Wabi Sabi Philosophy
Wabi-Sabi is a difficult concept to describe in few words, but I am fond of Leonard Koren’s definition found in his book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers. Koren opens with this short definition of Wabi-sabi:
“Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of things unconventional.”
In simple terms, wabi-sabi is a state of being at peace with our world and accepting that everything can be beautiful in its own way.
I first learned of Wabi-sabi from my Buddhist practice, and I’ve since incorporated the philosophy into my art via hand carving small bowls. I find carving to be a very meditative process, and I love to carve while practicing mindfulness. While I appreciate the accuracy and efficiency of power tools, I prefer working with hand tools as I feel more connected to the wood.
Wood is a living, breathing organism, even after being milled into lumber. It changes shape as it responds to the moisture content in the air. By listening to the grain of the wood and anticipating how it will fluctuate over time, I feel connected with my art in a way that power tools cannot provide. I practice Wabi-sabi when carving my bowls by listening to the wood and feeling the grain. Rather than forcing the wood into the shape I want, I let the wood guide me. If the grain is too hard and dense to carve, I simply move to where the wood is more accepting of my tools.
By letting the wood dictate where I carve, I create natural organic shapes that follow the grain of the wood. Carving in this way resolved my artistic dilemma of creating beautiful objects without being overcome by the need for perfection. Finding beauty in mistakes and imperfection is a part of life, and a part of my art as well.