Wabi

Today’s winter wabi room quick sketch 8″x11″ artist pen .

Wabi-sabi is a difficult concept (particularly for westerners) which can have reverberating impact on our creativity. We have been dancing gently around wabi-sabi in recent Creative Potager posts.  In particular, Laurie Buchannan has repeatedly articulated and demonstrated a link between minimalism and her creative clarity. In North America, such a practice is counter to material capitalism, advertising and socialization. Yet, when we experience wabi-sabi – when we live in humble, harmony with natural decay and the beauty of imperfection – we know an inner peace that the latest gadgets can never provide – because it would be contrary to their purpose. I believe wabi-sabi is a creative necessity and fuels for originality and creative resilience.

What is wabi-sabi?  I will break it down into several posts over the next few days. Though there is much to read on the subject, since we are focus on the theme of “home” for the month of February, my primary source is The Wabi-Sabi house: the Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty (2004) by Robyn Griggs Lawrence.

Wabi began as a literary concept in fifth and sixth century Japan poetry to reflect melancholy. Wabi has come to mean simple, minimalist, humble and in tune with nature. It is often said that if you are a wabi person you are content with very little. However, it is more than being content… it is the enjoyment of very little with an appreciation and the awareness about how “less is more” in a way that bubbles from the inside over the sparse surfaces of our outside. Wabi is a preference for very little in recognition of its unequaled abundance in the face of all else.

One winter wabi room at dawn this morning…

Tomorrow, we will look at “sabi” and its connection with wabi.

Sprout Question: Does wabi have any part in your creativity?

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

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Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

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15 thoughts on “Wabi

  1. Sprout Question: Does wabi have any part in your creativity?

    Wabi has EVERYthing to do with my creativity. Terrill, your post today brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:

    “My riches consist not in the extent of my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants.”
    —J. Brotherton

    [Thank you for the link to HolEssence]

  2. I don’t know how to answer today’s question! But I remember a lesson my wooden flute teacher gave me on cassette tape in the ’80s. It was an explanation of wata zumi do. (or something close). You play the flute as a solo instrument, improvising the entire way, extending notes long, linking the notes with the emotions. Your Wabi Sabi reminds me of automatic drawing sometimes done by Kandinsky & others. It is an exercise like the wata zumi do, in that there is nothing preconceived and you simply let energy flow through you to create marks on the paper.

  3. “wabi-sabi” must have been one of the values my mother raised me with. She always taught my brother and I implicitly, by example. My intrinsic habit of making do with what I have and giving away what I don’t need was learned from my mother. It also explains my confusion with consumerism, as I often find myself baffled by what others define as their “needs”. Until now, I did not realize it was a Japanese value in a Western world that caused this confusion.

    • Hello Josie, so glad you dropped in. The west was not always so separate from the east in its values. For many westerners wabi-sabi is still a central practice – such as with my parents and your grand parents. One of the things that Robyn Gribbs Lawrence points out is “modern Americans [and Canadians] face more choices in one trip to the grocery store than our grandparents faced in their entire lifetimes.” We are loosing ourselves (and our planet) in the availability of choice. Further, wabi-sabi is not easily understood in Japan either. Hence, even Japanese descriptions are often illustrated with examples and metaphor.

      Josie, as you know, my latest resistance was to having a dishwasher. I finally, reluctantly, relented. But it was a powerful exercise in determining “because we can does not necessarily mean we should.” I had a similar experience with an automated watering system for my flower garden. I had the needed ability to leave my garden for days but I also disrupted my daily relationship with the plants I cared for and about. The watering system interfered with the very reason I had the garden in the first place. Determining our needs and the consequences of our acquisitions is a worthy struggle. Keep up your good work:)

  4. This is very interesting Terrill!
    It feels like something that has been welling up in me more and more of late both in my home life and in my artwork.
    Look forward to reading more about wabi sabi.

    • Well, I am hopeful Itaya that the posts “Sabi” and the post “Wabi-sabi” will publish as scheduled today and tomorrow. I am away and have used the scheduling technology to put the posts up. It feels a little like when a person used to use the vcr to record a tv program while they were at work… unless you do it often your success rate can be spotty. Thanks for sprouting.

      I will follow up on all other comments on all post upon my return.

  5. If I have been understanding the concept of wabi correctly, then I believe my creativity takes this path. Visually, my work is reductive, sometimes melancholy, always introspective.
    And my creative process allows for chance and imperfection. Wait- that may be sabi. I need to read your post on that!

  6. Pingback: S is for Simplicity « Speaking from the Heart

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