Sabi Saturday : week 1

Sabi Saturday : week 1

What is Sabi?

Wabi Sabi Suki: The Essence of Japanese Beauty
(See bottom of post for Amazon affiliate disclosure)

I picked up a lovely book at the Friends of the Library called “Wabi Sabi Suki : The essence of Japanese Beauty.”  Filled with photographs of things that epitomize Wabi (Tranquail Simplicity), Sabi (Patina of Age), and Suki (Subtle Elegance), the book features a great introduction written by Itoh Teiji explaining the meaning of these Japanese aesthetic concepts. I love all three ideals but what he wrote about Sabi particularly resonated with my love of vintage:

“Beauty that treasures the passage of time is Sabi, echoing the original meaning of the word: rust or patina. Objects or constructions created from organic materials and used in daily life are of course beautiful when they are brand new. But Sabi describes the new and different phases of beauty that evolve in the course of their use and enjoyment, and the conviction that the aesthetic values of things is not diminished by time, but enhanced. The wear and tear of daily use, lovingly repaired and attended to, does not detract, but adds new beauty and aesthetic depth. Indeed, Sabi is at its ultimate when age and wear bring a new thing to the very threshold of its demise. Appreciation of Sabi confirms the natural cycle of organic life – that what is created from the earth finally returns to the earth and that nothing is ever complete. Sabi is true to the natural cycle of birth and rebirth.”



He explains that the wabi sabi suki culture arose in the late 16th century with the ascending samurai and merchant classes refuting the elaborate artifice of the aristocrats but creating an amalgam of new values meshing the farmer’s rusticity, the warlords taste for simplicity and zen but also embracing court aesthetics a bit, and the infiltration of culture from East Asia. Warlords and merchants were very innovative as they picked and chose among different elements to create the emerging culture that is now epitomized in the wabi sabi suki aesthetic.  They encouraged each other to be creative. When putting together a party or gathering, it was looked down upon to copy others even in the style of the ceremony or the utensils. You had to show originality.
Tea bowl, Korea, Joseon dynasty, 16th century AD, Mishima-hakeme type, buncheong ware, stoneware with white engobe and translucent, greenish-gray glaze, gold lacquer – Ethnological Museum, Berlin, photo taken by Daderot, [CC0] from Wikimedia Commons
Late 16th-19th century Japanese ceramics, © Lyon MBA – Photographie Alain Basset [CC BY-SA 3.0 from Wikimedia Commons]
Consequently a lot of things came into vogue including rustic pottery and repaired porcelains. While artisans crafted porcelains, ensuring every covered inch was smooth and pristine, the tea aficionados trained by zen monks adored glossy glazes dripping down the sides of rough clay creating unique patterns on the handmade pots and cups that appealed to their need for both originality and simplicity. A beautiful porcelain cup was unappealing in it’s perfection because another cup could be just like it. However when that cup was broken and repaired with gold, it became unique and treasured, giving birth to the craft of kintsugi.

Cans repurposed as a chair in Brazil, photo by Victorgrigas [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia commons
Where am I going with this?  Well those samurai and merchants from 400 years ago might be horrified, although I hope with their push for originality they would be delighted, but I see Sabi as a love of vintage, things used and loved; also Sabi is recycling, repurposing and upcycling embodied in making something more beautiful or useful in a different way instead of throwing it away.

Now in Japan, it’s not unusual for things to be hundreds of years old so vintage or antique has a whole different meaning there. Here in the United States, we are in many ways a throw-away culture as we move from state to state so I’m impressed with an unnicked cup from the 1940s.  It doesn’t have to be cracked and filled in with gold to be worth rescuing. The cup survived and carries a history with it. It’s also cool when that same beautiful cup gets broken and finds it’s way into a mosaic. I love the creativity when instead of throwing away shirts, someone cuts them up to create a patchwork skirt. Or another person takes a broken bicycle chain and makes a necklace.

