Months ago I sat on the floor between rows of wooden shelves in Powell’s Books. I had found The Wabi-Sabi House by Robyn Griggs Lawrence and couldn’t wait to walk the block or so back to Stumptown for my morning coffee before I opened it. Its pages looked a bit dated and glossy, the black and white pictures mildly disappointing, but I had found a gift of a book – a second hand copy that smelled of wood, dust and laminated paper. It holds a warm, accessible invitation to embrace the ancient Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, the art of accepting and celebrating transience and imperfect beauty.

 

The book’s message is about slowing down, taking time to, ‘find beauty in what seems ordinary – and to turn the ‘ordinary’ into something beautiful’, the value of shedding materialism, of authenticity, of living simply, of the hand made, well loved, worn and flawed. It’s about an appreciation of three simple realities: ‘nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.’ And the value of learning to consider others before ourselves.

It feels relevant. And almost accessible.

 

Wabi-sabi is not the self-conscious simplicity and nostalgic collecting of thrifted and lovely things to photograph and share with each other on Instagram.

 

Like hygge, wabi-sabi is about being not having.

 

I still have an awful lot to learn. For months, I’ve been staring at my avarice, emptying our drawers and sheds and buying less.

I can see beauty in a curved stem, a cobbled street, a patched rug. But I am still wanting, in so many ways. Lacking. And still convincing myself that I need more.

I’m embarrassed by my greed, by the piles of magazines, books and trinkets. There is so little space in my life to move quietly, to exhale, to grow things, to be creative, to think because of what it takes to manage the stuff of my life.

When I sat down to write about wabi-sabi for Kinfolk, I realized that it would be coarse to attempt to define a way of being that the even the Japanese are reluctant to articulate.

 

Just before my deadline, I skulked about on the internet, re-read The Wabi-Sabi House and procrastinated by walking the dogs and visiting my elderly neighbour for coffee.

It was in her quiet, ordered, simple home that I found wabi-sabi – in the stillness of her wooden kitchen, in the texture of her morning and the shape of her favourite ceramic cups, in her honesty and grace.

And I found it in my admiration of another dear friend who has the beauty of a San bushman and lives like an artistic shaman in a tiny coastal settlement on the west coast of South Africa. He walks barefoot, quietly sweeps his home every morning and evening, folds, mends and makes. And often stands still to smoke and think.

So, I wrote a piece that attempted to capture but not define the intangible spirit of wabi-sabi. It’s an acknowledgment, I suppose, of both friends and my hope that when I grow up (I’m forty five), I’ll learn to live wabi-sabi in the same generous, unselfconscious way.

 

wabi-sabi

wabi-sabi
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 19 June 2013

Come back to Portland with me. To Beam and Anchor – a workshop and retail space in an old warehouse on Interstate Avenue. Alchemy has taken place there – nothing explosive or glittering – not the harsh shine of gold but its glow. Jocelyn and Robert Rahm and their partner, Currie Person, have created a warm hub of creativity – a place for makers to gather, to collaborate and to sell their work. It’s a space where creative dialogue will flourish. Upstairs everything is bathed in soft light but it’s all happening. Between the carpentry and re-upholstery workshops and Jocelyn’s studio at the front of the building, is a kitchen built by Jocelyn’s brother Bren – smooth cement work tops, walnut cabinets and a 100 year old farm table they describe as a “gathering place for collaboration, bread breaking and story telling”. This is the heart of the building, a reflection of its promise; the place where they hygge, inspire and restore each other and invite the local community to join them.

It took eight months to renovate the building and then carefully select and curate the beautiful things that are for sale downstairs. They have managed to combine careful attention to detail with warmth and the vitality of creative energy. The juxtaposition of raw industrial location and beautiful, handmade goods is affecting. The workshop and kitchen upstairs lend authenticity and presence to the ground floor. People step in off the street to the lovely groan and clank of heavy goods trains and immediately stop to savour the beauty of even the smallest objects and to chat for a while. Nothing is too precious to handle, including the people – their uncomplicated warmth, love of good design and belief in community is the cohesive energy behind the project. The palette is muted but the vibe is not. Watch this space.
Good things will flow from here.  http://beamandanchor.com


Inspired.

 

Beam and Anchor
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 30 April 2012

Portland was inspiring. I remembered the part of me that drinks too much coffee and too many vodka mules, that still wants a tattoo; the part of me that dances, that likes to be alone, can spend an hour on the floor of the poetry section and get up at five in the morning to write. Portland was spring rain, cherry blossom, flat whites, lumberjack shirts, fairy lights, weather-boarded houses, new books, old books, new tunes, old friends, new dances, beards, beanies, food carts, handmade, heart song. My soul is rested.

Portland
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 25 April 2012