For every awesome thing that modern technology has given us (the emoji, on-demand reality TV, literal sliced bread), it seems to provide an equal and opposite pitfall. In the case of our current culture’s propensity for sharing, technology has allowed us to learn more about our friends, meet new people faster, and share personal glimpses into our everyday lives. On the opposite side of that same coin is a paradoxical lack of IRL connection and a pressure to share only the most picture-perfect, hyper-curated aspects of our lives (guilty!). If you’ve found that Modernity’s pressure for perfection has you down, you’ve got a friend in Julie Pointer Adams. A photographer, an avid entertainer, and the former co-director of Kinfolk magazine’s dinner series, Julie is also the author of the newly-published Wabi-Sabi Welcome. As much a manifesto for living as it is a guide to modern entertaining, the book finds Julie exploring the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, a term that conveys the notion of perfect imperfection: cracked pottery, wrinkled linen, the pair of jeans that only gets better with age.

“I’ve found that the easier it is to connect through devices,” Julie notes in the book’s introduction, “the less and less aware we are of the importance of being connected to the people right around us, and the more intimidated we are by how polished everyone else’s lives look.” Wabi-Sabi Welcome is the antidote to all of this. Throughout, Julie takes a closer look at what Wabi-Sabi can mean through the lens of different people and different cultures. In addition to sharing experiences from her home state of California, Julie finds Wabi Sabi in Denmark, France, Italy, and Wabi-Sabi’s homeland, Japan. Julie was kind enough to tell us a little bit more about her book and her experience making it below.

GIVEAWAY

We’re Giving Away 5 Signed Copies of Wabi-Sabi Welcome!

Enter to win a signed copy of Wabi-Sabi Welcome, along with 5 west elm products selected by Julie Pointer Adams: 1 FEED Kitchen Apron, 1 White Enamel Vase, a set of Belgian Linen Placemats, 1 bar of Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap.

TO ENTER: In the comments section below, share your name, email, and a favorite Wabi-Sabi (perfectly imperfect) moment from your own life. 1 entry per person. Last day for entry Friday, June 30, 2017. Full terms of service here.


west elm - Wabi-Sabi Welcome Book Giveaway

Simplicity and the idea of living-with-less are hot topics right now. What makes the concept of Wabi-Sabi unique from its more trend-bound peers?

Wabi-sabi is distinct from other, perhaps more trendy forms of minimalism, because I find it to be both more forgiving and more generous in its everyday application into our lives. Adopting a wabi-sabi way of life isn’t about stripping your life of all you own, or curating your home into a simplified box full of designer furniture and shiny empty surfaces—it’s about re-examining what you already have and learning to appreciate the beauty of what’s right in front of you. This can be true whether you have a Matisse hanging on the wall, or your child’s finger painting. Of course, there are some loose qualifications as to what might aesthetically be considered wabi-sabi, but as a worldview, I believe it’s really very open and accepting. Coming to embrace a “perfectly-imperfect” sense of beauty helps us cherish what we’ve been given as a gift, and to relish in it and share it with others—rather than always have the sense that we need more or better things.

west elm - Wabi-Sabi Welcome Book Giveaway
 
After flipping through your book, it becomes evident that there are many benefits to incorporating a Wabi-Sabi mindset in one’s life. Why do you think the world needs Wabi-Sabi today?

Our world is so incredibly visual, fast-paced, and digitized these days, that wabi-sabi is a welcome antidote to the chaos—this quieter, more attentive mindset helps us shrug off some of the more lasting effects of this frenzy. To start with, we see hundreds—if not thousands—of images of glossy “perfection” every day, implicitly telling us what we need more of, how we should look, and what we should strive for. Practicing wabi-sabi takes a different approach, encouraging us to live in-tune with nature and to be delighted by unexpected, simple moments of beauty. Choosing a way of life that not only accepts but actually embraces imperfection (i.e. the mundane, messiness of life) is very liberating and freeing. When you apply this to entertaining and having people in your home, it feels like a big sigh of relief, which I think everyone could use a bit more of.

west elm - Wabi-Sabi Welcome Book Giveaway
 
Wabi-Sabi seems implicitly unstructured and uncurated (“there are no rules,” so to speak). As such, it seems like it might be a difficult concept to teach. How do you recommend people incorporate a Wabi-Sabi mindset into their lives?

