There is an aesthetic philosophy in Japanese culture which goes back centuries known as wabi-sabi.  The term wabi can be thought of as that which is not overtly materialistic, is simple in nature, chooses to be humble, and is thereby at ease within nature.  It is not striving to be something that it is not.  The term sabi refers to the natural patina that covers all things over time; including tarnish, weathering, rust, and yes, even age spots and wrinkles.  Together, they form a way of looking at things that values individual uniqueness and imperfection.  It is the capacity to see beauty in the quiet, the lonely, the unadorned.  It values the impermanence of all things natural.

Working with wood has been a lifelong passion for me and I have found over time, that I most appreciate fine woodworking that does not try to create machined perfection.  There is a line somewhere that I can recognize when I’ve crossed it- the thing I’m making becomes suddenly less personal and detached from me.  I guess you could say it crosses over from the hand work aesthetic to something which could have been made without human hands at all.  When that happens, the thing becomes unattractive to me.  There’s an inclination to go back and work things down a bit to breathe the life back into it- but it’s too late at that point.  The wabi-sabi has been lost.

The products I’ve designed and now make in our Koostik line represent a natural inclination towards this imperfect and impermanent aesthetic.  “Perfection” might call for sharp hard edges and plasticized, glossy, and synthetic surface coatings to finish.  Instead, each piece is shaped, sanded, and finished by hand.  The result is that no two pieces, though made to the same design, will ever be exactly alike.  Each individual piece has it’s own personality.  Even the finish itself will require something of the user to allow it to age with grace.  The purely natural oils and beeswax we use to finish our products give a very earthy, organic, and lovely feel and appearance to the wood.  But, some care is required.  By occassionally re-waxing the wood, the user becomes part of the process. Over time, the wood will develop a warm silky patina that simply gets better with age.  

In terms of design, I have tried to keep things as simple and direct as possible.  Our pieces are not ornamental and nothing is added that is not required in at least some small detail of its function and use.  The new Kov products for iPhone and iPad are especially direct in their simplicity.  

We will continue to explore new possiblities in the Koostik line which reflect the wabi-sabi aesthetic.  We will never be the loudest, the boldest, or the most eager to be noticed.  Actually, we kind of like it that way.

Jim Simon



January 23, 2013 by Jim Simon
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