Wabi-Sabi – The Japanese Art of Finding Beauty in Imperfect Ceramics
Traditional Japanese culture celebrates the beauty of transience and imperfection—best encapsulated in a term known as wabi-sabi. This expression is intimately tied to Buddhism (specifically Zen) and derived from the Three Marks of Existence (or sanbōin)—the Buddhist teaching that all things have “impermanence” (mujō), “suffering” or damage (ku), and “non-self” (kū).
Therefore, items exhibiting wabi-sabi are seen to be more beautiful with age. And the more fragile, broken, or individual a humble object is, the more it can be appreciated.
In order to translate and understand the term, it’s easiest to separate wabi-sabi into two words. While “wabi” refers to the beauty found in asymmetric and unbalanced items, “sabi” describes the beauty of aging and celebrates the impermanence of life through the passage of time.
Although the philosophy can be appreciated in many aspects of life, few things capture the essence of wabi-sabi better than Japanese pottery, where the most treasured pieces are often cracked, patinated, or even incomplete.
A classic example of wabi-sabi is the art of kintsugi, where cracked pottery is repaired using gold lacquer as a way to showcase the beauty of its damage rather than hiding it. Picture is of Japanese tea bowl from the Edo period