As you’ve said, because wabi-sabi has so many facets and nuances to it, it is a very difficult concept to pin down and describe in one simple way. However, throughout the book I try to latch onto really specific, practical things that people can do in order to introduce wabi-sabi into their everyday lives. For instance, the California chapter is all about entertaining in intimate spaces—essentially encouraging readers to ditch formal dining and fancy-feeling homes in favor of something much more candid, cozy, and homey. I talk about things like personalizing your home with things very particular to you and putting them on display for others to see, using nature to decorate, and making meals you can eat with your hands—all things that help us leave perfection behind and instantly feel more comfortable with those around us.

west elm - Wabi-Sabi Welcome Book Giveaway

You explore the concept of Wabi-Sabi in five different countries in your book and photographed in each of them. Any stand-out memories from your travels?

One of the most gratifying experiences for me was spending time in Japan and being witness to the amazing warmth, humility, and generosity of everyone we encountered there. Knowing that the wabi-sabi concept stems from there, it was especially amazing to see how this concept is engrained into their everyday lives and informs so much of what they do and have—everything from the way they greeted us, to the dishware they use, to the simple and meaningful décor around their homes. One evening in Kyoto, we arrived at the home of a friend of a friend, only to find she was preparing a large feast with probably ten to twelve dishes in the works. It was one of the most beautiful, delicious meals I have ever eaten, shared with a mishmash of mostly strangers crowded around three low tables as we were all sitting on the floor. I didn’t take any photos of this particular meal, so it’s not in the book, but that’s what I loved about it: the grandeur of the meal wasn’t at all for show, it was simply to nourish and sustain and comfort each of us—which is exactly what it did. I still think about that meal regularly.

west elm - Wabi-Sabi Welcome Book Giveaway

Your book is in many ways just as much a photo essay as it is an exploration of an idea. Tell us about your interest in photography. What makes a beautiful photo?

I’ve been shooting with film since I was 15, although this was the first time I’ve ever felt bold enough to take photos in a professional way. My photography style has always been simply about documenting life as it is, rather than setting up scenes or styling my subjects to look a certain way. The same was true for the book—all of the moments and people captured in the book were photographed just as they were. Although I’ve done a lot of styling in the past, I wanted everything about these images to feel real, true-to-life, and uncontrived, and so I refrained from interfering in any stylistic way. While styled scenes can also be wonderfully compelling and interesting, I felt the most fitting and beautiful imagery for the book would be photos that captured scenes of real life exactly as it was unfolding.

west elm - Wabi-Sabi Welcome Book Giveaway

Photography excerpted from Wabi-Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Julie Pointer Adams and Ryan J. Adams.

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Colleen Conlan

June 16, 2017

About 25 years ago, my mother made me an apron out of blue and white striped ticking. Over time, it became threadbare in one area, and then tore. Shortly after she died five years ago, I found a small length of ticking at a yard sale, and was able to patch it. I’m very happy to be able to keep wearing and using this apron, and know my mother, a queen of thrift, would love that I keep patching it to keep it going.

Martha

June 16, 2017

Mending a sweater with the wrong color thread by accident–everyone I met wearing loved the “accent color!”

Leticia Barajas

June 16, 2017

I move to Miami Beach 2 years ago and found a beautiful penthouse in a Gecko building from the 70’s. I decided to sale all my furniture in my old apartment and do a more white natural wood decor. West Elm furniture has been my main inspiration. My best wabi-sabi moment is when my friends show unexpectedly in my place to drink rose and appreciate the sunset. They love my place and the view of the beach and the bay from the balcony. Days like these make me appreciate living in a paradise surrounded by nature and friendship.

Angel Prichard

June 16, 2017

Hi there! I love to read – I love my books. I’ve been collecting books since I was a child, I still have my Narnia collection from 4th grade, the Heinleins I read in middle school, the classic paperbacks from high school. I don’t like the disconnect I feel when reading a novel on a computer. I love holding a book in my hand, turning pages, and my books show the wear and tear from our reading sessions and all the times I’ve moved from one house to another in my life.
I moved 5 times in the past 7 years, and I’m finally in a home I’ll stay in for a long time. My husband had a beautiful home built for us, and to my surprise, he built a gorgeous double-desk and bookcases in our home office. I was so excited to take all of my books out from the cardboard shipping boxes they’ve been stored in for several years. They finally have a home of their own! I absolutely love displaying all of my books on these shelves, and I’m just so touched he’d pour 3 weekends into this project for me. Our office is my Wabi Sabi. Thank you for reading!

