Yesterday I went to London to have my hair done; it’s a treat… I always get the train up from Brighton and then guiltily spend a fortune on my hair, which seems a frivolous and vain action, but one which often makes me feel a bit better and a little more confident on the inside…for a few days anyway. When I booked the appointment I was told that my usual hairdresser had left the salon. It felt a bit of a blow, but my regular colourist was still there so I reassured myself that all would be well. When I arrived, the receptionist told me that said colourist had had to go home sick. I was irrationally annoyed, nervous, concerned about the money, and to be honest I also felt a bit trapped because I wasn’t about to turn round and head back to Brighton. I wanted it to be how I’d planned it… Unfortunately, I think my tone was pretty spiky towards the receptionist as well as the ‘new’ colourist simply because I wanted everything to be like it was before. I reluctantly decided to sit down in the chair, apologise for my spiky behaviour and trust that they would do a good job. Unsurprisingly, by the end of the afternoon I had not only really enjoyed the experience, but had lovely bleached roots and a really good haircut. I felt foolish and humbled that I hadn’t been more open to a shift in circumstances in the first place, and was reminded of Beth Kempton’s new book ‘Wabi Sabi’ which says on the front cover: ‘Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life’ . I had experienced a personal wabi sabi moment in action; my hairdresser’s job move, my colourist’s illness and the massive feeling that my plan had been broken. It all pointed to transience and impermanence, and rather like a kintsugi repair, although the outcome was totally different from my original plan, it actually turned into something lovely which was ’ new’. The plan just changed shape; it incorporated functional, yet beautiful ‘mends’ to all the cracks. The whole irregularity became a contemplation and an example of how broadly we can incorporate wabi sabi into our lives…
I met author of Wabi Sabi, Beth Kempton, a few years ago at a workshop I ran in Brighton and she also owns one of my paintings inspired by Japanese cherry blossom. A couple of weeks ago, completely out of the blue, I received a copy of her new book through the post with a lovely note saying that she thought I might enjoy it…she couldn’t have been more right. There was also some some synchronicity at play here too as we had both written a book, and my book also has a chapter which looks at how noticing wabi sabi and texture can inform your creative life. I have long been an advocate of the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, originally discovering it through ikebana, and I always incorporate it into my online courses and workshops.
As I read Beth’s book, not only did I keep saying ‘yes’ at virtually every page turn, but I also immediately felt that her book is an essential foundation to help building an adaptive resilience to everything life throws at us whilst leaving us creatively open at the same time. Her book provides wisdom and reassurance in a world which can sometimes feel like it’s moving at an uncontrollable pace. The focus is always on process; something which is very close to my heart and which my own book ‘Conscious Creativity’ is completely geared towards.
A couple of my favourite quotes from Beth’s book are:
’There is no ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’ with learning. There is just learning.’
’There is no single perfect career path. There is only the one we are constructing as we go.’
And one of her prompts near the end of the book is brilliant: ‘Noticing All the Things’. That was one of my many ‘yes’ moments, partly because again in my own book I work on giving you the tools to help you notice all the things.
I incorporate a wabi sabi element into all my work and my photographic arrangements on the table usually have some form of rustic simplicity which hopefully leads your eye and mind to think about the impermanence and imperfections of your surroundings and existence as well as taking in its beauty.
I try to keep open to the feeling of that wabi sabi flow when I paint ; each mark leading to another without any fixed plan. It means that sometimes great and unexpected things happen all at once, but it also means that at other times you feel thwarted when things don’t work out at all. However both outcomes are integral pieces of the creative process.
And there is a quote at the end of the book says it all for me:
‘You are perfectly imperfect,
just as you are’
I feel so strongly about that sentiment that I even have a version of it engraved on the inside of my life band which you can see below. The well worn textures, irregularities and accidental scratches of my infamous kitchen table are engraved on the outside. It’s a ring I had made to wear instead of a wedding ring… or getting a tattoo! ( you can read more about here ).
I really feel that this Wabi Sabi book is essential reading; it resonates in such a whole and life affirming way and acknowledging and incorporating wabi sabi into our lives shows us that imperfect is just a different version of perfect.
Loaded with a sense wabi sabi I made an arrangement on my table and then also spent a while enjoying it’s influence in my studio… You can buy Beth’s book Wabi Sabi on line here and you can pre order my own book Consciously Creative here