By Lee Noles
MONROE – One night at home Darcy Duncan was watching a program about the current trend of people breaking away from the burden and expense of large homes and moving into tiny houses. The particular episode featured a homebuyer interested in finding a place heavily influenced by the Japanese idea of Wabi Sabi.
Not sure the meaning, but intrigued by the sound the two words made together, Duncan Googled it. What she found not only brought a new perspective to her artwork, but it also changed her view on life.
Wabi Sabi is a Japanese term which embraces simplicity and finding beauty in imperfections.
“I think [Wabi Sabi] is really important, whether it’s material things, or the people around you. It’s not about picking things apart.” Duncan said. “In terms of your life, it’s not about the good or the bad. It’s seeing the positivity in everything and seeing things that are imperfect.”
The idea has been in Japan for hundreds of years. But the modern meaning didn’t take hold until the 1500s when tea master and poet Sen No Rikyu introduced it into the traditional tea ceremony, which Japan is now globally renowned. Once an extravagant affair reserved for the elite, Rikyu stripped away the lavish decor to have the ceremony in tiny rooms. Elegant furniture was replaced with two sitting mats-known as tatami. Asymmetrical and inexpensive earthenware began to be used instead of expensive dishes and cups from China.
The changes brought the tea ceremony to the masses and popularized the Wabi Sabi movement that Duncan incorporates today into her life and work.
It also has a heavy influence on her process of creating furniture. Shunning away from drawing designs over and over, Duncan usually forms the idea in her mind before placing each piece of wood together. If she doesn’t like the fit, she takes apart the boards and tries again before settling on what she wants. The wood is almost never altered, allowing for knots, scrapes and cracks to remain.
“When you work as you go, it makes it more fun to see it come together,” Duncan said of the spontaneous process. “Laying all the pieces out beforehand and trying to plan it out just takes something away from it.”
Duncan incorporates the Japanese idea into another art form, which involves her creating stepping stones and custom pavers with inspiring words imprinted in the concrete. The process has Duncan sand mixing the ingredients by hand before pouring them into a mold and stamping the wording.
She first tried the custom paver at her house by creating a fire pit area in her backyard with words which are important to her. She has the saying ‘love for ever’ in the Celtic language. Another is the word ‘family’ in English, Hawaiian and Japanese. She creates the concrete pavers in either six letters that are each 4-by-8 inches or eight letters that can be 4-by-10.5 inches.
“If the (paver) has a little crack, I am OK with that, as long as it won’t cause it to break,” Duncan said. “And the bricks are far from perfect. They all have unique qualities.”
Duncan said she has made custom pavers for people who had their grandchildren’s name inscribed in the mold. An endearing story to Duncan was a woman who wanted Meme written into the paver so she could give to her children. Meme was the children’s grandmother who had passed away.
The fire pit isn’t the only part of Duncan’s house which involves the Wabi Sabi mentality. Built in 1886, Duncan bought the home four years ago and installed new appliances but left the structure pretty much the same. There are still creaks in the floor when she walks, cracks in the wall and one particular cabinet has a gaping hole between the swinging glass panel door and the cabinet top.
Duncan is fine with all the home’s imperfections. She grew up behind the house and fondly remembers visiting as a child with the former owners, who are no longer living.
“Lot of memories,” Duncan said. “Not just with me but for it being as old as it is. I would love to be that fly on the wall and to see and experience all that has gone on here.”
Want to learn more?
If Interested in Duncan’s work you can either go to 47K Marketplace in Monroe or visit her website at www.wabisabiexpres sions.com or email her at wabisaibiexpres firstname.lastname@example.org.