Finding Wabi Sabi in African Pottery
Wabi sabi is the Japanese art of appreciating the beauty in the naturally imperfect world. Loosely translated, "wabi" is simplicity, whether sophisticated or rustic; "sabi" means the beauty of age.
The philosophy of wabi sabi is rooted in Zen Buddhism and honours the beauty in natural flaws. It can be found anywhere in the world, including our new rustic clay earthenware from Africa.
The cracks of handmade African pottery are valued because of their unique imperfections, not despite them. Each of our clay bowls is distinct, the perfectly imperfect fusion of necessity and creative spark. The resulting handmade pottery tells the story of the hands that created it.
Wabi sabi can’t be found in concrete jungles, app-packed smartphones or the relentless obsession with self-improvement. Instead, it's the beauty that hides in plain sight. It is an aesthetic of simplicity and acceptance.
Having a wabi sabi approach to life doesn’t mean embracing carelessness or venerating a pile of junk. It's about appreciating, celebrating and sustaining the beautiful imperfection of what's natural.
When you go into a store and find “rustic” clay earthenware that looks like it came off an assembly line, that’s because it did. Nothing about these products says “sustainable pottery” or “beauty found in nature”. The clay pots offered by Obakki are often irregularly shaped or have an uneven glaze, and in their deliberate imperfections we find the beauty—it’s wabi sabi pottery.
Nothing in nature is symmetrical, linear or immune to decay—that’s why watching clouds float through the sky, taking on new shapes moment-by-moment, is so mesmerizing. Freedom is found in the radical acceptance of the unfinished and impermanent; whether it’s in our homes, our work, or our bodies, wabi sabi asks us to embrace the perfectly imperfect.
Following a wabi sabi philosophy in your home means accepting and embracing a space that is brimming with character, rustic charm and things that are uniquely yours. Furnish your home with pieces that are handcrafted, eco-friendly and sustainable—items that tell a story.
Rather than settling for mass-market garbage, choose quality items (like our earthenware pottery) that convey the time, skill and care that went into them. Warped plastic and chipped particle board will never compare to the magic found in a piece of eco-friendly pottery created by a woman who learned her craft from her grandmother.
The time has come to embrace change, fleetingness, and imperfection as a source of beauty, wisdom, and growth.
At Obakki, we always want to know more about the people behind our products. These five questions do just that. Today, we talk to Jack, one of our artisans from the Kibera neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya.
At Obakki, we work with our artisan partners to help them reach their goals, which often emphasize better access to international markets. And as it happens, access to a global market is part of what we are readily able to provide.
Japan’s craftsmanship is based on process and precision. But for a craft to survive in modern societies, it needs to speak to modern needs. And Japan, as a country, respects the ancient techniques and traditions that built this cultural heritage.