Turning Japanese

I’ve always had a soft spot for Japanese design covering a wide spectrum from automotive to stationery.  One particular element of their design culture is encapsulated in Wabi-Sabi.  This is the acceptance, and celebration, of imperfections and limitations within materials and design.  For me it’s a sophisticated evolution of the “use what you have to hand” and “make do and mend” mentalities.

There are two practical elements of Wabi-sabi that I’m specifically fascinated by - Sashiko and Kintsugi.  Both deal with the repair of items of value. Sashiko is the mending of fabrics and Kintsugi of porcelain.  Where things get interesting is in the manor of these fixes.  There’s no drive for an invisible fix, in fact the polar opposite.  The repairs are purposely done to not hide the fact that the item has been damaged.  Sashiko uses contrasting linear stitching to apply a patch over a rip in an item of clothing.  The end result being the addition of detail to the item being repaired. 

Likewise Kintsugi uses gold lacquer to fix cracks and breaks in cups and plates.  The repaired pieces are often viewed as more beautiful than they were originally.  The repaired cracks just adding to the history of the piece.


For me if something can be repaired, and still function as intended, then that should be the default plan.  Those repairs don’t have to return the item to an “as new” condition.  They need to be robust and functional.  If in doing that you can also add some interest then why not.

Wabi-sabi acknowledges three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.  Something that all Tinker and Fix projects embrace.

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