Our popular culture favours the new over the old, perfection and homogeneity over the quirks and idiosyncrasies that make things unique. I am not sure this flavour of perfection is serving us or our planet well. None of us are perfect or exempt from the inevitable signs of ageing that eventually catch up with us. Not much around us is either.
A rigid focus on perfection with a narrow view of what is beautiful can be problematic. It is often intertwined with a rejection of things that do not conform to this standard. Imperfect fruit and vegetables are discarded in supermarkets, objects that show age and signs of wear are replaced, people tweaked and tightened.
The Western world has inherited much of its lust for perfection from our ancient Greek heritage and their precisely defined standards of beauty which were closely bound to symmetry. But increased awareness and appreciation for Eastern philosophical perspectives on aesthetics have begun to loosen the grip of a unified standard for what is considered beautiful. This fusion of different perspectives allows for a more complex and diverse appreciation of beauty in all of its multifaceted forms.
Much has been written about the traditional Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi by people far more knowledge on the subject than I am. I will refrain from butchering its richness with a clumsy summary. But I will remark that introducing an appreciation of imperfection and impermanence is a welcome seasoning within the bland and narrow flavour profile of beauty that some of us have been cultivating in the West. Learning to see beauty within imperfection and fostering reverence for the traces left by the passage of time strike me as healthy aesthetic values to cultivate in order to be able to move forward in a more sustainable way than we have thus far.
And with a more rich and complex appreciation of what is beautiful, we can begin to cultivate perspectives that consider signs of age, use or wear as distinguishing qualities that endow an object or a person with character and soul. Idiosyncrasies and signs of the passage of time can be delightful, and in a world of rampant mass production and homogenisation, the uniqueness that imperfections and age bestow are a welcome elixir from an otherwise bland sameness.
If our stance is one of acceptance that things will wear, crack, fade and age we begin to create space for beauty to emerge where once we only saw flaws. Traces left by time tell the individual story of people and objects and make them unique and interesting. When we begin to cherish the old as much as the new and look forward to the marks of time as an enrichment we can begin to step away from seeing everything as disposable and replaceable. With this state of mind objects that preserve the traces of time or hold some unique idiosyncrasies possess a beauty not yet exposed when something is new or perfect. This unique form of beauty comes from the richness and complexity that evades the new and perfect; it is challenging and stimulating and requires that we develop a discerning sensibility in order to appreciate it. Much like we need to develop our taste buds to appreciate complex flavours and override the evolutionary craving for sugary and fatty tastes, so we need to cultivate a diverse appreciation of beauty that can accommodate more than just our current, narrow definition. It can be a challenge, but when we push ourselves to do so the rewards are great.
But at the same time, a reverence for the signs of age does not mean that we shouldn’t look after the objects in our lives. Taking care of the things that surround us in order to ensure they serve us for as long as possible is a part of this process. The question is can we cultivate an attitude that motivates us to look after what we have without clinging to the desire for it not to change? By accepting that everything will change we begin to view the wear that results from the passage of time, not as flaws or blemishes but as beautiful qualities that make each object and person unique. Ultimately, all it takes is a shift in perspective, though this is always easier said than done. But, if we succeed we stand to gain a far more accepting way of looking at ourselves, others and the objects in our life.
This much is certain: everything changes, nothing stays the same. We can cling, or we can accept, let go, and enjoy the complexity and depth that emerge as a result of change. We can futilely pursue a narrow view of perfection and all of the blandness that is the result of homogenisation or we can lean into the complexity of a more challenging and multifaceted appreciation of beauty.
Our photo essay shows the golden threads that emerge with time and use on our Blackline Cutting boards. While these beautiful marks begin to appear relatively quickly with use, the boards themselves stay functional for many years. We offer suggestions on how best to care for these wooden objects, to preserve their function while allowing them to change over time developing their own unique patina.
Images above show Tall Simple Pitcher, Natural Handwoven Trivets, Blackline Cutting Boards, All Natural Cutting Board Oil, Heritage Brass Water Mister, Cloth Bowl Cover Set in Grey Ticking, Simple Mug in matte white and matte grey, Sickle-shaped Dusting Brush, Pearwood Dusting Brush, Maple Cutting Boards, Handwoven Cotton Cushion Covers in Breton Stripes and Traditional Stripes, Simple Pouring Bowl, Simple Bowl and Spoon, Pallares Solsona Kitchen Knife, Botanical Dyed Linen Napkins in Stone, Hand Forged Copper Cup, Natural Dish Brush, Natural Coconut Fibre Brush, Cotton Tipped Cleaning Brush Set, bowl from Flower Frog and Bowl used as a plant pot.