, incomplete or aged pieces beyond their flaws in pottery. As a principle, it beats down the western idea of perfectionism and encourages one to foster an attitude of appreciation and gratitude.
Wabi-sabi and the tea ceremonies of Japan have an intertwined history. It also connects with the idea of beauty that comes with wear and tear. As growth in the tea ceremonies during the 16th Century was observed, demand to see daily ware that reflected the philosophy also escalated. Against the backdrop of imported refined Chinese ceramicware, pieces upholding the Wabi-Sabi ideal provided a stark difference. To this date, ceramicware that reflects wabi-sabi is a refined addition to the table.
Kintsugi, the art of “golden joinery”, has become synonymous with the notion of Wabi-Sabi in the art world. It involves repairing broken ceramic pieces using lacquer and powdered gold. This repairment gives scars the power to be embraced and seen as beautiful. The gilded ceramics become a metaphor for meaning and value in the broken. Raku pottery or “Raku-yaki” is a representation of wabi-sabi in pottery too. Once the pottery is out of the kiln, it is left to cool down in the open air. Depending on the artisan, the result is porous ware that is either left glazed or unglazed. Raku ware began as a tradition to create “Chawans” or tea bowls, and the use of pieces that embody unique imperfections in their formation adheres to the notions of wabi-sabi.
Source- Karen LaMonte
Wabi-sabi has gone beyond geographies and cultures as contemporary artists have taken inspiration from it to reflect the ideas of repair and rebirth while emulating the versatility and appeal of pottery. Karen LaMonte, an American artist, took inspiration from Kintsugi to repair ceramic sculptures that broke in a kiln explosion. Ashiesh Shah, an architect and interior designer from India, has deeply explored the concept of wabi-sabi and accommodated it in his work. His focus has traveled eastern philosophy, Indian artistry, and modern sensibilities. His recent collection in collaboration with Urban Ladder paved the way for products with a subtle vocabulary of the minimal line which reflects groundedness. Modern-day ceramics, through hand-building or coiling and freehand decoration techniques, allows room for beauty in oversights. However, through it, they create magnificent pieces of art.
As an aesthetic philosophy, Wabi-sabi allows us to look for beauty in imperfections and impermanence. The use of asymmetry and irregularities become design elements that reflect the same in ceramics. Ceramics built upon this notion portray humility, a value at the heart of wabi-sabi. Embracing the flaws via pottery adds a permanent addition to the fleeting world.
Source- Colin King