Just when you thought you’d got your head around hygge, there’s a new wellness movement on the scene. We’ve seen the words “wabi-sabi” pop up in magazines, on Pinterest boards and on our Instagram feeds over the last few months. There have been chic coffee table books published on the subject, and it’s even being hailed as the inspiration for the interior trends of the moment.
Read on to discover how this ancient Japanese philosophy can bring some clarity to your life…
What is wabi-sabi?
Described as “beauty in imperfection,” wabi-sabi originally began in ancient China, with its history rooted in Zen Buddhism. It later evolved into a predominately Japanese movement, being linked to the country’s famous tea ceremonies.
The words “wabi-sabi” are not easily translated, as the practice is so rich in history that the words have changed meaning over the centuries. “Wabi” is said to be defined as “rustic simplicity” or “understated elegance,” with a focus on a less-is-more mentality. “Sabi” is translated to “taking pleasure in the imperfect.”
Flawed beauty is fully embraced in the Wabi-Sabi philosophy, ancient Japanese royalty saw embracing imperfection as one of the key steps to enlightenment. Embracing the “natural passage of time” is encouraged, in a stark contrast to Western culture which holds ageing in low regard, championing all that is perfect and new.
WABI-SABI AND MODERN LIFE
The rise in use of social media has a large majority of us feeling that we need to present the perfect life online. The near constant comparison of our lives to others is now cited as being hugely detrimental to our mental health. Because of this, we can’t see a better time to embrace the relaxed principals of wabi-sabi.
The lifestyle calls for living modestly, accepting that we are imperfect and learning to be satisfied with what we have. It’s the polar opposite of our stressful, busy lives that often have us focusing on achieving perfection in all areas.
Bringing some wabi-sabi into your life can be as simple as being humble, warm and welcoming. There’s no big to-do list around this culture (which adds to its appeal). You don’t require anything to start the practice, just a simple and calming outlook. If you’re hung up on a flaw you believe you have, it may be time to consider shifting your perspective and see it as a part of you that you embrace wholeheartedly.
Characteristics of wabi-sabi can be anything from simplicity to modesty, with an appreciation of natural objects and processes. It can be focusing on buying less and embracing the things you already own or bringing something from nature into your home. Flowers are a key symbol of wabi-sabi, to be appreciated even when they begin to wilt and are not at their most perfect.
On embracing the lifestyle, you may start to see the beauty in items you’d cast aside or begin using something you’d “saved for best.” If you don’t dare light your favourite candle for fear it would look better on Instagram in its perfect condition, this may be the mindset for you. The wabi-sabi way would be to enjoy the pleasure of using something you enjoy, whether it looks half burnt and asymmetrical or not.
Jack Dorsey (the billionaire founder of Twitter and Square), Will.I.Am and Jessica Alba are already converts to the wabi-sabi lifestyle. Alba recently told Us Weekly that she swears by the Japanese philosophy to stay grounded and keep things in perspective. The Honest Company CEO and actress explained, "I am an earthy and tactile person—I enjoy and embrace the imperfections of real life.” Alba explained that the practice often influences her interior design aesthetic. She uses “real wood or anything with a natural touch” in her home, stating that they’re “the most beautiful” to her.
WABI-SABI AND THE ART OF KINTSUGI
Talking interiors trends, lately, we’ve been seeing beautiful cracked bowls filled with shimmering gold on our Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards galore. This practice also derives from Japanese culture and is a perfect example of wabi-sabi. Kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” is an art form where breaks and repairs are treated as part of an object’s history. Whilst we may be tempted to throw away a broken plate or bowl, ceramics in Japan are mended using resin mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. You can see the visible cracks, but the repaired pieces quirky beauty somehow makes them even more covetable.
And it’s not just used with things that are broken. Artists in Japan often leave subtle fractures in the glaze when making a vase or bowl, as a reminder of the wabi-sabi nature of life.
Such is the popularity of kintsugi that chic homeware site Trouva has begun selling a Kintsugi Repair Kit (£30). So next time you drop a plate, know that it doesn’t have to be doomed for the bin. Leading lifestyle stores Oliver Bonas, Anthropologie and Amara to sell perfectly imperfect home and dining ware. Have you noticed the trend for irregularly shaped vases, handmade clay mugs and slightly asymmetrical plates? You have wabi-sabi to thank for that.
Wabi-sabi philosophy knows that ageing is inevitable and believes it’s beautiful all the same—be it in an object or a person.
If your makeup doesn’t warrant a selfie most days, the wabi-sabi approach would be knowing that’s okay, and getting out and enjoying yourself anyway. So, if (like ours) your eyeliner flicks never perfectly match, we challenge you to see that as just one of life’s little imperfections. If the wallpaper in your flat doesn’t quite line up or your phone screen has a crack, try to find the beauty in these everyday quirks.
We love the idea of bringing the art of kintsugi to repair a whole manner of things in our lives. Next time your favourite make up palette cracks, why not look to repair it rather than buy a new? There’s a freedom to finding that imperfection is okay.
If this sounds appealing to you and you’d like to find out more, Julie Pointer Adams has created the beautiful Wabi-Sabi Welcome (£20), a book to showcase how you can incorporate the lifestyle into your home. Adams created the book after her family home and almost all of her possessions were lost in a California wildfire. This dramatically altered her perception of life and the value she placed on possessions. Adams explains, “I wrote this book for anyone hungry to share his or her home and life in a simple, less perfection-seeking way. You’ll find down to earth ideas for making anyone feel more at home in your space, and simple, approachable recipes that I know to be reliable fallbacks for meals that can feed two or ten.”
Wabi-Sabi Welcome applies the basic principles of the wabi-sabi aesthetic to modern entertaining. The book covers everything from slowing down and quieting your mind to preparing delicious food to nourish, not show off. It talks of turning the generous act of getting together into a deeper part of being together. From choosing modest handmade décor, accessorising with nature (think handpicked flowers) to finding beauty in imperfections (wrinkled linen napkins, along with a relaxed attitude) and much more. This insightful read got us thinking about how we can be more wabi-sabi in 2018.
Click through below to find the wabi-sabi products we’re coveting right now…