Every time I finish one blog post I briefly ask myself what my next post could/should/might be about – and 95 % of the time I draw a total blank. While completing a new workshop outline with hand-outs and accompanying digital presentation yesterday I was again wondering what my topic will be for March 5th, today.
While conducting research on the internet for the new workshop I signed up for an artist newsletter online yesterday. This morning the confirmation arrived that I was now subscribed. I began to browse the site after I set my preferences and came across a number of interesting books. One of these books is “Wabi-Sabi Art Workshop” by Serena Barton.
I am familiar with the word wabi-sabi. I heard it the first time during an artist talk with Rob Froese, a local ceramicist who is recognized internationally and has spent a significant amount of time studying and working in Japan. I was intrigued by the sound of the word and his loose translation. However I could never really find a definition that satisfied me.
I finally have a definition that puts the concept into perspective: The term wabi-sabi stems from two Japanese words referring to that which is imperfect, impermanent, aged, humble and authentic. Both, natural and man-made objects may have wabi-sabi qualities. Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic that values the passing of time and the elements, the hand-made and the simple. Wabi-sabi is a way of being open to emotion and acceptance. Wabi-sabi is a state of mind and a state of feeling.”
So much of this definition makes sense to me. I recently clicked the follow button on a blog that features contemplative photography coupled with a daily haiku. I am attracted to its simple presentation without distractions, just an image and words that resonate within.
On a more personal level I have given in to working completely by hand. My new Kantha white-on-white studies are created intuitively. They are finished just the way they are, with undulating edges, again entirely worked by hand. I delight in this simplicity, the fact that I can carry them along in a Ziploc bag, pull them out anywhere, add a few stitches and create unique textures depending on how wide or close the stitches are spaced. I don’t have to count the stitches, threads or worry about if they are exactly the same on top an bottom. There is a freedom in working like this that I have not experienced in a long time. I have been a little too focused on perfection and ultimate presentation…
After studying art, design and various mixed media techniques I now find myself shying away from carefully sketching and planning each project. A few simple sketches, words and a personal feeling are quite often enough to get new work started. I have a theory: After an artist is immersed in his/her art practice for a significant length of time he/she begins to work intuitively and an idea can spark an entire new body of work. I have experienced this repeatedly, and when it happens I am all consumed, completely focused and eager to make the best of every moment. Ideally I ignore all distractions. I would love nothing more than to remove myself from the world until I am one with the project and interruption won’t make me change direction or loose interest. However, teaching contracts and volunteer commitments often make it difficult to stay on task.
I digress from the topic at hand, wabi-sabi. So many of the components defined in the word itself call out to me. I love words, and I appreciate the art of haiku (but I have never tried it…). I was reminded of how peeling paint and weathered surfaces in Europe are part of its history. It reminds us that life is fleeting and every changing. Weathered surfaces were my primary study subjects when I worked on my London City & Guilds Patchwork and Quilting Diploma. I must pull out my sketchbooks and samples soon. I am certain that they are filled with inspiration and may provide renewed interest in the topic. I can also see that the subject matter feeds into my interest in mixed media. So many ideas, so little time…
I am off to the studio to explore in a wabi-sabi inspired approach! Enjoy the weekend!