Monday, February 15, 2010

So what the heck is Shibui?

According to Wikipedia the Japanese word shibui has various meanings. It can refer to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty.  Nope that is not the one I am looking for. Nothing unobtrusive or subtle about me.

The word originally referred to a sour or astringent taste, such as that of an unripe persimmon. Shibui maintains that literal meaning still.

But the way I think of Shibui is best described in this quotation from Soetsu Yanagi's book, The Unknown Craftsman. Here he refers to 'shibui' as "beauty with inner implications," while discussing the topic of imperfection in art and craft within the context of beauty.

It is this imperfection that is of interest to me. I have read that some Japanese artists deliberately create a tiny flaw in each piece of their art, song or poetry. I feel a sense of it when I see the brush marks on a painted piece, the trace of a potter's fingerprint on a beautiful vase or hear the guitarists calloused fingers squeak along the strings as he changes chords. It is a purebred dog with one floppy ear, that endearing little gap between your lover's front teeth. For me these things only add to the beauty of each.

Not everyone feels the same way. Once a person asked me to take off a pair of earrings I had made by sawing holes into flat pieces of copper. He stacked them one on top of the other and said with a smirk, "These holes are not exactly the same."  This person did not understand even when I explained to him that if I had wanted them to be exactly the same I would have bought them at Woolworth's.

But it gives me comfort that others may feel the same as I.  Perfection is ever elusive and fortunately quite unnecessary (unless you are building jet planes or automobiles).

For some time now I have wanted to share my creative process with friends. I hope you will come along with me as I explore the wonderfully freeing world of what I know as shibui.

No comments:

Paper Mache Clay Experiment - What I would do differently

This is so typical of me to just jump in where angels fear to tread and make up my own rules.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn...