For the many twists and turns life entails, and the unexpected that may come to either shatter or complete everything you have built for yourself, Pau Javier of Wabi Sabi Studio has come to embrace this uncertainty. Sure, predictability is a welcome comfort, but in a world where things rarely go your way, she has grown to find solace in the journey, a lesson she learned through pottery, where failures and imperfections are commonplace.
Initially working as a video producer, having built a career in media over the course of her entire adult life, Javier first encountered pottery during a class her sister invited her in. Merely enjoying the activity for what it was, she was drawn to its peaceful and reflective nature—it was a far cry from the day-to-day churn her hectic career demanded—it was also refreshing for a restless soul such as herself. “I surfed, I did pottery, I did wakeboarding, even climbing. I needed something out of what I was doing as sort of a break, but I’ve never been one to stay still—I don’t enjoy resting as much so I’d always look for things to do,” says Javier.
It was during the pandemic that they sought a way to continue their practice as studios were closed down and they didn’t have the resources to do so at home. And out of sheer love for pottery hence came the birth of Wabi Sabi Studio. In a space all to themselves, armed with newly acquired tools and equipment, the Javiers got to work, first selling finished projects, eventually snowballing into offering workshops to those interested to learn.
“People started to get interested in the process of it and not just the ceramics. They started asking for workshops and we tried out teaching, ultimately leading us to find another love for it outside of simply creating. There’s something about teaching and letting people practice how to mold clay,” says Javier.
Now together with sisters Gabi and Dannie, and having recently moved to another location in Kapitolyo, the 25 square meter container van that served as their first home has definitely come a long way—not to mention, they now also have their very own Wabi Cafe situated beside the studio. And interestingly, for a move as monumental as this, nothing was calculated, nothing ever was—it’s just another nudge, another step on the wheel, shaping their clay into a finished product they’ve allowed to take form on its own.
During our brief conversation, Javier goes into detail about Wabi Sabi’s latest iteration, her journey with pottery, and the various challenges she has had and continues to face. And throughout that discussion, bit by bit, we get to see the likeliness between pottery and life, where its concepts and principles have somewhat bled over to drive her story.
“Being here is completely different. I feel like I’m always out of my league, and I don’t always feel 100% confident in my decisions. It’s scary but it’s really fun, it’s a new mountain to climb.”
What makes this iteration of Wabi Sabi different from the previous one?
“Well, the first thing that you would notice is the space, it’s much bigger compared to the old one we had. But I still like to think that the essence or soul, the remnants of the old studio are present here. It has the same feel and the same energy, and it even has some parts taken from it; these doors are from the old studio. So these doors are what drew me to the first location; it’s the tiny French windows; anything that has natural light, I’m a sucker for it. So if you notice, the new studio also has floor-to-ceiling windows, so natural light is very important to us. I like having people work with natural light, I think it’s healthy.”
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The previous iteration of Wabi Sabi located at N, Averilla Street, San Juan
Why the inclusion of a coffee shop?
“There was no lounge for people to hang out in before, during, or after each workshop. I also think it’s hard to commit to a class or a new hobby right off the bat, so having the cafe within the studio is a good opportunity for people to just watch the workshops and the people inside working with clay—it’s a different experience for them.”
“We’ve also always wanted a cafe—pottery, and coffee goes hand-in-hand in a way. One of the most popular reasons for going into a pottery class is to make your own mug. When you have coffee in the morning you have that special moment to yourself. Before your day starts, you drink coffee, you put up a song, and you have a moment of silence before you get along with your day. So we also thought that it would be a nice idea for people to be able to use the mugs that they make while having coffee.”
“Using a mug that’s one of a kind, handcrafted, it helps people appreciate the craft more. I know handcrafted mugs tend to be more expensive than manufactured ones, so I want to give them the opportunity to be able to use them and understand why it’s so special.”
I know handcrafted mugs tend to be more expensive than manufactured ones, so I want to give them the opportunity to be able to use them and understand why it’s so special.
What was the hardest part about leaving a stable career for something totally different?
“I’ve lived my entire life in media. I think I spent 13 years with them, from the time I graduated and even ever since I was studying—I was a working student. I was deeply in love with film and anything to do with production, behind the scenes.”
“The hardest part I guess was having to leave friends, not seeing the same people I once did every day, people that I grew up with, and not being able to be part of a team that created something.”
