Japanese art & design: wabi-sabi
Natural materials are seen as the essence of objects, which even though they have been made by humans, still show their origins. Objects that do this are considered humble, not attempting to be more important than they actually are.
The principles of wabi are linked to those of shihui and ideas of refined austerity, all of which aspire to the ideal of creating simple objects free of unnecessary distraction. Evidence of how the material was worked is a way of showing the 'hand of the maker' and imperfections and irregularities are welcomed as a link between the natural and human worlds, as perfection is rarely found in nature.
It was desirable for artefacts to be simple enough for their function to be obvious, and for the function of an object to suggest its form. Basketware is a good example: the bamboo from which it is made is easily identified, and close to its natural state; the technique of weaving is also obvious. A lacquer container would be placed inside such flower baskets to hold water. The baskets are practical objects adapted from larger, coarser items used in fishing and farming.
The making process is also evident in some textiles such as kimono and lengths of hemp and cotton fabric made by the kasuri process, where the yarns are resist-dyed before being woven, which gives the patterns on the fabric their characteristic fuzzy edge. Artefacts made according to wabi principles were also valued highly in the tea ceremony from the sixteenth century onwards.
Though craftspeople today explore new forms, they often adapt the old techniques. Contemporary basketwork uses the materials and weaving methods of the past, but the baskets are seen as sculptural works rather than functional containers. The basket-maker focuses on the internal space and the spaces between the woven bamboo, rather than looking at what it can hold.
Modern ceramics may borrow the shape, colour and surface texture of older pieces to use them in different ways. Though many pieces are loosely based on the form of a vessel, they are in fact pieces of sculpture.