What is Wabi-Sabi? Why is Wabi-Sabi popular?

Etsy has declared 2018 the year of Wabi-Sabi. Below I explore why I think it’s the right time for Americans to embrace this peaceful concept.

Wabi-Sabi - Japan's traditional concept of Wabi-Sabi embraces the beauty of the imperfect, the rustic, and the impermanent, by showing respect for modesty, fragility, individuality, and signs of age. The beauty of any object lies in it's perceived flaws, as it adds character.

An artisan slabwood table is more aesthetically soothing than a mass-produced table with perfectly straight edges. Antiquities such as an old house with worn wide-plank floor boards is preferred over a cookie-cutter modern house that looks exactly like the neighbors. Distressed furniture, reclaimed materials, and handcrafted items are valued for their character and uniqueness.

For me, as a lover of handmade pottery, I always prefer a piece from the potter’s “seconds” bin as they are more unique and rustic looking, which I find more beautiful and authentic. Authentic and handmade items are more on trend each year, and you don’t have to look further than the steady growth of Etsy to see that.

Wabi-Sabi has roots in Buddhism’s belief of wisdom stemming from making peace with our imperfect natures. Doesn’t that sound like a much gentler and inclusive way of living? We in the west are so harsh and judgemental with ourselves, others, and our environments. Adopting some level of Wabi-Sabi into our lives could be the avenue to enjoying our lives more.

Minimalism is continuing to grow in popularity as people strive to bring more peace into their lives. Along with it meal prepping/planning, capsule wardrobes, and decreasing screen time have become popular pursuits. More and more people are focusing on conscious consumerism, upcycling items rather than buying new, and the share economy continues to grow.

Current color trends are predominantly white, grey, and neutrals. Modern home decor styles are clean, uncluttered, and unfussy — think minimalism, modern farmhouse, cottage, coastal, boho, white decor, and transitional.

People are increasingly voicing disdain for cosmetic surgery, celebrities are exposing companies for Photoshopping their images, overly FaceTuned social influencers, and the fake lives being curated on social platforms. Wabi-Sabi can be embraced beyond things and applied to our own views of ourselves and those around us. All of our journeys, even the memories we want to forget, contain some value because they have made us who we are today. It may at first sound cliché, but rather than gloss over this thought, recognize and sit with it for a moment.

Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube are filled with pics of abandoned locations and ruins reclaimed by nature, shared by photographers and UrbExers (urban explorers). People are rejecting perceived to be “perfect” GMO fueled fruits and vegetables that look like they’re made of plastic at a factory, and instead choosing organic and heirloom varieties with natural unique shapes. Think of the internet’s obsession last year with naked cakes and how each fall the internet competes to post the quaintest images of front porches covered with wonky shaped pumpkins and squashes for that home-grown nostalgic vibe.

All of this points toward a cultural embrace of Wabi-Sabi that has already begun.

What are your thoughts on Wabi-Sabi? Do you like the aesthetic or do you prefer more of a designer look?

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