Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

“Just mend it!”

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Soetsu Yanagi

In South Korea stands the village Ampo, a lonely hamlet, remote from towns. To visit this village was a hope I had long cherished, for I had seen many examples of beautiful turnery (wood turning) made by the villagers. Nearly all Korean woodwork, especially turnery, suffers some deformity in its shape. But this slight crookedness always gives us a certain peculiar asymmetrical beauty, an indescribable charm that entices us into a sense of beauty that is free and unrestricted…

When I arrived after a long, hard trip, I noticed at once beside their workshops many big blocks of pine ready to be lathed. To my great astonishment all of them were sap green and by no means ready for use. Imagine my surprise when a workman set one of these blocks in a lathe and began to turn it. The pine was so green that turning it produced a spray redolent of the scent of resin. The use of green wood perplexed me greatly, for it defies a basic rule of turnery. I asked the artisan, “Why do you use such green wood? Cracks will appear pretty soon.” “What does it matter?” was the calm answer. I was amazed by this Zen-monk-like response. Yet I dared to ask him, “How can we use something that leaks?” “Just mend it,” was his simple answer…

This explains why Japanese turnery looks hard and cold in comparison with Korean. We are attached to perfection; we want to make the perfect piece. But what is human perfection after all?

Soetsu Yanagi

Written by nevalalee

April 27, 2014 at 9:00 am

Posted in Quote of the Day

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