Book Bites | 'Wabi Sabi'

For our book reviews, team members of IMA will be reading and reviewing books that you may be considering for your studio bookshelf. Our book reviews don't give scores but instead, we hope to describe what type of knowledge and/or support the book is aiming to provide to artists.


Whilst we will make all efforts to remain as objective as possible, our perspective will inevitably be filtered through our own individual lense as well as the IMA lens.


Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life

By Beth Kempton



Now I’m usually quite skeptical about self-help books but I’m making an exception for this one. I’ve been aware of the concept of wabi sabi for some time but wasn’t sure I completely grasped all of its subtleties.


The author has produced a lovely little book that feels weighty and satisfying in your hands - an important consideration due to the subject matter and its contemplation of Japanese aesthetics.


Remember nothing lasts forever and nothing is perfect.

The book talks about those moments or areas of life that can benefit from a pause and a consideration that everything is “impermanent, imperfect and incomplete” and that if we keep this in mind, we can find life more rewarding.


She covers relationships and careers but it’s about applying a particular way of seeing the world to all areas of life. I particularly liked the idea of nothing being perfect and so to strive for such a thing is folly. This can be extended to your chosen career; there isn’t a single perfect career path and indeed we may have many “imperfect” careers throughout our lives or even at the same time. What really matters though is the way we get there. Sit back and enjoy the journey because that’s the real aim, not the destination. See our post on defining success for some other perspectives on this.


When it comes down to artists making their work, we might want to slow down a little, to become aware of our surroundings and our feelings at this precise time. To use an over-hyped phrase 'be in the moment'. Remember nothing lasts forever and nothing is perfect.


As the book concludes, wabi sabi is an “appreciation for beauty, for nature, for ourselves, for each other and for life itself.” Anything that gets us to slow down a little and appreciate what we sometimes take for granted has to be a good thing.


Team IMA

re-IMAgining the art world

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