So, what is Wabi-Sabi? And why do I care?
Well, here is the what (I will get to the why after):
Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. When it comes to aesthetics, it is about the beauty of change, the beauty of the ordinary, of the small details. Thus making us appreciate the fluidity of life itself. Usually, when we think of Wabi-Sabi we visualize something rustic, unfinished or tainted, changed if you will, by time and the elements.
Take a look at the wall in this picture for example. Layers and layers of paint that were applied over several decades, which then started to peel off revealing the under layers. The very imperfection of the surface is what gives it its beauty.
In this photo: a corner at BAARA Jewelry studio. Photo credit: Baara Guggenheim.
So now we get to the why. Why do I care? why write an entire blog post about this topic?
Here goes. Since I work with cement to create concrete jewelry, I have to care. Concrete is a material that changes and evolves over time. It gets harder and sturdier, it gets darker, it may crack and break if not treated properly. Even at an earlier stage, when being cast, many elements influence its final look and feel. When taken out of its mold, each piece is different. Air bubbles trapped in the cast may cause little holes, the different materials used in the concrete mixture may cause differences between the final products, and so on.
This fluidity is one of the many reasons I love working with concrete. No one concrete necklace will be exactly the same as the other. Ever. And while wearing it, it will change, and become darker, smother to the touch. Making it unique to the person wearing it.
In this picture: 4 similar unisex concrete necklaces - 4 different colors and textures of concrete. Photo credit: Baara Guggenheim.
My jewelry is modern, minimal, geometric, extremely high quality, flawless.
That being said, the fact that the jewelry incorporates concrete, makes every piece unique, unrefined, quite the opposite of perfect. It adds a dimension to the jewelry that makes it more whole, and changes over time and wear.
This contrast between perfection and imperfection is what makes the jewelry unique.
And another thing, one of the characteristics of Modernism, as well as Wabi-Sabi is to let go of anything that is not essential, so that all that is left is the pure essence. So in a way, these are not contrasting aesthetics, but rather complementing ones.
The fact that Wabi-Sabi also reminds us that the world is in constant change due to deterioration and evolution has a lot to do with any material. Concrete is a natural material. Once it has been cast, it is constantly changing. It does not stay as perfect as it was, it gets darker, wares down, cracks, gets smoother, but also gets stronger, sturdier, and more durable due to the bonds created between the molecules of cement and water.
Metals, are conceived as sturdy, unchanging materials, but they change too. Their colors change. Silver, for example oxidizes and gets darker over time, a matte metal surface becomes shinier, and vice versa, tiny scratches on the metal turn shiny surfaces matte.
All of these aspects make the jewelry unique to its owner, depending on their lifestyle, and personal use.
In this photo: close up of a GEM concrete necklace with gold colored leaf. photo credit: Baara Guggenheim.
On a side note - in my exploration of the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic concept, I looked for ways to make it even more present in my work. And that is how I came to use gold and silver colored leaves to partially cover the concrete. Here too, in each case, it comes out a little differently, resulting in one of a kind pieces that are truly aesthetically Wabi-Sabi.
For me personally, exploring the Wabi-Sabi aesthetics, allowing, and even embracing imperfections in surface and texture, was a very important process. I tend to embrace minimalism, in life and design, and I am drawn to geometric shapes, that are clean lined by nature. So employing materials that force me to relax and accept surprises and change, was and still is, a big lesson for me. One I am trying to take beyond designing jewelry into life itself.
So, what about you? What are your feelings towards the Wabi-Sabi aesthetics? Do you like it? What things do you own that can be perceived as having a Wabi-Sabi vibe?
And what do you think about the philosophy behind it? Are there aspects in your life that could benefit from letting change take its course and guide you rather than trying to control the results?
I am really curious. Let me know in a comment.