Crystal Estacio

June 17, 2017

My favorite wabi-sabi moment in my life was when I finally moved to my own apartment after two years of living with friends, and prior to that, my 9 year long relationship. It felt so unreal that for the first time in my life, I’m able to surround myself with ALL things me and that brought me joy. I live in a very small MIL unit and have purged and thoughtfully brought items in my space that I knew would serve a purpose and I loved. Every time I walk enter IN to my apt., or go to rest in my bedroom, or read in my living room area, and/or cook in my tiny kitchen, all these things made me smile every time because every piece I owned that allowed for these activities to happen- whether I purchased it from a thrift store, I hand made, or was gifted to me, I cherished and knew that I only wanted to have things in my life and in my home that brought light and happiness into everything I do.

lisa

June 18, 2017

I love displaying my children’s handmade pottery creations from elementary school mixed in with my other finer works in prominent places throughout my house. I love seeing their color choices, the marks of their hands upon these objects, and the personalities these creations imbue. They make me smile every time I see them and they give me incredible joy.

Jessica

June 18, 2017

I’m Jessica from San Antonio, and I’m especially excited to learn about the Wabi-Sabi lifestyle because it speaks to me on so many levels. I had a recent Wabi-Sabi moment just last week, as I was admiring the progressive beauty of a bunch of tulips on my desk as they aged into full bloom and beyond. I love tulips and have always gravitated to the refined elegance of their pre-bloom budding simplicity. But as I’ve grown older myself, I have developed a great appreciation for the blooming and what comes beyond. As the petals open and expose the bloom, they are still gorgeous and magnificent, perhaps more so as they age and wither. Such a great metaphor for life!

Jaclyn Jacobson

June 18, 2017

My favorite wabi-sabi: good family friends had the best collection of plates. China from the parents’ wedding were mixed with vintage finds and plastic plates with the kids’ toddler-era art. Every meal shared in their home on those plates had an extra level of comfort and intimacy — eliciting great conversation and storytelling.

Elisabeth Beaty

June 19, 2017

Enjoying time with people from all walks of life

Amanda Costello

June 19, 2017

My favorite wabi-sabi: My fiance and I’s collection of new and vintage frames. They house prints we love, photographs of our travels, and unique landscapes.

Marcela Reyes

June 20, 2017

My fave perfectly imperfect moment was my wedding party. I wanted to plan and have the cutest and most perfect celebration, but I decided to let that go in order to have a blast and dance my ass off, which I did. So much fun!

Christiann Koepke

June 20, 2017

Stunning article – Julie is absolutely brilliant and I’ve been long awaiting this to be on the market!! -CK

Linda

June 21, 2017

My favourite Wabi Sabi moment is having to improvise on a recipe when I haven’t the right ingredients and then the new dish turning out to be tastier.

Lisette

June 22, 2017

I’ve never heard of this, but I love the concept. Hmm an example I can think of is when my students make a “mistake” with their art work. I constantly tell them not to see it as a mistake, but rather a “beautiful oops” that if you want, you can make a part of your work. I got the idea of beautiful oops from a children’s book and have been obsessed with it since.

Peter Chao

June 23, 2017

I love making slip cast ceramic pieces of candy – gummy bears, yogurt pretzels, etc. They all come out differently and beautifully.

Emilia Guth

June 24, 2017

I love finding the throw pillows and throw strewn about the family room from the kids’ imaginative play (lately they’ve been playing go-to-sleep-so-the-tooth-fairy-will-come).

Adele Fitterer

June 25, 2017

Ahh, Wabi-Sabi…
I have to say my most favorite moment would be the finding my small shed deer antlers. I use them in my home decor as a reminder of the simple, stunning beauty of a living life and the simple, stunning beauty that’s left after it’s gone.
These works of art fit perfectly with my worn, vintage books, original artwork and pottery, found rocks that catch my eye, the linen of my pillow covers and table cloth, drift wood “sculptures”…I do try and live the “life.”

Carlos

June 26, 2017

I arrived in New York two weeks ago. Moving to the Big Apple and to discover and to feel all the treasures the city offers was something I dreamt about occassionally. But now that I finally moved in, even if it is for only 4 months, I realized that this great experience cannot be perfect without sharing it entirely with my soulmate who, sadly, could not join me in this wonderful trip. These 4 months will definitely be the most imperfectly-perfect moment in my life.

LaJuana

June 28, 2017

Can’t really say any thing about Wabi Sabi because this is my first time knowing about the book.

