Wabi-Sabi

Beauty in imperfection.

A core belief I have in design is that there is beauty and relevance in what the masses call imperfection. In Japan, this train of thought is know as Wabi-Sabi.

A staircase at The Getty Villa, Malibu

A Ruth Asawa sculpture at the De Young Museum, San Francisco

The word "Wabi" stems from the root wa, which refers to harmony, peace, tranquillity, and balance and "Sabi" by itself means "the bloom of time." Together they mean "Finding beauty in imperfection."

Footed wave platter at Takashimaya New York

With this belief, I am able to spend hours mesmerized in the glass factory while my new designs are being developed into a reality or physical object. You have to understand that there is no hocus pocus in the physical creation but, I believe that there is magic in seeing the mistakes or misinterpretations that naturally happen by the Maestro to create the vision of the object I have in my head. The magic is to hold that mistake in the back of your mind and play with it in the future, once the real work of getting the prototype forms I originally envisioned. This is the time I call play, this is the time that the shapes and forms are where I want them so now is the time of color, texture, polishing, overlapping, poking, pulling, wrapping, etc.

A futile attempt by me at creating a Wabi-sabi design, the candlesticks were suppose to be uneven and precarious.

The standard Disco Volante Candlestick, with a metal frame to avoid too much Wabi-sabi

The majority of these pieces never see the polished well appointed showrooms where the Otium collection is sold. These pieces generally become, gifts, donations or doorstops. I really can not easily sell an object that is not readily reproduced within the standard variance of hand made pieces. Wabi-Sabi is still a foreign concept to a lot of the Western World.

 

Three of many Venetian glass "Wabi-Sabi" Tumblers we made for a benefit. Look for these in the Otium Lifestyle collection coming out soon.

 

I hope that you will give this concept a little consideration the next time they see the beautiful color and texture created by rust and denting on an old metal bucket, or a reflection in a pothole, or the asymmetry of trees along a wind swept shore and maybe even of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death in your own life.

I will end with an enlightening but harshly realistic 13th century Japanese proverb:

 

"Time is kind to things, but unkind to man."

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