Activity 5: Wabi-sabi, the Beauty of Imperfection
Activity time: 10 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Pictures of raku pottery (Leader Resources 2, Raku Pot and 3, Raku Pears)
- Self-hardening modeling clay and pencils for all participants
- Optional: Raku-fired pottery item(s) and a cloth for display
Preparation for Activity
Print Leader Resource 2, Raku Pot, and Leader Resource 3, Raku Pears. If possible, obtain a real raku-fired pot to show the group. Or, obtain some images of Japanese or Western raku pottery and bring them in. Good sources are exhibition catalogs, art books and pottery how-to books from the library and websites with images you can print, Steven Forbes-deSoule's website and Robert Compton Pottery.
- If you have brought raku pottery that belongs to you or someone else, be thoughtful about how to share it with the group. It may be wise to lay some cloth on a table to display a pot and invite participants to view it closely, touch it carefully and leave it in place.
- Read the Description of Activity section and prepare to explain briefly the concept of the beauty of imperfection. Optional: Explore further resources for wabi-sabi and cracked pots in Find Out More.
- Obtain self-hardening modeling clay, enough for each participant to form a small pot.
Description of Activity
Pass around or show images of raku pottery, and/or invite children to see and touch raku pots you have brought.
Explain that raku pottery, American-style, is based on a technique started by Korean potters four hundred years ago, and since then it has been traditional in Japan and an integral part of a formal Japanese tea ceremony. In the American style, the irregular, smoky cracks in a pot are made by tossing pots into a fire in a metal container, such as a metal trash can, as the final step in making them.
The results of the raku process are wholly unpredictable. Thus, the goal is imperfection.
Ask the group for adjectives to describe the pots. Expect a range-for example, beautiful, ugly, weird-and affirm all responses.
Tell the group raku pots are intentionally imperfect. They are examples of a Japanese idea about beauty: wabi-sabi. You might say:
Wabi-sabi sees the singular beauty in an object that may first look flawed, decrepit, or ugly. The beauty comes from how the object shows the natural processes of life.
Help participants generate examples of wabi-sabi in everyday life. You might suggest a favorite pair of ripped jeans, an overgrown wildflower garden, a crumbling old castle, a well loved and well worn baby blanket or stuffed animal, a desk or table marked with use. To conclude, challenge participants to look for wabi-sabi-people, places, or things appreciated for their imperfections-between now and your next meeting.
Distribute self-hardening modeling clay and invite participants to make their own wabi-sabi pots. Indicate pencils with which children can make "cracks." Tell them they may take their pots home as a reminder of the beauty of imperfection.