The Wabi-sabi people

left overs

I just read the description of what the Japanese words wabi sabi means, and it sounds like a description of what I call beauty in the world…

Wabi-sabi (侘寂) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. […] The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

People like us, who love to look for second hand items, buy old clothes, furniture and things, are The Wabi-Sabi People. The vintage can be more beautiful than the new, and the shabby more chic than any designed and shiny you can buy right now. I’ve called this style shabby chic, but maybe wabi-sabi could be another word for the same thing?

from our meeting corner

If you can accept the imperfect you will not have to hunt for replacements all the time. This is my philosophy on many levels in life, now that I come to think about it… Also with people this is true. Nobody is perfect. If you can accept or even like other people’s ticks or flaws you will find yourself happier. You will get a lot more friends that will love you back, even though you yourself are not perfect.

Perfectionism scares me; it is too obsessive and harsh. And to strive for the perfect might be a game you will never win. I think this is why I will never become a good book binder, because I can’t make anything that perfect. I wish I could line all those papers up to look like a store bought book, fancy and straight, but I can never do that. The covers I cut never turn out as straight as I want them to be. But then again, the self made notebook is something else. It comes from me and therefore is not perfect, not straight, not shiny or “produced”. It is a part of me and hence it will be like me, imperfect. Because I am that too.

I too become a bit more wabi-sabi as each day pass. Grey hairs, stiff back, wrinkles… And because I (most of the time) accept these changes and embrace them I don’t worry about becoming older. I kind of like it, especially the aging that is going on on the inside…

sketch 2007-06-14
My new diary is a Moleskine Plain Notebook bought in Norway on a trip this spring. It is shiny new, with cream coloured blank pages with perfect (!) rounded corners and smooth black cover. But the great thing is that with each day that pass I use more pages, more space. I’m using them making them wrinkled and imperfect as I add my crocked handwriting and smudged sketches (I’m trying to sketch some in this one, I don’t usually do this). The cover becomes scratched when bouncing around in my rug sack or handbag. And I love that!

If there is something better than a new shiny notebook filled with blank pages and opportunities, I think it must be a filled notebook from a life lived and experienced.

Each day I jot down stuff about my simple life, about my wabi-sabi life in my soon to be wabi-sabi book. Yesterday mom and I went thrifting, and what I bought you can see in the sketch above. It’s a drawn list.


Thank you for all your nice comments about the good and the bad in my life. I’ve read every single word from you over and over again. It is a comfort to know you are out there.

Over at Studio Friday the theme as you might have guessed by now is wabi-sabi!

15 Responses

  1. Oh, I love wabi sabi. I think Keri Smith writes about it too. It’s interesting that you write about it in connection to people. I have a slight problem with that. But in relation to art, I really like it. I always find collages, paint, creativity to be pretty, even when others will say “it has no composition”, or such. I think I can appreciate things that are worn, simple, shabby. Now I just have to work about the people part! ;-)

  2. oh yes! i love new journals. but more than that i love filled and-working-on-being-filled journals! pictures of new blank journals leave me slightly cold. my most favorite pictures are like the one you posted above… of the messy edges of people’s filled journals. or of rows of filled journals. or of open pages of filled journals. or of… oh you get the idea! :D

  3. I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now, it was one of the first I found (after loobylu)when I first found out about blogging and craftblogs. It has been an inspiration to me, as I have reclaimed my art and craft life. It’s really nice to find that you are blogging again, as I was missing you. Take care, and good luck as your ‘new life’ begins.
    I have a favourite quote from Leonard Cohen:
    “Ring the bells that still can ring,
    Forget your perfect offering,
    There is a crack in everything,
    That’s how the light gets in.”
    I think it’s very Wabi-Sabi, and maybe you will like it too.
    Louise. XX

  4. all of this makes such perfect (!) sense to me! the Buddhists have a saying ‘80% is perfection’ and that is what I aim for – as good as I can manage. You would love a book called ‘The Four Agreements’
    maybe that link will work – it is a book that has helped me for many years and I have bought more copies for friends than i can count!
    the beauty of your handmade books is that they are YOU and not some sterile store bought thing!
    keep going like this – it is wonderful!

  5. Glad you are back to posting and congrats on having the school recognise what we already knew…that you are indeed a journalist! That photo of the completed journal is like a piece of history you can always relive.

  6. You know, there’s a book called Wabi-Sabi for Artist, Writers…etc. Something like that. I remember when I felt everything I wrote and created HAD to be perfect, wonderful, amazing — all in the first try. Now, I strive to make messes…that way, you always have a mess, and the beauty that comes from it can be fully appreciated. :)

  7. I so agree with what you wrote in this post. We crafty people try so hard to make perfect things and we forget that they must have some imperfections because they are more real that way. They reflect the moments of creating – the mood, our thoughts, which can never repeat exactly the same. Thank you for reminding is about that. *^v^*

  8. What a beautiful post, Hanna. I like that it applies to life, and people, too, because it seems to remind me to live in the moment (such a cliche but so important).

  9. loved your post and agree with you. I have been looking at the Moleskin Notebooks and have not got one yet, I have got a journal that I take with me, I add pictures, diagrams, journalling , ideas and do not know what I would do without it. The moleskin to me just looks like I would not want to mess it up.

  10. Hi Hanna,
    There is a good description of ‘Wabi-Sabi’ in Gwen Diehn’s The Decorated Journal.

    Sorry to hear of your recent disappointment, but glad that you are back to posting again. Onwards and upwards. That shop you’re planning sounds lovely…I bet you could make it a reality sooner than you think.

  11. Helo there :) I’m wabi sabi too :) Your words are wise and touh me deeply. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! And greetings from Poland!

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