The Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, rooted in ancient Japanese tradition, is where one finds acceptance and beauty in imperfection. What exactly do the words, Wabi-Sabi, mean? Wabi denotes both “rustic simplicity” and the unpredictability of nature and things that are made by hand. Sabi literally means “beauty that comes with age.” This is in stark contrast to mass produced pieces where absolute uniformity is expected.
When I started to think about how I would illustrate this concept, I immediately thought of artist Kristin Nelson. I have been an admirer of her work for some time. All of these pieces featured in this article are her creations.
I asked Kristin to share her thoughts on what Wabi-Sabi means to her:
“When I think of wabi-sabi, the beauty and character of aging, or patina comes to mind. Fading layers of weathered paint on a neglected building or the rusting hulls of ships can be as stunning as an abstract painting. The gentle collapsing of a well-worn chair or soft sagging of a favorite sweater can be wabi-sabi too. Irregularity and imperfection are qualities I would also give to my definition of wabi-sabi.
Although the term is frequently used to describe ceramics, fabrics, handwoven cloth with its slightly uneven selvage and textiles printed by hand with variations in ink density and hue, equally possess what I consider wabi-sabi sensibility. When objects’ beauty deviates from perfection, they take on a wabi-sabi aesthetic.
I was once asked how I achieve the primitive look in my ceramics. The only answer I could give is that I just do the best I can, and that’s how things turn out. One could say that my work has a “wabi-sabi” style. Despite my sincerest efforts, the result of my labors is always just a little crooked or a bit off center. If one accepts a wabi-sabi philosophy, imperfections are a sign of humbleness and humanness, guiding one toward a gentler, more tolerant definition of beauty”.
“I’ve always been a maker and I enjoy using objects made by hand. Having elements of handmade in our lives helps us develops our sensitivities to differences and to be more mindful. Each piece I create is unique, and imperfect. That is what makes it beautiful. It is like that with people too. We are all individuals, quirky, different, awkward, and special. I like to encourage my customers not just to admire, but to handle and use my ceramics. This is the fun part and the point at which one connects with the human element of ‘’handmade’’. This is why handmade objects should have a place in our homes.”