Experiencing the world from within it, contemplating the perfect moments within an imperfect world, observing the details, and cultivating the delight…
According to Beth Kempton in her book Wabi-Sabi, these are some of the steps (and advantages) of “living” the wabi-sabi by the very nature of life.
These days, wabi-sabi is mistakenly seen as just a decoration style, but it is, in fact, a philosophy, a lifestyle, which results in the environment that surrounds the people who choose to live it.
The term wabi-sabi, originated in Japan, is something that the Japanese themselves recognize, but do not define, they just live it in their hearts and minds. It is an issue that involves less what we see and more how we see it.
These two words, separately, do not form exactly the concept we have in mind. Separately, Wabi means soft taste, it is related to finding beauty in simplicity, and Sabi, patina, is about having an ancient aspect, and elegant simplicity, connected to the passage of time, the way things grow and wear out, changing the visual aspect of everything.
A Wabi heart recognizes the Sabi beauty.
It is about more than just the beauty of any object or ambient, it refers to one’s reaction to the profound beauty. One’s wabi-sabi is not the same as another’s, because each of us experiences the world in a singular way. We feel wabi-sabi when we get in touch with the essence of authentic, unpretentious, and imperfect beauty, which is even better for that very reason. An austere and unadorned natural beauty is what creates this feeling.
James Joyce, in his novel “Portrait of a Young Artist,” said:
The instant wherein that supreme quality of beauty, the clear radiance of the esthetic image, is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony is the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure, a spiritual state very like to that cardiac condition which the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani […] called the enchantment of the heart.
However, fascinating is when the two concepts come together, forming the term wabi-sabi, which reveals its true beauty not in objects, but in the very nature of life. The writer presents us with different ways to interpret the expression.
Wabi-sabi is an intuitive response to the beauty that reflects the true nature of life
Wabi-sabi is an acceptance and appreciation of the fickle, imperfect, and incomplete nature of all things.
Wabi-sabi is the acknowledgment of the gift that a simple, slow, and natural life is.
Some of the main life lessons we can learn from wabi-sabi are based on the following ideas:
– The world looks very different when you learn to see it and experience it from the heart.
– Everything is temporary, incomplete, and imperfect, including life itself. Therefore, perfection is impossible and imperfection is the natural state of all things, including human beings.
– There is beauty, value, and comfort in simplicity.
Looking at natural stones, we can see wabi-sabi very clearly, since each stone has undergone countless transformations through time and ages in its formation process.
What makes each stone unique and special is the simple fact that the process that created it was unique. When using stones in an ambient or in decoration elements, we can be sure that we have, in each mineral, a portrait of a time that has passed and left imprinted on them a reality, a moment, events sometimes so grandiose that even managed to separate continents.
Dealing with natural stones daily, from their origin to where they are applied, whether in a kitchen, on a floor, or on a bench in a town square, what we can say is that literally every square meter makes up a story.
The most painful part of our work is actually when we notice the rejection on someone’s look at what they consider to be a defect because we know that it was not a product that was manufactured in an industry but processed in each crystal over millions and millions of years from the interior of the earth to the surface where we live.
The most beautiful characteristics of nature are the elements that are formed amidst strong tensions, impacts, movements of tectonic plates, earthquakes, glacial movements, rivers, and tides movements. The stones evidence everything that happened on our planet throughout its history in over 4 billion years.
So, impermanence is something that composes not only plants, not just people, but it is present in the soil we live in, it is present when we choose a natural stone for a dining table, a floor, a kitchen.
The stones, when used as wabi-sabi elements, can provide different experiences of direct contact with their entire trajectory through the stone design itself, the technique used to polish/lapidate or to create textures on the surfaces, or the way the material is used, the level of “toughness” and “rawness”, that can be chosen to bring the stone almost in its natural state into an ambient.
Within this context, some applications become perfect in their conceptions by the elements they use and create.
Any stone represents nature in its very existence. Using it “treated”, polished, brushed, or matte, is always an excellent choice, but using it in its raw state with poetry and beauty, can be considered an art. In this context, the wabi-sabi lens can inspire us to live the exciting simplicity of being next to something produced over the ages and under the most severe weather conditions, valuing what nature has given us in its original, natural, and even visceral form.
A brilliant example of an application at this level of depth is the one by Anik Mourão, who used columnar disjunctions on a gourmet island at Casa Cor Ceará 2021.
“Estancia Piuba” brought, with an exciting simplicity, a stone that in its natural state forms hexagons in the shape of columns. The set of pieces was brought directly from a quarry in the state of Ceara, having been dismantled for transfer and reassembled column by column directly in the ambient and preserving the natural surfaces of the sides of these columns with their respective fractures and variations in tone and texture.
The island also brings a very strong element of the wabi-sabi which is about the “home” being made for living and about life not being perfectly tidy. The fact that the columns are not perfectly fitted together and the “gaps” that were left on purpose by the specifier give the idea of a home that is lived, loved, and that is never finished.
“When you are on the mountain, it is the mountain that teaches”. Having an element like this in an ambient corresponds to bringing a piece of this learning to your side, with all its marks, energies, singularities, and exclusivity.
Regarding natural stones in architecture and decoration environments, another point that needs to be accepted is that nothing is completely unchangeable, dynamic transience is the natural state of everything, even for us human beings. And just like us, stones also change over time. Their essence, however, does not change.
Thus, 6 points are fundamentally important when the wabi-sabi philosophy is elected to guide the choice of stones in the structure and/or decoration of a space or work.
Who are the people who will live with this project every day
This is the point that precedes everything when deciding which stones to use in a project.
