Wabi-Sabi does not go with Sushi

Last July, with some trepidation and much gusto, Huga was born. I will admit that since the learning curve has been steep. It is obviously a good idea to do your market research beforehand but in a world where everything essential has been done, made and created it is difficult to come up with a new concept, especially if you make handmade books and other paper-based wonders… Anyway, true to myself, I (and my hubby) put a hand-made website together and a first collection launched. The website now has 103 revisions and collections are more adventurous. But it is all a journey, so what…

But I also wanted to be on a platform and Etsy was the obvious choice. Part of the Etsy philosophy is to make the shop as friendly and personal as possible. I scanned through other makers’ profile and was rather taken aback by the loveliness of it all. Super inspired and super gifted people basically having a ball! Is this for real? Envisioning the future, I suddenly felt like a split personality developing. On one hand, the Etsy persona would be all rosey and on the other, you would have, well… me.

Now, do not get me wrong, I have nothing to complain about, and do not think some kind of poor-me navel-gazing profile is a good marketing strategy. But, there is no doubt that when rearing four children and working from home, life is busy and frankly quite chaotic, at best. I will give you a silly example: while taking the “corporate picture”, I thought it would be a good idea to proudly feature one of our newly hatched chicks (?!?). All jolly good, no great depth of thinking but fun, and in the end that’s what I wanted the business to be.

Very Miffed Wet Chick
Very Miffed Wet Chick

However, behind the scene, after the picture was taken (and for some inexplicable reason) Chick jumped into and nearly drowned in my fresh cup of tea. From twee to pandemonium, CPR, kiss of life, thank god Chick is now good… But the whole episode was not very Etsy-like, yet it is the reality behind the twee corporate image. So should I pretend or just be and what-you-see-is-what-you-get? In truth neither are appealing.

So yes, I love making things and indulging in handmade. The business is fun and imaginative, rather than innovative, products are made with genuine care. It will hopefully help with the kids’ education. I wanted it to feel real, not twee. A gentleman called David Boyle, in a book entitled ‘Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for real Life (2003)’  described real as follow:

Real means ethical
Real means natural
Real means honest
Real means simple
Real means unspun
Real means sustainable
Real means beautiful
Real means rooted
Real means human

All the above is true and I certainly can relate to each point made. Less is more and I subscribe to his message. But somehow it appeals only to my brainy self. It misses an elusive but critical point. A kind of “Ah OK!” and move on…

The Japanese concept of aesthetic nailed it better for me: Wabi-Sabi. As always, Japanese philosophy focusses on the essence of things and Wabi-Sabi is the principle that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect. A reminder not to get too attached, not too finicky and not too demanding. Relax, it will be ok… Sometimes, people feel intimated by the blank pages of a handmade journal (oh, I could not write in it!)….Relax, it is what it is for, and it will gain when the pages bear the marks of rubbing, crossing and writing again.

Steampunk Leather Journals
Steampunk Leather Journals

Whilst all books are made with care, the charm lies in the little imperfections. In Japan, a thread of gold mends, and enhances, broken ceramics. The object hence acquires history and depth. Design items can be so clinical, machine-made ones so cold in their perfection. It is so easy to be beautiful when young, maturity is interesting. So here you are, my craft-ifesto is a little metaphysical, a tad spiritual, somewhat on the moral side and yet with material tones. It is a state of mind but appeals to my soul. Critically, it allows (aaaaah…) to relax in a chaotic world. Hopefully, it appeals to you too…

And by the way, it is wasabi you put on sushi!


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