Nothing like making stuff with your hands that shows up all your imperfections. But sometimes, that's the beautiful thing, as the traditional Japanese aesthetics of wabi-sabi would have it.
Last year as part of my resolution to make more and learn joyfully, I took a pottery class at Singapore's oldest kiln. The thing I love about making physical things is being able to use my hands, and through making, learn about myself. Pottery-making is a great opportunity for just that - all your personality tendencies gets amplified through the medium and all the kneading, pulling, shaping. I tend to be impatient and overdo things like spin the wheel too fast, use too much strength and water. As the instructor said, we have to "feel the clay but not follow the clay", be centred, remember to breathe, and pinch with the right amount of strength. Pretty much all of life's philosophy in one place.
When I finally collected the pottery after it's fired, my favourite piece was the very first one I made, the most imperfect one. It had a weird groove on the rim. The instructor had initially wanted to smoothen that out for me, to make it "perfect". But I stopped him, which on hindsight, I am now thankful for. Something about its imperfection appealed to me deeply and personally...
It's wabi-sabi, as traditional Japanese aesthetics have it.
In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is a world view centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete".... Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. - Wikipedia
In other words, wabi-sabi is not afraid of imperfections. In fact, it embraces it as a key element of what makes something beautiful. Now there's something about that kind of thinking that's deeply beautiful in itself. Because life invariably knocks us around, breaks things that are once immaculate, and leaves behind scars and cracks in things... and in us. But wabi-sabi celebrates those scars. Anyone who had been through a tough episode in life and came out the other side having grown deeply from it, will attest to this. The scars end up being the very vehicles of our growth and evolution, ven though we may never wish the same experience on others or even on ourselves again.
Imperfections are beautiful.
I love the philosophy of wabi-sabi. I wish I can live it, and apply this more in my life, in the things I do, stuff I make. That made me wonder...
How might we bring wabi-sabi into digital products?
Can we celebrate imperfections in digital products like we do so in wabi-sabi? How would that look like?