Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless? To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of spring – these are even more deeply moving. Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with faded flowers are worthier of our admiration. – Baisao
Kenkō articulates the beauty of imperfection and irregularity that is one of the foundations of the wabi aesthetic. Beginning in the 16th century, chanoyu culture valued tea bowls that were cracked and misshapen rather than flawless. Some were even broken and repaired on purpose. One of these bowls is repaired with touches of gold lacquer, suggesting the maki-e technique of sprinkling gold powder on black lacquer. While maki-e objects exhibited an aesthetic of overt luxury, tea bowls aspired to an implied, humble kind of beauty.
• Tea bowl, 18th century
Australian fashion designer Alistair Trung seeks to interpret wabi through clothing. He says that “fashion is dominated by western designers and western ideals of beauty – the classical Greco-Roman ideal of perfection.” For Trung, the imperfect, aging body is more interesting than the airbrushed body of a young model. The unexpected silhouettes and muted colors of his clothing resonate with the imperfect, misshapen tea bowl. Both reject the narrow definition of beauty as symmetrical and finished.