Antonia Maistrova

June 28, 2017

I just moved into a house, a real house with a yard. It’s an old house with squeaky floors, leaky roofs, worn down doorknobs. But it ours. This is the house my child will take first steps in, where we will sit around the dining table sharing meals with friends and family. This is the house that is perfect in every imperfect way because it’s filled with love.

Amber

June 28, 2017

I treasured reading all the comments here, as these small moments of what is the heart of the real shine through for each of our lives. Thanks to all who have shared thus far!
What first came to mind to me are the imperfect, worn and chipped heirlooms that have been passed down through the generations in my family– like the Currier & Ives plates we had growing up and my Oma had before my mom, that are now what my husband and I eat on, or the copies of Little House on the Prairie that were my mom’s. All these objects feel like connection and roots– where time doesn’t have a specific boundary of space to limit past and present.
The other thread I’ve been turning over is the memory of my dad, brothers and I going camping in Big Bend for a week two years after our mom died. It was messy, imperfect, but such glorious moments in my mind of simply being together in wilderness and valuing showing up for concentrated time together.

ROSE

June 28, 2017

My wabi-sabi lifestyle found me when I moved to Alaska three years ago. My partner and I brought with us only what we could carry in our Ford pick-up truck, which meant choosing only the most practical and light-weight essentials. When we found a home–a modest yet light-filled rental apartment–I took up the task of transforming the shoddy apartment into a comfortable and pleasant space in which we could feel at home in a new place so far away and drastically different from what had been familiar. Making home meant bringing in bits of nature from mountain hikes, adopting lonely house plants from yard sales, thoughtfully choosing ceramics from local artists, being creative with what we could find used, often repairing and repurposing, and choosing to buy new only what was absolutely necessary. It meant letting go of trends and expectations and being okay with living simply, making do, embracing the freedom of traveling light, and appreciating the time spent in such a place rather than the things we could be accumulating.

eugenia rosenblun

June 28, 2017

I feel as if I have so many parts of my life that are perfectly imperfect. In my early 20s I started collecting old English and French tea cups and saucers, many of them hand painted and wonky, by far the best, or my favourite is one made of china so thin I can see my hand through it, and with the most lovely hand painted flowers! It even has some teeny cracks that look as if it had broken in the past, and was glued together again. Although my aesthetic has changed since then, to simpler lines and colours, I can’t let go of that particular cup!

Christal

June 28, 2017

A home can be an example of wabi sabi. When you move in there is chaos. That was me several months ago. Boxes everywhere, things completely disorganized, items left by the previous owner that needed to be sold, discarded, or kept and put away. Working on a home and looking for cheap treasures only improves the quality of a home. I now have a new refurbished dresser to put away my clothes. I’ve thrown away my moving boxes. I’ve found the right mats for my bathroom. And I’ve kept the previous owner’s china that was left for me. New mixed in with old makes a perfect house in my opinion. It’s a work in progress but I hope to have new pieces mixed in with old childhood mementos and gifts that will help decorate my home.

Marisa

June 28, 2017

My office has a wabi sabi quality to it, in particular my coffee table. It’s flaking and scruffy, but it is beautiful and undeniably usable.

Dana Rodden

June 29, 2017

My most recent Wabi-Sabi moment was when we were advised to take my two and a half year old son to the emergency room when he was sick. Of course as parents my husband and I were tremendously worried. After some routine blood work, they offered my son his first ever popsicle. The joy that this brought him was a perfect moment I will never forgot. While savoring it, he began smiling from ear to ear and laughing uncontrollably. When we were sent home later with reassuring news of his health, we stopped on the way home to load up our freezer with some popsicles (or “pop-is-culls” as he pronounces them!)

Sasha

June 29, 2017

I enjoyed this article and learning about the concept of wabi-sabi. In my life it means the super soft, worn pajamas and the way my toddler’s cute toys and things are strewn about the house.

Jennifer Cole

June 29, 2017

When I think of wabi sabi I think of handmade, and my favorite handmade objects are made by people I love. A wooden spoon carved by my husband. A drawing created by one of my little ones. A shawl knitted by my mother. They all are “imperfect” but so valuable to me.

Marcia McNeel

June 29, 2017

Due to a year of putting up with noisy neighbors, I recently decided to downsize to a smaller apartment in order to be able to stay in the same building. I pared down, donated lots of stuff I no longer really needed. I love my new smaller space with less clutter and a great view. The focal point of my living room area will be a set of 4 prints that I recently bought off eBay for $9.99 each by a midcentury painter that my parents loved (George Schwacha). They are scenes of New York City and make me very very happy.

shana acker

June 29, 2017

I received a sewing machine as a wedding gift from my mother-in-law. She helped me spool purple thread on and since I was too embarrassed to ask her and too lazy to look at instructions, I made curtains, hemmed pants and made pillows ALL with the same purple thread.