“But I don’t consider this as an actual end. I still believe I’ll do it somewhere down the road if I ever find the time. Instead of being another person versus the other, I’d like to think that this is another facet of me—it’s like I grew another limb, like I morphed into something that encapsulates who I was before and who I am now.”
Looking at the different hobbies and activities that have surfaced during the pandemic, do you ever feel worried that any success that you’ve experienced so far might be a phase or is temporary?
“When we started Wabi Sabi, we didn’t really count on it getting any attention at all. Any luck we’ve received, we’ve always had this mindset that it could fade away at any given moment. But, it’s not like we do this for anything else, other than to be able to play. I think that’s why it’s getting attention; people see the purity of it, that it’s not done for other motives other than just wanting to be able to play and create. I believe that’s what’s drawing our luck, but at the same time, if it does fade, that mindset is what’s gonna make it okay.”
I believe that’s what’s drawing our luck, but at the same time, if it does fade, that mindset is what’s gonna make it okay.
What do you enjoy the most about pottery?
“The best thing about it is that everything in your head goes away when you’re at the wheel. In a day, there are a million lists running through my head: things I have to do, things I want to do, and things I forgot to do. When I sit at the wheel, it’s the only time when everything fades away. In that brief moment, it’s just me and the clay—it’s like meditation for me.”
You’ve talked about introducing pottery in a way that suits the modern taste; what does that mean exactly? And would you say, you’ve had to do away with the traditional ways of going about pottery?
“We started making without having that in mind; it wasn’t a goal and nor was there a clear intention to do something totally different. Everything was just out of Gabi, my sister’s head; the designs were really from her. She enjoys making quirky designs, she enjoys going out of the line, and bending rules.”
“I also think it was because we had the freedom to create. We did this during the lockdown and we had the luxury of not having external voices; external opinions getting in the way of making.”
“We do things outside the norm because we really love experimenting and pushing limits, but it came out of freedom and privacy.”
You once mentioned that Wabi Sabi pertains to a Japanese worldview about acknowledging and embracing the beauty within flaws; how is that worldview present in your own life?
“I am a perfectionist and I’ve been told I’m a workaholic; it’s something that I try to keep in mind. We can’t always have a full grasp on things, in life, in art, or in anything that we do. I cannot say I’ve fully let go of my tendencies to overwork and be a perfectionist, but at least I have that in mind. And when I create, it’s a good mindset to have that not everything has to be perfect.”
What do you hope to impart to anyone who enters your studio for a workshop session?
“To be able to tap into your inner child. Since we’re all grown up, we always put ourselves under pressure to do great. We always think that we have to push ourselves, to do our best, to be the best, but when you’re learning a new craft for the first time, it levels the playing field where we don’t start off great—and I’ve seen it, especially with the students we’ve had. Sometimes they get anxious or nervous, but when they realize that they have no control over it, they realize that they just have to go with it—the best they can do is enjoy. When you see them let go, it’s a beautiful thing to see. I’ve experienced it personally, it’s nice to be able to share that experience with them.”
When you see them let go, it’s a beautiful thing to see. I’ve experienced it personally, it’s nice to be able to share that experience with them.
Throughout your journey so far with pottery and with Wabi Sabi, can you point to any favorite moments?
“I cannot. Every day is super special. We’ve had the studio for two years; building the studio, creating pieces, sharing and teaching, making special projects, moving into this new studio, building the team, and meeting new people—everything has been so special. I tried but there’s no exact moment that I can pinpoint because every day has been so new, exciting, and fun; tiring but very fulfilling.”
What are your goals for Wabi Sabi this year?
“The funny thing is, we’ve never set goals, we’ve never set targets, and we’ve never set any milestones that we had to hit after a certain point in time. We’ve just been going with the flow and enjoying the experience. I know it’s an irresponsible thing to say when you’re putting up a business but I want people to be happy. I’ve gone through a life of exhausting myself, and although it was fun and fulfilling, this time, I want everyone to be happy, I want everyone to enjoy what they’re doing. I guess we’re hoping to sustain the studio, grow a team and community of makers and enthusiasts, and get a wider reach of people who appreciate what we do and what crafters do. But no definite goals, just keep everyone happy.”
Wabi Sabi Studio is located on the 4th floor of the Hallare Building, 10 E Capitol Drive, Pasig.