Wabi-Sabi

Since starting SDS, we have struggled to say what exactly is so much more attractive about handmade objects that it justifies the extra effort, price, and time it takes to make them. Rustic pottery, a cobbled together piece of machinery, a Japanese tea house, all have a quiet, personal charm. It's a strange problem because in food, mass-production is seen as an unhealthy quality: "processed."

Ryoanji rock garden in Kyoto, Japan

Ryoanji rock garden in Kyoto, Japan

One part of the glassblowing process we've come to appreciate more and more is the unexpected. When you make something, especially handmade glass, some small things (or big things) don't go as planned. There can be small bubbles in the glass, ripples in the surface, or differences in thickness. Of course, accidents can be bad, but small irregularities can also be the difference between stale and charming: beauty in the imperfect or Wabi-Sabi

 
Kintsugi: the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with laquer mixed with gold.

Kintsugi: the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with laquer mixed with gold.

 

Usually, in a factory, a mistake is just defective. We have found that the good kind of surprise, the type that doesn't spoil the object, but actually makes it more desirable, used more often, and treasured for longer, comes best from human hands. It's nearly impossible for a person to do exactly the same thing over and over again, so why not embrace it?

We want to design things that REQUIRE a human touch. When we designed our last line of glass, Lucky Break, we realized that they couldn't be made by machine. Each vessel gets it's unique pattern from randomly scattered arrangements of colored glass and their distortion as it melts.

It would be nearly impossible to program that kind of inconsistency into a factory and would trying to wrangle the natural behavior of the glass produce the same graceful appeal anyway? I don't know the answer, but we want to highlight the richness of glass' extraordinary natural behavior.

 

One of the unique properties of glass, is that the bubble follows the path of least resistance. Hotter areas move more easily and cooler areas are stiffer. Normally, you want to keep the glass heated evenly. With this prototype, we try to break that rule and purposely give the chill the bottom of the glass unevenly to allow the bubble inside the cup to expand into an uneven wavy shape.

 

Want to learn more about Wabi-Sabi?

Koren, Leonard. Wabi-sabi for artists, designers, poets & philosophers. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 1994.
Tanizaki, Junichirô. In praise of shadows. (New Haven, Conn.): Leetes Island Books, 1977.
Hara, Kenya. White. Zurich, Switzerland: Lars Müller Publishers, 2015.


Christopher Yamane is an industrial designer and Co-Founder of Super Duper Studio