Every morning for the last 2 weeks I’ve been reading Wabi Sabi - The Japanese Art of Impermanence, in 15 minute bursts on the train to work. As a designer in an industry that follows a liner process of willingly making products with a sell-by-date, destined to decay ungracefully and clutter the planet, this book has provided my mornings with the perfect juxtaposition in favour of the eternal, circular and melancholic.

Admittedly, I bought this book with the intent to get a clear set of rules or procedures to achieve wabi sabi design, in a vain attempt to be a more culturally aware designer. Sadly, I sought but did not find. Instead, Juniper spends that majority of the book explaining the context and history of this Japanese aesthetic in great depth. It’s important to the style that you approach it with the right mentality, or rather lack of mentality - mushin. Having read this book, it’s made very clear that one needs to embrace the ideals of zen artistry before you can effectively produce wabi sabi design. The penultimate chapter does detail which materials and elements are preferable to the wabi sabi aesthetic, but the explanation for each facet is kept contextual and the detail is kept purposely ambiguous. The reason I bought this book in the first place was to be able to apply it to my own work, but now I can see it’s really the beginning of a process of mastering an awareness of wabi sabi.

I’d recommend this book for artists, craftsmen (especially potters), designers and any other visually creative people, however don’t feel like this is an exclusive book. If you have an interest in Japanese culture, history or spirituality, then this book also provide great insight. Don’t expect clarity and precision of language from this book, but do expect to come a little closer to the impermanence of all things and the beauty that can be found in desolation.

4 / 5