The Beauty of Wabi-Sabi

Wabi-sabi (侘寂) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

My pottery pieces are not perfect.  There are so many steps that go into making a finished piece and “mistakes” can happen during any one of these stages–wedging the clay, throwing (which is an entirely long process in itself), drying, trimming, more drying, bisque firing, cooling, sanding rough edges, glazing, firing again, and then sanding once more.  I’ve had my fair share of uneven trims and messed up glazing but I feel that there’s a certain beauty to these so-called imperfections. That is what makes it hand made and there is something authentic and unique about hand crafted items in a mass produced society. Everything made by hand are truly one-of-a-kind.

That’s the beauty of Wabi-Sabi.

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Published by

Michelle Luu

My journey into pottery.

15 thoughts on “The Beauty of Wabi-Sabi”

  1. A good few years ago, a designer friend taught me to see that imperfections could add character that technically flawless processes (like mass produced tableware) lack. It really opened up the way I see the world and made me more open to similar ideas. It’s a pity we’re not all taught this concept – it often takes people like you with a creative instinct and training to point it out. Yet we all understand that people don’t have to be perfect to be loveable!

    1. Beautiful words, Susan! Everything that you’ve mentioned is so true! As an artist, it took me a while to appreciate the imperfections in my work. I wanted all my pieces to be perfect but I realized that these imperfections are what makes them unique. This can be applied to all things in life: people, relationships, art, nature…that is what makes life so beautiful! Thank you for your kind words and your photographs are absolutely gorgeous!

  2. Interesting to know about wabi-sabi. Could you explain me what wabi-sabi mean in photography? A friend of mine once told me about this but still I have no idea what it is when in terms of photography.

    Thanks in advance. 🙂

    1. Hi Inge! I’m sorry that it took so long to reply back to you. The concept of wabi-sabi is a little hard to describe but for me, it’s about the way you see the world. It’s about finding beauty in things unrefined and imperfect. Photography is a perfect example! I think it’s about having an eye for raw textures and the impermanence of things. It’s finding beauty in a fallen leaf or a cracked wall. The wonderful thing about photography is that I can see how you view the world through your photographs. Here is a link that I found with beautiful wabi-sabi photographs (https://stevemccurry.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/beauty-in-imperfection/).

      If you want to learn more about wabi-sabi, you should take a look at this article (http://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/articles/beauty-wabi-sabi). Leonard Koren, describes it perfectly.

      I hope that I helped answer your question!

      1. Thank you so much for your reply and sharing your thought about wabi-sabi. I’ve bookmarked those links and will check them later for sure.

        No need to apologize for the late reply. I really do appreciate your time and explanation. 🙂

  3. I love that you’re writing about wabi sabi. It’s such a simple yet complex topic. I went to an exhibition opening in Tokyo last year that combined canteo (the singing for flamenco) and tea ceremony. The artist is Chiaki Horikoshi and the show was titled Wabi Sabi. Horikoshi-san is a multi-media artist, pottery, painting and singing. If you are interested in my review of the show you can find at https://thespendypencil.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/in-pursuit-of-wabi-sabi-chiaki-horikoshis-exhibition/

    You’re pottery looks great!

    1. Lori, thank you so much! You’re right; wabi-sabi is actually a difficult concept to describe! I love that wabi-sabi can be applied to many aspects of life…not just art. I read your review! You did a great job and beautiful photos too!

      1. Thanks for taking the time to read it and for saying!

        It took forever to sort it out in my mind. I think I spent two days staring at the ceiling, lost in thought after that exhibition.

        The photo of Kobori-san is interesting to me because it looked better when I added a filter to it, made it less perfect. I wish I hadn’t been so shy about taking pictures during the ceremony but I didn’t want to jam up other people’s experience.

      2. Haha, I love that. I find that the best experiences are those that make you really think, change your perspective, or just to appreciate. Yes, the shadows make the photo quite beautiful…and mysterious. that’s understandable. Sometimes, I feel uncomfortable taking photos of sacred places and ceremonies!

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