The Freedom of Wabi Sabi : Regenerative Design for Generations
Engaging with the Art of Patina as Stewards of Imperfect Home Design.
Wabi Sabi isn’t defined neatly.
Wabi sabi is the achievable, beautiful, unburdened, anti-perfect.
Wabi Sabi cannot be found in Botox, heavy make-up, smart phones, simulated wood. It is not the neat plaid lawns punctuated by weird, tombstone-like landscape features.
It is not the newly gooped pavement of big-box stores. It is not mass-produced. It is not plastic-perfect. It doesn't require us to maintain neglected clutter, or to see “…a junk pile through rose-colored glasses.” (2) It is not a spiritual or material bypass.
Conception of the Concept
The concept of Wabi Sabi arose in an environment of opulence, ornamentation and excess. Only, then, it was 15th century Japan. This aesthetic Zen philosophy involves "deliberate imperfection, appreciating the beauty in a naturally imperfect world. It’s about celebrating the beauty of natural flaws”.
"Wabi" denotes an elegant or rustic simplicity. "Sabi" honours the beauty of age and wear.
Leonard Koren writes ”Wabi sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental." (2)
Repelled by Perfection
Japanese art critic Soetsu Yanagi writes, "We in our own human imperfections are repelled by the perfect,” (2)
When we're not thinking, we chase perfection, like an unfulfilling drug. But, if making designs upon perfection was truly a fulfilling task, or even a possible one, we would not have to keep pursuing it. We would be capable of it.
By nature, we are not capable of perfection. We think we want it, but we hate who looks like they have it, or we're never happy with nearing it. As imperfect beings, perfected surroundings make us uneasy.
"Accepting the world as imperfect, unfinished, and transient,
and then going deeper and celebrating that reality,
is something not unlike freedom."
- Richard Powell, author of "Wabi Sabi Simple" (2)
It takes a quiet mind to appreciate the beauty of bareness. "Appreciation of wabi-sabi itself, requires an ability to slow down, to shift the balance from doing to being, to appreciating rather than perfecting".
Natural magnetism towards weathered objects reflects our “universal longing for wisdom, for genuineness, for shared history”
Old treasures capture us, whether we understand why or not. We may resist, but ultimately we are drawn back in to engage in some way, sentimentally, tactilely, visually.
We need multi-sensorial reminders that we are transient. Everything around us is "in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth and decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots” (1)
Wabi Sabi has Patina Power
Simple beauties that already exist escape our notice during our pursuit of perfecting. But, patina: patina draws us in with a power that goes deeper than the allure of shiny new things.
Wabi Sabi is a discarded treasure. It is the beauty of rust. Rustic by character, it has charm. It is aged wood, cracks, uneven planks. It is the fruit at farmer’s markets. It is weathered by bad weather. It's asymetrical, exposed, decayed.
Wabi sabi is in hand-made, upcycled, singularly crafted objects. It is in minimally processed, natural materials. There is healing in celebrating the beauty that gets better with time.
Wabi sabi is also the placement of object. An object featured, rather than lost in clutter. It completes an atmosphere of serenity. As Robyn Griggs Lawrence describes it as a curated exhibit of "...signs of wear and tear, signs of love and use". (2)
Wabi Sabi is “the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all.”(1)
The Healing Wabi Sabi of Elegant Organic Home
Deeply authentic dwellings are built with solid quality and thoughtful craftsmanship, outlasting other homes, getting better with age.
No perfected veneers are to be found. Although master-framed impeccably, overlying wall finishes result in asymmetrical rounded lines that refract light and sound for a truly harmonious and relaxing finish. This home is a zen retreat from artificial pursuits. It's ambience inspires contemplative creativity.
Patina Power & Authentic Engagement
Wood is intentionally aged and then treated with natural oils - literally, flax seed oil - to enhance the patina. Floors upstairs are thick wooden planks that, in a few places become slightly uneven.
Children who visit, love it, remembering it sentimentally. This home reaches into the imagination invoking a sense of wonder.
Wabi Sabi Homes Heal
After completing our wabi sabi homes, we, the occupant builders began both to heal and reclaim valuable qualities left behind in youth. Our minds became curiously alive, not suppressed or burdened.
We began to reach into a larger potential. We interrupted a path leading to a life of going through the motions. We interrupted habits that consumed our lives in unimportant ways.
"Instead of the home owning us,
we began to steward the gifts of Wabi Sabi!"
This article draws heavily from the following two references. Major kudos to the authors & researchers! All else © Låna Brown 2017
(1) "Wabi-Sabi: The Art of Imperfection" Robyn Griggs Lawrence from Natural Home, for Utne Reader. Sept-Oct 2001. http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/wabi-sabi
(2) Wabi Sabi Your LIfe: 6 Strategies for Embracing Imperfection Gretchen Roberts for Whole Living, October 2010 http://www.wholeliving.com/133628/wabi-sabi-your-life-6-strategies-embracing-imperfection