Tiffany Pucko

June 29, 2017

My Wabi-Sabi moment – embracing living with a dog. The kids had been asking for a dog for a few years and I grew to like the idea myself – knowing the reality of the circumstance, as far as who would mostly care for the dog … me. We pulled the trigger, brought home the pup and made it through some relatively easy housebreaking and teething phases. Now, our boy Winston, against our initial intent of not allowing him on furniture, lounges around on couches and chairs looking so cute. He scurries to the window to see other dogs, squirrels, birds, etc. Rough-house play with the kids and running the living-dining-kitchen lap has already left a fair share of scratches on our wood floors. Daily vacuuming and some extra cleaning to rid the house of any dog smell is a chore. But, I fully embrace this all now and have gotten past the “perfectness” of our home that I had always tried to achieve. Learning to just live in the space and enjoy the moments – as one happy family, is my own personal accomplishment. Today our backyard fence is being installed – so now, he’ll get to run free (to some extent) … while we figure out how to maintain the lawn back there. 😉 The kids love him and we’re happy he’s part of our lives.

Lisa O’Dwyer

June 29, 2017

I love this! I lived in Shigaraki Japan for 2 years teaching english at the local high school. This small village in the mountains outside of Kyoto in Shiga Prefecture was the site of an ancient imperial capital and the pottery industry was started there using anagama hillside raku kilns. My students made this style of pottery in their school. A moment of wabi sabi that I can remember from there is a day in the hot summer, I lay on the floor of my traditional house with the walls/windows open to the fresh air, listening to the sounds of cicada in the trees, and feeling the breezes coming up through the tatami of my small little house on stilts. So simple, not perfect in the least, but a moment of feeling the beauty in nature and being present in the moment, in a beautiful time of my life.

Cassandra Brooks-Spears

June 29, 2017

My want-sabi moment was recently realized. My mom past last year in June and she would always take such joy in giving just the right gift. She would always send me some brick-back to display in my home. I don’t really care for brick-back but I would accept it with my gratitude(and a reminder of my distaste). She would always say that we are soo much alike having been born on the same day and that if she liked it I surely would. Not the case at all and I would always say we are similar but couldn’t be more different.
Now that she’s passed and I look at the brick-back gifts it makes me think how similar we are and yet couldn’t be more different.
Thank you for letting me share a precious thought of my mom.

Denise

July 3, 2017

I have appreciate how my boyfriend
Has used his family handouts to make his house decor and meets and how it all works out. He has all his needs covered and happiness .It is more interesting than a home decorated by a profesional and with expensive items.

Estelle

July 3, 2017

My name is Estelle Park and I live in Seattle. My favorite wabi-sabi moment is quilt projects with my Korean mother. She will collect little bits and pieces of colorful clothes and combine them together to form a new object. I will watch her create a my favorite bag out of lots of little square patches or a little dinosaur doll. We kept all of her work around home, creating warmth inside the house. 🙂

Lori Haskell

July 7, 2017

I’m new to west elm and just saw this article and contest. Bummer! It looks like I just missed entering☹️ But I wanted to share anyway. My imperfect pieces are many, as a Native American, we have a somewhat similar belief of imperfection such as in creating something, if an imperfection doesn’t happen naturally, one is put in(I,e one off color bead, or a small anomaly when painting etc) also belief of not being attached to things and stuff, however waste is not good either…all that said, I tend to repurpose things until they can no longer be used-the gauzy drawstring bags that hold bath/spa type products and use them to dry my herbs (washed bag, of course) and I hang them in my kitchen( in a nice symmetrical way to also satisfy my other half😊) My significant other is about having NEW stuff and also likes symmetry and matched stuff (he would live in a hotel me that looks like s hotel lobby ) . I’m so not, I find that boring, uninteresting as well as lacking in personal uniqueness …very impersonal.

Dennis ralph

July 30, 2017

wabi-sabi is comforting to me. In the process of replacing the 2,000 feet of 25 yer old wood fence on my property with new vinyl fencing I chose to incorporate what little I knew of wabi-sabi. I just had old the wood treated for bugs, replaced the rotted post and structure , used the old slats and left the old hardware in tact . This turned out great! Looks like what is is a structurally sound 1/4 of a century old fence! For 1/3 the cost.

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