Make sure of your client’s life moment or lifestyle. Some people cannot stand stains, variations, or changes. Some people change throughout their lives, coming to accept these as marks of time, just like wrinkles. Other people seem to be born with so much wisdom and are not bothered by the interference and changes of everyday life.
The most important thing, without sounding too philosophical, is that we all change, but we all have the “now” moment, which is that t(0), the moment when you decide to live alone, to get married, to have 1, 2, or several pets at home, or even to get a house or an apartment. To buy or to rent? Large rooms or a super living area with balcony, decking, or all of this together? Should I cook at home or more often or should I order food more often? Should I go out more or should I stay more at home?
These are some of the points that must be considered when defining which coverings are going to accompany people’s lives, after all, few people get a house intending to move in 6 months or 1 year. Nothing in a house is so ephemeral. Knowing the moment in which your customer is in life and the user himself having this understanding will come in handy when defining, for example, if they need a quartzite in the kitchen, which will be the superior option in all aspects, or if a granite works well or even if they can use a marble without having big problems.
Knowing this will be decisive in choosing the stones that will be used in a certain space or project.
It is not going to be all the same
The stones are like “living beings”, meaning, there are no identical stones and, even among the same stones, unless it is a granite with a uniform pattern, there will be a difference!
These pattern variations are part of the rock formation cycle and they are printed on every rock whether in its colors, movements, absorption rates, porosity, wear resistance, bending resistance, compressions, freezing, thawing, etc.
If what you are looking for is uniformity, some granites such as Rain Forest, Light, and White Nevasca, have highly homogeneous structures, but if they are used on large scales, on a work of 20,000m² for example, there will be at least subtle variations. That is where work organization resources come in to make these variations imperceptible.
In residential and corporate works sometimes we dream of everything being absolutely the same, but in nature itself, some elements are part of it, being also part of the stone coverings and this constitutes its perfection.
Veins, mineral movements, mineral concentrations, the disproportion in bands, mismatch of layers, all these are part of the beauty of rock formation, especially when we are dealing with quartzites, whether they are crystalline or sandy and all the stones called exotic by the market.
Textures can replicate the transience of time and make everything more natural, turning to be a strong support tool in the decision of coverings.
Polished, Honed, Matte, Flamed, Velvet, Rough, Brushed, Sand, and several others are the surface finishes that make up the world of natural stones nowadays.
Here is a stone that is good for any situation when it comes to specifications and choices. The stones processing industry is being increasingly challenged to develop new textures that will give them a new dimension to their users, a dimension beyond the usual three-dimensionality, which is the aggregation of the tactile sense.
The stones, when polished, have a very strong visual appeal because the polishing (which is nothing more than a lapidation) brings the colors and designs of the stone to the eyes of the beholder. But, in recent years, finishes without shine, that work the same beauty as the designs, make other attributes stand out, just as beautiful as when the sensory element is added.
Not all stones accept any finish, as some of them require the use of fire, the use of impact tools, or even no type of treatment at all, which demands a resistant and structurally “perfect” stone.
The organic forms replicating nature perfectly well
A practical way to make use of the wabi-sabi philosophy in the decoration using stones is in the way of cutting, replicating nature’s shapes, such as the shape of boulders, mountains, retracing the design of the sea waves, the waters, the treetops. The curved and asymmetrical cuts in dining tables, side tables, or even in mirrors and benches are trending a lot, and they give another characteristic of exclusivity to any project.
Fluidity, dynamism, and harmony are the keywords in the design of pieces by the shapes of nature, which can be increased with great elegance and functionality, creating an interaction between the user and the environment with the support of natural aspects such as light and other organic materials like fabrics, fibers, woods, etc.
What is essential to succeed is to work with high-quality professionals to cut and make the edges. A good professional will be able to replicate these organic shapes with perfection and smoothness.
Natural stones can be used as “protagonists” in a wabi-sabi philosophy project.
The greatness of natural stones is not valued when they are chosen to be just a supporting piece. They are part of the finish of a work’s “clothes” and when they are well used, they inevitably become the protagonists of the space. The stones have a language that transcends time barriers, making any space “natural” as long as they are well used.
The breaking of this barrier gives timelessness to a project, since depending on how they are used, the stones can even bring a vernacular aspect to the project when used in their natural form as in the form of boulders, with their exposed fractures and natural and raw textures.
Stone floors, facades, and furniture coverings become great choices when bringing this organic architecture to the projects if they are made in solid stone, once they bring nature and the origins of the earth into a space. Can you imagine waking up in the morning and stepping on a natural stone? What a special energy this can give us!
Accept the price of each choice
Nature changes, tectonic plates change, stones in nature change/weather. In fact, because of that, a natural stone will change over time. What we can do about it is to choose those that take longer to change. Nowadays we are sure of which they are, we have options for that in the market and, mainly, we have to be aware that depending on our choice, our stone will undergo more or fewer changes and this will become part of the client’s life story.
There is no problem, for example, in using marble in a kitchen, as long as the client is aware of what can happen and accepts it as something valuable, not an issue.
When we take a look at the past civilizations, humanity as a user of stones for coverings had a strong use limitation, which was the hardness of the stones. There was no way of working in any stage of the processing of the stones with the hardness of the ones we work today, such as the quartzite family and often quartz crystals or stones as hard as them.
That is why, currently, both specifiers and users, can have the peacefulness of choosing the best solution for their lifestyles and their moments and can, if they wish, abuse the style that descends from the wabi-sabi philosophy knowing that in the stones they can find a solid, timeless and exclusive working axis that will help make each project unique and special.