Sabi Saturday Linkup

So I’d like to propose a Sabi Saturday blog hop open for the whole week where we share

  • the vintage/antique items handed down or we “rescue” from garage sales and thrift stores so they don’t end up in a trash bin
  • items we’ve upcycled instead of throwing them away
  • items we’ve repaired in a transformative way to make them more beautiful or cooler than before
  • process or tutorials on how we upcycled or repaired something  to make something new, more beautiful, or cooler

What do you think?  Will you join me?

So here is my first Sabi Saturday item:

A Blue Willow ewer. Made between 1929 -1942: That’s when that particular backstamp was used.  Allertons manufactured this popular Willow pattern for a much wider range of time so the backstamp helps to narrow the range. I looked at to date the Allertons backstamp. They are a great resource if you have china made in the North Staffordshire, England area.

So this ewer may have been around during the Great Depression.  WWII saw many American GIs marrying women from abroad and bringing them home to the United States.  I wonder if this jug was given to a British war bride by her mum when she came over.

I found it in a Tucson Goodwill thrift store.  In the two images you can see the crazing in the porcelain. It reminds me of skin when you look at skin closeup.  There is also a small chip in the lip but hey, it’s older than me.  I hope I look that good when I get to be that age.

Linking up

You can choose to do a pingback or add your link in the Mr. Linkys.  The advantage to Mr. Linkys is that it can feature an image from your post


33 Replies to “Sabi Saturday : week 1”

    1. Thanks for telling me that it expired. It shouldn’t have. I’ll send Mister Linky a note to find out what went wrong.

    1. I think treasuring old things is very much a part of sabi. If you’d like to share a picture of something old that you love, that would be cool.

  1. Sounds like a great book and I love the hop idea. I am writing about it on my post for Monday to spread the word.

    1. anything vintage, or something made from something old or recyled. So like a patchwork skirt made from several old shirts, or a photo of a teacup more than 40 years old, or a table made from an old barrel. Anything like that. Vintage or repurposed.

    1. That’s an awesome mall. I love the concept. It’s also cool that they have a training college there to study recycling and that people can bring things in to be restored too. Thanks for sharing it. You could do a post about it and add it to the Sabi Saturday links. I think it would be an awesome fit.

    1. vintage, repaired, restored and upcycled. Like when Chris took the cardboard box and made a cathouse out of it — that’s perfect for this. That’s a great example of upcycle.

  2. I never knew the original meanings of the words, nor had I heard of Suki (just ‘Wabi Sabi’), so this was really interesting to read. The book sounds quite fascinating, too. You’ve covered all this so well. ‘Vintage’ in the UK is also more like 60-80 years ago, not hundreds like in Japan! xx

    1. He said “sabi” translates to “patina” so that’s part of why it captures the love of old things as they become unique through their history. I bet you can find a lot of vintage and older things in the UK. Do they still have flea markets? I’ve read of a few in mystery novels that sounded awesome.

      I think vintage is a bit younger in the USA than UK. While some people say anything over 100 years is an antique with vintage starting at 50 years, I’ve actually seen people call the 1970s vintage and that’s only 40 years away. I love the idea of treasuring old things though and honoring their history and uniqueness.

    1. I’m glad it was interesting. Maybe it should have been more focused. ONe of the things with “sabi” is that you honor/celebrate things that are older, unique, handmade and don’t just throw them away when they are broken. So I’m hoping will share vintage as well as using old things in different ways like maybe using this ewer as a vase to hold flowers or cutting apart several old jeans to make a purse and matching skirt. My idea of “sabi” doesn’t match what is known as “sabi” in Japan now. It’s more my Americanized idea of it but updated. Probably zen teamasters nowadays might be horrified but I’d like to think the innovators back then who introduced the idea might like it. So think vintage, diy, maybe shabby chic, or something old transformed into soemthing new if you want to share something. If it’s a transformation, it doens’t have to be yours. I saw a cool necklace using bike gears which now I wished I had photographed. I hope that makes it clearer and that you’ll find something to share.

    1. I agree! It’s a lovely bit of writing. Please do add it to the haibun prompt on Cactus Haiku. Is it ok if I add the picture of the cactus to the image grid on Sabi Saturday?

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