Wabi Sabi

“If an object or expression can bring about within us a sense of melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be Wabi Sabi.” (Andrew Juniper “Japanese Art of Impermanence” 2003)

I surround myself with objects that transport me back to my childhood. Objects that belonged too me, clothes that were mine as a child or were made for me, toys bought that trigger a memory. All are tired due too their age. Worn, torn, chipped, patched, scratched, darned, incomplete, but loved more because of these imperfections. Imperfections that add to their beauty.

A second hand, 40 year old Fisher Price Sesame Street house, chipped plastic, faded stickers, incomplete figures and furniture, but of all of the toys in our house, this is my favourite. My son has Autism, he responds to this toy. He would rather this than a brand new version. Through playing with this house he is learning to communicate with us.

A knitted stripy doll, “Bod” from my childhood. 37 years old, moth eaten, evidence of darning. Having had him all my life, he is more special, beautiful, interesting to me because he is worn. He tells a story.

A painting of an 80 year old Chiltern “Huggmee” teddy bear. The limited fur he has left, bleached almost white. Rough texture of the gold coloured fabric underneath, loose stitching around the nose, its rustic simplicity. Beauty that comes from age. I wouldn’t want him new, his age and tiredness makes him beautiful. – Flawed beauty.

One of my most treasured possessions, a child’s pullover hand-knitted by my Nanna over 30 years ago. My son wears it every week. I have had too replace the fasteners, patch the shoulder, the texture has become bobbled due to wear, but of all the knitwear my children wear, this one gets the most compliments and comments. People know it tells a story because its imperfections make it interesting. It’s not just a maroon cable pullover. For me, everytime I look at it and feel it, there are the stitches that my Nanna made. Through them I connect with her.

Acceptance of imperfection? I would rather imperfection. Life is richer for imperfection.

Hankering for a simple life for my children. Beauty in the basic. They need not be taught, Wabi Sabi is already there. A beaten up toy car chosen over a new one.

My chosen textiles are new. Some incomplete. Wabi Sabi is still evident. They are more interesting. Certainly to capture in observational drawing because of their incompleteness. Rough edges, frayed elements, loose stitches and yarn ends.

Child”s fairisle sweater equally as interesting from the reverse if not more. Its layers of threads – stranded – woven – complicated – confusing – not obvious – unclear. Its crudeness is compelling.

Kakuzo Okakura translates Wabi Sabi “at best to be only the reverse side of a brocade – all the threads are there, but not the subtlety of colour and design” (Kakuzo Okakuro “The Book of Tea” 2016)

Considering the Wabi Sabi aesthetic when selecting textiles will undoubtedly influence my future work. What we see are characteristics of Wabi Sabi. Wabi Sabi is a profound aesthetic consciousness. It transcends appearance. We are aware of the flawed beauty, but it surpasses what we see.




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